Space between worlds. Hercules at Omphale.

The article was published in the collection of the Moscow Association of Analytical Psychology “Deep Psychology and Mythology” for 2011.

"Your dream," I told him, "about going down a narrow staircase with a woman behind her hurrying you, I think we should go to Freud and consider the symbol of birth." “I never thought like that,” he said interestedly. “In your melancholy you are in the bardo. Do you know what this is?” "No," he said, "I've never heard of it." "The Tibetan Book of the Dead describes the bardo as the state between incarnations, the period before the next birth." "I didn't feel any taste for life these days." “That's exactly what I mean,” I said, “You want to participate in life. You are between lives. The dream invites you to go down into the canal.” “I resist very much in my sleep, a woman is chasing me.” “Like all of us,” I said, reflecting on how difficult it is to be born again, especially when everything around you feels so painful and unsuccessful. “I’m not ready,” he said with understanding and acceptance. “It’s okay,” I replied, “You know where you are, and it’s important to be here. Bardo takes time; there is no rush here. There is no benefit from being born prematurely.”
Thomas Moore "Gifts of Depression"

I have been leading groups called “Experiencing the Mythological in Therapy” for the fifth year now, the group is recruited at the beginning of the year and then, within nine to ten months, in a very short time, we make an attempt to touch in the experience of the mythological stages of the evolution of consciousness. The group, as a small model of humanity, goes from Ouroboros to Osiris, from the merged and indistinguishable through separation and awareness of opposites to transformation.

This whole path is beautifully presented in the mythological cycle about Hercules: from the idea of ​​transpersonal forces to the apotheosis of Hercules. Zeus appears three times in the chain of the genus of Hercules: for the first time, when his brother Poseidon conceives Bel, the king of Egypt, the father of Egypt (Great-great-grandfather of Danae), the second time, when he himself unites with Danae, and Perseus is born from this union. And the third time, when he comes to Alcmene in the form of her husband Amphitrion. Alcmene is the last earthly woman of Zeus, and Hercules is the pinnacle and goal of the painstaking selection of the Supreme God. The earthly path of the hero ends with a fire, on which the final separation of the earthly and heavenly parts takes place: the earthly part, dying, descends into Hades with all the heroic attributes - a skin and a club, and the heavenly part goes to Olympus, where the Hero’s birth ceremony takes place and takes the place of the gatekeeper at gate of Olympus.

In the myth of Hercules, one can very clearly see how the heroic part of the ego appears, how it gains strength, how it is necessary in the separation struggle, first with the dragon of the family, and then with the dragon of society, how it then becomes unnecessary and superfluous, and how necessary, but very difficult to part with it. The idea that in the second half of life, the ego is only a gatekeeper at the gates of the Self, is usually quite painfully perceived by the group, the objections of the participants are often heard: “so what ?! All the feats, all the efforts only to open the gates and the bonus is to choose the best pieces from the game brought by Artemis?!”…

I have no purpose in this article to consider in detail the entire earthly life path of Hercules. I want to offer you to dwell on the episode of Hercules being in slavery to Queen Omphala.

Before we begin to dive into the mythological space, I want to remind you of a few basic ideas of analytical psychology. Firstly, in the unconscious there is no time and space - it is always “here and now”. Based on this, we, following Euripides, will consider the chronology of events as follows: descent into Hades and return from it - madness sent by Hera - murder of his wife and children - repentance and slavery, and not as in the more familiar version: good luck to Hercules in the military field – madness – murder of a nephew and children – feats of atonement for the crime. In the end, “Thasos and his companions first went to Olympia, erected a bronze statue there dedicated to the Tyrian Hercules - a ten-meter giant was depicted with a club and a bow... All this happened five generations before Hercules, the son of Amphitryon, was born in Greece. » (Graves 1992), so being in mythological space allows us some freedom with time.

Secondly, everything that happens in life has direction, meaning and purpose. Neurosis is a natural attempt at a cure, and in regressing a person unconsciously strives to reach the place from which the development of one-sidedness began. Through neurotic conflict, a person seeks to restore the rights of the rejected part of the personality. Therefore, it is so important for us to understand what purpose the unconscious action has, what it seeks to compensate for.

