*Belated post for the A to Z. I was out of town for an emergency, and now I’m catching up. Hello, world!
Day Sixteen of the A-to-Z Challenge in April 2017. Let’s do this.
This year there’s no linky list or form to fill out to sign up. It might be too late to join at this point (unless you were double posting), but you can always cheer/comment on participants (and find awesome bloggers) at the A-to-Z’s official blog.
Now I should warn, that I didn’t stick to the common sense rule of writing short, pithy posts. Mine are long and bloated, but I’m having fun with it. And if you wanna skim, that’s absolutely cool with me!
Leave a comment down below with your blog so I can visit I’m thrilled to be making new friends. 🙂
As part of my Greek mythic figures, places, and things theme, my “P” post highlights the pretty Persephone and Psyche.
I haven’t seen the Beauty & the Beast live-action movie yet, but it’s on my to-do list. I’ve been itching to watch the movie since Cinderella in 2015. Anyways, the reason I’m bringing up Belle and her Beast is that there are ties from that fairy tale to the tales of Persephone and Psyche and their husbands, Hades and Eros.
So, let’s dive in with Persephone and Hades…
Type in “Persephone and Hades” into Google images and you’ll be inundated with a bunch of romanticized, but very well-drawn images of the Lord of the Underworld and his goddess-consort. My response is always the same:
HE’S HER UNCLE (TWICE-OVER), people!
And if the incest is fine for you, remember the part of the tale where he KIDNAPPED her? But if you need a refresher, here’s their “love” story:
Born to Zeus and Demeter, Persephone – like most deities – was an incest product. Not her fault, and moving on…
Spring goddess, Persephone was most beloved by her mother. Unlike Zeus, who had many mistresses/lovers and children, Persephone was Demeter’s only child.
Persephone was very beautiful, and she was very in tune with nature. She often frolicked with her Naiad (water-loving) nymph companions. Persephone attracted a lot of suitors for her beauty, none of whom enticed her to settle down.
Hades had gained his throne in the Underworld, and he set his eyes on Persephone as his Queen. So, depending on how the tale goes, he either asked Zeus for permission to take Persephone (which Hades was given) or Hades acted on his own.
The result is the same: when Persephone strayed from her nymph companions, Hades seized the opportunity to abduct her.
Demeter couldn’t challenge her brother, Hades in his realm, so she grieved and took her anger out on the Earth. Winter robbed the trees of their color and their fruit, and Demeter lay barren whole lands, starving the humans living off of them.
Zeus intervened by sending word to Hades to have Persephone returned to her grief-stricken mother.
But before she leaves, Persephone eats anywhere from three to six pomegranate seeds from the Underworld. Those seeds damn her to return every three-six months to the side of Hades as his bride and queen. And, in those months, Demeter begins anew her winter-like mourning.
I’m not sure WHY this story is so popular, but I’d argue it’s one of the most re-told Greek myths about lovers. It’s not a favorite of mine at all.
MORAL: Another good reason to hate the Hades & Persephone myth, it brought us winter. Good news though, now it’s spring, Persephone must have been released by Hades to spring/summer (maybe autumn?) with her mother.
Now let’s move on to the better of the two over-the-top romances:
The love story of Psyche, goddess of the soul, and Eros, god of sexual attraction (sometimes also called the god of love).
Before she was a goddess, though, Psyche was a mortal woman. A princess, actually. And a terribly beautiful one.
The story of Eros and Psyche, actually Cupid and Psyche comes from 2nd century Numidian (present-day Algeria and parts of present-day Tunis) writer Lucius Apuleius in his magnum opus, The Golden Ass. Also called the Metamorphoses, that’s where this tale is first documented.
Psyche was very beautiful, and she had many suitors, unlike her two older sisters. But she didn’t want to get married, or had very little interest in it. Still, as it is with the gods, Psyche earned the ire of Aphrodite. Why? Because the goddess of sexual beauty was losing her male worshipers as they poured from her temple and altar to that of Psyche’s.
So Aphrodite conspired, and she sent her son, Eros, to strike Psyche with his arrow and have her fall in love with the first man (or thing) she laid eyes on. Eros stumbles at Psyche’s mortal beauty and pricks himself with his arrow, thus cursing himself with an obsessive love/need to possess Psyche for himself.
Meanwhile, Psyche’s parents are beside themselves because Psyche isn’t choosing among any of her decent suitors. Psyche wants to marry for love, and so her parents decide to consult an oracle of Apollo. The oracle tells them that Psyche is destined to marry an ugly beast and that she be delivered to the top of the mountain.
Psyche’s wedding (or is it a funeral?) procession guide her up the mountain, she’s left there until she’s whisked up by Zephyrus, the god of the west wind, to a beautiful, palatial home. Psyche understands her beast-husband dwells there, but he will only visit her at night. Then she’s truly enraptured by her invisible (maybe beastly?) husband’s loving attention.
In the day, she’s alone. She’s served by invisible staff, and she’s taken care of, so she doesn’t see why she must insist on asking for more – like asking for a glimpse of her husband’s face.
But when her sisters, now married too, come to visit her with the help of Zephyrus, they grow jealous of the luxury Psyche is living with, a luxury that far exceeds their own. When they hear she hasn’t seen her husband’s face, they fill her head with the desire to unmask the “beast”.
So when her sisters leave, and night falls, Psyche sneaks to her husband with a candle and a knife. The knife was to kill her monstrous husband.
Psyche peers into his face and she’s stunned to see his youthful beauty, recognizing him to be the god, Eros. But her candle drips hot wax onto Eros’s shoulder and he wakes to find she’s disobeyed his order never to gaze upon his face.
Leaving her, Eros flees back to his mother…to whine and complain about Psyche. Aphrodite is all “I told you so” and she keeps him under lock and key afterwards.
Psyche hates herself, but she’s strong and she wants to fight to apologize to Eros and regain his trust and love again. So she searches the world and finally comes before Aphrodite. The goddess will let her see Eros if Psyche can accomplish three difficult tasks.
- She sorts grain with the help of an army of ants.
- She brings back Golden Fleece while the fierce magical ram guarding its fleece slept at night.
- Descend into Hades and retrieve a box of beautifying elixir from Persephone to bring to Aphrodite.
When Psyche is on her way home with this box, she decides to open it up and beautify herself for the much-anticipated reunion with Eros. Instead, sleeping dust puffs out and puts her to sleep – in some variants it’s the god, Morpheus, who leaps out of the box, putting Psyche into a death-like sleep.
Eros finds Psyche, clearing the sleeping dust from her eyes and returning it to the box. And realizing that he wants to be with Psyche forever, he brings her up to Zeus and Mt. Olympus where Psyche is granted the very elusive god-card of immortality and a title of her own, Goddess of the Soul. For she was very spirited in her adventure to reunite with Eros.
There is a marriage ceremony on Mt. Olympus, and even Aphrodite concedes she was wrong, giving the couple her blessing.
MORAL: You can’t save others from trying to gift you misery, but you can refuse to accept it. Let them know you can live without that kind of drama, thank you very much.
Sources that helped with this post:
Check them out when you can!