The Asteroid of Love Stories, Fairy Tales and the Soul’s Journey
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, in a country far away, a girl of breath-taking beauty lived with her family. Her two older sisters were “successfully’ married, to wealthy, middle-aged men, but her father was perplexed. Who was good enough to marry his darling youngest, Psyche?
He went to the oracle which told him something which broke his heart.
“On mountain peak, O King, expose the maid
For funeral wedlock ritually arrayed.
No human son-in-law (hope not) is thine,
But something cruel and fierce and serpentine;
That plagues the world as, borne aloft on wings,
With fire and steel it persecutes all things;
That Jove himself, he whom the gods revere,
That Styx’s darkling stream regards with fear.”
— from the translation by EJ Kenney
Psyche, however, was quite willing. Her beauty was in fact a burden. Everyone stared at her, and even worshipped her, but no one treated her like a person. She thought: might as well. And she went to the mountain peak as if to her own funeral.
But there, the west wind, Zephyr, swept her away in a cloud, and set her alight in a flower-spangled valley, on the softest turf….
The story of Cupid and Psyche (Greek for soul) is rich and thick with incident, written down some time in the second century by a North African Roman citizen, Apuleius, living in Carthage. It may be a much older story but Apuleius’ version in his novel The Golden Ass, is the one that has come to us. This tale of Love and the Soul was rediscovered in the Renaissance and had a huge impact on Western culture — including helping to spawn a whole genre of literary fairy tales — Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, which draw directly form Psyche’s story.
For Psyche is really the hero of this tale, and here’s a thing: she’s one of the only females in Greek or Roman mythology — Demeter/Ceres being the other — to have her own hero’s journey. And journey she must for, of course she loses Cupid, and must find him again. She has her own wicked mother-in-law, Venus herself to deal with; she must perform impossible tasks, like the queen in Rumplestiltskin; she toys with suicide; she must travel to the Underworld — and back. Finally, though, the Soul triumphs and she is allowed to marry Love himself at a fabulous wedding attended by all the gods.
It’s a wonderful story, and — as told by Apuleius, who puts hilarious dialogue into the mouths of the gods — funny. There are no battles and no beasts to defeat, instead sorrow, curiosity, loss, jealousy and envy all come into play.
Now, let’s get to the astrology — and the astrological significance of this asteroid. My young colleague Jake Register dropped me a line a week or so ago, wanting to talk about Psyche, so I decided to do some proper astrological research to see if this story of love plays out in the skies.
As you know, sometimes the classical myths are relevant quite literally — yes, Mars is both the planet and the god of war — but sometimes they don’t quite fit. To understand the energy of Neptune, for example, you need to consider Dionysus; to understand Uranus, you need to look at Prometheus. So it’s not good enough to simply repeat a tale and hope it fits.
However, in the case of Psyche I can confidently report that this is indeed, the asteroid of love stories, fairy tales and the soul’s journey. In fact, as usual I was amazed and delighted by how the astrology worked so brilliantly.
I started by thinking about love and love stories. As usual, I’m not looking at orbs of more than a few degrees.
So I looked at the chart of the most prolific writer of romantic fiction in the 20th century Barbara Cartland, wearer of pink, clutcher of pooches. Psyche conjuncts Mercury, planet of writing and communications, in cosy Cancer.
Mid-century English author, Nancy Mitford wrote several books about love’s journey. The heroines end up in quite unusual relationships for the time. I think you can see Love In A Cold Climate (now on Netflix) in Psyche conjunct Saturn (coldness) in Aquarius.
Then I thought I’d look at two of my favourite studies of love. Roland Barthes, the French philosopher wrote possibly the most intellectual dissection of Psyche’s journey, A Lover’s Discourse. He has Psyche in clever, intellectual Gemini, one of the writers’ signs, on the Descendant, the angle of the “other”.
Psychologist Erich Fromm wrote one of the most influential books about love in the 20th century, The Art of Loving. He has Psyche in the heart of his Sun in Aries.
Which set me thinking about psychology, or at least psychoanalysis which is, after all the study of the soul. Sigmund Freud, unsurprisingly at this point, has Psyche conjunct his 8th house Saturn in Gemini — he contained the soul through storytelling. Carl Jung has Psyche conjunct Pluto in Taurus — and his Red Book is certainly a record of his own soul’s descent into a very dark place, and its transformation.
Which brought me to Bruno Bettelheim, whose seminal work, The Uses of Enchantment, explores how fairy tales help us develop emotionally. He has a partile conjunction of Psyche and Mars in Scorpio, the sign of analysis. (Curiously aggressive though.)
Joseph Campbell, author of Hero With a Thousand Faces, the analysis of myth which seeks to find the Ur tale — Psyche conjunct his IC (the foundation) in Capricorn (old stuff).
So then I started thinking again about modern weavers of fairy tales. I think Toni Morrison does that. Her Psyche is in the first house in Gemini, the sign of the bard. It makes a partile aspect to Neptune (fictions) in Virgo, writing again.
British author Angela Carter wrote many fairy tales. In fact her book, The Bloody Chamber, is a retelling of familiar tales. Psyche leads the giant stellium in her chart in conjunction with Jupiter in pioneering Aries. She was a very original writer.
The great Italian writer, Italo Calvino, wrote experimental fiction, which reads like modern fairy tales, including Invisible Cities and Once On a Winter’s Night A Traveller… He has Psyche on his Ascendant precisely.
Jane Austen, chronicler of the pursuit of a man with a private income, has Psyche in Taurus (of course), the sign of money and love. It makes a nice trine to her Neptune Rising (if we believe the time of this chart).
I could go on. We haven’t even started on songwriters. (Oh OK, I notice that John Lennon, who wrote some lovely love songs, has Gemini Psyche in partile trine to his Libra Sun.)
But I would suggest you look at where Psyche falls in your own chart. If you want to find your own Psyche, you can do so on astro.com in the extended charts section. Psyche is asteroid number 16.
The next thing to do is to look at transits.