Thirdly, there is one “... fundamental law: even a woman's consciousness has a masculine character. The ratios of "consciousness-light-day" and "unconscious-darkness-night" remain true regardless of gender and do not change because the soul-instinct polarity is organized in women and men on a different basis. Consciousness is masculine even in women, just as the unconscious of men is feminine.” (Neumann 1998)

Turning to the myth of Hercules, I want to talk about the heroic side of the human ego, regardless of the gender of the individual.

Hercules descends to Hades to bring Cerberus, but, in addition to the dog, he also brings Theseus, who was punished in his time for supporting the insane project of Pirithous, into the world. The friends were punished for descending into the underworld and demanding Persephone from Hades as a wife for Pirithous, and they seemed to be received nicely, but as a result they were seated on the throne of oblivion, from which these two could no longer rise. Pirithous never, but Theseus was torn from the throne by Hercules, who “grabbed Theseus with both hands and began to pull until he tore him off with a terrible crash. Part of his body remained stuck to the stones, which is why the Athenian descendants of Theseus are distinguished by such absurdly tiny buttocks.” (Graves 1992)

Thus, Hercules brings out a hero equal to himself from the chthonic world; at this stage, the shadow of Hercules is personified by Theseus. Among other things, we see here the classic work of regression - to go back in order to free up some possibilities, unfreeze them, “tear them off with a terrible crash” from the throne of oblivion, and the myth warns that this cannot be done absolutely (Pirithous so and remains sitting there) and painlessly, “part of the body remained stuck to the stones.”

Hera, having learned that Hercules came out of Hades alive, sends him mad. Hercules, possessed by him, kills his wife and children, mistaking them for enemies. When the darkness clears, he realizes what he has done.

… But here

My ultimate feat, Theseus, you see

The bodies of the children I killed are like stone

The last one in the building of my misfortunes.

Pressed down by such misfortune, can I

Am I a murderer to stay in dear Thebes?

And if I stayed, would I dare

I go to the temple or to friends, for a holiday

Going to join? No, Theseus

The curse hanging over me

People should be scared. Not allowed in Argos

Exile. So on to a foreign land,

May be? Yes, to meet you everywhere

A hostile look and hatred?

Hercules is known everywhere. What is

Hear how an arrogant stranger

Pointing at you, he will say:

“Oh, this is that Hercules and the son of Zeus,

Who killed his family.

Let him go far away!”

But to those who have known happiness,

His betrayal is unbearable; easier

Those who are used to it endure grief.

After all, it will come to the point that they are no longer people,

And the rivers, the sea, the lands will scream:

“Back: don’t you dare touch us, you unfortunate thing!”

Well, or turn one last time

To me in Ixion, with the eternal wheel

From the flames that he spins?

And if this promises me fate, it’s better

None of the Hellenes can see me

Of those who knew me in happiness.

And yet I must live? Yes life is

Is there life under the burden of a curse? (Euripides)

Theseus takes the hero, tormented by grief and guilt, from Thebes.

A part of the personality, extracted from complete oblivion, helps to withstand very difficult and complex feelings associated with living through separation, which are experienced by consciousness “not only as passive suffering and loss, but also as an actively destructive act. Symbolically it is identical with murder, sacrifice, dismemberment and castration.” (Neumann 1998)

Consciousness, relying on shadow energies, plunges into depression.

“...depression occurs as a result of loss of self-esteem” (Lowen 2010)

To atone for his guilt, Hercules turns to the Oracle. The oracle orders Hercules to be sold on the slave market as an unnamed slave. Which is what Hermes does. Hercules is bought by Omphale, the queen of Lydia. Three silver talents are deposited with Hermes.

Refusing the persona, the consciousness flooded with feelings subsides in the arms of anima. Where Hermes takes him - the god of transitions, trade and thieves, the one who escorts the souls of the dead from the world of the living to the world of the dead.

In the outside world, Hercules seems to no longer exist - no one who knows him sees him or knows where he is. The hero is in Asia.

