Astrology is many things to many people, but when we ask why it is what it is and why it works as it works, the explanation comes from combining hard science against methodical metaphysics. A simple and primary example of this is the Sun. As a metaphysical astrological image, it’s the essential spark which is consciousness and “being.” It’s what the Greeks embodied as the primordial Helios—god of the Sun.
Is that useful? Not so much; we don’t think much about “being” on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour basis. And neither did the Greeks, which is why Helios is pretty much absent from the vast library of Greek myth. But sun light? The stuff which brings us warmth and provides the energy for life here on Earth? Whether as “illumination” or “enlightenment” or empowerment, we think about that a lot. And so did the Greeks, right down to the modern scientific idea of light “traveling” to us —all in the entertaining image of Phoebus Apollo replete with a chariot of the sun which traveled across the sky bringing light to us every day.
With the Sun at the center of our solar system, the first object of substantial mass and solidity which the light from the Sun can theoretically fall on and …illuminate… is Mercury. Thus Mercury represents the “bright idea,” the thought (brilliant or otherwise), the seeking to understand—and everything which goes with any such process, from communication to thoughtfulness to eloquence to cleverness to flippancy, trickery, phones, mail, computers—and other such operational parameters we commonly deal with.
After Mercury comes Venus, a hot little planet long associated with hot little moments, but which astrologically is better conceived of as the quality which attracts the thing which pleases us—when everything goes well, that is. When it doesn’t, then life gets a bit more…heated—and did you know it’s roughly 872 (F) degrees (467 C) on Venus” surface? As to Venus in negative mode, the fact that the Venusian atmosphere is rife with sulfuric acid seems just the thing. The idea would be melting your heart (and other parts attached): do you want to be wounded by love, or retribution? Venus also represents our ability—yea verily our need—to adapt certain…pragmatic adaptations in support of eventual success.
Earth and Moon duly ignored for the moment, Mars, last of the inner planets, is the astrological symbol of assertiveness, either as aggression or courage. Known as Ares to ancient Greeks, Mars is a “switch flipper’—the prod which gets us into gear and going. But going towards what? And astrologically, what describes what we “go through” while on our journey? That’s really the point here. The next planet out is Jupiter (Zeus to the Greeks). But between Mars (commencement) and Jupiter (reaching knowledge, expanded comprehension) is one big giant gap.
How big a gap? From Sun to Earth is 0.0983 astronomical units (AU). From the Sun to Mars? 1.39 AU—about half again as far. But from Mars to Jupiter? That’s 3.7 AU—only a little less than four times the distance from the Sun to planet Earth.
In that gap lies the main asteroid belt. Thought to be remnants of planets which never formed and a few solar-systemic objects which broke apart either through collisions or sheer geomagnetic torture (space is so not a genteel place!), on a metaphysical level, asteroids represent all the concepts, questions, challenges and whatever “going around in circles” we go through on our way to knowledge and ability (Jupiter) and achievement (Saturn).
In scanning this main asteroid belt scientists have come up with a list of Top Ten Largest Objects. Number on on said list is Psyche, an asteroid, the mass of which is equal to around one-percent (1%) of the entire asteroid belt put together. It’s one big rock—and, as the biggest asteroid, it metaphysically represents the most important thing we have to deal with in moving from the “I’m just me” world of Sun, Mercury, Venus, (Moon, Earth), Mars, to whatever our goal can be. Remember, Jupiter and Saturn don’t just represent worldly achievement—they’re any goal and any form of understanding we hold as valuable or want to have as part of our life.
The word “Psyche” comes from the Greek for “soul” and “spirit,” that singularly important issue we must confront when moving from the “regular mortal stuff” into the land of knowing, understanding and becoming sufficiently empowered to reach our goal. Dealing with Psyche is central in our search for the way to “make it all work.”
And that Psyche orbits and is not in all places at all times? This suggests that we will at times try to evade or work around Psyche. But is that in our best interest? Considering that Psyche is large enough to perturb (affect, disrupt or alter) the path of other asteroids, maybe not. So this Psyche—our Psyche—is something which can affect our path and ability to reach our goal even if we don’t confront it face-to-face.
In terms of composition, Psyche is an M-type (metallic) asteroid. What does that tell us? Among other things, given that existence manifests as various forms of transmission and metals are excellent conductors, this suggests that Psyche (and all the other M-type asteroids) symbolize how we conduct our life, the qualities of our conduct which help or hinder us along our path and what in life will help conduct us towards our goal.
