“Stupid Cupid, get your mom off my back”: Cupid, Psyche, and Immortal Love

Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss | Sculpture by Antonio Canova (1757-1822) | Courtesy of the Louvre Museum

Armed with a powerful bow and a collection of threatening arrows, Cupid was the Roman god of love who was constantly affecting the emotions of his many fellow gods. Originally the mythology associated with Cupid was from the Greeks. “The god the Romans knew as Cupid was adapted from the Greek god, Eros.”1 On any occasion, whenever one was struck with one of Cupid’s golden arrows one would fall in love with whomever Cupid wanted. However, if one were struck by an arrow made out of lead, one would be repulsed by whoever Cupid decided.

One of the most acknowledged myths about Cupid, written by Apuleius in his Metamorphoses, involved the mortal princess Psyche. There are many other versions of this story, and in most of these Cupid is portrayed to be a passionate lover. “Cupid and Psyche, is … a tale of the quest for divine knowledge and the failings of the human spirit.”2 When Venus, Cupid’s mother, first met Psyche, who was a beautiful young woman, she realized how jealous she was of Psyche, and ordered Cupid to use his arrows to ruin her love life. Venus demanded that Cupid shoot Psyche with an arrow, so that when he strikes Psyche she must be looking “toward a creature so hideous that mortals will be filled with loathing.”3 While Cupid was getting ready to strike her, he became fascinated by her elegance; he lost hold of his arrow and ended up hitting his leg. From this moment forward he did whatever he could to make sure that she would be his forever. Zephyrus, god of the west winds, came as an accomplice to help Cupid. They took her to a grove of trees, which she saw as a superior palace. After entering this lavish but skimpy palace, a voice invited her to eat in what was said to be her new home.4 She received noticed that her supposed morbid lover would be there to meet her at nightfall. The voice declared “I am your husband. I will visit with you every evening but, unfortunately, I must leave before the first sign of morning. Never, ever ask or try to see me!”5

"Psyche" by William-Adolphe Bouguereau | 1894 | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
“Psyche” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau | 1894 | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

For a while Psyche was satisfied with this platonic love with Cupid, not knowing who he was, but simply believing he was her destined lover.6 Although she became accustomed to this new lifestyle, she found herself missing her family. Cupid, her after-dark lover, granted her permission to have her sisters join her.7 Unfortunately, rather than being grateful to see their sister, they were overly jealous and planted ideas in Psyche’s head to trick her unknown lover.8 “They suggest that her lover is a serpent who changes into the form of a youth at night, a monster who will at last devour her.”9 They told her to have a knife and lamp with her while she was sleeping so that when he came for his nightly visit she would be able to slay him as he sleeps.

Naively, Psyche prepared herself to see a man who she had fallen hopeless for. Ready to strike him, she brought the lamp close enough to see him.10 When she looked at this beautiful young man, she became defenseless. He awoke to see her paralyzed by what she had seen. “With the warning that love cannot live with suspicion, he leaves the palace.”11 Psyche woke up to find that the palace had been dispersed, and she went to search for her forbidden lover. Cupid decided to take his anger out on her sisters by leading them to “the arms of Death to welcome them.”12 While Psyche searched for some answers, she was turned away by everyone, finding herself confronted by Venus. Instead of Venus killing Psyche, she decided that the best thing to do would be to keep her as a slave.13

The Tale of Cupid and Psyche | Courtesy Sonia Cavichiolli
The Tale of Cupid and Psyche | Courtesy Sonia Cavichiolli

In order for Venus not to kill Psyche, she decided to let her live only by having her complete a new task for her everyday. “Psyche’s first task is to sort a huge pile of mixed seeds and grain into separate heaps, with the warning that if there is so much as one seed in the wrong pile she will be punished.”14 Psyche took forever to complete this tedious task; so Cupid decided to intervene, and he demanded a myriad of ants to finish it off for her. For whatever odd reason, she was asked to put together a golden fleece for Venus from all of her sheep. Psyche was frighten to attempt this in the daylight, so she stayed up until all had fallen asleep.15 After having succeeded at that task, Psyche was then challenged to go the river that flowed around the mischievous underworld, to fill up a jug with black water. Cleverly, Cupid came to rescue his mortal princess, and had an eagle fly to get and bring back the water for her. Venus accepted the water but planned that her next task would be to kill Psyche by having her travel to the land of the dead. She was told that she needed to acquire a bit of the dazzling goddess Proserpine in a golden box. Venus made a compromise that if she completed this task, already knowing Psyche would not survive it, she would treat her better in the future. Psyche realized that this task was an impossible one, and despairing, she decided to commit suicide. Before doing this, a voice told her that there was a way for her to complete this unattainable task.16

