Psyche

/suy"kee/, n.
1. Class. Myth. a personification of the soul, which in the form of a beautiful girl was loved by Eros.
2. (l.c.) the human soul, spirit, or mind.
3. (l.c.) Psychol., Psychoanal. the mental or psychological structure of a person, esp. as a motive force.
4. Neoplatonism. the second emanation of the One, regarded as a universal consciousness and as the animating principle of the world.
5. a female given name.
[1650-60 for def. 2; < L psyche < Gk psyché lit., breath, deriv. of psýchein to breathe, blow, hence, live (see PSYCHO-)]

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In Greek and Roman mythology, a beautiful princess who won Cupid's love.

Her beauty was such that worshipers began to turn away from Venus, and the envious goddess commanded her son Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with the most despicable of men. But Cupid himself fell in love with Psyche and hid her in a remote place, where he visited her secretly under cover of darkness. One night she lit a lamp and discovered her lover's identity. He left angrily, and Psyche wandered the earth searching for him and was captured by Venus. After Cupid rescued Psyche, Jupiter made her immortal and gave her in marriage to Cupid.

Psyche, depicted with wings, classical sculpture; in the Louvre, Paris

Alinari-Art Resource/EB Inc.

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▪ classical mythology
Greek“Soul”
 in classical mythology, princess of outstanding beauty who aroused Venus' jealousy and Cupid's love. The fullest version of the tale is that told by the 2nd-century-AD Latin author Apuleius in his Metamorphoses, Books IV–VI (The Golden Ass).

 According to Apuleius, the jealous Venus commanded her son Cupid (the god of love) to inspire Psyche with love for the most despicable of men. Instead, Cupid placed Psyche in a remote palace where he could visit her secretly and, by his warning, only in total darkness. One night Psyche lit a lamp and found that the figure at her side was the god of love himself. When a drop of oil from the lamp awakened him, he reproached Psyche and fled. Wandering the earth in search of him, Psyche fell into the hands of Venus, who imposed upon her difficult tasks. Finally, touched by Psyche's repentance, Cupid rescued her, and, at his instigation, Jupiter made her immortal and gave her in marriage to Cupid.

      The sources of the tale are a number of folk motifs; the handling by Apuleius, however, conveys an allegory of the progress of the Soul guided by Love, which adhered to Psyche in Renaissance literature and art. In Greek folklore the soul was pictured as a butterfly, which is another meaning of the word psychē.

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Universalium. 2010.

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