Part III of this epic tale introduced the concept of “dualism” or the joining of polar opposites. Within that episode it was stated that happiness can be found at the balancing midpoint between opposing forces. But in many circumstances throughout life that balancing midpoint is attainable only after sufficient experience occurs on either side of both the positive and negative spectrums.
Our heroine is no exception to this dualistic rule. So far we have already seen our leading lady repeatedly tap into the positive spectrum with her determined sense of resolve to regain her husband’s lost love along with facing the torture inflicted by her mother-in-law with a most stalwart display of bravery.
And despite being given a task that was humanly impossible to complete, the feat was still miraculously accomplished through the unforeseen assistance by members of the animal kingdom, namely from the world of insects.
Even with the above being said, our heroine is still human and her upcoming circumstances continue to be fraught with dangerous uncertainty with her very life being at stake. When one’s environment goes against their favor with a relentless consistency, it can eventually wear one down by virtue of their sense of inner Faith being replaced by an aura of hopelessness. Should this continuity in the negative spectrum go unabated, desolation eventually takes over with even the most positive of people failing to grasp why they should bother to continue living.
But as our leading lady soon shall see, we mortals are never truly alone within this world. Our heroine was given proof of this concept during her first Labor from the realm of animals. That notion will once again be reinforced by another dimension of the tangible world which co-exists alongside us – the Plant Kingdom.
We return to Psyche as she awakes, still stunned with disbelief that her first task has successfully been completed.
Psyche was surprised when she awoke on her own accord along with the light coming through the barred window of her cell indicating it was already mid-morning. But no sooner had she reached these conclusions when footsteps could be heard fast approaching along with the cell’s outer lock being released.
The goddess of Beauty entered the room wearing an ensemble from head to toe in a rich shade of dark crimson. “Still congratulating yourself for yesterday’s job well done? We’ll see how much you gloat while undertaking your second task. Follow your mistress, slave.” Venus commanded.
“Venus rides her dove drawn chariot” by Antonio Bernieri, 1560
The goddess briskly walked outside her sanctuary to its outer grounds where upon turning a sharp corner, a chariot awaited her. Without so much as pausing or looking back at Psyche, Venus stepped onto its carriage as the chariot simultaneously alighted itself into the air. Being drawn by a dole of doves, the goddess’ patron animal, Psyche stood agog at first watching the goddess of Beauty transport herself through the air but then came to her senses after remembering her mistress’ order to follow her. The girl had no other choice than to break into a sprint just to keep up with the goddess’ chariot by foot.
For miles Venus flew ahead, riding through the open sky as Psyche was forced to wade through a babbling brook waist deep as well as scale over steep hills in order to sustain having her mistress stay within sight which grew ever more distant over time.
And just as Psyche was sure she would faint from physical exhaustion was when she thankfully beheld Venus’ chariot touch ground at the top of a vast meadow that bordered a wide, fast flowing river which in turn lay at the sloping edge of some rolling hills. As Psyche breathlessly dragged herself to catch up to where her mistress stood, she could see that across the river some rams reposing at pasture.
Upon closer observation however, Psyche could tell the clove footed creatures reposing before her weren’t jus ordinary male sheep.
The grazing beasts must have been at least 3 times bigger than their typical kind with massively swirling horns, the likes of which the girl had never before witnessed along with having fleece tinged a bright golden hue. So bright in fact, when positioned beneath the proper angle of sunlight, the reflection from their fur literally became blinding. As Psyche approached the goddess nearly prostrate with exhaustion, she was stunned to observe that very much un-like the typical ram, the ones currently within her view would occasionally exhale plumes of flame from both their mouths and nostrils.
“Behold, slave, the Rams of the Sun.” Venus announced while looking straight ahead. “Be a good girl and fetch me some of their fleece. You have an entire day to both regain your breath as well as complete this chore any young child could perform. Do not fail me or else.”
And with that Venus stepped back onto her chariot and was whisked out of sight after flying directly into a low lying storm cloud hovering close by.
Psyche took a deep intake of air as she looked to see if there was a bridge by which she could cross over the river but as far as her eye could see in either direction, none was present. Tying the bottom half of her tunic around her waist, she exhaled deeply and began to wade into the river whose waters, from what she could ascertain flowed at its deepest point over and above her shoulders. Upon making her way waist deep in the water at the river’s halfway point, the rams, who up until this point were oblivious of Psyche, suddenly took notice of her presence.
The horned beasts gathered along the water’s edge, aggressively pacing back and forth as their flared nostrils spewed flame. They then began to lower their heads while stomping the ground with their front hooves, indicating to Psyche what awaited her on the other side of the river was neither going to be pleasant nor peaceful.
In mid-stream Psyche turned around and made her way back to dry land as quickly as she could. The rams stood motionless, staring her down tauntingly, as if warning her to beware what would happen should she dare venture to their side of the river’s edge.
It was then that Psyche felt vulnerable, helpless, and utterly defeated all at once. As she looked out at the bloodthirsty beasts assembled along the river, it became quite clear that if given the opportunity, each one of these viciously aggressive animals was intent on tearing her person to shreds. Psyche sat hugging her knees and began to wail aloud.
Everything seemed so pointlessly futile in that moment. So much so, the strongest urge came over her to go back into the water but for the purpose of the river to now serve as the site of her untimely grave. The solution became so clear and obviously simple. All Psyche had to do was let go once and for all and finally be done with everything.
Wiping the tears from her eyes, she stood up and began to walk into the water once more when suddenly a voice could be heard coming from a vibrantly green reed which grew in the shallow water along the river’s edge:
“Precious Psyche! Racked though thou art by many a woe, desecrate not these sacred waters by slaying thyself here. These fierce solar creatures must not be approached at this hour for the midday sun’s blazing heat makes them mad with a ferocious frenzy. They charge about in an unstoppable wild rage with their sharp horns and vent their fury in the destruction of men. ‘Til the heat of noon has assuaged its burning and these deadly animals are lulled to sleep by the soft river breeze, thou canst hide thyself beneath yonder lofty tree – only then can you approach these fire breathing beasts as they slumber. Then canst thou venture to the river’s edge where you shall find golden wool clinging to the sharp briars and crooked twigs and an ample amount of the rams’ fleece can be retrieved and presented to your mistress.”
“Psyche Gathers Fleece from the Rams of the Sun” by Charles Natoire, 1752
The reed’s words were said slowly but very clearly in order for Psyche to retain every detail to which she enacted exactly as was told, resulting in her arms bearing an overflowing abundance of the rams’ shining gold fleece. Upon completing her task the girl made sure to kneel before the reed to give both it and its residing waters prayers of grateful thanks for the plant’s instructions which had safeguarded her life.
A sentiment which Venus did not reciprocate upon her slave presenting before her copious amounts of the special fleece that at times shone brighter than the actual sun, indicating that Psyche had once again successfully completed yet another near impossible task.
Ignoring Psyche’s offerings altogether, Venus thought aloud “This must be the divine doings of Hera, the Queen of Heaven, or of that all-knowing haughty daughter of her husband’s, Athena. Whomever has meddled in the affairs of my slave has in fact interfered with the goddess of Beauty herself. This has not gone unnoticed, for Venus shall have her vengeance.”
Commanding her slave to unburden the shimmering fleece into the carriage of her dove drawn chariot, Venus once more ascended into the sky and instantaneously was gone, leaving Psyche to make her solitary way back to the sanctuary by foot exhausted, deeply satisfied, and still very much alive.
Brad Kronen’s book “Love in the Stars” published by Llewellyn Worldwide, Inc. is available for purchase at your local book seller or online at amazon.com at the link listed below.