The Month of Love – Mythology & How the Stories Remind us of what Matters
Cupid & Psyche
The story of Cupid & Psyche is a story that reminds me a little of the tale of Cinderella… The extracts are quoted from the story told by Apuleius, who is a Latin writer of the second century A.D. and the book is written by Edith Hamilton, ©1969, one of the greatest teachers and scholars of our time.
It is a delightfully told story that allows us to remember that True Love will always prevail… and mortals are very seldom content with what they have, until all is lost….
So here it begins….
There was once a king who had three daughters, all lovely maidens, however the youngest, Psyche, outshone her sisters in beauty that she could have been called a goddess….
The reputation of her beauty spread through the land and men everywhere journeyed to see her. It was as if Venus, the goddess of Love, herself could not equal with this mortal.
As more and more people started worshiping Psyche’s loveliness, less and less people gave a thought to Venus herself. Her temples were neglected, alters left with cold ashes, her towns left deserted and falling to ruins.
It was said that Venus would not tolerate this, and when she was in a predicament, turned to her son, that beautiful winged youth whom some call Cupid and others Love, to help her.
She asked him to use his power to make this hussy fall madly in love with the most dreadful and most appalling creature ever known in the whole wide world. Cupid would have probably obliged, had Venus not shown him Psyche first…
The strangest thing then happened, no one fell in love with the fair maiden, she did not fall in love with a wretched creature and men were just content to look, wonder and worship her. Her sisters both were married to extremely suitable partners – kings and Psyche stayed unmarried.
This was very disturbing to her parents and her father travelled to an oracle of Apollo to ask his advice. The god answered him, and the news was terrible… Cupid had told him the whole story and had begged for his help. Accordingly, Apollo said that Psyche should be dressed in her mourning clothes and must be set on the top of a rocky hill and left there. Her destined husband a fearful winged serpent, stronger than the gods, would come and make her his wife…
The sadness and misery of the news that Psyche’s father brought back, was deplorable… no one could believe it… her family however followed the instructions and did what the god had told them to do.
Psyche however kept her courage while her family mourned her death… once they had left she waited not knowing what would happen but trusting in the gods that no harm would come to her.
Zephyr, the most gentle and sweetest of winds came to her and lifted her up and carried her to a soft grassy meadow. It was so peaceful that all her troubles left her, and she slept.
When Psyche woke, she woke beside a river facing a beautiful mansion that looked like it was made for a god… it looked as if it was deserted and as Psyche drew near, she heard voices in her ear… very clearly, they said she must enter without fear and bathe and refresh herself. There would also be a banquet and she could eat… the voices told her they were her servants and would do whatever she desired.
Psyche enjoyed and embraced the beauty and calm during the day, even though she was alone. She felt in some inexplicable way that her husband would come to her in the night and he would be with her. And so, it happened. When she felt him beside her, heard his voice softly in her ear, all her fears left her. She knew without seeing him that he was no monster, but the lover and husband she had always longed for.
Time passed and as with most things, discontent started to set in as it was a half-half companionship. One night however, her husband told her that great danger was approaching in the form of her two sisters. He told her that they would bring her great sorrow and ruin if she were to see them. Because of Psyche’s sorrow and tears, in not being able to see them, her husband finally relented and said, “Do what you will, but you are seeking your own destruction”.
The next day her sisters came, brought down by Zephyr and Psyche was waiting for them. Their joy was so great to see each other however once they entered the palace, bitter envy took possession took hold of them. The sisters asked questions upon questions about who Psyche’s husband was, however Psyche kept to her word and did not tell them all the detail of her marriage. Once the visit was over, they were taken back over the hill by Zephyr willingly, but their hearts were filled with the worst jealousy, anger and envy for Psyche and her good fortune.
That night, Psyche’s husband warned her once more. She would not listen when he begged her not to let them come again. He gave in as before and very soon the two wicked sisters arrived, with their plot for Psyche to kill her serpent husband. Due to Psyche’s stumbling answers and contradictory statements, her sisters knew she had never seen him in the flesh. They proceeded to tell Psyche of what they had learned about her husband from Apollo’s oracle and inserted doubt and insecurity in her mind… they all their advice prepared beforehand. That night she must hide a sharp knife and lamp near her bed and when her husband is fast asleep, she must leave her bed, light the lamp and get the knife. They told her, they would be near to help her and save her once he was dead.
When her sisters left, Psyche was torn with doubt and distracted about what to do… she loved him…she loved him not… like the mind plucking at a daisy pulling off the petals… one thing though she had decided, was that she was determined to see him, no matter what.
That night, Psyche followed through with her plan, however the plan went in a different direction… as the light luminated her husband’s beauty, relief and rapture filled her heart and in her shame, would have plunged the knife in her own heart if it had not slipped from her hands. Her same unsteady hands that saved her, also betrayed her. For as she hung over him in complete lust, some hot oil fell from the lamp onto her husband’s shoulder… he started awake, saw the light and knew her fickleness, and without a word fled from her.
She rushed out after him into the night, she could not see him but could hear him…” Love cannot live where there is no trust”, he bade her farewell and flew away. Now she knew this was Cupid, the god of Love. Her disappointment in herself for her behaviour became so obvious that she vowed that she would spend the rest of her life searching for him showing him how much she loved him.
Meanwhile, Cupid returned to his mother Venus and when she discovered what had happed and that it was Psyche whom he had chosen, she left him angrily alone in his pain, and went to find this wretched girl. She was determined to show Psyche what it meant to draw down the displeasure of the gods.
Before Venus found Psyche, Psyche decided to go straight to Venus and offer herself as her servant and would try to soften her anger. Ultimately Venus laughed at her and told her she would never find a husband so Venus would take pity on her and train her and show her how to be the best service maiden… Venus gave the girl the most difficult tasks and each time, nature helped her perform the tasks and come out as the survivor… the last task however, resulted in Psyche not being able to contain her inquisitive nature and she opened a box from Proserpine. This box contained beauty and Psyche thought that if she used some of it, she could be lovelier if she saw Cupid. She opened the box and a deadly sleep took possession of her.
At this time, the god of Love stepped forward as he was healed and longed for Psyche. It is difficult to keep love imprisoned. He found his wife almost immediately, wiped the sleep from her eyes and scolded her for her curiosity and sent her to take the box to his mother.
While Psyche was hurrying to take the box to Venus, Cupid went to Olympus and asked Jupiter to make Psyche immortal. Then Jupiter called a full assembly of the gods and announced to everyone that Cupid and Psyche were formally married, and he proposed to bestow immortality on the bride. Through the changing situation, Venus could not object… so all came to a mostly happy ending…
Love and Soul (meaning of Psyche) had after sore trials found each other…
For me – there are some other lessons here… trust what is… your heart and soul know the answers… others often have an ulterior motive in giving advice. Sometimes we need to be patient… not all the pieces are in place for us to know everything right now… just be quiet and wait.