Asteroid Psyche was discovered by Annibale de Gasparis on March 17th, 1852 in Naples. Whilst Psyche followed the same established pattern of being allocated a symbol (a butterfly’s wing and a star), she was the first asteroid to become known by her astronomical number (16) written within a circle.
Psyche is one of the ten most massive asteroids. Her orbital period is 4.99 years. She is large enough to affect the gravity of other asteroids nearby. Whilst she doesn’t belong to any other family of asteroids, it is thought that she is the remains of a larger body that was involved in a collision early on in the history of our solar system.
The Meaning behind the Name
The story of Psyche has to be one of my favourite mythological tales. She appears in art, poetry and prose, her attributes sometimes distorted, her myth sometimes changed but always the soul of the story remains.
Psyche means ‘soul’ in Greek and also relates to breath and mind. Psyche is the root of psychic, psychology, psychedelic and psychopathic! In modern day use, psyche has come to mean something similar to mind, consciousness and/or personality.
Medical definition: the specialized cognitive, conative, and affective aspects of a psychosomatic unity : mind; specifically : the totality of the id, ego, and superego including both conscious and unconscious components – Merriam Webster’s Dictionary
The Greeks believed that the mind/soul lay within the chest and that the heart was the ruling part of the soul. Perhaps this is unsurprising considering many of us experience sensations in our hearts – the unrelenting weight of loss, the bubbling delight of love, the quiet warmth of knowing the right thing to do. Whilst we may know now that the brain contains the neural activity that stores our memories, dreams and desires, we still have a feeling that the heart speaks.
Psyche’s story was first told in written form in The Golden Ass by Apuleius in the 2nd century. However, the story itself is much older with the characters appearing in Greek art centuries before. The story is very long so I have tried to condense it a little here.
Psyche was a human woman blessed with extraordinary beauty. Unfortunately for Psyche, the Goddess Aphrodite became extremely jealous that men were paying homage to her instead of the Goddess. Aphrodite decreed she would marry a monster, charging her son Eros with the job of making Psyche fall in love with the most hideous man alive. Psyche’s father received the message through an oracle that his daughter was bound for a terrible fate, so it was suggested she be taken to a high cliff and left to fall to her death.
But instead of falling, Psyche was saved by the West Wind and carried to a beautiful palace. In this place, Psyche was treated like a Queen and then at night her invisible lover came to her and made love to her. Psyche was very happy but her sisters were envious and cruel. They laid the seeds of doubt in her mind, suggesting that her invisible lover was in fact the monster the Gods once said she would marry. By this time Psyche was pregnant and her sisters played on this, saying the child too could be born a monster.
Psyche was distraught and knew she had to see who her lover was even though he had made her promise never to try to reveal his face. Once night, with a knife in one hand ready to slay the ‘monster’, she held up a lamp over her lover’s sleeping form and saw the beautiful Eros asleep in her bed. Instantly she was in love and she shook with passion. This caused a drop of burning oil to fall upon his shoulder. Eros awoke.
Devastated at the broken promise, Eros left wounded and hollow. Psyche was utterly bereft without her beloved. She took revenge on her evil sisters then wandered the world desolate and suicidal, seeking Eros. Eventually she was caught by Aphrodite and tortured. Aphrodite then set impossible trials for Psyche to prove her worthiness for Eros. Each time, Psyche was helped – by the ants, the reeds, an eagle and an animated Tower to complete the tasks set. The last task was to petition Persephone, Queen of the Underworld for a box of her beauty oil for Aphrodite. On the way back, Psyche couldn’t help herself. Deciding she could perhaps use one drop of the oil, she opened the box only to find it contained the sleep of the Hades – a sleep of the dead.
Finally, Eros could bear it no longer. Now that he had healed from his wound, he flew down and rescued Psyche, lifting her up to the heavens where he asked Zeus to grant Psyche immortality so that they could be justly married. Zeus agreed, the couple were married in a great wedding feast and shortly afterwards they had a daughter who they named Voluptas (Pleasure).
The Meaning in the Myth
There are many subtle levels to Psyche’s story. Perhaps it is wise to start with her symbol – the butterfly’s wing and a star. Butterflies symbolise transformation as they literally transform their shape from unbecoming caterpillar to extraordinary winged beauty. Love, like light makes us shine brilliantly and brings out our many colours.