Another important note: science having found no trace of water in Psyche’s makeup makes it, metaphysically (which is to say astrologically), an object which does not refer to emotions. On the other hand however, observations have found that Psyche contains a small amount of pyroxene, a silica composition found in igneous and metamorphic rocks here on Earth—a clue which suggests that the utilization of, or confrontation with Psyche involves/requires two things. One: our “igneous/fire” creative abilities. And two, our ability to endure/cope with the various human forms of (fixed sign/house) metamorphic processes.
Anything which invites or forces us to change is metamorphic. Metamorphosis, transformation made under pressure, suggests that encounters with (and evasions of, perhaps) “our” Psyche start with stress, but may lead to breakthroughs. Or the magical (seeming) transformation of mortal coal into diamonds. And this isn’t all so mysterious or monumental: conception, birth, growth to adulthood and the ultimate decline leading to death are life’s most basic transformative, metamorphic processes, for all of us.
With an orbital period of 4.99 years, four times around for Psyche is very (very) close to the 19.86-year-long Jupiter/Saturn synodic cycle, an interesting underscoring of the suggestion that it is indeed intrinsic to our ability to grow our lives and achieve our goals. This orbit also means that Psyche spends just under half a year in each sign. Does this mean that Psyche transits to the natal chart tell us what will help or hinder us—or be transformed? Maybe. Does Psyche’s moving through the signs tell us the type of influence we need to consider? That too.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: all such reflective/predictive quotients probably rest on how well we deal with the fact of Psyche. And when we deal with the fact of the thing, that’s where Psyche as soul or spirit meets (the Greek word) logos: that which is/can be calculated or reckoned as counting, the reality of the moment. You know, psych-o-logical—the “what” behind the “how we act” of life. As plainly as Psyche the asteroid is able to affect the orbits of other asteroids, so our psyche is able to throw us off, too.
And what about the myth here? The simple answer here is that Psyche is about trust—whether we trust ourselves. Or should, given what we have or haven’t yet learned/dealt with inside our minds, and in our own lives.
In Greek mythology, Psyche was a maiden so gloriously beautiful that folks would travel miles and miles just to behold her. So great became her fame and so powerful her allure that complete strangers even began worshiping Psyche instead of Venus, which in human metaphorical/astrologic terms is like saying they began devoting themselves to, and giving themselves over to a (Venus) satisfaction derived from someone/something outside the Self, instead of working on inner attributes which would attract (Venus) a satisfying response.
This is the astrological Venus credo as seen in Venus as ruler of Taurus (talent, self worth and the harnessing of same) and Libra (how qualities we embody earn response from others and this world). So to allow or (worse yet!) choose to be affected by any external factor in ways which amount to abandonment of work-on-self or addiction (both negative sides of Scorpio, opposition sign to Taurus)—or to think that you’re simply entitled to have what you want or like, never mind how that affects others (a negative, not to mention possibly psychopathic version of Aries)…that would be a really good way to arouse the ire of Venus, replete with sulfuric acidic effects.
And it did. Offended by such bad behavior, Venus frowned a lovely frown and summoned son Cupid—whose actual name is Eros, and from whom we get the word “erotic.” Venus’ plan was to have Psyche fall in love with some ugly lout, earning her disgrace, mortification and (maybe best of all for Venus) a lower public profile.
Being the dutiful god/son type, Eros agrees to said plan and sets off to wound Psyche with one of his famous arrows, some of which are gold with dove feathers of mercy and vulnerability to inspire love…and others of which are leaden with owl feathers, connoting the sort of wide-eyed perspective which inspires indifference. At best, that is.
Venus’ plan shows how moms (even immortal moms) aren’t immune to jealousy. And how they aren’t above using kids to do their personal dirty work. Yet parents don’t actually control their children—as this the story makes interestingly clear, especially considering its ultimate framework: how (our) Psyche deals with Venus (earning what you get in life) as well as about how (our) Psyche deals with and is sometimes manipulated and/or wounded, maybe even victimized by Eros (erotic desire).
This epic begins with Eros setting off to do mom’s bidding armed not only with arrows, but also with two vases full of water (water = feelings) drawn from Venus’ fountains of joy and bitterness. Upon reaching Psyche’s bedside, he begins doing as told by dribbling drops of bitterness on Psyche’s lips, then doing the scratch thing with a gold arrow. Venus’ idea is that P/psyche’s beauty should continue to inspire, but ultimately bring her nothing but bitterness, seeing as she’s done nothing to earn anything better.
But at Eros’ touch, Psyche awakens. Startled and possibly already aroused, Eros reacts. His grip slips. And thus Eros is cut by the same arrow used to scratch Psyche’s side.
