Once upon a time, a king had three daughters. The beauty of the youngest, Psyche, ψυχή was beyond description. The fame of her beauty was spread all around that people from other countries would come to see her, and were fascinated by what they saw. In her praise, they sang odes to her and surrendered her with chaplets. So much so that even the altars of Venus were abandoned. Offended by the growing exaltation of a young mortal, Venus exclaimed :
” She shall not seize my divine honors for I will give her cause to repent of so unlawful a beauty.”
Having made up her mind she summoned her mischievous and naughty son –the god of love, Cupid, and complained about this situation and provoked him against Psyche. She said :
My dear son, punish this dazzling rebellious beauty, take my revenge. Infuse in her an irresistible passion for a low and worthless being, a passion strong enough to captivate her for the rest of her life. Thereupon she can reap what she has sown in the vain and mortal beauty of hers.
Cupid prepared to follow his mother’s orders. From the two fountains in the garden of Venus, he filled two amber bottles, one with sweet and one with bitter water, and headed towards Psyche’s chambers. When arrived, he found her sleeping. He dropped a few drops of bitter water on her lips and touched her side with the point of his arrow and that woke her up. When Psyche opened her eyes Cupid was stunned by her gaze, so he trembled and injured himself with his own arrow. Heedless of his wound, all he could think was to repair the mistake he had brought upon Psyche. Overflowing with affection towards her, he took the bottle of delicately sweet water and sprinkled it on her silky curls of hair.
Psyche, hence being the target of Venus’ fury, never actually benefited from her acclaimed beauty or charms. It is true that they were worshipping her beauty and praising her each instant, and yet she was feeling alone and spending her days in solitude. Her elder sisters were already married to honorable princes, but Psyche never fell in love and chose to live on her own.
Her parents, worried that they might have unintentionally incurred the anger of the gods, they consulted the oracle of Apollo, and received this answer :
According to the wheel of fate, the young Psyche will be the bride of someone who is not mortal. Her future husband awaits her on the top of the mountain, and he is such that neither the mortal nor the immortal can resist his power where his arrow hits.
Her parents, devastated by this terrible prophecy, went on mourning. But Psyche told them :
My dear parents, why are you lamenting me now? You should have grieved when people gave me unjustified honors, praises and always said to me, “You are as beautiful as Venus.” Now take me to the mountain top where my destiny awaits. I am willing to resume my fate.
Her family prepared and took her to the mountain top to face her fate, and returned home in affliction with gloomy hearts. Psyche stood on the ridge of the mountain tired, panting with fear and not knowing what to do or where to go next. Then came Zephyr –the soft and gentle breeze and lifted her up from the earth and gently carried her to a valley of flowers. Slowly calming down, Psyche laid down on a bed of soft grass and fell asleep right there. When she woke up refreshed, she saw the fountain with clear waters in the middle of a grove surrounded by tall and majestic trees and the magnificent palace standing right behind the fountain. It looked as if the palace was not built by mortal hands, it rather looked like a divine retreat. She approached in amazement. As she entered, she saw the golden pillars, the vaulted roof, she peeked around the beautiful landscape paintings on the walls; everything was placed beautifully. She stood in awe and wonder. Then an invisible voice introduced her to the surroundings, declaring that he would be in her service all the time and thus Psyche started her new life.
Her husband, whose face she had never seen came only when darkness fell and fled away before dawn. Embraced by his love and affection, Psyche was happier than she ever imagined.
One day she mentioned that she wanted to remove the worries of her family left behind, and her husband arranged Zephyr to bring her sisters for a visit. The sisters, who saw the happy life of Psyche, envied her and evoked dark suspicions and malevolent doubts in Psyche’s mind. They persuaded Psyche that her husband is a monster who ultimately wants to kill her and that she must see his face first of all and then kill him before he kills her. Convinced, Psyche waited for her husband one night with a lamp in one hand and a knife in the other. When he fell asleep, she bent over to see his face but her hand holding the oil lamp trembled in her astonishment upon seeing the beautiful face and the wings of Cupid; causing few drops of oil dripping on his face from the lamp and which woke him up. Cupid said in all his dismay :
“You betrayed our relationship. Love does not dwell in suspicion. ”
And he fled. Psyche, crying with mournful lamentations searched for her lost love everywhere. Unable to think of anything but her love, she kept wandering in regret. One day as she was wandering in the harvest season, she decided to visit Ceres, the goddess of earth and harvest. Ceres, who knew her story, had mercy for her sufferings and said :
Go to Venus and submit to her sovereignty, bend in front of her with humility and plead for her forgiveness. Beg her to bestow the love you lost back to you…
Following Ceres’ advice, Psyche went on to Venus and pleaded. Venus, who imprisoned Cupid in her palace, assigned Psyche three difficult tasks to prove her love all the while thinking that she would not be able to perform them anyhow… Psyche, energized with her love for Cupid, courageously performed the first two tasks.
As third which was the most difficult, Venus ordered Psyche to go to the underworld kingdom of Pluto and bring her the box containing the elixir of eternal beauty. Despite the difficulties and temptations of the voyage, Psyche took the box and safely came back to earth. Under the sparkling sunlight, she could not resist the temptation any more and opened the box. What she saw was the dark sleeping monster enraptured in the box instead of the elixir. Soon enough the monster is released, Psyche’s lifeless body collapsed on the ground. Cupid, having witnessed all could not bear being separated from Psyche any longer and decided to go to the court of Jupiter and ask for his help to save Psyche. Astonished by the sincerity of their love, Jupiter accepted his wish and sent the messenger god Hermes to bring Psyche over to his court.
When Psyche is brought to the assembly of the gods, her deeds were judged. The verdict favored her courageous efforts in search of her true love and her submission to undertake the most difficult tasks assigned by Venus. Jupiter and the judges decided that she deserves this love and restored her life. Moreover, Jupiter immortalized her by giving her the potion of immortality, thus, enabled Cupid and Psyche to reunite forever. Their mortal love was then transformed to eternal love. They lived in bliss and total happiness ever after…
May 3, 2020
Note: The Greek names of the Roman gods mentioned in this mythology are: