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by Micha F. Lindemans
The personification of the human soul. In the well-known fable of the Roman writer Apuleius (ca. 125 - ca. 180), Psyche is the youngest of three daughters. She was of such extraordinary beauty that Aphrodite herself became jealous of her. The goddess then sent her son Eros to make Psyche fall in love with an ugly man. However, the god himself fell in love with the girl and visited her every night, but forbade her to see his face, so she did not know who her lover was. On her sisters' instigation she tried to discover the true identity of her beloved. When he lay asleep in her bed, she lit an oil lamp but when she bent over to see Eros' face, a drop of oil from her lamp fell on him and he awakened. When he noticed her intent, he left her. Psyche wandered the earth in search of her lover, until she was finally reunited with him.

On ancient Greek vases, Psyche is portrayed in the shape of a bird with a human head, sometimes with a beard. Later she is shown in the shape of a cock, butterfly, or a small human figure. As the beloved of Eros she is a fair maiden, often with butterfly wings.

Article details:

  • Pronunciation:
  • Etymology:
    Breath, soul

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