Yes, love cuts both ways. But let us remember that astro-metaphysically, Psyche is non-emotional, making this a picture of our unemotional self witnessing erotic arousal—not in someone else, but in ourselves. That Eros can be compromised by the very thing a negatively motivated Venus wanted him to use to wound, punish and control (our) P/psyche is an important comment on lust, love and human nature. In the story, Eros reacts by sprinkling his lover with drops of joy, an image as evocative as plainly erotic. But is this the soul being healed by desire? The psyche being “rescued” by eroticism? Given how the Venus principle states that we get what we earn (which in relationship is known as like attracts like), is this about love as strength or love as weakness? Is it about how our P/psyche can be made to compulsively fall in love with love—or perhaps how we humans have a tendency to fall in love based on our weakest, not strongest points?
And what about the asteroid Eros? A member of the main belt Amor asteroid sub-group, Eros was discovered on August 13, 1898 at 22 Aquarius, a degree known for an abundance of creative and constructive energy both worldly and sexual. That this occurred with Eros in Aquarius in a third decanate position does tell us that the fullness of any erotic tale isn’t told until the tale itself comes to fruition—a comment on sexual relationship developments (and the possible perils thereof) if there ever was one. With Uranus being secondary ruler of Aquarius it’s also suggested that Eros-attractions, while magnificently inspirational and motivational (to say the least) can also cause us to act in haste. More to the point perhaps, Uranus is the signature of sudden change, the positive or negative of which is based in whether we’ve built our foundations on the Aquarian Saturn lesson which says that where we get in life is not only about our abilities, but our acknowledgement of other people, the times we live in and the values held by others.
The interesting part of Eros being an Amor asteroid is that members of this sub-group cross Mars’ orbit. Also known as Ares among the Greeks, Mars was the quintessential warrior type who carried weapons (like arrows) around like you or I might carry around spare change. So astrologically, Eros being a son of Venus who walks around “wounding” people is the very embodiment of temptation as a test of our Psyche.
In the story, Venus’ curse works as designed: from that moment on all eyes turn to Psyche…but no one comes near. Isolated in her beauty, Psyche gets very lonely. Fortunately for her however, Eros isn’t the only one with parents. Psyche has parents too! And having successfully married off her sisters, said parents now become duly concerned with why their gorgeous daughter has suddenly become a total drag on the mythic marriage market. So off they go to Apollo’s oracle, seeking enlightenment. And they get it, though the truth told isn’t exactly what they wanted to hear. “Psyche will become the bride of a monster neither gods nor men can resist,” the oracle tells them. “Take her to the mountaintop. There she will meet her fate.”
Being decent parents, Psyche’s folks are reluctant to comply. But Psyche would rather have anything than the pain of psyche-o-logical (the mental reality of) isolation. Bitter are her words as she chides mom and dad: if you had cared a little more back then instead of bragging and enjoying my looks and how my getting so much attention made you look good, maybe all this wouldn’t have happened! Poor Psyche. She feels victimized by something she didn’t cause. Or more precisely, by having to deal with where it’s landed her, which is why many of us try to avoid encounters with Psyche/our psyche. Owning who you are is a lot harder than abdication of self, which is how Psyche (and we) tend to get in trouble with Things Venusian to begin with.
This being a mythic story moment, mom and dad get past their reluctance and conduct the daughter to her appointed mountaintop all clad for marriage. And there they leave her at the cliff’s edge. Does she fall? No. Having accepted her need to go on alone, Psyche is embraced by the gentle wind Zephyr and conducted to a sumptuous palace. There, unseen servants tend to her every need. Anything our P/psyche could want is provided…except the physical company of her husband (Eros), who comes to Psyche only by night, telling her that she must not ever try to see him for who he really is. If you saw me, perhaps you would fear me, perhaps adore me—all I ask is that you love me. I would rather you love me as an equal than adore me as a god.
So we come to the crux of the mortal quandary. Eros (desire) requires trust. But can the soul and spirit—the mortal Psyche—trust Eros, or her own choice to be with someone she desires but cannot fully grasp? And why is that so hard? Who is (our) P/psyche really afraid of?
As the tale goes on, we learn that things go well for a while, but Psyche gets to where she cannot take living (technically) alone, even in the lap of luxury. So she begs permission to visit her family and have them come and stay with her a while.
With huge misgivings, Eros gives in. And well he should have had concern, for when Psyche’s sisters see how good their sibling has got it they get every drachma as jealous as Venus ever was. So they start reminding Psyche about how the oracle said she was going to marry a “monster.” And why is it that she isn’t even allowed to see her husband?
