The Greek goddess Psyche, strictly speaking, was not a natural-born goddess as she got there by falling in love with the Greek Goddess of Love, Aphrodite’s “mama’s boy” Eros!
In order to have her relationship with Eros, she had to accomplish a series of impossible tasks set by her potential Mother-in-law, Aphrodite. You’d be hard-pressed to come up with a story that tops that of the Greek goddess Psyche.
God Of Love Strikes
The goddess Psyche started out as a mortal but one of exquisite grace and beauty. Fervently courted by numerous mortal men and gods, Psyche truly wasn’t interested in romance; she wasn’t just playing hard to get.
This offended Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who decided to bring Psyche down a notch by sending her son Eros, the god of love, to shoot her with one of his magical arrows. These are tipped in an aphrodisiac that would make her fall hopelessly in love with the first man she saw, no matter how wretched, unsuitable, or unappealing he might be.
But, as the Fates (the Greek goddesses responsible for luck and destiny) would have it, just as Eros had Psyche lined up in his sights, Eros stumbled and accidentally pricked himself with the arrow and fell madly in love with Psyche himself.
Reluctant to face mama with the news of what had happened, Eros whisked Psyche off to his palatial hideaway in the mountains for a quick wedding and lengthy honeymoon. Afraid that he might be recognized and word of his bumbling might get back to Aphrodite, Eros visited Psyche only after dark, and he made her swear that she would never try to look at him.
She grew to love him deeply and started growing more and more curious each day about her beloved’s features. Psyche finally decided to take just a quick peek while he lay sleeping, figuring there could be no harm in being her beloved husband.
The Betraying Reveal
As she lit a candle to see him, a drop of hot wax accidentally spilled on his shoulder, waking him up, but not before she saw that he was more beautiful than any man she’d ever imagined.
Another version of the story, probably the original version of “Beauty and the Beast,” was that she was persuaded by her sisters, who were jealous of her good fortune in marrying into such wealth, to stab him as he slept since he surely must be a “monster” to be so fearful of her seeing him.
When he awoke, he found her poised over him, knife in hand, and ready to slay him. Either way, Eros was upset by her lack of trust and her betrayal and left her. He flew back home to his mother and made a full confession to her.
Psyche missed him more than she could ever have imagined. Abandoned and bereft, she decided to go and humble herself before Aphrodite, begging for her blessing on the marriage and for the return of her husband.
Aphrodite Challenges Psyche
Aphrodite, however, saw this as her opportunity to take revenge. She demanded that Psyche complete four tasks, each of them more frightening and difficult than the previous. This would be to prove herself worthy of marriage to Eros.
First, Psyche was to spend the night in an enormous room filled to the top with assorted grains. Her task was to have them all sorted and bagged by daybreak. Realizing the enormity of the task, Psyche huddled in the corner weeping. Just then an army of ants took pity on her and came to her aid. Together they got the job done for her well in advance of the deadline.
Next, Psyche was ordered to bring back the Golden Fleece belonging to a fearsome ram that had already killed several heroes who had tried to acquire his fleece.
Terrified that she too would be crushed, Psyche took the advice of a nearby reed that whispered to her to wait until nightfall when the ram slept before entering the field and to gather the fleece that had come off and clung to the branches of the blackthorn trees.
For her third task, Aphrodite gave Psyche a crystal jar and demanded she returns with water taken from a waterfall positioned on a high cliff on the River Styx, the entrance to the underworld.
In the depths of despair, when she saw a tremendous danger involved, Psyche was amazed when an eagle circling above her swept down for the jar and flew off to the waterfall, filled it, and returned it to her.
The future goddess Psyche’s last and most frightening challenge was to descend into the underworld, the kingdom of the dead. All to return with a box of sleeping potion/beauty cream from Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld.
This required her to painfully ignore the pleas for help from all the unfortunate souls she encountered on her way. This task was her longest and hardest, but she succeeded. Psyche was so exhausted by the effort when she finally succeeded that she took some of the potions for herself.
