Sala di Psyche, Palazzo del Tè, Mantua
by Lucius Apuleius
Adlington’s translation, 1566
THE FIFTH BOOKE
THE TWENTY-SECOND CHAPTER
The most pleasant and delectable tale of the marriage of Cupid and Psyches
When night was passed Venus called Psyches, and said, Seest thou yonder Forest that extendeth out in length with the river? there be great sheepe shining like gold, and kept by no manner of person. I command thee that thou go thither and bring me home some of the wooll of their fleeces. Psyches arose willingly not to do her commandement, but to throw her selfe headlong into the water to end her sorrows. Then a green reed inspired by divine inspiration, with a gratious tune and melody gan say, O Psyches I pray thee not to trouble or pollute my water by the death of thee, and yet beware that thou goe not towards the terrible sheepe of this coast, untill such time as the heat of the sunne be past, for when the sunne is in his force, then seeme they most dreadfull and furious, with their sharpe hornes, their stony foreheads and their gaping throats, wherewith they arme themselves to the destruction of mankinde. But untill they have refreshed themselves in the river, thou maist hide thy selfe here by me, under this great plaine tree, and as soone as their great fury is past, thou maist goe among the thickets and bushes under the wood side and gather the lockes their golden Fleeces, which thou shalt finde hanging up on the briers. Then spake the gentle and benigne reed, shewing a mean to Psyches to save her life, which she bore well in memory, and with all diligence went and gathered up such lockes as shee found, and put them in her apron, and carried them home to Venus.
Transitions as Liminal and Archetypal Situations
Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D.
The second task is to get some golden fleece from the rams of the sun, gather a small amount of it, and bring it to Aphrodite. So our young Psyche goes and looks at these animals ranging up and down the field, in this meadow, in that valley, all having a wonderful time. These rams are butting their heads up against each other, roughing each other up. They’ve got a great deal of competitive power, but they’re big and they’ve got the strength and they’re doing fine. It’s just a big game with them, this competitiveness.
Psyche realizes that, if she goes out and tries to grab some fleece from the rams as they’re charging and hitting each other and running up and down the field, she would be trampled. This does not seem to be the thing to do. So she goes down to the river again, and this time a reed tells her, “Psyche, you don’t have to go out there and do it that way. The rams are energized by the sun. Wait until the sun goes down. Then you can go pick fleece that they have scraped off against the bushes and trees. Gather enough of it for your use and fulfill the task.”
The reed that tells Psyche to bide her time has wisdom. It isn’t just about attaining a certain amount of power, climbing to great heights or participating in competition. The wisdom of the reed tells you to listen to your own rhythms. It advises when and how you can gain the power that you need, but not have your soul destroyed in the acquisition. Listen and learn from the voice of the reed, which is organic and grows out of the water, the river.
The application here has something to do with the feminine psyche or soul, but it has to do with the soul of both men and women. When you are in a competitive game (and almost everything that is about outer commerce or outer success involves competition), you can be trampled if you get caught up in wanting to grab more and more and more golden fleece. If you go out and take on the archetypes to play the game (because these are archetypes, these rams of the sun) and leave your soul behind or forget that you have a soul, it will be trampled.