Psyche

The story of Psyche tells of a mortal woman taken to a mysterious castle to be married to a fierce dragon. Her husband comes to her in the middle of the night, and she falls in love with him. Told that she must never look upon his face, she disobeys this injunction and finds that her husband is really Eros, god of love; when he awakes, he flies away, leaving her forever.

Psyche roams far and wide trying to find Eros. She goes to his mother, Aphrodite, who gives her four tasks to complete, each seemingly impossible. The final task requires her to descend into Hades and retrieve a box of beauty.

Through the process of meeting the challenges of her tasks and integrating her experiences Psyche grows from an innocent girl into a mature goddess. Psyche is a rich, reminder of our imperative to grow; she reminds us that the process of life takes us into dark places as well as light, just as the butterfly emerges from the dark chrysalis into the light.

Psyche is the Greek woman who became a goddess through her devotion to love. Her name, meaning both "a breath" and "butterfly," has come to represent the human soul. Psyche lost her husband, Eros (the god of love), when she disobeyed his injunction not to look upon his face. Grief-stricken, she sought the aid of Aphrodite, goddess of love and mother of Eros. Jealous of Psyche's beauty, Aphrodite imposed a series of seemingly impossible tasks, which Psyche was able to complete using unsought aid. Upon completing the fourth and final task, Psyche was transformed into a goddess.

Psyche is beauty incarnate, the butterfly of transformation and the bridge between heaven and earth. She teaches that the soul is developed through suffering and commitment to love. She represents the possibility that humans may become divine.

This image portrays Psyche just after she opens the box of beauty she has retrieved from the underworld from Persephone, as one of the fourth and final tasks set her by Aphrodite. She opens the box of beauty and falls into a deep sleep. It is the moment just prior to her awakening as a goddess and her reunion with her husband, Eros. This moment reminds us that sometimes just prior to an awakening, we must go through a period of profound rest — during which it may seem that nothing is happening.


Persephone: Greek
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Rhiannon: Welsh
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Ⓒ The Susan Eleanor Boulet Trust (illustration)
Ⓒ Text copyright Michael Babcock