Monday, July 4, 2011

Box of Beauty

Over the last year, I have been participating in a women’s circle, a “group of women who are emerging”, as part of our mission statement states.  In fact, at our last gathering, we celebrated our one year anniversary.  I have been greatly inspired by our circle and by my circle sisters.   One of our activities was to draw a card from Susan Seddon Boulet’s Goddess deck, a beautiful set of cards made from her paintings.  The card I drew was Psyche (see the painting).  As I read the back of the card, which contained a short retelling of the myth of Psyche, I found myself tearing up.  I’m not a gal that tears up much (which drove one of my therapists to distraction practically). 

You can read much more about the Psyche myth here, but the essence of it is that Psyche was the beloved of Eros, and in order to placate Eros’s jealous mother Aphrodite, was set four seemingly impossible tasks.  Psyche accomplishes the tasks, even though she is in despair about her ability to do so, by allowing others to help her and listening to the wisdom of those coming to her aid.  Her final task is to visit Persephone in Hades and bring back a box of beauty.

Here is where I stopped and felt stunned by the phrase “Box of Beauty”.  It seemed to be an answer of sorts – this year, I have been questioning: what is my vision, what are the next steps I need to take, what ways can I grow?  As I sat reading the card, I thought about Psyche’s first three trials and saw parallels between those and how my own life has unfurled; yes, I could identify three phases of my life that at the time I was not at all certain I would get through.  And now, the task is to bring back a presumably full Box of Beauty.  What does that mean exactly?  What could be in the box? 

As I am questioning now, at my getting-riper age of 55, what I need to do now with my life, especially on a spiritual level, and what I have to offer, this idea of returning a Box of Beauty explodes with meaning. 

In the myth, Psyche gets the beauty from Persephone.  So it must be, I think, even though all of us contain universes of beauty within us, none of us can take credit for it.  It certainly isn’t necessarily related to our physical beings, although some of us could be gorgeous in a beauty queen sort of way.  I see it more as imparting beauty in word or action by choosing what is most forgiving or compassionate or loving. 

I also see that the Box will contain offerings of art and creativity and have been greatly excited this last week by the visions inspired by this myth.  This digital painting/photo is my version of the goddess Psyche.  I borrowed from the traditional association of the butterfly with the soul, which is another definition of the word psyche.  The butterfly in this image is from a photo I took this spring of a California Sister (Adelpha californica) resting by a pool in our Lion Creek.  And so, this image is the first from the Box of Beauty.

For poetry lovers, a verse from John Keats, “Ode to Psyche”, 1819:

O brightest! though too late for antique vows,
Too, too late for the fond believing lyre,
When holy were the haunted forest boughs,
Holy the air, the water, and the fire;
Yet even in these days so far retired
From happy pieties, thy lucent fans,
Fluttering among the faint Olympians,
I see, and sing, by my own eyes inspired.
So let me be thy choir, and make a moan
Upon the midnight hours;
Thy voice, thy lute, thy pipe, thy incense sweet
From swinged censer teeming;
Thy shrine, thy grove, thy oracle, thy heat
Of pale-mouthed prophet dreaming.