Guest Author - Phyllis Doyle Burns
Psyche now realized that by listening to her malicious, jealous sisters, that she had betrayed her husband. She betrayed the trust they had in each other. After Eros left her, she vowed to find him and put to right the wrong she had done. Would her trust restore faith in both of them?
She recalled what Eros had told her when she thought him the monster. She had so wanted news from her sisters and to tell them of her own life. Eros had told her that he would do what he could. "I will allow thee to see thy sisters who will reappear at the monument that has been built on the mountaintop in commemoration of thy departure from the world of men." (Apuleius). Yet he strongly advised her to not talk with them or listen to them, for it would only bring disaster to their marriage. He reminded her that Aphrodite was still a bitter enemy of hers and therefore their love must be kept secret. "Aphrodite," he said, "imagines now that thou art utterly undone. She planned thy ruin and destined thee to dire perdition, but I shall not let thee die in misery and if ever love can accomplish the miracle, I will make thee happy in spite of her enmity." (Apuleius). Oh!, if only she had listened to her beloved and trusted him. Psyche cried in despair, then began her search for Eros. Psyche vowed to search till she found him, and prayed to him, to accept her again as wife.
The journey Psyche began would not be an easy one. It would be one of heavy burdens and sadness. She first travelled the long way back to her parents castle, only to learn that both had died. She went to the home of Megalometis to ask for help. Her sister feigned sympathy for Psyche, yet inwardly was thrilled that Eros had left her. Baskania had the same false sympathy. Neither sister would help her. After Psyche left, both sisters died a tragic death.
Psyche continued her search alone with an aching heart. She journeyed to the temples of Demeter, goddess of the harvest, and Hera, Queen of Heaven, wife of Zeus. She prayed to them and begged for mercy and help. Both goddesses told her they would gladly help if they could, but, by divine etiquette could not go against Aphrodite, a sister goddess. "Be steadfast and faithful," Hera told her.
They also told Psyche that Aphrodite was hunting for her and would not be easy on her punishment. Psyche now had no place of refuge or protection. She made the choice to approach the goddess and turn herself in.
Psyche begged Aphrodite for mercy and offered to be obedient to her every need. Aphrodite decided to test Psyche and assigned a task to her that no mortal woman could do. She took the young bride to the grain storage and showed her an enormous pile of mixed grains. Psyche was to sort the grains into piles of like kind -- the task had to be done before evening fell. If not done, Psyche would be turned over to Anxiety and Sorrow, servants, to torment as they wish.
Psyche was devastated when she sat there alone staring at the pile of grains. A little ant came in, saw the hopelessness of the situation, then left. Soon it returned with thousands upon thousands of ants. In short time, the ants had all the grains sorted in neat piles. Psyche felt as though Eros was nearby and giving her his spiritual help. She slept peacefully till Aphrodite returned.
When Aphrodite saw the task completed, she was sure Psyche had some assistance, so, assigned the girl another task.
Psyche had to go out to the forest beyond the stream and find a flock of sheep that had golden fleece. She was to return with tufts of the valuable fleece. The sheep were wild, dangerous and could kill her with their horns.
Psyche approached the stream and knew she could die in the river. A water nymph came to her and told her to not cross the river, but, to lie down in the shade of a tree till the sun set and the sheep were no longer grazing. Then she could go to the woods and gather tufts of fleece that had stuck on the thorn bushes.
Aphrodite knew there was some trick to Psyche's success. She said, "We shall see if you are worthy of my son." A third task was given Psyche, a task that would test her courage and most likely end in death for her. She was to fetch an urn of water from the holy river, Cocytus, where the water fell over a steep precipice into an abyss. Wild dragons haunted the area and hissed as they threatened to devour her. She collapsed in tears just as the mighty eagle of Zeus swept down and hovered near Psyche. Eros had once given Zeus tremendous help, and to now show his gratitude, sent the eagle to help the wife of Eros, his grandson.
The eagle took the urn, flew up to the raging waters and filled the urn. With new courage, and feeling the spirit of Eros ever closer, protecting her, Psyche returned to Aphrodite with the holy water. Yet, Aphrodite was far from letting her heart soften. She had been taking care of Eros, who was suffering from his loss of Psyche and lay sick in bed. He was also recovering from a severe burn caused by hot oil dripping on him when Psyche had held the lantern over him. So her patience was wearing thin with Psyche and she wanted to end the relation with her daughter-in-law whom Eros was sick with love for.
Aphrodite exclaimed to Psyche that since the holy water task was accomplished beyond expectations, that she must be a witch. She was not yet willing to accept Psyche worthy of her son, nor let her go free. She gave one more task to Psyche, knowing this would likely be the one to rid her forever of the bride of Eros.
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Author's note: Please see Psyche And Eros - Trust Reunites at the related link below for my sixth and final part of this story. Thank you.