The Charming Myth of Eros & Psyche
Last Updated May 30, 2023 by Tim Trott. First Published in 2013.
897 words, estimated reading time 3 minutes.
Aphrodite was the exception to the Greek God family tree. Some say her parents were unknown, and that she was born of sea foam. Others, like the poet Homer, said she was a daughter of the mighty Zeus, king of all the gods.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, three princesses lived. Psyche, the youngest, was quite gracious. She was also incredibly attractive. Psyche was so lovely that the great goddess of love, Aphrodite, got envious of her.
All the young men in the realm avoided Psyche whenever possible, fearing what the great goddess would do to them if they paid attention to her, and none volunteered to marry her. Her two sisters eventually married. Psyche, on the other hand, remained at home with her father.
Psyche couldn't stay at home indefinitely. Girls had to marry someone back then. Her father sought advice from Apollo's Oracle at Delphi. You're familiar with oracles! Who knows what the Oracle said in reality? The monarch had heard that his darling daughter should be prepared to die. Unfortunately, the king led Psyche to the edge of a cliff and abandoned her there.
In her grief, Psyche may have jumped to her death. She was pulled into the air before she could react. Zephyrus, the kind west wind, had taken pity on the young lady and gently took her away. It belonged to his good friend Eros, the lonely god of Love.
Eros was a handsome young fella, but he had enormous wings. He didn't want to frighten Psyche. He turned himself invisible and told Psyche not to try to catch a glimpse of him if she cherished his love.
Psyche was treated with tenderness, pleasant companionship, and lots of laughing, and she quickly fell in love with her unseen host. They were blissfully happy for a while. Psyche, on the other hand, desired to see her family. Eros eventually consented to let her bring her two sisters to his palace.
Envious of the palace and its riches, her two sisters deliberately convinced Psyche that she was being duped, that her husband was a terrifying monster and that she needed to flee!
"But he's so gentle," she said. "He can't possibly be a monster. I'd be aware!"
"He's deceiving you, Psyche. Believe us." They returned home, unhappy with their own life and envious of Psyche's.
Psyche cried and cried, until one night she crept into her host's bedroom with a lamp in one hand and a dagger in the other. Instead of the monster she was expecting, she encountered Eros, a handsome young man with two white wings. She was not scared in the least.
A drop of oil fell from the light she was holding onto the sleeping god. He awoke immediately. He noticed his Psyche, who was leaning over him with a dagger in her hand. He extended his wings and soared away with much sadness.
Psyche collapsed on the ground. What a fool she'd been to listen to her sisters. She dashed outside, towards the water. She plunged into the water. She was expecting to drown. But Pan, the shepherd god, rescued her from the river.
"Aphrodite is the goddess of love. Request her assistance." Pan counselled her.
Psyche begged Aphrodite for assistance. Aphrodite remained envious. She pretended to assist her because, after all, she was the goddess of love, but she assigned Psyche duties to prove her love for Eros that no mortal could possibly complete. Psyche, on the other hand, completed task after task. Psyche was aided by unseen entities sent by Eros who loved her and looked after her, even if she didn't realise it.
Finally, Aphrodite informed Psyche that her final mission was to collect a box from the underworld, a very rare box containing magical beauty goods. She could make herself so lovely with these that Eros would fall helplessly in love with her.
You'd think Psyche would be pleased about her final duty! Psyche, on the other hand, knew she had to die to join the kingdom of the shades. It was all over.
She was startled to hear a sweet voice in her ear. It advised her of impending hazards and what she needed to do to get the box without dying.
The voice was distinct. Here's what she needed to do:
- Prepare a coin for the toll to the underworld.
- Deliver three slices of sweetbread to Cerberus, the three-headed hound.
- DO NOT eat anything, not even a seed.
- Bring the box to Aphrodite without looking inside once you've found it.
Psyche performed everything that was asked of her. She safely returned to the country of light. She grew apprehensive while waiting for Aphrodite to appear. What if it was the box? Psyche opened the box just a smidgeon to look inside. A foul-smelling fog erupted. Psyche collapsed on the ground as if she had died.
Eros returned to his visible form and prodded her with the point of a golden arrow to save her life. She awoke right away.
"What am I going to do with you, Psyche? Will you never grow up?"
"I've discovered," Psyche whispered gently. "I've discovered that I love you."
Eros took her in his arms and flew her back to his palace.
Eros eventually persuaded his mother, Aphrodite, to accept Psyche as his wife. He persuaded Zeus, with the help of Aphrodite, to accept Psyche to the ranks of the immortal gods.
Psyche and Eros celebrated by throwing a party in the palace. Apollo strummed his lyre. Dionysus delivered the wine. And the gods all rejoiced. Eros and Psyche, on the other hand, lived happily ever after.
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