Believing this voice that had guided her in the past, she attempted to accomplish the task. She followed all the steps she was given.17 Thinking she would be able to obtain whatever remained in the box, she decided to open it. Needless to say, she ended up falling into an unconscious sleep brimming with nightmares.18 Without Cupid coming to her rescue, she could have been trapped in her sleep, tormented, forever.

After having sent Psyche with the box to his mother, Cupid then began to beg with Jupiter for Psyche to be made immortal.19 Jupiter decided to let Psyche join them in this immortal world, once hearing Cupid’s petition. There she drank a cup of ambrosia that Jupiter handed her, and became an immortal goddess.20

It was only then that Cupid and Psyche were able to remain unified for an eternal life together.

  1. Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2016, s.v. “Cupid (Mythology),” by Janine Ungvarsky.
  2. Salem Press Encyclopedia of Literature, 2015, s.v. “Cupid and Psyche,” by T. Fleischmann Mfa.
  3. E. N. Genovese, “Cupid and Psyche,” Masterplots, Fourth Edition, November 2010, 2.
  4. Salem Press Encyclopedia of Literature, 2015, s.v. “Cupid and Psyche,” by T. Fleischmann Mfa.
  5. Rosalie F. Baker “What if the Goddess of Love was your mother-in-law?,” Calliope vol. 23 no. 3 (Nov/Dec 2012): 19.
  6. S. Parker and P. Murgatroyd, “Love Poetry and Apuleius’ ‘Cupid and Psyche,’” The Classical Quarterly 52, no. 1 (2002): 402.
  7. E. N. Genovese, “Cupid and Psyche,” Masterplots, Fourth Edition, November 2010, 2.
  8. Rosalie F. Baker “What if the Goddess of Love was your mother-in-law?,” Calliope vol. 23 no. 3 (Nov/Dec 2012): 20.
  9. E. N. Genovese, “Cupid and Psyche,” Masterplots, Fourth Edition, November 2010, 2.
  10. Salem Press Encyclopedia of Literature, 2015, s.v. “Cupid and Psyche,” by T. Fleischmann Mfa.
  11. E. N. Genovese, “Cupid and Psyche,” Masterplots, Fourth Edition, November 2010, 2.
  12. E. N. Genovese, “Cupid and Psyche,” Masterplots, Fourth Edition, November 2010, 2.
  13. Rosalie F. Baker “What if the Goddess of Love was your mother-in-law?,” Calliope vol. 23 no. 3 (Nov/Dec 2012): 22.
  14. E. N. Genovese, “Cupid and Psyche,” Masterplots, Fourth Edition, November 2010, 2.
  15. Salem Press Encyclopedia of Literature, 2015, s.v. “Cupid and Psyche,” by T. Fleischmann Mfa .
  16. E. N. Genovese, “Cupid and Psyche,” Masterplots, Fourth Edition, November 2010, 2.
  17. E. N. Genovese, “Cupid and Psyche,” Masterplots, Fourth Edition, November 2010, 2.
  18. Salem Press Encyclopedia of Literature, 2015, s.v. “Cupid and Psyche,” by T. Fleischmann Mfa .
  19. Kirsten Hall, “‘It Is All One’: Hetty Sorrel and the Myth of Cupid and Psyche,” Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature 67, no. 4 (Fall 2015): 289.
  20. Salem Press Encyclopedia of Literature, 2015 “Cupid and Psyche,” by T. Fleischmann Mfa.

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120 Responses

  1. I enjoyed hearing a complete, yet summarized, version of the story of Cupid and Psyche. I had only heard fragments until reading this article, so I was surprised to read how conniving and jealous Venus, the Roman goddess of beauty, was in regards to Psyche. While I recognize that jealousy is easy to fall victim to, I never understood the extent to which people will go to hurt those they are jealous of. This article provided a succinct description of the story while also demonstrating vast knowledge and understanding of all perspectives.

