in Greek mythology, is the personification of the human soul.
The Greek name for butterfly is Psyche, and the same words also
means the soul. In some works of art, Psyche is depicted as a
maiden with the wings of a butterfly.
was the youngest daughter of a king. She was so beautiful that
strangers worshiped her like a godess, which made Venus (Aphrodite),
the real goddess, very jeallous of her. Venus took notice of
this insult of being overthrown in popularity by a mere mortal,
so the goddess decided to punish her rival. The goddess commanded
her son Cupid (Eros) to use his powers as the god of desire to
make Psyche fall in love with the most horrible being on earth.
But while trying to complete his task, Cupid confused himself,
and was wounded by his own arrow, falling in love with Psyche.
Psyche had many admires, neither a royal youth, nor a plebeian
asked her in marriage.
that they had unwittingly incurred the anger of the gods, her
parents consulted the oracle of Apollo, and were told that her
future husband was a monster who was waiting for her on the top
of a mountain.
her fate, she asked to be led to that mountain. There, she was
kept in a beautiful, but isolated castle. She had not yet seen
the face of her husband. Cupid
her to look at him. He did not want her to adore him only because
he was a god, but to love him as an equal. Then, he came only
in the hours of darkness and fled before the dawn of morning,
but his accents were full of love, and Psyche fell in love with
a husband she had never seen. Although she felt a sort or passion
for her husband, she often begged him to stay and let her behold
the beginning, Psyche felt quite happy, but then she began to
feel her palace was nothing but a beautiful prison. One night,
she told Cupid her distress, and he consented that her sisters
should be brought to see her.
her sisters influenced her with the suspicious that Cupid was
not a handsome youth, but a horrible beast instead. Her curiosity
was too strong for her to resist, so after her sisters were gone,
she decided to follow her sisters' advice and provide herself
with a lamp and a sharp knife and see for herself whether what
they said was true or not. If it was true, she would have to
brave enough not to hesitate and cut off the monster's head in
order to recover her liberty. But, instead of a monster, she
beheld the most charming and beautiful of the gods.
that Psyche had disobbeyed him and believing that love could
not live with suspicion, Cupid flew away. He decided not to inflict
any punishment on her, but leave her forever.
Psyche never ceased to search for her loving husband. One day,
advised by the holy Ceres (Dememter), she tried to speak to Venus
with hopes of winning her forgiviness and being reunited with
Cupid. Venus received her with anger and imposed her difficult
and dangerous tasks in order to prove herself useful. But with
the help of Cupid and the river god, she succeeded in the first
two. Knowing that is was not for Psyche's own doings that she
accomplish the previous tasks, Venus imposed her one more. She
asked her to take a box and go to the infernal shades, where
she should handle it to Proserpine (Persephone) and ask her to
put a little of her beauty in the box and bring it back to Venus.
Knowing this was a very dangerous task and there was no hope
for her, she went to the top of a high tower and was almost giving
up when a voice told her how to reach the realms of Pluto (Hades),
avoiding the dangers of the road and coming back in safety. Then,
the voice warned her not to open the box under any circunstances.
But Psyche couldn't resist and carefully opened the box, but
found nothing but an infernal sleep, which being set free from
its prison, took possession of her, and she fell the road asleep.
Cupid, no longer able to bear the absence of Psyche, flew towards
her. Gathering up the sleep from her body, he closed it again
in the box and waked her.
Cupid presented himself before Jupiter in the heights of heaven,
who pleaded the cause of the lovers so earnestly with Venus that
he won her consent. Jupiter then sent Mercury (Hermes) to bring
Psyche up to the heavenly assembly, where she was made immortal
and lived happily with her beloved ever after. Cupid and Psyche
had a daughter whose name was Pleasure.
Eros, in Greek
mythology, is known as the god of love, the personification of
love in all its manifestations, including physical passion at
its strongest, tender, romantic or playful love. According to
some legends he was one of the oldest of the gods, born from
Chaos and personifying creative power and harmony. In most legends
he is believed to be the son of Aphrodite and Ares and is represented
as a winged youth carrying a bow and arrows. In Greek poetry
Eros was often a willful and unsympathetic god. At Thespiae and
at Athens he was worshiped as a god of fertility. In Hellenistic
and Roman myth, he was represented as a naked, winged child,
the son of Venus - the Roman goddess of love - and this association
between him and Venus was quite popular in myth, poetry, literature
and art. To the Romans he was Cupid, a variation on Cupido ("desire"),
or Amor ("love"). Cupid fell in love with a mortal
girl called Psyche.
Psyche (1793) - marble statue by Antonio Canova (1757-1822).
I took this picture at the Louvre Museum in Paris in 1999.
obtained at Encyclopedia.com and BULFINCH, Thomas. 1855 -
Bulfinch's Mythology, The Age of Fable.