Fifteen years ago, I was side-swiped by love. Looking back to see whether I'd written about this before, I found my little series from five years ago: This Space of Love. I was a bit surprised at myself...I wrote that?! There's some pretty good stuff there. Not long after finding myself on this weepy roller-coaster of unrequited love at the age of thirty, I came across a book while shelving as a page at the library. This ranks right up there with the top five cases of serendipity in my life. Incidentally, that weepy unrequited love sent me into a depression, and it was some casual sex that pulled me out of it, thus my current strategy of seeking closer encounters now.
That book, She: Understanding Feminine Psychology, has been a presence in my life ever since. At that time, it sure helped to learn that there was no avoiding the heartbreak, even if I had ended up with that person. There must be a period of individuation, where I find myself and I busy myself with tasks of the hands that occupy my mind a little, but aren't too complex. I spent a lot of time that year folding origami. In the time following, I recognized that I wouldn't have fallen in love if I hadn't been ready for that. The author informed me not everyone experiences this transformative love, that a grandmother could still be 'virginal' in her psychological love framework.
Consequent to my experiences, I have said many times it is my hypothesis that love isn't about soul mates, but about people coming together at the right time, sometimes the wrong people, but one or both is ripe for falling in love. And then when one does, there's a good likelihood one will go through the mythical archetype of Eros and Psyche. I'm glad to see Robert A Johnson's books on He and She are both available on Kindle. I'd like to read the one, and revisit the other, but not yet.
First, I'd like to explore the myth to find my own understanding, and find the telling of the myth in my own life. There's a pair of poems brewing, too. Then, maybe I'll get to those very short books, and do some more exploration. Philip Pullman said in the introduction of his new book:
The fairy tale is in a perpetual state of becoming and alteration. To keep to one version or one translation alone is to put a robin redbreast in a cage. ...You are at perfect liberty to invent other details...you're not only at liberty to do so: you have a positive duty to make the story your own. A fairy tale is not a text.The same, I'm sure, applies to myths. I found several versions of these gods' story, linking to one in my last post. I like this person's version, as it has the most details that I remember from my first encounter. Here are parts one, two, three, and four. She also has some great analysis, but again, I want to find my own way first. (Let me tell you, the new Send to Kindle toolbar button is my new best friend for extended web reading.)
First I'd like to capture the story in a few plot lines. Then I may examine those plot lines more deeply, but I may be impatient and get to work on the pair of poems. I may have mentioned in the past I am only occasionally a poet. I don't really try to make poems happen, but sometimes poems insist they happen and I become a poet. This is a case where I foresee a lot of groundwork happening before I can even write the poems, and may well be the most complex poems I will have written.
The Story of Eros and Psyche
- Psyche is so beautiful that people compare her to Aphrodite and neglect the temples of the Goddess of Love. The Goddess of Love is pissed.
- Aphrodite seeks vengeance, and solicits the help of her son, Eros.
- Meanwhile, Psyche's parents seek the advice of the oracle of Apollo (God of Music, Light, and Reason) and learn Psyche is destined to marry no mortal.
- Psyche is sent to a mountain as a bride to her unknown, scary bridegroom
- Eros is taken by her beauty, and (oops, how'd that happen?) pricks himself with his own arrow. He has a God of Wind carry her to his palace.
- Psyche finds incredible riches in her new palatial home, and voices that inform her that they will meet her every need.
- Her new husband visits her only at night, a very pleasurable recurring event.
- But during the day she becomes lonely and bored. She pleas with her husband to have her sisters brought to visit. She has become pregnant and wants to share her joy. Eros warns her that no good would come from such a visit.
- Her sisters are somewhat jealous of Psyche's wealth. They raise concerns about the unseen husband, that he could be a monster, and the neighbors say he is a monstrous serpent. (ha!) Psyche protests he is good and kind, but she also has doubts. The sisters convince her to take a lamp and a knife to her marriage bed, and if he is a monster, she should cut off his head.
- Psyche lifts her lamp, and sees the divine.
- Psyche pricks herself on one of his arrows, and falls in love with Love.
- Lamp oil burns Eros, and he sees betrayal and mistrust. He leaves her. She is disconsolate.
- Psyche wanders in search of her husband. She comes upon a magnificent temple and hopes to find her love. It is a temple to Demeter (Goddess of Fertility, Grain, and Agriculture). Psyche sorts and arranges the food offerings. Demeter cannot help her, but advises Psyche make amends with Aphrodite.
- Aphrodite sends Psyche on four impossible tasks, and with each task, Psyche weeps, and receives help: ants help with sorting grain; the reeds advise her on gathering golden fleece; the eagle of Zeus fetches her water from the river of life; and a voice from the tower she climbs to throw herself off advises her on the trip to the underworld to fetch a drop of Persephone's beauty. Another version has Eros secretly helping these along.
- Returning from the underworld, Psyche realizes she looks bedraggled and fatigued with pregnancy. She opens the box for a bit of that beauty and a mist envelopes her, putting her to sleep.
- Eros finally comes along, and gathers up the mist and returns it to the box, and revives Psyche.
- Eros takes her to Olympus and Zeus makes her immortal as a wedding gift. Aphrodite is fine with that, as Psyche will no longer be on earth seducing mortals away from her.