Writing Something New About Something Very, Very Old
Much like how fashion trends or popular fads go in and out of style, so too do ancient myths. A goodly number of people in the present day are well versed with the mythic personalities of Hercules, Thor, and even Perseus due to such recent films as “Hercules”, “Thor”, and “Clash of the Titans”. Ask those same people if they’re at all familiar with the epic story of “Cupid and Psyche” and it’s practically a guarantee most, if not all, will draw a complete blank.
This is fascinating to consider given the heroic tale of Psyche and her Four harrowing labors was one of the most well-known ancient Greek myths over the last 4 centuries prior to the 20th with it being at the height of its popularity throughout the 1800’s.
How do we know this? Art.
Before the dawn of film and motion pictures, artists would create (either by commission or by their own volition) their renditions of well-loved myths that were popular at the time, with “Cupid and Psyche” being a consistent favorite by far. It’s simply astounding to consider how many great works of art have been made in the mediums of sculpture, collage, and most profoundly oil painting which depict the various characters and many scenes of this ancient love story, many of which I have personally chosen to accompany this series.
The myth of Cupid and Psyche didn’t retreat into total obscurity during the 20th century. Psyche took whatever work she could find during those lean times as the mythological spokesmodel for White Rock beer, soda, and sparkling water.
Myths are exaggerated tales of wonder meant to relay a moral or theme to anyone who hears them, no matter their status in life. They can be enjoyed at face value for the action and adventure that unfolds within their larger-than-life plots but along with relaying their universal messages, myths are also highly complex by virtue of their multi-layered meaning.
Not only was this myth a favorite among many prominent artists of their day, “Cupid and Psyche” has been an exemplary tool of archetypal analysis incorporated by the most innovative forerunners within the fields of psychology and psychoanalysis, most especially by the man who devised the theory of the archetype itself, the great Carl Jung.
“Love is the dynamism that most infallibly brings the unconscious to light.” – Carl Jung
In her paper entitled “Trust and Betrayal in Love” presented to the Jung Society of Atlanta, Dr. Jacqueline Wright states the following:
“The myth of Eros and Psyche is a story of an awakening soul.”
I would like to expand upon that thought by saying the myth that’s all but forgotten in the 21st century is a story of the awakening soul of humanity at large. And what better time than the present to re-awaken humanity’s soul by introducing this gloriously rich and archetypally important ancient myth back into our awareness once again.
Because of this story’s truly epic nature, my rendition of “Cupid and Psyche” has been serialized into a series of 14 installments with each being individually published on Tuesdays of every other upcoming week.
Prepare to get hooked on a new take of a very old story as told by renowned astrologer, Brad Kronen since the epic tale of “Cupid and Psyche” has something in it for everyone to take to heart as well as thoroughly enjoy.
– Brad Kronen
The Epic Tale of Cupid & Psyche
Part I: Love is a Many Splendored (and Splintered) Thing
The ancient Greek writer Apuleius told an epic story of Love and its many dimensions. For despite it being the strongest of emotions, Love is also the most vulnerable. Like a diamond brought forth from the deepest earth in a state of near perfection, Love’s purity can become tainted and easily splintered by such lesser, petty things as jealousy, envy, greed, and spite. This sentiment is reflected in the ancient tale of Cupid and Psyche.
Long ago there lived a king who had three daughters. The eldest two possessed features which were uncommonly handsome but their beauty wasn’t in any way comparable to that of the king’s youngest child, a quiet and humble girl named Psyche. Psyche’s fairness was of such exceptional quality, people from far and near would journey to her father’s home just to gaze upon the girl’s good looks which were like no other. As her age transitioned from that of a child to a young maiden, many throughout the kingdom believed Psyche to be the physical embodiment of the Goddess of Beauty, Venus, herself. So much so, the temples dedicated to the great goddess soon became abandoned with many people directing their adoration to the mortal girl’s blossoming beauty.
A fact which the goddess of Beauty did not take to kindly.
Despite ruling over all things lovely and beautiful, Venus was one of the most feared of divinities, especially among those who fell from her favor. By virtue of her beauty being admired by all, the goddess was easily threatened and prone to fits of rage and jealousy. Venus would punish those whom she feared looked better than herself so severely, that the most unsightly and deadly monsters known to Man were in actuality the victims of her retaliation.
Upon discovering the reason as to why her temples had suddenly become neglected by her worshippers, Venus decided to pursue an entirely different form of punishment altogether in order for this brazen behavior to never be repeated by a mortal again.
The goddess chose to keep Psyche’s beauty fully in-tact.
Venus was determined to make an example of the girl who dared to think she could steal the adoration of her devotees away from her. She did this by summoning her son, the god of Love whom many called Eros but whom we will refer to in this epic tale as Cupid.
Whenever the goddess was feeling especially vindictive, Venus would command her son to shoot those who had offended her with one of his love arrows. Neither mortal nor god could resist the arrows of Cupid, for upon being hit, the victim would fall helplessly and hopelessly in love with whom or whatever should first cross their gaze. The goddess took great delight in distorting the strongest of emotions by having her son shoot at her victims often when the most abhorrent looking wretch or elderly old crone was within view. There were even those who succumbed to Cupid’s arrow when they were physically located near a deadly animal that would proceed to devour them whole as they approached the wild beast to express their loving devotion towards it.
Devising the most effective way for the girl’s looks to repulse her admirers, the goddess of Beauty demanded that her son pierce Psyche with his arrow when she be near a freshly killed corpse so that her love would deepen as the body decomposed further and further, igniting only fury and disgust from those around her.
While flying over a battlefield bestrewn with the bodies of soldiers killed in war, Cupid ventured forth to do his mother’s bidding after spotting Psyche emerge to pray for the souls of the newly dead. As the girl knelt in prayer next to a recently slain body of a badly injured soldier, Cupid took aim with his arrow but was struck motionless upon being exposed to Psyche’s captivating face in full view for the first time.
It appeared as if Love itself had fallen in love.
This unintentional delay became an act of Destiny when Psyche, intuitively sensing that impending danger was near abruptly fled, causing Cupid to flinch and thus cut himself with his own arrow.
Love had now fallen helplessly and hopelessly in love, since not even Cupid himself was immune to his amorous arrows.
Cupid was determined to make Psyche his own but needed to do so without his mother finding out and reacting in swift vengeance. Knowing that even the gods of Olympus feared injury by his archery, Cupid in his love smitten state took it upon himself to entreat the assistance of Apollo, the god of prophecy who spoke of the unfolding future through his high priests at the temple of Delphi. The Love god was determined to make the object of his affections forever be his own by devising a most outlandish plan to win Psyche’s heart.
A plan that called for the oracle of Delphi to lie by giving false witness to the very Future, itself.
*Cover Image of Cupid and Psyche by Errol le Cain, 1977
* Text Image of Venus and Cupid by John Singer Sargent, 1895
*Brad Kronen’s book “Love in the Stars” published by Llewellyn Worldwide, Inc. is available for purchase at your local book seller or online at amazon.com at the link listed below.