Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 4

Envious and jealous of the beauty of a mortal girl named Psyche, Venus asks her son Cupid (known

to the Greeks
as Eros) to use his golden arrows while Psyche sleeps, so that when she awakens, Venus (Aphrodite in the Greek tradition) would have already placed a vile creature for her to fall in love with. Cupid finally agrees to her commands after a long (and failed) debate. As he flies to Psyche's room at night, he turns himself invisible so no one can see him fly in through her window. He takes pity on her, for she was born too beautiful for her own safety. As he slowly approaches, careful not to make a sound, he readies one of his golden arrows. He leans over Psyche while she is asleep and before he can scratch her shoulder with the arrow, she awakens, startling him, for she looks right into his eyes, despite his invisibility. This causes him to scratch himself with his arrow, falling deeply in love with her. He cannot continue his mission, for every passing second he finds her more appealing. He reports back to Venus shortly after and the news enrages her. 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, according 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. When all continue to admire and praise Psyche's beauty, but none desire her as a wife, Psyche's parents consult an oracle, which tells them to leave Psyche on the nearest mountain, for her beauty is so great that she is not meant for (mortal) man. Terrified, they have no choice but to follow the oracle's instructions. But then Zephyrus, the west wind, carries Psyche away, to a fair valley and a magnificent palace where she is attended by invisible servants until nightfall, and in the darkness of night the promised bridegroom arrives and the marriage is consummated. Cupid visits her every night to sleep with her, but demands that she never light any lamps, since he does not want her to know who he is until the time is right. Cupid allows Zephyrus to take Psyche back to her sisters and bring all three down to the palace during the day, but warns that Psyche should not listen to any argument that she should try to discover his true form. The two jealous sisters tell Psyche, then pregnant with Cupid's child, that rumor is that she had married a great and terrible serpent who would devour her and her unborn child when the time came for it to be fed. They urge Psyche to conceal a knife and oil lamp in the bedchamber, to wait till her husband is asleep, and then to light the lamp and slay him at once if it is as they said. Psyche sadly follows their advice. In the light of the lamp Psyche recognizes the fair form on the bed as the god Cupid himself. However, she accidentally pricks herself with one of his arrows, and is consumed with desire for her husband. She begins to kiss him, but as she does, a drop of oil falls from her lamp onto Cupid's shoulder and wakes him. He flies away, and she falls from the window to the ground, sick at heart. Psyche then finds herself in the city where one of her jealous elder sisters live. She tells her what had happened, then tricks her sister into believing that Cupid has chosen her as a wife on the mountaintop. Psyche later meets her other sister and deceives her likewise. Each sister goes to the top of the peak and jumps down eagerly, but Zephyrus does not bear them and they fall to their deaths at the base of the mountain. Psyche searches far and wide for her lover, finally stumbling into a temple where everything is in slovenly disarray. As Psyche is sorting and clearing the mess, Ceres (Demeter to the Greeks) appears, but refuses any help beyond advising Psyche that she must call directly on Venus, who caused all the problems in the first place. Psyche next calls on Juno in her temple, but Juno gives her the same advice. So Psyche finds a temple to Venus and enters it. Venus then orders Psyche to separate all the grains in a large basket of mixed kinds before nightfall. An ant takes pity on Psyche, and with its ant companions, separates the grains for her. Venus is outraged at her success and tells her to go to a field where golden sheep graze and to retrieve some golden wool. A river-god tells Psyche that the sheep are vicious and strong and will kill her, but if she waits until

noontime, the sheep will go to the shade on the other side of the field and sleep; she can then pick the wool that sticks to the branches and bark of the trees. Venus next asks for water flowing from a cleft that is impossible for a mortal to attain and is also guarded by great serpents. This time an eagle performs the task for Psyche. Venus, furious at Psyche's survival, claims that the stress of caring for her son, made depressed and ill as a result of Psyche's lack of faith, has caused her to lose some of her beauty. Psyche is to go to the Underworld and ask the queen of the Underworld, Proserpina (Persephone to the Greeks), to place a bit of her beauty in a box that Venus had given to Psyche. Psyche decides that the quickest way to the Underworld is to throw herself off some high place and die, and so she climbs to the top of a tower. But the tower itself speaks to Psyche and tells her the route that will allow her to enter the Underworld alive and return again, as well as telling her how to get past Cerberus (by giving the three-headed dog a small cake); how to avoid other dangers on the way there and back; and most importantly, to eat nothing but coarse bread in the underworld, as eating anything else would trap her there forever. Psyche follows the orders precisely, rejecting all but bread while beneath the Earth. However, once Psyche has left the Underworld, 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 (Eros), 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 made from ambrosia, granting her immortality. Begrudgingly, Venus and Psyche forgive each other. Psyche and Cupid have a daughter, called Voluptas (Hedone in Greek mythology), the goddess of "sensual pleasures", whose Latin name means "pleasure" or "bliss".

