The Trials of Psyche
“Her hands shook so much it took four times to finally light the flame. And she turned, she felt her lungs stutter in her chest.
They say monsters can be beautiful too, and if that is the case then truly there was none more monstrous than he.
Wings, swan or dove or stork or something more, pale as paper, whiter than the moon. Nestled in their down there lay a man. His face was soft marble, cut and stripped until the beauty of it shone. His lips gentle, throat strong, smooth lines and sharp angles softened by the gentleness of sleep. The knife – how could she ever have touched the knife – dropped from her hands and laded harsh upon the floor.
Her husband, surely not a mortal man, stirred from his rest.
The lamp went out.”
She stood there for a moment more, the pointless, lightless lamp held in her trembling hand. Then it fell to join the knife.
Wind grew, the same wind that once carried her there, surrounded her, pulled her hair and clothes and plucked her from that room. It carried her far, far away through the night, until morning broke the clouds and abandoned her on the hill it once stole her from.
And Psyche turned.
Venus Libitina, orchestrator of the worst of Psyche’s life, smiled a smile that would have put the sun to shame – though Apollo would beg otherwise. Her rosy cheeks, her wine-stained lips –immortality sat well upon her face.
As well as contented victory.
“I did warn him. Mortals. All the same.”
The smile grew. Satisfaction glinting in her eyes.
“I warned him you would fail.”
Psyche dropped to her knees, head bowed, begging please for the mercy of the goddess. For the warmth of her husband, face now known, loved by Psyche long before she saw its grace.
“Enough!” Venus snapped with force enough to bow the trees, strong boughs that now cowered at her rage.
Psyche did not concede. Continued to plead, and beg, tears streaming down her cheeks.
Perhaps Venus, goddess of love, was swayed by the young girl’s heart. Perhaps her knowledge of her own son, returned in sorrow to Mount Olympus. Or perhaps, she merely saw an opportunity to toy with the young girl further.
Months in Cupid’s company had not waned her beauty. Her youthful vigour. All the reasons Venus craved her death had only grown. Now the girl had broken vows she made her son. A knife in the dark, above her husband’s chest while Venus watched.
Whichever the reason, three tasks Venus gave her, and three tasks Psyche passed.
One, to separate a mountain great as Olympus of millet, grains, and seeds. (The kindly ants helped her in her task.)
Two, to steal a slither of golden wool from Apuleias’ flock, their bite as full of venom as their pelts were bright. (The reeds whispered how to make the theft.)
Three, to gather water from the spring that feeds the river running through the lands of the dead. (An Eagle helped to fill the crystal vial.)
Three tasks given. Three tasks passed.
And one that Psyche never had a chance to achieve.
Venus. Jealous Venus. Desirous of beauty. Ordered Psyche once again to go where mortals should not tread. To Pluto’s Realm. To Pluto’s Home. To steal the secrets of Proserpina, Dread Proserpina’s lovely face.
Despairing Psyche, poor Psyche wept at the gates to the Underworld, unknowing how to ever beat this task. (A voice on the wind whispered in her ear.)
She made her way across the river, Charun brought her there. (The voice told her were to find the coin.)
And begged Proserpina to grant a place at her table, and an audience in her halls. (The voice told her not to eat the food.)
Finally. After pleading, after pity on a young girl took hold, Proserpina gave Psyche a box to bring to Venus, fair.
There are lessons to be learnt. And some will learn them. But Psyche was not one.
Curiosity. Burning, in her. An unshaking need to know.
She lit the candle and, like Pandora long before, she opened the box.
Perhaps Proserpina’s pity only stretched so far – the girl was mortal after all – or perhaps the trap was meant for her fellow goddess. (The gods so often bicker, and these two had fought before).
The box was opened, and Psyche fell to sleep. Her body tumbled to the merciless floor.
And stopped before she reached it.
Cupid held her in his loving arms.
(Cupid helped her sort the muddled grain)
(Cupid was the reeds that saved her life)
(Cupid was the whisper on the wind)
(Cupid woke her with a gentle kiss)
And Venus. Jealous, scheming, cursing Venus, could do nothing as her son took Psyche for a wife.
A goddess Psyche, beautiful still, joined her husband in Olympus’ halls.
Insp. The Legend of Cupid and Psyche