Psyche and Pan: soul image

Gustav Klimt, Pan and Psyche, 1892, US Public Domain
Gustav Klimt, Pan and Psyche, 1892, US Public Domain

The Myth of psyche and pan reflects some wisdom. Psyche is despairing because she has lost the love of Cupid (Eros), and is considering giving up on life.

“[Psykhe (Psyche) despairing at having lost the love of Cupid (Eros) was about to cast herself into the river:] The rustic god Pan chanced to be sitting at that moment on the brow of the stream, holding the mountain deity Echo in his arms, and teaching her to repeat after him all kinds of songs. Close by the bank nanny-goats were sporting as they grazed and cropped the river-foliage here and there. The goat-shaped god was well aware of the calamity that had befallen Psyche.”

Pan sees her and speaks to her:

“He called her gently to him, lovesick and weary as she was, and soothed her with these consoling words. ‘You are an elegant girl, and I am a rustic herdsman, but my advanced years give me the benefit of considerable experience. If my hazard is correct–sages actually call such guesswork divine insight–I infer from your stumbling and frequently wandering steps, from your excessively pale complexion and continual sighs, and not least from your mournful gaze, that you are suffering grievous love-pains. On that account you must hearken to me: do not seek gain to destroy yourself by throwing yourself headlong or by seeking any other means of death. Cease your sorrowing, lay aside your sadness, and instead direct prayers of adoration to Cupidos [Eros], greatest of gods, and by your caressing attentions win the favour of that wanton and extravagant youth.’

He tells her not to destroy herself, to cease her sorrow, lay aside her sadness, and direct her prayers to Eros.

“Psyche made no reply to this advice from the shepherd-god. She merely paid reverential homage to his divine person, and proceeded on her way.”

If psyche is an image of the soul and Eros is an image of the creative force, then this myth shows how important the psychic relation is between the creative force and the soul. Even if Eros (the creative force) leaves us, we must be steadfast in our devotion, offering prayers of adoration to the power and potential of the vital force.

Reference:

  1. Apuleius, The Golden Ass 5. 25 ff, trans. Walsh, Roman novel C2nd A.D., found at theoi.com)