Eros and Psyche (2)


The story of Psyche and Eros is a tale of soul-making and deep transformation.  As Elisabeth Eowyn Nelson, author of Psyche’s Knife, put it: “Just as Psyche’s fate is entwined with Eros, the soul’s fate is always erotic. We work out our fate by discovering what we desire, what we value, and what we would die for.” I like to look at mythical stories as perfect narratives that cannot possibly be improved.  I am not able to judge or criticize mythical characters. Nevertheless, in my previous post I was mildly critical of Psyche when I wrote that she was in love with the idea of love rather than the “real” Eros. Actually, Psyche has been mercilessly criticized by many interpreters of the myth as meek, spineless or weak. I’ve got to confess that I adore her childlike tenderness and vulnerability. I am not wired to look for dysfunctions in mythical stories. I simply cannot blame Psyche for being vulnerable and tender-hearted, and I actually love the part of the story where she is staying in Eros’s palace, not allowed to see his face. After all, darkness, containment, privacy, exclusivity and secrecy are very much connected with Eros and erotic love. However, the intimacy shared by Eros and Psyche cannot last: it must be counterbalanced by the light of consciousness. Both characters know that, otherwise Eros would not allow Psyche to receive the visit of her sisters. I had further reflections spurred by Psyche’s stay in the palace of Eros. How does love happen? Perhaps first we fall in love with the image, the archetype of the Beloved, whose divine image is imprinted in our souls. The Beloved that we seek dwells within our own psyches, always. The union that we seek is the desire of our own wholeness and completeness. I feel that when writing about myths we should always have in mind the following words of Jung from The Psychology of the Child Archetype: “Nor for a moment dare we succumb to the illusion that an archetype can be finally explained and disposed of. The most we can do is dream the myth onwards.”

Psyche may have lived a dream life in a dream palace but the story must unfold, the sleeping must wake up. Psyche will have to leave the blissful palatial womb. Her sisters, whose intentions are wicked and dictated by envy, instill doubt in our heroine, acting as the necessary evil that spurs the character towards individuation, like Mephistopheles in Faust. Psyche is not able to see through their wickedness, inexperienced and isolated as she is. At the beginning of her story she strikes me as a beautiful incarnation of the archetype of the divine child. Children are naturally wise but they are often overlooked or patronized, as is Psyche by many of those who interpret her myth. I think it may be interesting to look at this story by viewing Eros as the primordial god and by viewing his beloved Psyche as Life, Soul and the Divine Child that emerges out of the primordial (erotic) chaos. In Essays on a Science of Mythology, Jung wrote: “The child motif represents the pre-conscious, childhood aspect of the collective psyche.” And further: “The child distinguishes itself by deeds which point to the conquest of the dark.” The special phenomenology of the child archetype is quite visible in Psyche’s story. She has an aura of specialness. From the very beginning of her story she is taken under the wing of Nature, which will be even more visible in the impossible tasks that Aphrodite will command her to fulfill. The child archetype and the archetype of the Self are closely connected:

“The child is born out of the womb of the unconscious, begotten out of the depths of human nature, or rather out of living Nature herself. It is a personification of vital forces quite outside the limited range of our conscious mind; … a wholeness which embraces the very depths of Nature. It represents the strongest, the most ineluctable urge in every being, namely the urge to realize itself…. The grandeur and invincibility of the “child” is bound up in Hindu speculation with the nature of the Atman. The latter corresponds to the “smaller than small yet bigger than big” idea. As an individual phenomenon, the self is “smaller than small,” as the equivalent of the cosmos it is “bigger than big.”


The Sun (The Star Tarot deck by Cathy McClelland, via

The concept of Atman is directly connected with Psyche’s story as this word literally means “essence, breath, soul.” Let us continue Psyche’s story, quoting from Psyche’s Knife, as in my last post. Although Eros forbade Psyche to look at him, she decides to approach her lover while he is asleep with a knife (in case he is a monster) and an oil lamp:

“As she approached the sleeper, the light revealed an astonishing sight. Her unknown husband was none other than Eros, the beautiful god of love. … When her eye caught the brace of weapons near the bed, she curiously began to examine them.


