The Growth of the Soul
Although Psyche was a mortal, her loveliness challenged the beauty of Aphrodite who became annoyed and sent her son Eros to cause Psyche to fall in love with a wretched mortal. Instead, Eros fell deeply in love with Psyche. Visiting her in the dark of each evening he warned her not to gaze at him. Tricked by her sisters who convinced her to light a lamp, Psyche accidentally spilled a drop of oil on Eros' shoulder. Eros, finding he had been betrayed flew from Psyche.
In order to avenge herself and her son, Aphrodite gave Psyche four impossible tasks which when accomplished contributed to Psyche's growth and development as a woman. This is the only philosophical myth, while describing the union of the soul and body it also celebrates a female mortal's courage and perseverance to overcome the impossible tasks of the Gods.
1. Psyche - Greek for soul.
2. Golden grain - First task. Psyche was placed in a room full of assorted grains and told to sort them by nightfall which she did with the aid of an army of ants.
3. Sheep Horns, Blackthorn and Golden Fleece - Second task. Psyche was ordered to gather the golden fleece from the man-killing sheep. She accomplished this by following the advice of a talking reed, waiting until the sheep were asleep and then gathering the fleece caught on the thorns. Blackthorn is the symbol of difficulty.
4. Waterfall - (Dangerous area of the River Styx). The Eagle of Zeus. Third task. Aphrodite commanded that a container of water from the dangerous waters of the Styx be brought to her. Psyche did this with the aid of the Eagle who flew to the Waterfall with the container.
5. Jar of Ointment - Fourth task and the longest. She was ordered to descend into Hades and return with a jar of Persephene's beauty ointment.
6. Crystals - Completed union of soul and body (Psyche and Eros); spiritual perfection and knowledge of self; luminous symbol of the spirit (soul).
7. Flowers in hair - Flowering Almond, hope; Sweet Alyssum, worth beyond beauty -- which Psyche proved by accomplishing these tasks; Eglantine, symbolizing "I wound to heal," representing Aphrodite who commanded these tasks of growth.
8. Butterfly - Greek symbol for soul.
9. Border flowers - White mulberry, wisdom; Lily of the Valley, return of happiness -- Psyche reunited with Eros.
10. Crescent moon waxing - Growth of the soul; female symbol.
11. Three stars - Union of Soul and Body and Life.
12. Eyes - Soul.