Image: Authors Own
Each of us possesses an intuitive creative self.
Claiming that is a transformational art.
Eileen M Clegg
Without pausing for breath, as soon as Aphrodite discovers that Psyche has successfully completed her task of sorting the seeds, then she sets her another one, to go and ‘Gather the Golden Fleece.’
For those of you familiar with this story, you will know that this particular task is filled with jeopardy and for those of you who are new to this story, you might feel a sense of shifting ground. But either way the message is clear there is more to learn, release and receive if Psyche is to be reunited with her love, Eros.
But before we move on into the second task let's remember that the first task of sorting of the seeds was a preparatory one. In which Psyche is at the very beginning of her conscious journey in contrast to her earlier unconscious wanderings across the land and requests for help which went unheeded.
It is through the process of sorting the seeds that Psyche is literally connecting to her creative self, deep within her unconscious mind, and learning to make distinctions and discriminations from which she can discern what is important to her. Paradoxically for Psyche to do this she has to generate enough mindful space to include all meanings and values, which physically are represented by the millions of different seeds.
Once this first task has successfully been completed then Psyche is inwardly prepared to continue in her tasks and be reunited with love. Psyche has sorted through her inner space of conflicting emotions and is now ready to move onto the next stage. This will prove to be more challenging and require Psyche to drawn upon even deeper levels of courage, creativity, and resilience.
The second task Aphrodite requires of Psyche is to gather some Golden Fleece from the powerful and combative rams of the sun. They are huge, violent creatures who like to spend their days literally locking horns with one another. Once again, the task required of Psyche appears impossible to her. She is filled with doubt and uncertainty. How can she move amongst the Golden Rams without getting trampled by their great hooves?
Unsure how to proceed Psyche finds a body of water, a stream which she sits next to, and as she sits in this spot, she notices the wind is gently blowing through a bed of reeds. The sound of the wind moving through the reed bed soothes Psyche, and in a calmer state of mind she tunes her ear to the music coming from the reeds. In their song she hears that they are offering her guidance about how she can achieve her task. The reeds suggest that Psyche rest a while and wait for the sun to go down. Then at night fall when the moon rises, the Rams will be tired, and no longer fuelled by the energy of the sun, they will all enter into a deep restorative sleep. It is whilst they are sleeping that Psyche will be able to walk amongst them and gently pick their golden wool from the branches of trees and bramble bushes without coming to any harm.
The image of Golden Fleece is most associated with the archetypal story of Jason, and his quest to go and get the Golden Fleece, which at this time in history has become a poignant symbol of kingship and sovereignty. In Psyche’s story we notice that rather than a male protagonist illustrating the human interests of conquest, possession, and heroism we are being directed to look at the human qualities of vulnerability, endurance, and love.
Throughout history there have been multiple interpretations of the significance of the Golden Fleece and what it represents to our collective Western centric human story but my focus is held with Psyche’s story of courage, creativity and resilience, and although I do make reference to the symbolic nature of the Golden Fleece it is contained within my understand of Psyche’s emergence as a woman in touch with her own intuitive nature.
Reflecting on the mythical significance of Psyche’s second task I am drawn to the idea of Psyche learning to engage consciously with all of the four elements. Earth, (reed), air (wind), water (stream), and fire (rams and the sun).
In her second task we discover that once again Psyche has some unusual helpers and guides. This time it is the wind and the reed. Once again at a time of creative impasse illustrated by psychological and emotional stuckness it is the wind who comes to Psyche’s assistance, but this time the wind does more than physically move her from one place to another. On this occasion there is a gesture of insight and wisdom. As the wind embodies the reed as a musical instrument. A gesture which both calms Psyche and offers her guidance in the form of music. That freely flows from the reed in a song which gentle directs Psyche’s imaginative mind, on how to gather the golden fleece (fire) in amounts that can be used to weave the fabric of meaning and values.
So, let us consider that Psyche is preparing herself for this task through a process of integrating three of the five elements, earth, (ground upon where she is sitting) air, (wind) and water, (stream). It is this creative synthesis which gives her the insight and courage to gather the golden fleece, (fire) which will eventually enable her to embody the fifth element, which in this story is represented as nectar.
“Everything become Fire, and from Fire everything is born.” Heraclitus
If we acknowledge and accept that fire can be both a creative and a destructive force in our lives, then we each need to sharpen our discernment to how much fire we require to ignite and energise our imaginative actions. As, it is far easier to contain a measured amount of heat which can nourish and warm us than acquire a great quantity that can burn us up.
Within this metaphorical frame the Golden Fleece is symbolic of both masculine and feminine power, and how our power manifests in the world both through physicality and intuitive knowing. Quite poetically the Golden Rams are inviting us to see the two sides of what sovereignty can mean in the form of masculine and feminine energies. As, they embody both then so do we.
I see the masculine being represented by the actions of the rams who when fuelled by the daytime energy of the sun are all powerful and violently confront one another by locking their horns. I consider their energic pattern as predominantly an outer one rather than an inner one. For the feminine to enter into this energetic space there is a danger of being overwhelmed by the aggressive energetic forces and incur some form of wounding.
Metaphorically, this wounding of the feminine nature could be in the form of disillusionment or becoming cynical. In this story I relate to feminine nature as a human quality that is represented in the form of waiting and observing. A process of slowly getting in touch with the inner creative powers which will guide Psyche safely and securely as she completes her work of integrating and synthesising old patterns into new ways of being.
This is clearly illustrated by Psyche who completes her task not by brute force but by a representation of feminine power that is rooted in patience, compassion, and love. For many, this expansion of how we perceive and enact our voices and advocacy in the world, requires real discernment and consideration in relation to how we choose to be and act.
Also, in this task, Psyche only gathers as much Golden Fleece as is required, she is not greedy and does not take it all. This provides a simple and direct ecological message that we do not need to dominate or consume everything that we find on our path, we can share and leave enough for others to find on their journey.
In the process of researching and writing about Psyche’s tasks as an illustration of our own initiative creativity, I intentionally decided to make my own images to capture the essence of each task. This intention is an illustration of an inner expansion of paying attention to my innate creativity and self-expression, and to consciously make space for this in my life.
It has required courage to let go of long held patterns and beliefs about who are creativity people and what is creativity. I have had to dig deep to share my ‘messy’ and 'fledgling' practice as it evolves and begins to find its own rhythm and pace.
In spending time with this task, I was aware of a strong pull towards, the physical idea of ‘Golden Fleece’ and wondered how I could make some. Whilst walking high up in the Shropshire hills, I came across some wool that had become caught on the branches and ferns. I set about collecting some and then turned my attention to the next step, how to turn white wool into golden fleece? I discussed this dilemma with my partner, and he suggested I try turmeric or saffron as a natural dying agent.
When we got home, I found some turmeric in the cupboard and set about mixing up a pot of water and turmeric in which I could dye the wool. I was delighted by the result. I loved the variation of colour and how the softness of the wool had been retained. It was these golden threads which I needed to bring an inner radiance to the fabric of the image which frames the way I see Psyche within this task.
I am sharing this experience of my initiative creative process and practice, to show how one intuitive creative action literally leads to another but only if we can gently allow ourselves to move from one thing to another without judgement or censorship. Learning to hold our imaginative actions lightly and are not set on achieving a particular outcome. Affording ourselves the freedom of self-expression and to be comfortable in just noticing what arises. Paying attention to how we rise up from the security of our own ground when we access the courage to fully inhabit and explore our own inner landscapes.
I see each of these creative processes as a form of Imagination in Action which leads us to the final section for you to call upon your own Imagination in Action, with the following task.
Imagination in Action
Discovering Your Symbol of Courage
Phase 1 –
Take a moment to consider that in this story the Golden Fleece is symbolic of the air of insight and the fire of passion which is contained within all of us. Whilst in other stories symbols to represent courage often call upon the image of a heart, a shield, or a lion.
Now, taking a piece of clean paper and some coloured pens or pencils, write in the centre of the paper the following question – “What might my symbol of courage look like?”
You can use one colour or as many as you like.
You can decorate the paper in any way you choose to or choose not to.
When you are done, fold up the paper or scrunch up into a ball.
Then in a safe place, preferably outside and with a metal container or a glass of water, set light to this piece of paper with your question on.
Phase 2 –
At a time that is suitable for you go for a solo walk in your local area, preferably where you can get access to nature, if you are planning to venture out for the day, then take everything that you will need, and make sure you are safe.
As you walk through your chosen landscape, bring to mind your question; “What might my symbol of courage look like?” and recall the images that you drew on your piece of paper.
Start to slow down you pace of walking and begin to really notice your surroundings, what do you see, hear, smell, and feel.
Notice if there are any natural objects on the ground, twigs, leaves, feathers, stones, or flowers. Whatever captures your attention.
If you feel moved to do so then pick up your chosen object hold it in your hand, feel if there is an energetic connection. If not then put it back, if there is then take a closer look, and begin to wonder how this object might be a connection to the courage within you.
When you have what you need return the object from where you found it, if you feel it is appropriate then you might want to thank your chosen object for guiding you and revealing some new insights. If you have a phone with you which has a camera then you might choose to take a photo.
Phase 3 –
Upon returning home at a time that works for you take half an hour to write about the whole experience.
Consider using the following questions as a prompt, or if they do not resonate with you, then just create your own.
What has stayed with you?
How do you feel?
What insight did you receive?
How does my symbol of courage want to express itself?
As, you reach the fourth question, close your eyes for a moment and when you open them just draw on your writings wherever your pen wants to go. Do not think about it too much, just make your mark on the page, and see what is there.
Phase 4 –
Consider in what ways your symbol of courage can be a resource for you and act as an entry point into your intuitive creativity, any time you are feeling stuck or disconnected in a situation or relationship.
Next time we will explore Psyche’s third task ‘Retrieve water from the river Styx.’
I specialise in weaving together, stories, images & nature connection practices to help people access their true nature, strengthen their creative fluency and increase their sense of wellness, and wellbeing in the world.