Unable to take it, a tormented P/psyche finally slips out of bed one night. Grabbing a knife and nearby oil lamp, she goes around to the other side of the bed to see who the “monster” really is. And there, much as Eros did at first sight of her, Psyche is so startled by the sight of Eros” beauty and perfection that she also slips. A drop of oil drips from the lamp onto Eros” illustriously naked shoulder.
Awakened by its touch, Eros realizes what has happened and recognizes that he cannot trust a Psyche which cannot trust him. He flies away. Abandoned now by Eros, Psyche feels she’s lost everything. Totally devastated, she makes her way home to her family only to have her jealous sisters commiserate with their Psyche only just as long as it takes for them to slip away and run to the mountaintop, hoping to be taken by Eros themselves (never mind their husbands).
But gentle Zephyr supports neither the depraved nor deluded and Psyche’s sisters take a great—and literal—fall.
As for Psyche, having learned her lesson she turns to devoting herself to service and good works—not merely in the name of Venus, but in honor of all the Greek gods. In other words, in the cause of owning and honoring the whole of her life and being and capacity. And just to be thorough, she does go to Venus” temple to apologize. And Venus responds. In typical Greek fashion she does so by testing our Psyche’s psyche with a series of spiritual labors the human can only survive by being humble enough to earn the good will of others, allowing her to gain an even better appreciation for the difference between being a beautiful person against simply being someone whose innate physicality brings pleasure, regardless of any particular effort.
And fortunately for Psyche (Eros and us), the story eventually ends happily. But the questions posed throughout this tale are clear—and clearly evident in everyone’s life. Can Eros be trusted before the our P/psyche learns to put the “e” on human and make of us a humane human being? Can we appreciate or reciprocate love before we understand what love is and what it takes to love, way deep down inside? And that challenge—is that why we tend to always think the good or bad of love comes from someone else even though our feelings—like the Eros and Psyche of each and every chart—are ours?
As if to comment on this, when discovered on March 17, 1852 by Annibale de Gasparis, Psyche was at 27 Leo in exact conjunction with fixed star Regulus. Like all Persian Royal Stars, Regulus promises great things IF we avoid a particular attribute—which in this case is revenge. This Regulus “anti-revenge” quality gets even thicker in the P/psyche tale when we consider 27 Leo as a third decanate degree of the sign all about our ability to embrace creativity in ways which test our self worth and resourcefulness, too. Add to this the fact that any third decanate degree (of any sign) requires that we finish our part and “put the thing out there” to see if the boat floats before we know if we’ve succeeded or not….that’s just a test of trust, squared. And with no guarantees, controls or safety net (other than our native belief in self) to fall back on. And all that plus the Regulus finger-wag against being a sore loser? In a degree (27 Leo) which tends to manifest as somewhat impatient and definitely fond of instant gratification?
It’s enough to make a person want to avoid ever meeting up with their own Psyche. And yet we know—innately—that we have to know ourselves enough to trust ourselves in order to have the option to be real and vulnerable in any relationship with anyone else, intimate or otherwise. A few of us make it look easy, but can it be? Or is their apparent ease because they’ve never taken on becoming responsible for themselves to begin with? And considering how Psyche got in trouble with Venus to begin with (for accepting that not earned), might that not be even more detrimental?
Achieving our desires—and peace and happiness with those desires—seems to require such conscious ownership of Self. And being that the asteroid belt is just what it says (a belt), there aren’t any ways around the challenges represented therein, only ways to fool ourselves as to the need to confront ourselves. If we don’t, we remain in our less encompassing Sun-Mercury-Venus-(Moon-Earth)-Mars realm. And while that’s where we all begin, to remain there is either never to mature, to be the tyrannical despot who cannot acknowledge anything outside themselves, or a to be person who in being limited, never achieves the fullness of their humanity. After all, to get from that inner, less developed Self to Jupiterian empowerment and Saturnian achievement we have to pass through the asteroid belt—and in the process, face our P/psyche (among other things). It may well require pulling ourselves in a notch or two, but that’s part of growth. Dealing with our ability to know ourselves and be excited by knowing ourselves isn’t all easy. Nor is it all fun. But if the aim is to achieve understanding and that real grasp on life which leads to goals emotional, financial—should we expect it to be simple?
In the end, asteroids represent not just challenges, but opportunities. And by mass and size, Psyche emphasizes how important it really is to face and own who we are. Which seems sensible—how else could we make ourselves into the people we want to be?
This whole subject is an interesting “take” on the great and continuing human conversation concerning “fate.” Is “fate” reflected “in our stars’? If Existence is truly contiguous, yes. Yet despite that, we each have choices as to whether we will own our fate, or be owned by it. And that makes our end most definitely written not just in our stars, but greatly in our Self of Mind.