“Severe sadness - a reaction to the loss of a loved one - is characterized by a suffering mood, loss of interest in the outside world... We easily understand that this delay and limitation of the self is an expression of exclusive immersion in sadness, in which there are no interests and no intentions for what. something else." (Freud 1984)

Consciousness immersed in depression seems to hang between worlds - the world of the living and the world of the dead. And in this timelessness, intense, not always conscious, work of the psyche occurs.

Hercules is completely in the power of Omphale, his consciousness is flooded with feelings “The news reached Greece that Hercules had parted with his lion skin and a wreath of white poplar, and instead wore necklaces, gold bracelets, a woman’s turban, a red scarf and a Meonian belt. They said that he sat in a circle of dissolute Ionian beauties, combing wool or spinning it, shuddering at every cry of the mistress. More than once he got the gilded slipper from her when his clumsy fingers broke the spindle; sometimes, in a good mood, she amused herself by listening to his recollections of past exploits. At the same time, he didn’t even feel shame. That is why artists depict Hercules in a yellow skirt or surrounded by his maidservants Omphale, who carries his lion skin, club and bow” (Graves 1992). The stern hero, who introduced the law of punishment exactly repeating the crime (the criminal tore off the victim’s arm, means his arm should be torn off), masters the space of feelings.

And so, in this description of life in slavery to Omphale, which lasted a year or three, we encounter the following episode:

Among the various acts committed by Hercules during his service to Omphale was the capture of the Ephesian cerkopes, which constantly disturbed his sleep. These were twin brothers named either Passal and Akmon, or Ol and Eurybates, or Sill and Triball. Their parents were Oceanus and Theia, and they were known as the most notorious liars and deceivers that people have ever known. They wandered around the world, inventing more and more deceptions. Theia advised them to stay away from Hercules, and her words: “My little white asses, you will have to meet a big black ass!” - have become proverbial, and “white ass” now means cowardice, baseness and lust. In the form of corpse flies, they buzzed over the bed of Hercules, until one night he grabbed them and forced them to take their usual form. Then he threw them over a large pole so that their heads hung down, and he took the pole on his shoulder and walked. It must be said that Hercules’ buttocks, which were not covered by the lion’s skin, were so darkened by the sun that they resembled an old leather shield. Their color was also influenced by the fiery breath of Kaka and the Cretan bull. Therefore, the kerkops, hanging upside down, could not help but laugh at the sight that greeted them. At first, their gaiety surprised Hercules, but, understanding its reason, he sat down on a rock and began to laugh himself; This is how the brothers managed to beg for their freedom. And although the city of Kerkopia known to us is located in Asia, the cave of Kerkops and the rock called “Black-Ass” are shown in Thermopylae; from this we can conclude that the described case probably has nothing to do with them. (Graves 1992)

I want to dwell on this passage in a little more detail.

The children of Oceanus and Theia prevent Hercules from sleeping. Titanide Theia the mother of Heleos, Selene and Eos, her husband Hyperion (the shining god, literally “going above”) and Oceanus the Titan, son of Uranus and Gaia, brother and husband of Tethys, with whom he gave birth to three thousand daughters - Oceanids and the same number of sons - river flows, the deity of the world's greatest river, washing the earth and the sea. And from this union of the male side of the World Waters and the female side of the Sky, a pair of dwarfs “the most notorious liars and deceivers” is born, who do nothing but “wander around the world and invent new deceptions.” There is a version according to which Zeus turned them into monkeys; they were settled at Pithecusa to tease the giants.

C. G. Jung, describing the psychology of the trickster image, speaks of the devil as the monkey of God, about such traits of Mercury as “love of insidious practical jokes and evil tricks, the ability to change appearance” (Jung, 2005). It turns out that the guide Hermes never went far, and the space in which Hercules “serves his sentence” is completely his domain?

So, the kercops constantly interfered with Hercules' sleep, "buzzing over the bed in the form of dead flies." In the form of a fly, Eurynos, the Greek demon of physical decay and decay, was sometimes depicted. Hercules did not take part in the funeral of his wife and children, he left this to his father:


Bury the children, as I asked.


And who will close my eyes?


Your son.


Back then wait for you?



