A typical love story mnemonic starts with an exchange of names, then attraction, commitment, a fall-out of commitment, tears, apologies, and… ‘they lived happily ever after’. But not this one. Since what you’re up to is a part of ancient Greek Mythology —a little heads up— things might go eerily out of whack to the point of “uh… this is not normal”. Alas, I give to you a touching tale of love that —in this case— starts with jealousy and wrath.
It’s as if the title ‘goddess of love’ is not enough, Aphrodite is notorious for her angst and unhealthy level of jealousy. The second she heard the news of a mortal with the beauty of a Goddess, she took things a notch way too far by sending a monstrous creature to end the life of the stunningly innocent earthling. Though, we’ll get to that a little later. Let’s start with the earthling who is known as Psyche.
Though known as the fairest maiden in the land, Psyche isn’t happy with her well being at all. Her ravishing good looks drive all men insane and blind to other qualities she possesses such as intelligence and a kind heart. To top her sadness, she forcibly jumped down a cliff by her parents’ order to break the prophecy of her destined marriage with a beast. That’s not even the so-called eerie part yet. Her act of plummeting down to death is rescued by the clouds that flew her away to a magical land. There, she met a man whose identity and physical form he kept classified as a guarantee for her safety from the world that cast her away. All she was allowed to see is his shadow. She then vowed to never put an effort into unraveling his secret. Long story short, unsurprisingly, they fell in love.
Psyche couldn’t take any more of the secrets in fear of her prophecy actually coming to reality and so she decided to break her vow. On a dark evening, she lit a candle and directed it to the man sleeping beside her only to find out that the ‘beast’ in her mind is one hell of a gorgeous human being. He had every body part any normal man would possess, except for a pair of human-sized angel wings (told you things weren’t normal). The very man we are talking about is Eros, or commonly known as Cupid.
Psyche too busy coming to awe accidentally dropped the hot wax candle on his wings. Eros woke up to burning pain and he shot a glare of betrayal knowing that the woman he loved broke her vow. He flapped his now burning wings to escape the magical land he built for her, leaving Psyche alone in agony. To top off the pain she’s going through (again), Psyche is now pregnant!
Whilst his lover is roaming the world in search for him, Eros flew back to his beloved mother, Aphrodite. So yes, the monstrous creature and the beast in the prophecy is both Eros. Ignoring the fact that her son is suffering, the Goddess of Love demanded the head of innocent earthling. It didn’t take even one second for her to find out that her son’s cry of pain is not only physical, but it’s also the cause of heartbreak from the very women she told him to kill. As if Eros isn’t her son anymore, Aphrodite threw him in a dungeon as a punishment for his foolish act of love.
Psyche’s belly grew day by day, and so her yearn for the loving arms of the father of her child. Her clothes were now torn and muddy and she was constantly hungry and thirsty, but she would not give up. During her quest, she came across a dusty temple and decided to clean it up. Out of nowhere, Hera, Goddess of Marriage and wife of Zeus, appeared and thanked the earthling for cleaning what came to be her very shrine. Psyche cried for help towards Hera and told everything about Eros and her tragic life. But the Goddess couldn’t do much except for spilling the truth about how Aphrodite is behind all this. Psyche thanked Hera and carried on.
It seems like the universe finally decided to give up the fun of granting Psyche so much burden for she finally found Aphrodite’s shrine. Having her spirit somehow regained, she entered the shrine and came face to face with her very rival. The now grubby-looking earthling demanded her husband back yet Aphrodite knew better than to willingly give her son back to the women whose beauty defied her own. She cunningly gave Psyche 3 impossible tasks to complete to prove her worth in regaining Eros’ love.
The first task is to classify huge quantities of different grains. It doesn’t sound like much but imagine having to separate every tiny piece of white rice and brown rice, or quinoa and barley, or buckwheat and lentils, all in one night. By happy chance, Psyche was able to complete the task with the help of millions of ants that sorted all the grains in pity for her well being. Aphrodite was stunned but furious. So she decided to upgrade the complexity of the second task.
All Psyche had to do was fetch golden wool from the body of a sheep. Sounds simple right? Well, except for the fact that the sheep had horns, pointed teeth, and a huge thirst for blood and meat. The poor-pregnant mortal stood hopelessly, watching from a distance as the sheep devoured and destroyed everything that came close—rabbits, hedgehogs, baby elephants—all gone in one gulp. Luckily, the dancing reeds she was hiding behind spoke to her (did I mention things might go eerie?) the exact tactic she needed. Psyche did everything she was told to do. She waited ‘til dawn for the sheep to take its afternoon nap, then walked towards the thorny bushes that marked the sheep’s territory. She slowly shook the bushes and peculiarly, golden wool fell from the branches. The sheep must have been using the thorn bushes as back-scratchers!
Again, Aphrodite was not happy with such achievement her rival managed to complete. She gave her last task and made sure it was merciless. This time Psyche had to go to the underworld and fetch a beauty cream that belongs to the queen of the dead, known as Persephone. She knew that the quickest way to enter the underworld was to die, so she decided to climb a tower and plummet to death. Right before she jumped, the tower broke into human speech and dissuaded her into bringing 2 pieces of bread and coins. The tower also instructed her about a place called Hellas, what may be the secret path towards the underworld. Psyche followed along and managed to get past the hounds that guarded the gate by feeding them the 2 pieces of bread and got a free ride directly to the destination by paying a greedy ferryman with the coins the brought. She met Persephone and the underworld queen gave the box of beauty cream in an instant.
As the saying goes: ‘curiosity killed the cat’. This time, it basically did so to the poor mortal who just wants to gain the warmth of her lover back. On her way back to Aphrodite’s shrine, Psyche was at the edge of her devastation and desired a pinch of the beauty cream in hope to fix her grubbish look. She opened the box, and out crept not beauty but Stygian sleep, a spell that cast any living creature to a never-ending sleep, no different than death. Falling to the ground, Psyche laid like a corpse, the opened box beside her.
Just in time for rescue, Eros had somehow magically healed from the pain he was enduring. Following his instinct, he flew out of the dungeon right to fields where his wife was laying. He carried her body and brought her to the place where he knew he could break the spell, the place where all gods and goddesses gather, Mount Olympus. Eros knew better than let his mother decide. As soon as he arrived, he begged Zeus for a council to decide the fate of his poor lover.
All the gods and goddesses agreed that Psyche had definitely proved her worth not only to Aphrodite but to all of them as well. Her grit, courage, and perseverance throughout everything she had gone through gained the respect of everyone in the council. So, she was granted the greatest gift of all, a second chance to live… but as a Goddess. When Psyche opened her eyes, she felt her body running from a newfound power. It is the Ichor —a gold ethereal fluid that runs only in the body of Gods— that transformed her into an immortal being.
Psyche once again came to unison with Eros, her beloved husband and gave birth to her daughter, Hedone, who became the goddess of pleasure. Aphrodite? She was actually happy with how this turned out. Now that men had forgotten about Psyche, they started acknowledging the beauty of the goddess of love again.
She then became the goddess of the human soul —the one who looks after us when we are in deep need of strength and guidance. After all, Psyche understands human suffering more than any of the other gods and goddesses. No more jealousy, no more wrath, no more pain, no more suffering. All is well.
( Words by: Amanda Celine E. )