Friday, February 10, 2012

Supernatural Friday: A Valentine's Day Myth: Psyche and Cupid





Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love and beauty. Born from the foam near the island of Cyprus, Aphrodite was a jealous and passionate goddess. Not only did she love the men and gods in her life, but her sons and grandchildren, as well. Sometimes her possessive instincts led her too far. It was when her son, Cupid found a human to love—one whose beauty might rival hers—Aphrodite did all in her power to thwart the marriage.
Psyche was worshiped for her beauty in her homeland. Angry, Aphrodite sent a plague and let it be known the only way the land could get back to normal was to sacrifice Psyche. Psyche who was also the king had Psyche tied up as a sacrifice from some presumed fearsome monster. It was Cupid who released and married the princess.
The young couple, Cupid and Psyche, were not allowed to have  a happy life together, but Aphrodite and Psyche’s own two jealous sisters worked to foul things up.
Cupid was a wonderful lover and husband. There was one odd thing about their relationship though. He made sure Psyche never saw what he looked like. Psyche didn't mind, for she had a fulfilling night life in the dark with her husband, and during the day, she had all the luxuries she could ever want. When the sisters learned about the luscious, extravagant lifestyle of their lucky, beautiful sister, they urged her to pry into what he kept hidden from her. Cupid was a god, and gorgeous with Aphrodite for a mother. Except for reasons known best to him, he didn't want his mortal wife to see his form. Knowing their sister well, Psyche’s sisters preyed on her insecurities and persuaded her that her husband must be a hideous monster. Psyche assured her sisters they were wrong, but since she'd never seen him, even she started having doubts. To satisfy the girls' curiosity, she held a candle over her sleeping husband one night to look at him.

His angelic form was exquisite. While Psyche dawdled, ogling, a bit of wax dripped on her husband. Her awakened, irate, disobeyed, injured husband-angel-god flew away.
"See, I told you she was a no good human," said mother Aphrodite to her convalescing son Cupid. "Now you'll have to be content among the gods."
Cupid might have gone along with the de facto divorce, but Psyche couldn't. Impelled by love of her gorgeous husband, she implored her mother-in-law to give her another chance. Aphrodite agreed, but ungraciously, saying, "I cannot conceive that any serving-wench as hideous as yourself could find any means to attract lovers save by making herself their drudge; wherefore now I myself will make trial of your worth."
Aphrodite had no intention of playing fair and devised four tasks, each task more exacting than the last. Psyche passed the first 3 challenges with flying colors:
She sorted a huge mount of barley, millet, poppy seeds, lentils, and beans.
Ants (pismires) help her sort the grains within the time allotted. She did gather a hank of the wool of the shining golden sheep. A reed tells her how to accomplish this task without being killed by the vicious animals. She filled a crystal vessel with the water of the spring that feeds the Styx and Cocytus, wit the help of an eagle.
But the last task was too much for Psyche: she had to bring Aphrodite back a box of Persephone's beauty cream.  Going to the Underworld had proved a challenge for the bravest of the Greek mythical heroes. Psyche barely batted an eye when Aphrodite told her she would have to go to the most dangerous region known to mortals. That part was easy, especially after the tower told her how to find the entryway to the Underworld, how get around Charon and Cerberus, and how to behave before the Underworld queen. But the hard part was making herself beautiful. If the perfect beauty of the perfect goddess Aphrodite needed this Underworld beauty cream, how much more would it help an imperfect mortal woman? She got it, but went ahead and opened it and fell into a deathlike sleep. Just what Aphrodite wanted.
Thankfully, with Zeus' connivance, Cupid brought his wife to Olympus where, at Zeus's command, she was given nectar and ambrosia so she would become immortal. Finally Aphrodite reconciled with her daughter-in-law on Olympus, who was pregnant and was about to give birth to a grandchild the goddess would dote on.

2 comments:

J.A. Garland said...

I had NO idea! Great post, it was fascinating.

Janice Seagraves said...

I knew some of this before, but not all of it. I love how you told it. :)

Janice~