Psyche is a goddess from the second century A.D, associated with the soul. She was the youngest of three daughters of an unidentified king of Miletus, and supposedly extremely beautiful - So much so that she was suspected of being an incarnation of Aphrodite. This ticked the goddess off to the extent that she sent her son Eros to cause her to fall in love with some real scum.

Greek mythology often receives the credit for the tale of Psyche, but the recognition rightfully belongs to Apuleius' Golden Ass. Her name literally means "soul", and she is considered its personification. This is somewhat unfortunate as she is of a suicidal bent. She wound up married to an unknown individual who was great in the sack (After various trials and tribulations), never seeing his face. She became pregnant, and he told her that if she kept the pregnancy a secret that the child would be divine. He also admonished her never to try to look upon his face.

Unfortunately, her soul was fickle, and she told her sisters (none of whom are her equal in looks, mind you) that she had become with child. Her sisters advised her to kill her husband, but when she looked him in the face, he turned out to be Eros, a real babe. Then, seeing him, she's tempted to commit suicide. Then, when he wakes up and takes off, she wants to throw herself in the river, and fails to drown. Aphrodite gets ahold of her, sets her some insurmountable tasks which she accomplishes with various assistance, and then sends her to Hades. Eros flies to the rescue, Zeus marries them to one another, Aphrodite is okay with this since it makes Psyche a deity, and they all live happily ever after and have a child named Voluptas, or "Pleasure".


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Apuleius, Metamorphoses (also known as The Golden Ass) 4.28-6.24

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The heroine of a Greek allegory, Psyche represented the human soul, married to the loving heart personified as the god Eros. Psyche, the story goes, spent her days alone, making love each night in the darkness with a husband she never saw; only under these circumstances would he remain faithful to her. For awhile she lived happily enough. But finally a fearful curiosity about his identity and a deep spiritual loneliness drove Psyche to bring a lamp into the bedroom. Hardly had the woman seen the beautiful winged body of her lover than a bit of oil fell from her lamp, awakening him. Instantly Eros flew away. Thus the soul, the Greeks knew, could remain happy in romantic union, until unmet needs demanded conscious knowledge of the lovers real identity.

Next, the tale goes, Psyche was charged with many near-impossible tasks to gain back her beloved: sorting overnight a roomful of seeds; catching the sun-sheep’s fleece; traveling to the underworld to ask for magical beauty ointment for Eros’s mother, Aphrodite. Intent on regaining Eros, she overcame these obstacles one by one.

But as Psyche returned from Hades with Persephone’s ointment box, vanity overcame her. She opened the jar to run beauty cream on her weary face. Psyche fell into a swoon and might have died, but Eros persuaded the Olympian divinities that she had struggled enough. She ascended to heaven and was reunited with her lover, bearing two children named Love and Delight.

In this allegory, the Greeks produced a magnificent tale of the relations of heart and mind, journey through romance to real marriage, and the human joy born from a victorious struggle.

Psy"che (?), n. [L., fr. Gr. Psyche, fr. the soul.]

1. Class Myth.

A lovely maiden, daughter of a king and mistress of Eros, or Cupid. She is regarded as the personification of the soul.


The soul; the vital principle; the mind.

3. [F. psych'e.]

A cheval glass.


© Webster 1913.

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