PSYCHE AND EROS
Dating from around 500 BCE this myth of the Eros, the Greek God of Love and the divination of Psyche, the young maiden, has been retold for millennia.
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.
RADHA AND KRISHNA
One night, when Krishna was grown, he went into the forest holding a lotus in one hand like a scepter and a flute in the other. He played such intoxicating music that the gopis awoke. They threw off their covers and left the beds of their husbands, half dressed, to find him. Each thought that she was the only one. However, the master of desire teased each of them, and their passions were aroused beyond anything they had ever known. At the moment when each one was consumed with unabashed desire, aroused to exhilaration, Krishna disappeared. They were distraught and sought him in desperation. Then, suddenly, he reappeared. This time Krishna stood in a clearing in the center of the forest. The gopis, mad with want, further aroused by his presence, surrounded him. Taking hands with one another, music entrancing them, they lifted their skirts, revealed their breasts, and danced, circling and laughing. It was then that Radha, the daughter of Krishna’s foster mother, the one he desired most, the expression of bliss herself, who had resisted his first songs, could no longer remain aloof. She left her husband’s bed and raced like a wild deer into the woods. The sight of Radha caused Krishna to drop the flute and the lotus. She entered the circle, radiant and alive with desire, while he made a bed of flowers on the earth for them to lie on. Radha (female nature itself) was his beloved. She was the fulfilment of the divine. On the earth, surrounded by the gopis, Radha and Krishna fulfilled all unabashed desire as they made love. While they engaged in every pleasure, Krishna became a thousand
lovers and satisfied each cowherdess in the circle. Radha’s passion increased unceasing, causing every flower to blossom. All night they moved in the luxury of delight. Even the gods and goddesses, the trees and the grass, the earth and the sky, found it impossible to resist this dance. Before the sun rose, their lovemaking ceased. The cowherdesses—with eyes glazed, lips torn, hearts wild, hair unknotted, bodies hot—ran together to the river, singing and laughing. They threw themselves into ice-cold water and played until their hearts were calmed. Then all the women returned home.
Adapted from Laura Simms, THE ROBE OF LOVE (Codhill Press, 2002).