Psyche or Psykhe (Ψυχή), in Greek mythology, was a mortal of great beauty even comparable to Aphrodite/Venus, the goddess of beauty. She eventually became the goddess of souls, being deemed worthy of immortality after completing a series of impossible tasks and due to the undying love of Eros/Cupid, her husband. She is also the mother of Hedone/Voluptas.

Myths & Legends

Origins

Pysche was originally a mortal princess. She was compared to Aphrodite by her admirers, who, neglecting to pray to the goddess, made offerings to Psyche. In jealous revenge, the goddess of love bid her son Eros to shoot Psyche with an arrow, to make her fall in love with the next person she saw.

Marriage

However, Eros/Cupid accidentally pricked himself with an arrow, and was promptly infatuated with Psyche. She was taken by Zephyrus/Favonius, the west wind, to Eros'/Cupid's palace. Eros/Cupid visited her at night and left before dawn rose every morning. He forbade her to look at him or he would have to leave forever. Aphrodite/Venus persuaded Pysche's jealous sisters to question her, planting seeds of doubt in her mind as to her secret husband's true identity, thinking he may be a grotesque monster.

Abandonment

One night, she light a candle and saw his face. Eros, sleeping at the time, felt a hot drop of wax fall on his face. He woke up and left. Pysche, in tears, flees and is found by Pan/Faunus. Both her sisters learn of her husband and, in an attempt to replace her, jump of a rock so as to have Zephryus/Favonius carry them away. However, Zephryus/Favonius carries them for a short time before letting them fall to their deaths.

Servitude

Upon wandering the forests with Pan/Faunus, she comes across a temple of Demeter/Ceres. Seeing the scattered offerings and knowing proper worship of the gods must not be neglected, she earns the favour of the goddess Demeter/Ceres herself, who, after appearing to her, tells her she must appease Aphrodite/Venus herself as she cannot intervene on her behalf. The same happens with Hera/Juno.

Suicide

Psyche approaches Aphrodite/Venus, who has Worry and Sadness whip her and tear her clothes, bashing her head on the ground. Aphrodite/Venus them tells Psyche to sort a mixed pile of wheat, barley, poppyseed, chickpeas, lentils, corn and beans by morning. Psyche is aided in this by a group of ants, who take pity on her. Psyche is then tossed a bread crust for her meal.

After being cruelly mistreated by Aphrodite for some time, Psyche runs away and tries to drown herself. She is stopped by Apollo, who tells her she must complete her tasks. Aphrodite send her to collect water from the lake Coctys. She is attacked by draconic monsters and Zeus/Jupiter himself intervenes by an eagle to kill them.

She is then tasked to collect a parcel from Persephone/Proserpina, and eventually finds the entrance to Hades' realm (Roman Hadao). She pays Charon/Charun for his ferry trip and distracts Cerberus with honey cakes. She eventually reaches Persephone/Proserpina herself, Queen of the Underworld. She hands over the box and Psyche returns to the overworld.

Reunion

Overcome by curiosity, she opens the box and falls into a deep sleep. Eros/Cupid finds her, rouses her and takes her to Olympus. Zeus/Jupiter orders Hermes/Mercury to convene a council and warns Aphrodite not to harm Psyche. Psyche is given ambrosia to become a goddess and weds Eros/Cupid. She then gives birth to Hedone/Voluptas, goddess of pleasure.

Modern Depictions

  • The tale of Eros/Cupid and Psyche has inspired numerous ballets, musicals, operas and plays.
  • The word psyche in psychology refers to the entirety of the human mind, both conscious and unconscious. The word also means "soul".

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