The so-called psyche or butterfly is generated from caterpillars which grow on green leaves, chiefly leaves of theraphanus, which some call crambe or cabbage. At first it is less than a grain of millet; it then grows into a small grub; and in three days it is a tiny caterpillar. After this it grows on and on, and becomes quiescent and changes its shape, and is now called a chrysalis. The outer shell is hard,and the chrysalis moves if you touch it. It attaches itself by cobweb-like filaments, and is unfurnished with mouth or any other apparent organ. After a little while the outer covering bursts asunder, and out flies the winged creature that we call the psyche or butterfly. (From Aristotle's History of Animals 551a.1) Psyche was one of three sisters, princesses in a Grecian kingdom. All three were beautiful, but Psyche was the most beautiful. Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, heard about Psyche and her sisters and was jealous of all the attention people paid to Psyche. So she summoned her son, Eros, and told him to put a spell on Psyche. Always obedient, Eros flew down to earth with two vials of potions. Invisible, he sprinkled the sleeping Psyche with a potion that would make men avoid her when it came to marriage. Accidentally, he pricked her with one of

his arrows (which make someone fall in love instantly) and she startled awake. Her beauty, in turn, startled Eros, and he accidentally pricked himself as well. Feeling bad about what he had done, he then sprinkled her with the other potion, which would provide her with joy in her life. Sure enough, Psyche, although still beautiful, could find no husband. Her parents, afraid that they had offended the gods somehow, asked an oracle to reveal Psyche's future husband. The oracle said that, while no man would have her, there was a creature on the top of a mountain that would marry her. Surrendering to the inevitable, she headed for the mountain. When she came within sight, she was lifted by a gentle wind and carried the rest of the way. When she arrived, she saw that her new home was in fact a rich and beautiful palace. Her new husband never permitted her to see him, but he proved to be a true and gentle lover. He was, of course, Eros himself. After some time, she grew lonely for her family, and she asked to be allowed to have her sisters for a visit. When they saw how beautiful Psyche's new home was, they grew jealous. They went to her and told her not to forget that her husband was some kind of monster, and that, no doubt, he was only fattening her up in order to eat her. They suggested that she hide a lantern and a knife near her bed, so that the next time he visited her, she could look to see if he was indeed a monster, and cut off his head if it was so. Her sisters convinced her this was best, so the next time her husband came to visit her, she had a lamp and a knife ready. When she raised the lamp, she saw that her husband was not a monster but Eros! Surprised, he ran to the window and flew off. She jumped out after him, but fell the ground and lay there unconscious. When she awoke, the palace had disappeared, and she found herself in a field near her old home. She went to the temple of Aphrodite and prayed for help. Aphrodite responded by giving her a series of tasks to do -- tasks that Aphrodite believed the girl would not be able to accomplish. The first was a matter of sorting a huge pile of mixed grains into separate piles. Psyche looked at the pile and despaired, but Eros secretly arranged for an army of ants to separate the piles. Aphrodite, returning the following morning, accused Psyche of having had help, as indeed she had. The next task involved getting a snippet of golden fleece from each one of a special herd of sheep that lived across a nearby river. The god of the river advised Psyche to wait until the sheep sought shade from the midday sun. Then they would be sleepy and not attack her. When Psyche presented Aphrodite with the fleece, the goddess again accused her of having had help. The third task Aphrodite set before Psyche was to get a cup of water from the river Styx, where it cascades down from an incredible height. Psyche thought it was all over, until an eagle helped her by carrying the cup up the mountain and returning it full. Aphrodite was livid, knowing full well that Psyche could never have done this alone! Psyche's next task was to go into hell to ask Persephone, wife of Hades, for a box of magic makeup. Thinking that she was doomed, she decided to end it all by jumping off a cliff. But a voice told her not to, and gave her instructions on making her way to hell to get the box. But, the voice warned, do not look inside the box under any circumstances! Well, Psyche received the box from Persephone and made her way back home. But, true to her nature, she was unable to restrain herself from peeking inside. To her surprise, there was nothing inside but darkness, which put her into a deep sleep. Eros could no longer restrain himself either and wakened her. He told her to bring the box to Aphrodite, and that he would take care of the rest.

Eros went to the heavens and asked Zeus to intervene. He spoke of his love for Psyche so eloquently that Zeus was moved to grant him his wish. Eros brought Psyche to Zeus who gave her a cup of ambrosia, the drink of immortality. Zeus then joined Psyche and Eros in eternal marriage. They later had a daughter, who would be named Pleasure.

The Greek name for a butterfly is Psyche, and the same word means the soul. There is no illustration of the immortality of the soul so striking and beautiful as the butterfly, bursting on brilliant wings from the tomb in which it has lain, after a dull, grovelling, caterpillar existence, to flutter in the blaze of day and feed on the most fragrant and delicate productions of the spring. Psyche, then, is the human soul, which is purified by sufferings and misfortunes, and is thus prepared for the enjoyment of true and pure happiness. (From Bulfinch's Mythology: The Age of Fable, chapter XI)