(a Greek myth)
Long ago there was a Greek king who had three daughters, and the youngest, Psyche, was so beautiful that people said she rivaled the goddess of beauty, Aphrodite.
This angered the goddess, who called to her son, Eros. Eros was the god of love who flew about shooting his arrows, hitting innocent people with the sting of love. For some this caused trouble, but Eros only laughed at those who ached with longing.
“You must sting Psyche so that she falls desperately in love with a monster,” Aphrodite instructed her son.
Alas, when Eros found Psyche, he was so overcome by her beauty that he accidentally leaned against his arrows and was struck by the power of love. Now he no longer could think of anything but the lovely Psyche.
When Aphrodite saw that Eros hadn’t kept his promise, she put a spell of her own on the girl, which sent every suitor running from her. When the queen saw this, she asked the Oracle what was wrong with her daughter.
“She will never marry a mortal,” the Oracle answered. “But there is one who waits for her on a faraway mountain. He overcomes all gods and men.”
Psyche understood that this was her fate and told her mother, “You must send me away to this mountain. I’ll bring you only grief if I stay.”
And though her parents refused at first, she insisted so vehemently that at long last they transported her to the mountain.
As they departed, Psyche held back tears, though her heart was breaking. That night, when she was fast asleep, the kind West Wind, Zephyr, lifted her and gently carried her to the valley below the mountain.
Psyche woke in a field of soft, green grass, and when she looked around she saw not a monster, but a lush forest. She set off to explore, and when she heard rushing water, she followed the sound, deeper and deeper into the woods. Toward the end of the day, she came to a pool beside a beautiful palace, and when she leaned down to drink, a voice whispered in her ear, “This is all yours. Come inside.”
The voice pierced her heart, and so she entered the palace. There she was served platters of food by invisible hands, and then those invisible servants led her to a soft bed.
When night fell, the voice spoke again. “I am your husband,” the voice said, and the sound was so soothing, she knew this was no monster.
“Let me see you,” she begged.
But Eros could not let her know it was him or Aphrodite would punish them both: “As long as you promise never to look at me, we can be together and happy.”
Psyche and her invisible husband were happy together for a long time, until one night Psyche said, “I miss my family. Please, let me invite my sisters to visit.”
Hearing the sadness in his beloved’s voice, he could not refuse, and soon the sisters arrived, eager to hear about Psyche’s new life. She spoke of her husband’s generosity and abiding love when they asked if they could see him.
“You cannot,” Psyche said softly, and she explained their arrangement.
The sisters were appalled. “He must be a monster,” her eldest sister said.
“And fattening you up to eat you later,” said the other.
“Kill him now,” they said. “Here is what you must do,” and they whispered a plan.
At first Psyche refused even to think of her sisters’ words, but she was haunted by their voices. So one night as Eros slept, Psyche lit an oil lamp and tiptoed to the bed. Quietly she held the lamp above her husband. When she saw his face, she knew at once this was Eros, and she was flooded with love and despair. In her shock, her hand trembled, and a drop of oil fell onto her husband’s shoulder.
He woke at once. When he saw her face, grief ripped his heart apart. “You promised!” he cried. “It is done,” and he flew out the window and disappeared.
The palace disappeared as well. Psyche stood alone in the grassy meadow.
Determined to find her beloved, she set out upon the long and difficult search. Psyche endured endless tests but would not give up. As she worked to make her way back to her husband’s side, the goddess Demeter watched over her. Amazed by her goodness and devotion, Demeter eventually appeared before her. “Go to Aphrodite and ask for forgiveness. She may reward your patience.”
But Aphrodite refused Psyche’s prayers. Instead she sent her to perform still more tests. When at last Aphrodite sent the poor young girl to the Underworld, Psyche was certain she was finished. No human had ever returned. She wept to think that Eros had abandoned her.
But this was far from true. In fact, as Psyche descended to the Underworld, Eros told the gods his tale. Hearing of Aphrodite’s cruelty and greed, they called her to Mount Olympus, and there they soothed the goddess until she was no longer angry. Then Hermes, the Messenger God, set off in search of Psyche, and when he found her he carried her to Olympus.
Hebe handed her a cup of ambrosia.
When Psyche drank from the cup, she became a goddess. Eros, who had watched over her all this time, took her in his arms, and they were never parted again.