Bury the children. Then I'll be back

And I will take you with me to Athens.

Remove the bodies, hard work

I leave you. Tears, tears!

But me, burdened with villainy,

Shameful is the house of him who destroyed, Theseus,

It’s dragging from here like a heavy barge...

A fool who values ​​wealth and strength here:

More precious than all gifts is a reliable friend. (Euripides)

These “flies” prevent the consciousness from completely plunging into the unconscious, reminding us why it is here. It makes you angry and forces you to be active. As a result, consciousness responds, makes contact, and forces the dwarfs to accept their true appearance.

“Then he threw them over a large pole so that their heads hung down, and he took the pole on his shoulder and walked. It must be said that Hercules’ buttocks, which were not covered by the lion’s skin, were so darkened by the sun that they resembled an old leather shield. Their color was also influenced by the fiery breath of Kaka and the Cretan bull.”

Contact is, but without words. Dwarfs dangle tied, on a pole, behind the hero's back, contemplating his "fifth point". Hercules turned away from them, but took them with him. They found themselves in a situation that we usually describe as “total ass.” Where is he taking them? What will happen to them next? They are immobilized and without perspective. More precisely, in perspective they have Hercules' butt - a dark "old leather shield". Aggression and defense, when someone defends they say “f..u covers”, and vice versa, when they want to offend, anger or demonstrate their bare ass in protest. “The fiery breath of Kaka and the Cretan Bull” says that there were times when enemies breathed into Hercules’ back and below, but his “shield” withstood this too.

And then the Kirkops start laughing. Laughter appears, like something new, something revitalizing. Of course, this is reminiscent of the obscene jokes of Iambe, who tried to console the grieving Demeter. “It is also possible that Iambe is another hypostasis of Demeter herself, and the original meaning of the rite of “jokes on the bridge” contained the idea of ​​“consolation offered in a situation of transition” (Antipenko 2002)

“At first, their gaiety surprised Hercules” - how can someone who finds himself in such an unenviable position laugh? But then Hercules himself begins to laugh when he understands the reason. I think that this is where Hercules understands his situation. The dwarfs through themselves completely reflected the position in which Hercules is. With one exception: the rear was a perspective for them, but Hercules has it behind, in retrospect. This is his black past - something that will always be with him, but which he no longer sees. From which he leaves, but can never leave. Hercules gets up and leaves, where he sat and laughed, the Black-Ass rock remains - the burden of grief has been lifted, but the experience of living and redemption will remain with him forever.

If we try to look at this piece of myth as a metaphor for experiencing grief in therapy, then the figure of Hermes-Kerkop will tell us how a therapist can behave.

First, Hermes sells Heracles as a nameless slave to Queen Omphale for three silver talents - the ego is deprived of protection in the form of a person during therapy, it begins to directly, that is, very painfully, come into contact with feelings. While in the depressive stage of grief, the ego may try to "sleep", but the task of the therapist is to "buzz like a corpse fly", constantly withstanding the tension. When anger, irritation, anger break into consciousness - they fall on the therapist, and something arises between the therapist and the client - the space of countertransference, when the person feeling immobilized, tied with ropes, dangling on a pole, with a “wonderful” perspective in front of him, the therapist will fully experience "f..y", in which his client is located. And he will be able to let go a couple of "obscene jokes" - interpretations.

In my opinion, Hermes made good use of the three silver talents given for Hercules at the market.


Thomas Moore "Gifts of Depression"

Erich Neumann "The Origin and Development of Consciousness" "Relf Book" "Wakler" 1998

Robert Graves "Myths of Ancient Greece" Moscow Progress 1992

Euripides "Hercules" translated by I. Annensky

Alexander Lowen "Depression and the body" "Psychotherapy" Moscow 2010

Sigmund Freud "Sorrow and Melancholy" "Psychology of Emotions" ed. V.K.Vilyunas, Yu.B.Gippenreiter Moscow Moscow State University Publishing House 1984

C.G. Jung "Soul and Myth Six Archetypes" Moscow AST Minsk Harvest 2005

A.L. Antipenko "Mythology of the Goddess" Moscow "Ladomir" 2002

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