The Argonauts and the desert test

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


<< Previous : The union of Jason and Medea

Although they had reached the outskirts of their homeland the heroes still had to undergo other trials on the borders of Libya.

While the land of Pelops was in sight they were roughly treated by a storm raised by Boreas which lasted nine days and as many nights. They were carried by the winds and the tides to the Gulf of Syrtis where the mud and the algae hold the ships back and were run aground.

There were neither animals nor birds and the sand stretched as far as the sky. The heroes were losing hope, becoming pale and their hearts growing cold and even the helmsman Ancaeus cried. They bid each other farewell and every one of them was ready to die in this distant place. Only moans and lamentations could be heard.

It was then that the guardian goddesses of Libya, “the glorious goddesses of solitudes” who asserted that they knew everything about the trials of the Argonauts appeared before Jason. They bid him to stop lamenting over his misfortune and revealed to him a sign that would indicate the right time for their return: “when they would see Amphitrite loosening the chariot of Poseidon it would be the moment to set out again”. But Jason was unable to understand this vision.

Sometime later a gigantic horse with a golden mane emerged from the sea and immediately disappeared from sight with a gallop as swift as the wind.

The heroes then had to carry the ship on their backs through the dunes of the Libyan Desert for twelve days and twelve nights, thus performing “a prodigious feat under the compulsion of necessity”. They then put down the ship in the waters of Lake Triton.


When the seeker has taken the irrevocable decision to accomplish the goal set by his soul he enters into an area of inner turbulence brought about by his asceticism (a storm of Boreas). Away from worldly interests, free from many of his beliefs and supports but without any clarity of vision in regards to his path he finds himself during this time in an uncomfortable and miserable position as if abandoned both by the Divine and by his fellow men. He feels that he has both lost his life and strayed away in his quest. He has given up, or so he believes, his old dreams and is supported only by his inner flame.

This however is a time for purification since the ship of the Argonauts has run aground in the Gulf of Sirte, “that which cleanses”. The mystics describe these trials that one comes across several times along the way as “spiritual nights”, periods of drought for the senses and for the soul (deserted expanses of sand) often coupled with a strong vital discomfort (the marshes) and without any of the previously familiar “divine consolations”.

However after a time the seeker glimpses the way out and is warned of a signal to come by powers which manifest themselves in solitude, protect the processes of freedom and know about all the past trials of the seeker (the patron goddesses of Libya, “the glorious goddesses of solitude”). Great strength will come to him endowed with an ability to correctly perceive the truths of the spirit “the horse with the golden mane.”  But the seeker does not understand anything of what is said to him.

Then begins a rather delicate period of maturation which can seem never ending, a symbolic twelve days and twelve nights during which the “vehicle” (body, vital, mind) undergoes a period of weakness and must be supported by internal forces engaged in the quest (the heroes must carry the ship). The personality that normally “supports” the quest has given in and is no longer operative at that time.

Next : The Argonauts in the Hesperides garden >>


<< Summary and Introduction : Jason and the quest of the Golden Fleece