Finding Psyche in a deep sleep and deeply moved by her accomplishing these tasks all for the love of him, Eros rubbed the potion from her eyes and returned it to the box which he sent on to his mother.
The Happy Ending
Eros decided that he’d had enough of his mother’s meddling in his affairs and that he truly loved Psyche. So he humbled himself and sought expert advice to save their marriage. He flew to Zeus, who, upon Athena’s advice, made Psyche immortal (a Greek goddess in her own right).
Their marriage, legitimized by the king of the gods, was now restored. Even Aphrodite had to admit they made a fine couple and gave them her blessing.
The myths of the Greek goddess of the Soul, Psyche, exemplify a woman’s search for authentic personal growth. A reminder that the integration of our experiences, however sad, difficult, or frightening they may be, matures and transforms us. Like the symbol of the butterfly emerging into the light from the constants of its dark cocoon.
As a goddess of the soul and the wife of the God of Love, Eros, Psyche is a powerful deity with a huge impact on our lives. Her symbols represent her brave search for truth and understanding.
Waterfalls: In general, waterfalls represent cleansing and the flow of life. In the context of Psyche’s story, waterfalls symbolize the challenges she had to go through in order to become worthy of Eros’ love and Aphrodite’s approval.
Other Psyche symbols include the crescent moon (waning), grain, eye, three stars (representing body/life/soul), perfumed oil, and pottery jars.
The butterfly is the most common symbol of Psyche. It represents Psyche’s journey and transformation from a mere mortal to a revered goddess.
Other animal symbols of Psyche include eagles, sheep and ram, mice, ants, and fish.
One of the plants symbolizing Psyche is the willow. Willow trees are known for their adaptability and persistence in the face of adversity. This perfectly symbolizes Psyche’s perseverance and ability to overcome every obstacle set by Aphrodite.
Other plant symbols of Psyche are flowering almonds, ivy, blackthorn, reeds, sweet alyssum, lily of the valley, water lily, figs, and melons.
Floral scents perfectly encapsulate Psyche’s essence: beauty, femininity, grace, and romance. Psyche possesses all of these qualities that make her a worthy love interest of the Love of God.
Her other scents are almond, lily of the valley, and mulberry.
Gems and Metals
Amethyst represents the purity and healing of wounds. Psyche was pure and innocent, and even though she went through a period of loss, pain, and struggles, she emerged victorious.
Other gems and metals that represent Psyche are obsidian, moonstone, tourmaline, rose quartz, platinum, and all types of crystals.
Psyche wore gowns in colors of black, light blue, blue, purple, silver, and sea green. She also wore white gowns that represented her innocence.
Meditations To Invoke The Goddess Psyche
- Psyche, let me be like you and share the goodness of my life and my friends with others.
- Goddess of spiritual union, remind me that I don’t have to have a partner to be in love, that I can be happy in love with life itself.
- Share your ability to learn from experience, Psyche, so that I took can master the challenges in my life.
- Thank you, Psyche, for helping me to be friendly, optimistic, and sensitive to the needs of others.
- I give myself permission to rest and relax and to sleep restfully.
- Psyche, show me how to stay focused on the things that really matter.
- I call on you, Psyche, to help me develop my true talents by accepting who I really am.
- Psyche, teach me to “sort the seeds” so that I can set priorities and remain mindful of what is important in my life.
- Psyche, help me to see and trust the love that others offer to me.
- Goddess, guide me to friends who add fun and lightheartedness to my life.
- Psyche, you remind me to stay flexible, and poised to face the changes that come into my life.
- Psyche, remind me that I am free of any damage from the past, and help me to transform my life into something higher.
- Great goddess, help me celebrate my uniqueness today.
- Psyche, calm my inner fears so that I can hear my heart more clearly.
- Great goddess, I rejoice with you in celebration of my wholeness.
- Psyche, remind me to set my worries aside for a while and to be lighthearted today.
- Great goddess, help me to remain centered and emotionally available to others.
If you enjoyed this post we are sure you will enjoy getting to know some of the other goddesses we also write about. You can find the complete list of goddesses sorted across regions and religions here.
Featured Image Credit: Master of the Die, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons