Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Psyche's Second Labor

Maud's recent post made me think about the relationship between young girl writers and their male mentors. These things often don't end well. To hear the men tell it, it's the girls who ruin the lives of the men they inspire.

Does it always have to be so either/or? I'd like to think not. Byatt, at least, got a beautiful book down on paper.

Here is Psyche's second labor.
Venus . . told her to go to a field where golden sheep grazed and get some golden wool. A river-god told Psyche that the sheep were vicious and strong and would kill her, but if she waited until noontime, the sheep would go to the shade on the other side of the field and sleep; she could pick the wool that stuck to the branches and bark of the trees.

Johnson says:
Too many modern people think that power is to be had only by wrenching out a handful of fleece from the noonday sun. Since power is such a double-edged sword, it is a good rule to take only as much as one needs--and that as quietly as possible. . . . The idea of having to take the remnants, just the scrapings of logos, the masculine rational scientific energy, off the boughs, may sound intolerable to a modern woman. Why should a woman have to take just a little of this quality? Why can't she simply pin down the ram, take the fleece, and leave triumphantly like a man?

Delilah did just this and made a great power play of it. She left much destruction in her wake. . . Psyche's way is much gentler. She does not have to turn into a Delilah and kill a Sampson in order to obtain power.

Here is what Neumann says:
. . . If the feminine strove to take what it requires by confronting the ram directly, it would be doomed to destruction. But at nightfall, when the masculine solar spirit returns to the feminine depths, the feminine--as though in passing--finds the golden strand, the fruitful seed of light.

Psyche . . . finds the element of the masculine that is necessary to her in a peaceful situation, without harming the masculine in any way.

Pity it's always up to the girls to find a way out of this mess. Why don't the boys ever get these labors in the old Greek myths? I guess they are too busy killing monsters and climbing down (unsucessfully) to the underworld.

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