Troy Howell, Eros and Psyche

She held up an arrow, tipped with the poison that heats the blood of Eros’s victims. But because she was still trembling at the discovery of the god, she accidentally pricked a finger on one of the sharp points – and passionately fell in love with the god of love. Psyche drank in his extraordinary beauty with even more passion and began to kiss him fervently. Just then, a drop of hot oil leapt from the lamp onto his shoulder and painfully scalded his unblemished skin. Eros awakened, saw Psyche, the lamp, and the knife, and flew out of bed in a rage.

Psyche piteously clung to Eros as he flew above her head, but to no avail. He ignored her tears and pleas and scolded her in bitter words.”

Then he left, and Psyche fell into despair. Eros’s arrow is a reminder of the inevitable suffering that love entails. Psyche awakens to consciousness and she must leave the safety of Eros’s palace: her individuation path is stretching in front of her. The knife she got hold of was necessary as a way to cut through the illusion and confusion of her situation. It can be viewed as a tool of discrimination and separation. It taught her to become more discriminating. In heroic myths, the light and the knife (or the sword) are attributes of masculine heroes used to overcome dragons and other monsters of darkness. But instead of bloody combat Psyche experiences a conscious, love encounter. She encounters her inner divinity by looking at a god. You may remember from my previous post that according to Orphic beliefs nobody could look directly at the face of Eros without going blind: he was the primordial god, the light of the Self. For Psyche, looking at Eros is a moment of epiphany: all her future struggles and ordeals follow from that one mystical moment of revelation.

Psyche’s knife stands for the conflicts, tortures and agonies of love. It stands for the mind’s power of discriminating and prioritizing, and of assessing danger, which at the beginning of the tale Psyche is unable to do. The author of Psyche’s Knife devoted a lot of time to research, and conjectured that Psyche actually wielded a double-headed ax of the Goddess: the weapon common among women of the Minoan culture of the island of Crete. It was “a flat blade with two sharp edges shaped something like butterfly wings attached to a sturdy shaft.” It was the weapon of the Minoan serpent goddess and might have symbolically evoked her transformative power, characteristic both of serpents and butterflies.


Priestessess before the Great Goddess with Double Butterfly Axe, gold ring 1500 BC, via

Nelson emphasizes the pain inherent in a butterfly’s transformation: “Literally and figuratively the caterpillar is consumed alive by transformation.” We seldom realize that the pain of the transmutation is grinding and agonizing for the caterpillar. Further, the double ax, as a symbol of wholeness, may also symbolize the simultaneous creation and destruction, the ecstasy of life and death. The knife is also an alchemical tool as it separates and differentiates. Only that which is carefully and neatly separated can be united. The coniunctio reaches its highest expression when the two principles that are to be united are uniquely distinct in the first place.

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29 Responses to Eros and Psyche (2)

  1. The story of Eros and Psyche is always a favourite of mine. Here you couple a beautiful story with beautiful insight. Thank-you for reminding me of this my friend. Namaste.


  2. Wonderful post! Butterflies abound! >l<


  3. Another sumptuous article Monika. Could Psyche be Venus in Pisces and Eros be Mars in Scorpio?


  4. I agree with you– Psyche is an important aspect of the myth, and she is not weak or cowardly– she is vulnerable and open.


  5. shreejacob says:

    I have learned quite a bit about Psyche and Eros. What I found so interesting is that you were able to connect the dots between the story and that of Hinduism’s concept of the Atman and also Jung’s archetypes.
    What was brought to light within me is that this whole story…the whole story of our souls are the same no matter what age, what part of the world we come from…it’s like the ancients knew it and passed on the message in stories. The story of our souls…born into this world as a journey to truly remember and come into who we really are!


