Psyche, revived by the kiss of Love. Antonio Canova, Italy, 1793

The word “psyche” has been used as far back as ancient Greece, by philopsophers such as Artistotle in his ‘Treatise On The Soul’.

The basic meaning of the Greek word ψυχή (psūchê) was “life”. Derived meanings included “spirit”, “ghost”, and ultimately “self”, “conscious personality”.

‘Metamorphoses’ (a.k.a. ‘The Golden Ass’) written by the 2nd century AD novelist and rhetorician, Apuleius, is an ancient Greek mythological story which includes the tale of “Cupid and Psyche” (or “Amour and Psyche”).

The story of Psyche, goddess of the soul, and Cupid (or Eros), god of love, revolves around the Cupid’s nasty mother Venus who, jealous of Psyche’s beauty, curses her to fall in love with a hideous beast. Cupid, sent to shoot the cursed arrow, instead, himself falls in love with her.

Furious, Venus places a curse on Psyche that keeps her from meeting a suitable husband, or any husband at that. As she does this, it upsets Cupid greatly, and he decides as long as the curse stays on Psyche, he will no longer shoot arrows, which will cause the temple of Venus to fall. After months of no one — man or animal — falling in love, marrying, or mating, the Earth starts to grow old, which causes concern to Venus, for nobody praises her for Cupid’s actions.

Finally, she agrees to listen to Cupid’s demands, allowing him one thing to have his own way. Cupid desires Psyche. Venus, upset, agrees to his demands only if he begins work immediately. He accepts the offer and takes off, shooting his golden arrows as fast as he can, restoring everything to the way it should be. People again fall in love and marry, animals far and wide mate, and the Earth begins to look young once again.

Though Cupid now visits Psyche every night, he demands she does not look at him in the light. But one night her wicked sisters trick her and she sees his face illuminated. Cupid flees.

In despair, Psyche searches the world for her lost love, and eventually begs Venus to help her find him. Venus sends Psyche into the Underworld to complete three seemingly impossible tasks, and she succeeds at these tasks with the help of some friends. The final of these tasks is to find a box containing beauty which Venus needs to replace her ailing looks.

Psyche retrieves this, however, she decides to open the box and take a little bit of the beauty for herself. Inside, she can see no beauty; instead an infernal sleep arises from the box and overcomes her. Cupid, who had forgiven Psyche, flies to her, wipes the sleep from her face, puts it back in the box, and sends her back on her way.

Then Cupid flies to Mount Olympus and begs Jupiter (Zeus) to aid them. Jupiter calls a full and formal council of the gods and declares that it is his will that Cupid marry Psyche. Jupiter then has Psyche fetched to Mount Olympus, and gives her a drink granting her immortality. Begrudgingly, Venus and Psyche forgive each other.

Finally, Cupid and Psyche are permitted to be together forever and they have a daughter named Hedone (Pleasure).

So… the soul + the heart = pleasure.

Nicely put, Apuleius.

Advertisements