Origin: European Greek
Theme: Curiosity can get one in trouble, but devotion and love can mend a difficult situation.
There was once a queen and king who had three beautiful daughters. One was particularly beautiful and her name was Psyche. Her beauty was so great that all through the surrounding lands people heard about her beauty. It was said that she wasn’t even a human, she was the goddess of beauty, Venus. People from all over would bring her gifts and would come to worship her and say their prayers to her.
Psyche was unhappy though. Her two sisters had married kings, but no one would dare to ask Psyche to marry him, since she seemed to be a goddess.
Venus heard of all this and was very angry, calling her son Cupid, the trickster god of love, to come to her. When Cupid’s golden arrow struck someone with the slightest touch, that person or god would fall in love with the next person they would see. Because of this power, all the gods feared Cupid.
Venus said, “Cupid, you must help me. There is a woman, Psyche, who thinks she is as beautiful as me. We must teach her a lesson.”
Cupid responded, “Great, I love to play tricks. What can I do for you mother?”
Venus directed him, “I want you to go to her when she is sleeping and prick her with your arrow, so she will fall madly in love with a monster.”
Cupid raised his quill of arrows as he was leaving, “I’m on it mom.”
Cupid flew to Psyche’s bedchamber as she was sleeping. He entered through a window and came close to her bed. As he leaned over and pulled his bow back, he hesitated, struck by her beauty. She opened her eyes suddenly. Surprised, Cupid nicked himself with his arrow.
Cupid cried, “Oh no, I haven’t done mother’s wishes!” And he flew away.
Psyche was so unhappy she decided to go consult an oracle, or a god who could see into the future. She traveled to Delphi, where Apollo the oracle lived. It was a hard trip up a long mountain.
Psyche cried out when she saw the statue of Apollo, “Tell me, tell me what will happen to me, will I ever marry?”
Apollo spoke through his priestess, “You will wed, but it will be to someone who even the gods fear. Go to the top of the nearest mountain and you will find out what will happen.”
Psyche went home to say good bye to her family. Everyone cried, but Psyche said, “Being married to a creature cannot be worse than living alone.”
She climbed back up the nearest mountain and stood waiting. She was afraid and shook a little as she stood there. All of a sudden the warmth of Zephyrus, the gentle west wind, picked her up and carried her to the most beautiful castle she had ever seen.
Psyche walked in and exclaimed, “Wow, this is so amazing; it is so beautiful! But no one is here except me. It is like there is magic everywhere. When I sit down, there is food. If I reach out, someone pours me wine. There are clean and gorgeous clothes laid out for me. When I want to go to bed, the sheets are folded back for me. I love it here.”
At dinner time she would go into the dining room, and all the lights would be off except a few candles. Then she would hear a voice, but she could not see who was talking. He was hiding in the darkness.
“Well beautiful Psyche, welcome to my castle. We will meet each night for dinner and talk about our days. All your needs will be met. You must never see me though. I want you to learn to love me for what I am, not how I look.”
Psyche and the mysterious stranger started their life together and Psyche began to love her life, although she missed her family.
One night Psyche pleaded, “Please let my sisters come. I love you now, but I am alone so much and I miss my family.”
The mysterious man relented, “Well, if you must you may let them come. But under no circumstances must you tell them about me. If you do, all will be lost.”
The next morning, Psyche excitedly called Zephyrus, “Go, get my sisters as soon as possible.”
The sisters arrived. They were very impressed with the castle and they pestered Psyche and pestered her to find out about their host.
Finally one sister said, “He is the creature whom everyone fears that Apollo said you would marry. You must go to his bedroom at night and kill him before he kills you.”
Psyche didn’t want to believe her sisters, but her fears took her over. She was by herself a lot of the time and she longed to know her host. Finally she lost control and decided to take a knife to her host’s room.
As she crept into his bedroom, she suddenly saw her host. She was shocked! He was not a monstrous creature, but a handsome god, Cupid. She reached out to touch an arrow in his quiver and pricked herself, falling immediately in love with Cupid. However, he was so handsome and brilliant, and he had been so kind to her, she would have fallen in love with him anyway.
Cupid startled, “What are you doing standing over me with a knife? Love cannot live without a very strong trust. I am leaving you forever!”
Psyche was distraught and so ashamed that she had listened to her sisters’ cruel doubts. Her sisters wanted to be with Cupid in the beautiful castle and went to the mountain top, awaiting the west wind Zephyrus’ buoyancy to take them to the wonderful castle. They jumped to let Zephyrus carry them, but he was not there and they fell to their deaths.
Cupid flew to his mother with his pain, and being distraught and wanting to win Cupid back, Psyche went to Venus as well. Venus set up three tests for Psyche, assured that she would lose.
Venus directed Psyche, “You must sort this grain into three piles of barley, wheat and millet.”
Psyche began but was overwhelmed, but she saw a group of ants and said, “Please help me and I will share with you.”
The ants helped and by sunset all the grain was sorted. Venus didn’t like this at all.
Venus gave Psyche her next test, “Now you must go out and find the sheep with golden fleece and bring me an armful of fleece.”
Psyche thought this was easy. As she walked towards the fleece, she saw a sparrow who fell from his nest. She picked him up and put him in his nest. The mother sparrow, who was grateful said, “Don’t try to gather the fleece now. The rams will kill you. Wait until midday when they go into the woods for shade. Then you can gather the gold fleece.”
Psyche did just that and when she brought it to Venus she was very peeved, “Okay, now I’ll give you a test you cannot complete, you little arrogant snit. Take this box to Queen Proserpine in the land of the dead, so she can fill it with beauty. I am in need of rejuvenation.”
Cupid saw all this, and finally realized that Psyche loved him. He came to her and gave her two gold coins and six honey cakes.
He said, “Psyche do not stop for any reason and eat nothing, and tell no one you are from the land of the living. If you forget any of this you will never return to the land of the living.”
Psyche did as she was told. She gave the ferry man a gold coin to take her over the river Styx which separated the living and dead. She gave the three headed dog Cerberus, the three honey cakes. She went to Proserpine and gave her the box and then received it back again. But she ate nothing. On the way back she gave the three headed dog Cerberus the honey cakes and the ferry man the last coin. She returned to the land of the living. But she was tempted to open the box so she could have some of the beauty so that Cupid would love her. She opened it slowly and then fell down as if dead.
Cupid flew by her as he was waiting her return, “Psyche, what have you done? I will kiss death from your lips and open your eyes.”
Psyche was revived, and Cupid flew her to meet Jupiter, the father of the gods. He made Psyche immortal and she and Cupid lived as husband and wife forever. They had a daughter named Joy.