Mythman's Greek Mythology Today

As told by Judith Hamilton


Eros & Psyche


There was once a king who had three daughters, all lovely maidens, but the youngest Psyche, excelled her sisters so great that beside them she seemed like a goddess consorting with mere mortals. The fame of her surpassing beauty spread far and wide and soon many people came to worship her as though she were a goddess.

Venus’ temples lay in filth and her favorite city lay in ruins, for now, all that cared for Venus cared for Psyche. Venus grew jealous of Psyche and as always turned to her son Cupid for help. She told Cupid to go to earth and shoot Psyche with an arrow as to make her fall in love with the most despicable creature on the earth.

He would have done so if he was not first shown Psyche. It was as though Cupid pierced his own heart with one of his arrows.

Venus left Cupid confident that he would carry out her orders. What happened next Venus did not count on. Psyche did not fall in love with a horrible creature and still more strange she did not fall in love at all.

All the men were content in worshiping and admiring her but no one ever truly loved her. Both her sisters inexpressibly inferior to her had gotten married to kings and yet she sat sad and solitary, only to be admired, not loved.

Her father in discourse turned to an oracle of Apollo for advice. The oracle said that Cupid himself told him to say that Psyche be dressed in deepest mourning and placed on the summit of a mountain to be taken away by a winged serpent, stronger than the gods themselves, to make his wife.

Misery came as her father told the family the lamentable news. They dressed Psyche up as though she was to attend her own funeral and walked with her to the top of the hill. Though her parents wept grievously, she kept her courage and said she was glad the time had come.

They went in despairing grief leaving her helpless on the top of the mountain and returned to the palace and mourned all their days for her.

As she sat atop the mountain she wept and trembled not knowing what was to come. Suddenly a warm breath of wind caressed her neck and she felt herself being lifted up and away until she came down upon a soft meadow with flowers so fragrant.

She had forgotten all her fears here and fell asleep. As she woke beside a bright river; and on its bank was a stately mansion that was fit for the gods themselves. .

So awe-struck as she hesitated at the threshold, she heard voices telling her the house was for her and that she should bath and refresh and a banquet table will be set for her and then it told her they were her servants.

The food and so delicious and the bath so refreshing. While she dined, she heard sweet melodious music, but could not see who was playing. As the day passed she began to feel reassured that she would soon meet her husband.

As night came she heard the sweet whispers of her husband's voice in her ears and realized that her husband was no monster or shape of terror, but the husband she had so desperately longed for.

Psyche had not spoken with her sisters in some time and requested from her husband that she bade them welcome to the palace. He said that this would bring bad fortune upon her but she wept and wept and soon he gave in and granted her request.

Her sisters greeted her with tears and embraces. Both sisters became overcome with jealousy as they realized their wealth was nothing in comparison with hers, they began plotting a way to ruin her.

That very night Psyche’s husband warned her once more. Already Psyche’s sisters realized Psyche’s contradictory remarks on the appearance of her husband and realized she had not seen him before. They began to invoke feelings of suspicion and fear that her husband was really the serpent that the oracle had said would come and that one night he would devour her.

Psyche’s heart began to fill with terror and not love. She plotted that night that she would sleep with a sharp knife and lamp near her bed, and that once her husband fell fast asleep that she go to his bed and plunge the dagger into his body for it was forsaken that she would see a hideously misshapen body of a monster.

She was confused she thought it was her loving husband, not a serpent monster, but it also was her loving husband. She must have certainty, she finally decided one thing for sure she would see him tonight. That night she mustered up the courage and lit the lamp and tiptoed to her husband's bedside.

As the light came upon him, she realized it was not a monster but the most beautiful man she had ever seen, overcome with shame at her mistrust she would have plunged the dagger into her breast if it had not fallen from her hands.

But the same hands that saved her betrayed her, as she trembled a drop of hot oil from the lamp fell on her husband’s shoulder and he began to wake. At the sight of this infidelity, he fled without a word.

Eros & Psyche concludes on page two!


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