Psyche (pronounced "SAI-kee") was a beautiful young woman, the youngest of three daughters. Men came from many lands to admire her, but no one wanted to marry her.
Everyone was upset by this news, but Psyche faced it bravely. When the day came, she dressed as though she were going to her death and joined the procession to the top of the hill. She said good-bye to her family and waited. They returned to their homes and mourned for her.
When it grew dark, a soft, gentle wind lifted Psyche up and carried her to a peaceful meadow. She slept. She woke up next to a beautiful mansion overlooking a lovely river. She went to the door and heard voices telling her to enter, that the house was hers and they were her servants. They brought her delicious food to eat, and gentle music filled the house. She was alone, but somehow she knew that her husband would come in the evening. And she knew he would not be a monster.
Psyche was right. Her husband was everything she could have hoped for, except for one thing: she never saw him. He left before dawn and only returned to his home after dark. He warned Psyche never to try to see him.
Psyche decided she had to see him. One night she waited until he was sleeping quietly and lit an oil lamp. She was astonished at how handsome he was. She began to tremble, and some of the oil spilled out of the lamp onto his shoulder. He woke up, realized that she had broken her promise, and left. She ran after him into the night, but he said, "Love cannot live where there is no trust."
That's when Psyche realized that her husband was Cupid, the god of love. No wonder the oracle had said she would marry a winged monster stronger than the gods! How many times had Cupid shot one of his arrows into a god or goddess to make them fall in love with a mortal. Psyche scolded herself for not keeping her promise.
Determined to win him back, Psyche decided to go to Venus, the goddess of love and Cupid's mother. She would offer herself as a servant to try to win Venus' favor. But Venus was angry and gave Psyche a series of tasks. First Psyche had to sort out a heap of very small seeds into separate piles. She could never have done it by herself, but a group of ants took pity on her and sorted them for her.
The second task was to bring Venus golden fleece from the sheep that grazed near the riverbank. The sheep were very fierce. Psyche thought of throwing herself into the river because the task was so hard. A kind reed, however, spoke to her and told her to wait until evening. The sheep would walk through the thicket to get water from the river. After they left, Psyche could get the fleece that was hanging on the briars.
For the third task, Venus ordered Psyche to bring her a flask of water from the river Styx. The banks of the river were very dangerous, slick and steep and rocky. As she tried to figure out how to get the water, an eagle swooped down and took the flask, flew to the waterfall and filled it, then brought it back.
Finally Venus said that taking care of Cupid's wounds had robbed her of her beauty. She ordered Psyche to take a box to Proserpina, Queen of the Underworld, and ask her to put some of her beauty into it. The journey to the underworld was long and dangerous, but again Psyche had help along the way. Proserpina filled the box, and Psyche began the difficult journey back.
On the return trip, Psyche grew curious about what the beauty charm was. She finally opened the box. She didn't see anything inside, but before long she was sound asleep.
Cupid, who was well enough to leave his mother's palace by now, found her by the side of the road. He awakened her and sent her on to Venus. Then he flew up to Mt. Olympus. Jupiter himself blessed the marriage and gave Psyche ambrosia to eat, making her immortal. Once Psyche became an immortal, Venus no longer objected to the marriage, and Cupid (the god of love) and Psyche (whose name means "soul") were always together after that.
The names of some sciences are based on Psyche's name.