The third task which Aphrodite gives Psyche to perform seems impossible. The River Styx springs out of crag high in the mountains and from there begins its hidden decent into the valley and swamps before flowing into the Underworld. Aphrodite hands her a small urn carved out of crystal and tells her to fill it with the icy water from the source of the Styx. This seems like certain death. Not only is the mountain high and hard to climb, but the spring is guarded by dragons who never close their eyes. The Goddess says she wants to know if Psyche has a stout heart and “the prudence beyond the prudence of woman.” This demand makes sense because Psyche’s husband is the god Eros and his mother will only accept someone worthy of a god. Add to that the hatred Aphrodite bears toward her beautiful rival and feeling betrayed by her son’s choice and we have an archetypal situation of the possessive Mother trying to deal with life’s surprises. She could kill the young woman, but it must be done nicely, according to the rules, ones the masculine ordering principle symbolized by Zeus would be able to support. The Great Goddess is just testing Psyche, that’s all. And Eros is locked in her Palace having been wounded by falling in love with a mortal.
Psyche has the consoling thought that if she gets near the top and cannot get the water, then she can at least end her miserable existence by falling to her death. She has considered suicide before, so it’s still an option. If she can’t have Eros, she will take Hades, the Invisible One and live as a shade. As she approached the slopes of the mountain, Psyche froze with fear, unable to move. And at that moment appeared the mighty eagle, Zeus in his animal form. He remembered how Eros had shot him with one of his mighty love arrows when he was admiring a young shepherd. Zeus had to have the young man as his lover, so he took the form of the eagle, befriended Ganymede, and then picked him up and flew him to Olympos, there to companion Zeus and pour ambrosia for the gods and goddesses. Humans call him Aquarius, the water pourer in the night sky. The far seeing eagle speaks to Psyche, acknowledging her simple heart and her ignorance, for the mighty Styx is the most cruel and fearsome force in the world. But the eagle demands the urn, which he takes in his talons. At first even he cannot get the water, the dragons and the water itself forbids it. So he stretched the truth a bit, saying that he was Aphrodite’s servant and that she, the Great Goddess of Sexual Attraction, required the water. And so the Guardians drew back and let the eagle fill the urn, which he immediately returned to Psyche.
Aphrodite was not pleased with Psyche’s success. She was impressed and admitted that Psyche must be some great and powerful sorceress. She had accomplished the task with such quickness and nimbleness that she could do one more thing for the Great Goddess. She handed her a casket which Psyche was to take to the Underworld and ask Persephone for some of her beauty. Tending to Eros’ wounded shoulder was having its toll and she needed help from her sister Goddess. She sends Psyche, the cause of Eros’ wounds, to redeem herself and thereby restore Aphrodite’s beauty.