Butterflies are also known as ephemeral creatures, they flutter from flower to flower, like a young girl or boy in teenage years flitting from crush to crush. They live short lives and are incredibly fragile. But the stars are seemingly constant and eternal. They connect us back through time to the beginning and make us ponder the big questions, the greater pattern.
Psyche’s story is about how love transforms us. It shows the tenderness and delicacy of love – how easily bruised we are when trust is broken. It shows how doubts can damage us, how envy can harm us and how quickly the light goes out when love leaves. It also shows how love takes us on a journey, one where we must face our darkest fears in order to discover the truth of ourselves so that we can reveal that truth to our own beloved. Ultimately Psyche shows that the journey will irrevocably change us and how true love unites us with our own divinity. Love leads us to touch the Gods.
Love then, is the vehicle that Psyche uses to transform herself into an integrated being – mind, body and soul. Remember the word psyche is ultimately about the self so whilst the story is a love story which teaches us about the nature of love, its purpose is to teach us about the nature of ourselves. Normally what we cannot accept within ourselves we then project onto others – as Psyche does when she fears Eros to be a monster. Throughout much of the story, Psyche is weak – breaking her promise to Eros, taking revenge on her sisters and often seeking a way to kill herself. In some ways Psyche is as ugly on the inside as she is beautiful on the outside. But also we warm to her and revel in her happy ending because we all want to be loved – and we all want to be whole again. Her suicidal tendencies are a seemingly easy way to return to the source and reconnect with the divine. But the spirit is strong and it will not let her die. Instead it encourages her to face what she thinks she cannot face in order to reveal her own true face.
When the story begins, Psyche is human, young and innocent. She seems to have it all going for her physically, considered more beautiful than Aphrodite herself, yet she yearns for something else.
She enters into a relationship with an lover she never sees who hides in the cover of dark. The dark represents her unconscious mind. The relationship is not yet ‘real’ because she cannot name her lover or describe his face. This part of the story relates to Psyche not really knowing herself. Monsters lurk in her unconscious mind – her fears grow with the whisperings of her sisters. In a sense then, her conscious mind is aware that something is amiss and something is missing.
The flash of understanding comes when she ‘sees the light’. In the story, the sisters ask her to have a knife at the ready to kill the monster. A knife, like the swords in the Tarot, represents logic and decisiveness. The light illuminates the situation and she becomes conscious of how separated from herself she has become. She doesn’t trust herself – part of herself runs away. It is here when we see the fragmented soul.
Psyche shows us where we must bring ourselves together – uniting our own anima and animus. The house and sign of our own natal Psyche shows where we might be seen for something we are not, where we might try to live up to someone else’s expectations, where we may be too concerned with how we look to others and where we are given trial after trial in order to recognise our own beauty for what it is.
The Trial and the Tower
The last trial of Psyche caught my eye. Aphrodite tasks her with visiting Hades and asking Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, for a box of her beauty-oil. Overcome with everything and thinking this is certain death, Psyche takes herself to the top of a tower ready to throw herself off. But the Tower becomes animated with Spirit and talks to her. It tells her not to give up and then gives instructions on how to complete the task.
In the tarot, the Tower is number 16, like the number of Psyche. The Tower comes after the Devil card. The Tower shows us that through crisis we are redeemed, through facing our demons, we break out of our own hell. The way out of hell is through the Tower. The card that follows the Tower is the Star.
It is only through facing hell that Psyche can break the torment imposed upon her. When she decides to steal one drop of the beauty oil, it is like her one last attempt at keeping the soul and the ego separate – to stay unconscious. But, as the sleep of Hades tells us, she can no longer hide behind her beauty nor blame it or anyone else for her predicament. Now she has seen hell, she is already changed. Now she has illuminated her own shadows, her soul has come to light and it is this that becomes resplendent in immortality.
Psyche in the chart shows where you need healing at a soul level to unify the self. Inevitably, it may be love that leads you on the journey. Psyche’s position may show what shadows are revealed when love comes knocking at your door and what must be incorporated before you can connect with another. Psyche shows where you may be inclined to give up in the face of adversity, where you might seek an easy way out and where life will test you again and again until you face your own private hell. Asteroid Psyche shows where you have the ability to transform, blossoming into a person who can love and be loved. Working at her deepest, Psyche shows you how to reconnect to your soul, reminding you are a being of brilliance and beauty within and that your soul is eternal and constant, like the stars.
