To end our discussion of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus, I want to concentrate on Ovid’s ending.
Once the merger has been accomplished, according to Salmacis’ request, she disappears and Hermaphroditus speaks. He prays to his mother and father and requests that any man that enters the pool be “weakened,” as he has been weakened.
Symbolically, I imagine that Hermaphroditus’ concept of “weakened” means that he is now in “touch with his feminine side.” And, as a by-product of his femininity, he speaks and becomes the dominant image of the myth and names it-hermaphrodite.
Jung said “in a marriage it is always the contained who projects the image upon the container, while the latter is only partially able to project his unconscious image upon the partner.”
Hermaphroditus is the container of Salmacis’ projection, which leaves him “uncontained.” The uncontained possesses the potentiality of turning to someone else to have his or her “own complexities answered.”
Jung in his essay, Marriage as a Psychological Relationship, states that “the one who is contained feels himself to be living entirely within the confines of his marriage; his attitude to the marriage partner is undivided; outside the marriage there exist no essential obligations and no binding interests.”
The situation for the “container” is more problematical, but also more interesting. If the union is not destroyed the “container” is forced to “contain” himself, which ultimately is the preferred position.
Although Salmacis is contained she has not disappeared. She still mediates the masculinity of Hermaphroditus.
In the future Hermaphroditus will activate the anima or the animus in men and women and thereby demonstrate his inherent bisexuality.
Ursula K. LeGuin played with this concept and myth beautifully in her science fiction novel, The Left Hand of Darkness, where the Gethenians are monosexual, undergoing a kind of estrus or heat once a month and where they morph into female or male depending upon the sex of the other.
And, probably most importantly, Plato, in his Symposium, relates a creation myth, where man was once a perfect being, a round creature that contained both male and female organs, rolling on the earth in happiness and contentment.