    • Thank you so much for another great comment. You do have a busy blogging month so I appreciate your time. There is one more part planned – hope I can squeeze it all in into one part, that is. I also love to look for the common ground joining even the most distant cultures.


  6. Soul Fields says:

    I´ll read your post at a better time with more thought. Just wanted to say that it is so wonderful to take a deeper look at the mythologies and asteroids via your posts. A few years ago I studied more about the most common asteroids via my own chart and the charts of some of friends (my approach is still mainly intuitive), where as Hekate was new to me before your introduction.

    Love, Deelia

    PS. My natal Eros is in Pieces conj Ascendant, Psyche in Gemini/2n house, Hekate in Sagittarius/8th house. Also: I wrote in another comment, that Hekate is not incuded at, had forgotten that by adding the asteroid number it is. Still thankful for the comprehensive link you gave.


    • Soul Fields says:

      Forgot to mention that my natal Eros is in the 12th house. (Nitpicking, but to me it gives a little bit different nuance to it, than if it was in the first house although being close to it.)


    • Dear Deelia, I am very grateful that my posts matter to you! It is very interesting about your Eros close to your Ascendant and in Pisces! Mine is in the second house close to Pluto, so that’s different energy altogether, and I really see why death is so present in the story of Eros and Psyche. I do think asteroids deserve our attention with the return of the sacred feminine. They add soulfullness to the chart, I think. My two most prominent asteroids are Juno conjunct my Sun, Hekate on my Asc, Artemis conjunct my Moon and Ceres (with Psyche) on my MC. Juno is still the hardest for me to understand.


      • Soul Fields says:

        Thanks for sharing! It´s always fascinating to me to know even if of little bits here and there of the charts of others. It would be interesting to know more of your thoughts concerning your Juno.

        You inspire me to take another, refreshing look at the whole set of mine, but in addition to Eros, Chiron conj my Asc in Pieces, and Ceres also in Pisces /1st house with its many aspects, both easier and challenging ones, have a bigger meaning in my natal chart. And I like my Vesta, because it is in the 5th house in Cancer and with trines it kind of lightens up (from its part) my Saturn in Pisces Asc and Chiron themes.

        And I agree what with what you said about the asteroids in general.


  7. so interwoven with symbolisms and allegory and intercultural connections like a magnificent tapestry of truth – mind blowing and magnificent though not easy to absorb in one go – Eros the god ( krishna?), the universal supersoul, and Psyche the individual soul (Meera his pining earthly lover?) as she says to Him ” come to my heart dear beloved I shall give you my body mind and wealth and sing songs of love for you” – indeed the soul is a child full of purity enmesshed in matter, the ego she fails to comprehend when it is engulfed by anger lust greed and adversity, the pristine universal consciousness that is ‘small’ beacuse it is distinctively located in you, and BIG because it is representative of the supersoul also both at ONCE, microcosm into macrocosm – the naalogy of the ‘painful’ transformation of the caterpillar into the butterfly, has to be the enlightenment of the ego encapsuling the childlike soul into the soul realization finally when it lets go of itself. – phew, your post makes ones thoughts wander through superb myths both from the east and the west, as inevitably the truth does universally.


  8. H3nry J3kyll says:

    Profound analysis Monika! You’ve considered perspectives and shed light on embedded symbolism that made this well worth reading. I’m glad that I sat and dedicated some time to this. Definitely not something that should be glossed over.


    • Thank you! I really appreciate you taking the time. I learnt from my crazy long post on Kafka that I need to divide the figments of my imagination into parts. I write to collect my thoughts and I am extremely grateful to be read.


  9. thepracticalpriestess says:

    Reblogged this on the practical priestess and commented:
    Loving the analysis.


  10. Pingback: Bound in Pisces: Psyche and Eros, Venus and Mars | Gray Crawford

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