Psyche Discovery Chart
Psyche was discovered when the Sun was in Pisces – the sign representing the concept of soul and cosmic unity. In the Discovery chart, the Sun is quincunx to Psyche. It feels like a game of hide and seek between the ego (Psyche is in Leo) and the soul (Sun in Pisces). The Sun is ruled by Neptune – a transpersonal planet linked to unconditional love, spiritual love and also sorrow, disappointments and deception.
Quincunxes are about adjustments and connect to the idea of fate or destiny. They also can indicate ill health through association with the sign Virgo and Scorpio. So the discovery chart quite eloquently shows us how Psyche is caught in the performance of the ego and is pushed and prodded by the universe to reconnect with her soul (through her beautiful and divine lover). Through deep sorrow, she is eventually reunited with her soul – and soul love.
Venus conjunct Saturn is fitting as it literally describes the trials that Venus (Aphrodite) gives to Psyche to prove her worth. It is through these that Psyche matures.
The closest aspect in the chart is a conjunction between Saturn and Uranus uniting constancy and change into one form. Both are trine to healer Chiron.
The Discovery Degree
Psyche was at 27LEO07 when discovered.
The Sabian symbol for the discovery degree is :-
Many Little Birds On A Limb Of A Big Tree
The symbol can suggest being distracted from the true path by mindless internal chatter (the discordant tweeting of the birds) or it can be like the wonder of a dawn chorus, singing in harmony.
How to Find Psyche in Your Chart
Go to www.astro.com and in the extended chart selection ‘additional objects’ type in 16 to bring up Psyche’s position in your natal chart.
Suggested Keywords and Phrases for Psyche
The fragility of love; the trials of love; the path of true love never runs smooth; see with your heart; individuation; the totality of self; integration; metamorphosis; transcendence; unity; union of mind; body and soul; understanding of self through love of another; maturity of consciousness and conscience; the trials of life; self actualisation; what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger; raise your consciousness; raise your vibration; soul retrieval; soul loss; fragmentation; where you seek to bring yourself together; where you run away from your inner darkness; where you seek to know the truth; where you are inclined to give up; where you are fragile; where you have the strength the overcome.
I have Psyche in 8H Scorpio (con Hekate & Asbolus & Sisyphus, opp 2H Tau Cupido, sq 12H Aq Pallas & Uranus, tri 1H Pis Ceres & 5H Can Moon, sex 7H Vir P Fort, semisq 10H Sag Sun) and what you say makes total sense! I can see the reality of your discription in my life.
Thanks for a beautiful article, which I discovered only today.
Psyche is conjunct my NN and fixed star Aldebaran in Gemini in my 9th house, part of a grand cross with the Nodes and Virgo Pluto/Uranus in my 12th house opposing Saturn in my 6th house.
Psyche and NN are also part of a grand trine with 1st house Libra Venus and Pallas in Aquarius conjunct my 5th house cusp.
So I guess she is very central in my chart, and I can also very much connect to the myth and see myself as a male version of Psyche..
At this recent super full moon, which was right on my IC, I have a grand cross AC/DC 1 Libra/Aries IC/MC 2 Capricorn/Cancer, I drew the Tower card, and some how I feel the time has come to go really deep into that Hell you mention and see how I find my way up again.
I feel I have travelled the way many times, but perhaps not the whole way..
All the best, Mads
Hi Mads – thanks for your comment. Yes, it does sound as though Psyche has an integral part to play in your chart. It is through the Tower we come out of hell and meet the star 🙂 Blessings to you.
In terms of synastry can anyone tell me how a man’s Psyche and Saturn in Scorpio conjunct a woman’s north node would play out?
I just reread your article and my comment from last summer as the upcoming new moon will be on my Pallas on my 5th house cusp, making a grand trine with my Gem Psyche/NN and Libra Venus. My premonition from then was more right than I imagined. I hope and pray and somewhere I guess I also know that this new moon will be a great release from that journey. I wrote a poem this month, celebrating the broken heart as the opportunity for opening the fragile heart to divine love. Here it is xx Mads
But Broken Lovely
At the End of the Beginning, there was nothing but a Word,
And staying in the dark and letting out a train of thought,
God wondered if the Word within had actually been heard,
And why the Word alone was God and just alone with God.
God took a little breath and blew the Word out in the Dark,
The Word became a Song and in the Dark there came a Light.