  2. I have always been fascinated by Greek mythology. Unfortunately, I never fully paid attention to the story of Cupid and Psyche. This article has sparked my interests and has been entertaining. Jezel expertly portrayed the story and the tasks involved. This article shows various problems that people are still dealing with today. First, this is an early example of a horrible mother-in-law. Venus clearly is not happy with the match and she is horrible towards the woman that her son loves. Second, the jealous siblings who try to sabotage their sister’s chance at happiness. Siblings can be down-right horrible to one another. This is just another example of the siblings that believe they deserve more than the other. I am glad that Cupid and Psyche got the ending that they deserve. I feel bad that Psyche will have to live with the hatred of Venus for the rest of her mythological, immortal life.

  3. I’ve never really been into Greek Mythology, but the Cupid and Psyche story is possibly one of the greatest of all. The story is so intricate and interesting , that it brings so many questions to mind. Like why didn’t Cupid just reveal himself to Psyche? Wouldn’t that have made everything a lot easier? I mean at the end they were united, but like maybe they could’ve been united sooner. The article was great, and I really enjoyed reading it.

  4. I wasn’t aware of the depth of history with Cupid and Psyche. If I am being honest, I wasn’t at all familiar with the story behind Cupid. I actually find this story pretty fascinating. It is a typical love story, but the fact that there was immense passion in Cupid’s part along with determination that it made the story even more heart touching. It is rare for people in love to be both immortal and live happily ever after, especially within the Greeks, which made this story even more passionate. I am obsessed with Greek and Roman history and found it pretty crazy how both the Greek and Romans played a role in the birth of Cupid.

  5. This is a very feel good love story. I read about cupid and psyche in high school but never really paid too much attention to it but from reading this article it is a very nice story. I find it to be interesting how far cupid went for psyche and am surprised as to his mother, Venus, being actually jealous at her, a mortal. Also, another thing I never understood about the Greek gods. Why it was they felt jealousy towards the mortals. I really liked this story and was one with an actual happy ending unlike most mythological stories. I enjoyed the focal points of the story and am impressed on how well the article came out! Great work!

  6. Cupid’s mom was jealous of his girlfriend. That is a weird family dynamic if I’ve ever heard one. The story of Cupid and Psyche is sad but also beautiful in a way. I had never heard this story so it was really interesting learning that Juno was not the only crazy goddess. I think it is beautiful that Jupiter allowed Psyche to become immortal and be with Cupid forever.

  7. I have never heard of this Cupid story before, but his was a great article. Personally I am not one for romantic stories but I do love stories about ancient Gods and Goddesses. This was a truly dramatic story having dealt with a happy mistake in Cupid shooting himself, Venus’s evil intentions and jealousy towards Psyche. Not every story is able to have a happy ending and this one for a second felt like it wasn’t but I am glad it worked out in the end.

  8. Really great story! Since I am a lover of Greek mythology, I can tell that Cupid and Psyche story is possible the greatest of all. These myths represent part of the daily life of the Greek society. It is interesting and fascinating how Greeks represented their Gods as Gods that interacted physically with humans, something that break boundaries almost all of religions. Moreover, it was a nice and entertaining reading!

  9. I’m genuinely surprised with the depth of the story of Cupid and Psyche. I think that while it’s really sweet, there’s a few things I don’t understand. For example, why didn’t Cupid just reveal himself to Psyche? Was there someone or something stopping him? Either way, I really loved learning that despite everything, this story ended happily. See, this doesn’t happen very often in greek myths, someone always dies or gets cursed so I’m happy that Psyche ended up okay with her lover. I do have to wonder though if anything happened next? Did cupids mother retaliate? I don’t know, but I really like this story!

  10. I loved reading this article. It is well written that it flows smoothly and made me to visualize the story. I had seen these pictures before but I have never heard of the story of Cupid and Psyche. The role played by the jealousy Venus made the story of Cupid and Psyche more thrilling. I am glad that Cupid and Psyche were unified at the end.
    Congratulations for the great work!

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