The fantastically beautiful Psyche is the Greco-Roman goddess of the soul. She is often shown as having butterfly wings, which makes a lot of sense, since her name not only means "soul" in Greek, but also "butterfly." We're guessing her butterfly wings were probably totally necessary to keep up with her famous winged husband, Cupid (a.k.a. Eros), god of love and desire. Together, this high-flying couple were said to have parented a daughter named Voluptas (Hedone), the goddess of pleasure.
It's a bit of a Cinderella story. According to story of "Cupid and Psyche," our girl didn't start out with butterfly wings, and she didn't start out as a goddess. Psyche was born a lowly mortal. Well, she wasn't that lowly – she was a princess and a ridiculously attractive one to boot. Psyche was so beautiful, in fact, that she made Venus (a.k.a. Aphrodite), the goddess of love and beauty, horribly jealous.
Psyche's overwhelming beauty ends up being both a curse and a blessing. Because of it, jealous Venus puts Psyche through all kinds of turmoil. However, without her smokin' good looks, Psyche would never have ended up marrying Venus's son, Cupid, and Psyche never would have become a goddess. (Get the full story in our "Summary.")
If we were to make a Psyche cookie recipe, it would be something like this:
2 cups of Flour
1 stick of Butter
¼ cup of Beauty
¼ cup of Determination
2 tablespoons of Devotion
½ cup of Sugar
1 teaspoon of Vanilla
5 cups of Curiosity
Well, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but let's face it: Psyche has an extra helping of curiosity. She's like Alice in Wonderland on steroids. And her curiosity leads to big problems.
The first trouble that arises in Psyche's life is totally out of her control: she can't help how pretty she is, or that Venus is insecure and jealous. Psyche's second problem, though, is within her control. She allows her curiosity to get the best of her and looks at her husband by lamplight, even though she's promised not to. She knows she shouldn't do it, but she does it anyway.
Don't get us wrong – there's a lot more to Psyche than her good looks and triple helping of curiosity. She is a seriously brave and determined young lady. Psyche messes up, but she does her best to regain Cupid's love and trust. Venus gives her daughter-in-law some pretty tough tasks to complete in order to win back Cupid, but Psyche never chickens out. Even when she's ordered to go to the world of the dead, Psyche bravely goes forward.
Many see Psyche's struggles to win back Cupid as an allegory representing the struggle and heartache that the human soul must go through in order to reach true bliss. But you can read more about that in "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory."
Usually, when Cupid, god of love and desire, pops up in a story, he wreaks havoc by making other people fall in love. The mischievous little god is famous for causing tons of trouble with his magic passion-inducing arrows. In the tale of "Cupid and Psyche," however, we see the tables turned. It's Cupid's life that is turned upside down when his own arrow stings him, causing him to fall in love with the stunningly beautiful mortal girl, Psyche. He's even so smitten with Psyche that he goes against the wishes of his mommy dearest (Venus), which is pretty much unheard of in most other stories. In the end, it all works out, though, and Psyche becomes Cupid's wife for all eternity.
For much more on Cupid, click here.
Venus (called Aphrodite by the Greeks) may be the goddess of beauty and love, but in the story of "Cupid and Psyche," she gets downright ugly and hateful. When men start worshiping the beautiful mortal princess, Psyche, the jealous Venus sends her son Cupid to punish the girl. The tables are turned on Venus, however, when Cupid himself falls in love with the Psyche. The last thing Venus wants is a gorgeous daughter-in-law.
Later on, Venus forces Psyche to complete lots of nearly impossible tasks. In the end, it takes the intervention of the king of the gods, Jupiter (a.k.a. Zeus), to calm this jealous lady down. The story of "Cupid and Psyche" shows us that love and beauty aren't always nice.
For a lot more dirt on Venus, check out our "Aphrodite (Venus) Files."