This is part of a series of articles, beginning here:
Venus Goes Retrograde: The Tale of Eros and Psyche
As her first task, Psyche is presented with a huge granary filled with a tremendous variety of seeds. Aphrodite tells her to sort each type of seed into its own pile and to have them all separated by sundown, and then Aphrodite stalks out, knowing how hopeless this is. Psyche confronts the piles, then bursts into tears, completely overwhelmed. While she is crying, some ants crawl out of the cracks and begin to organize the grains. Soon a whole army of ants is busily engaged and the piles grow until, by nightfall, all the seeds are neatly separated. Psyche thanks the ants and awaits Aphrodite’s return. Aphrodite is infuriated and Psyche is on to the next task.
What Does It Mean?
The ants are a sort of totem-animal for Psyche. They are industrious, practical and earthy. This task has the nature of Earth, as if to say that the human psyche must manage the practical aspects of life. Life does in fact go on, tragedy notwithstanding, and so this task asks, Can you get through the day and do what you have to do to maintain your life while you wait for love to return?
Psyche has been asked to “sort herself out,” to separate one thing from another, to put all the like things together, away from the unlike things. In this way she can be relieved of her overwhelm at the way her life is falling apart without Love in it. Sometimes you need to just put one foot in front of the other and to do the tasks that are right in front of you, as an affirmation of life and of your ability to cope. Doing this task frees her to take up the next with a clear head.
Sorting the seeds is like Psyche asking herself, “What are my needs? What are my boundaries? What things are essential to me? What can I tolerate and what can I not tolerate? What do I want? What is good and what is bad for me?”
Does This Apply To You?
Is there some part of your relationship that needs sorting out? A working relationship should meet the real needs of both partners, yet it can be hard to know which “needs” are true needs. Sometimes what seems like a need is actually a black hole that can never be satisfied, while a true need is fillable, is satisfiable. Do you know what your true needs are and are you willing to have them be filled? Do you know what your partner’s are and are you willing to help them be filled?
Here’s another thought: boundaries are not just external, they exist throughout any whole. A whole with an external boundary and no internal gradations of boundary is just like a chicken egg you might cook for breakfast: hard and fragile on the outside and soft and defenseless in the middle. A healthy relationship has boundaries throughout, some soft and some hard, to protect aspects of the relationship from spilling over into other spaces. You yourself are a system and you need these kinds of boundaries too, or else your private life would be spilling over into your work-life and vice versa. The Sorting of the Seeds is a sorting-out, a distinguishing, a separating of one thing from another. It is the first task to do when a relationship needs sorting out.
Read about Psyche’s Second Task, Gathering the Golden Fleece . . .