And in the Light God sensed inside how the Song had made a mark,
The Dark was broken and God’s song resounded clear and bright:
But Broken Lovely, God sang to Darkness’ face,
What I shall sing will always shine with breath from your embrace,
With you my Light shall always grow in splendour and in might
Without your blindness, there will never be the warming sight.
The Song resounded and Dark felt that the Light was really sweet,
Inhaling Dark, exhaling Light, the Song would make them one,
Dark knew they fit together, that it’d win by each defeat.
It kissed the Light and as it shone the fun had just begun.
As lovers they would meet in the set and in the rise,
While torn apart at Day and Night, they sang a soft adieu.
The Life of Day, The Dead of Night: They daily parted twice
The twilight’s brief carress would mark each breaking of the two.
But Broken Lovely, Light sang in Darkness’ space
while I must shine I yearn to lie with you without a trace,
The soothing rest with you gives strength to every daring flight,
Your cooling calm when I go down will be my hot delight.
God saw that it was good and breathed the deepest breath to date,
God swallowed Light and Darkness and they merged within again.
God knew well that the Song this giant Breath would now create
Was more than Light and Dark, it was the essence of all men.
Exhaling, seven Days and Nights the Song would wide resound,
A Universe appeared at first with an almighty Bang,
And everywhere the Song was heard could Dark and Light be found,
A different mix in everyone with broken voices rang.
But Broken Lovely, God sang with sweetest grace
My Song is planted now and stays in every living race,
The tune within will always have its own and quiet might,
My Breath of Love will fight each pride and any fearful fright.
Within the Song he threw all feelings and desires,
and filled with laughter and a smile, it flew from mate to mate.
God added hard learned truths with hope and faith for weakened liars
In every self good phrase God played with bitterness and hate.
For every chance of great advance, an obstacle’d occur
The lightest soul might meet a sickness at the easy gate,
For all who felt most righteous, God gave a chance to err,
And thus, the harshest hardened hearts, might break by helpful fate.
But Broken Lovely sounded brightly from God’s rays
And many soul would sing the Song in harmony and praise.
Uplifted by a Night of Love into a Day of Fight
When two would sing in unison God knew that it was right.
God also saw the Chaos and God wondered quite a bit.
My little Song, is it so strong, what if it gets mislaid?
But Light and Darkness smiled at him when finally he’d sit:
You knew from the Beginning, it would always come to aid.
The Song will find its way whenever need is from Above,
It is your gift to every Heart whose faith has gone astray,
Whenever it is closed, your Breath will break it up with Love,
And tear it into Song again in your mysterious way:
But Broken Lovely, in the open Heart it stays,
And there, your Song and Breath will lightly every pain erase,
As Dark is always woken by the radiating Light
And Day that very moment kissed to endless sleep by Night.
Hi Mads, your poem is just beautiful! I love it. Thank you so much for sharing. Wow, I’m so impressed with your writing xx
Thanks Leah, I’ve actually never written poetry in English before. But I shall carry on…
just a note to say that I really appreciate your site and particularly this section – and this page. I gain a greater articulation today of my psyche situation and much food for processing. (the astro markers for my connection here today are quite pertinent, to put it mildly and that is always prompting and comforting, both.) thank you for being an instrumental part of my journey.
Thanks Weaver – the wonders of synchronicity 🙂
Thank you so much for your beautiful article.
My psyche conjuncts my natal venus almost exactly and I’ve been always wondering how that would manifest… I guess that means I’m most vulnerable in areas venus symbolizes,such as love, beauty, etc.? And they’re situated in the 5th house and my Sun is in there also haha.
Great article and It helped me gain some additional understanding of my personal journey. I have psyche conjunct sun at 1 degree in my natal. Through learning self accountability and facing my demons and learning to love myself. I began to see relationships much more clearly. I have improved my ability to love others and be loved by them in a genuine way. Not an easy task, just like psyche’s journey . But a most enlightining merging of mind, body and spirit I have ever experienced. Thanks !!
great article Leah …
Thank you Marilyn 🙂
HI. This was a fantastic rendition of the story. I was really looking for an explanation to connect my astrological research to the myth and then to make it personal. thank you.
I am an astrologer and tarot reader. Look me up. I did a talk about my own journey with tarot at the studios of key west a while back. It is on line. Thanks, Leah!
Hi Nicole – Thanks for your comment. I’m glad to hear you found the post helpful. I will check out your work 🙂
I love asteroid Psyche 🙂 I have an exact conjunction with Jupiter and Cupido all in virgo, 8th house.
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