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Amor: God of Love—Psyche’s Seducer

ByFrances Maughan-Brown

The story of Amor and Psyche (which is the Greek word for “soul”), as Apuleius tells it, goes like this. Psyche is the most beautiful of women, so beautiful that people say she is prettier than Aphrodite. The angry goddess responds by requesting that her son Amor punish the girl by making her fall in love with a monster-but when Amor sees her he falls in love himself. Psyche cannot find a husband because everyone is in awe of her, and so her parents consult Apollo’s oracle. They are told to dress Psyche for a wedding-death, that she will marry a dragon who has power over even the gods. Her parents leave the corpse-bride on a mountain, and she is whisked away by a jinn (as Kierkegaard notes)1 to a marriage with Amor, who comes only at night and whom Psyche is forbidden to see. When he tells her she is pregnant, he also commands her silence-if she speaks the baby will be mortal, if she keeps her word, immortal. But her jealous sisters come to see her, taunt her, tempt her, remind her of the prophecy, and Psyche turns the light on, thinking her husband might really be a dragon: a drop of burning oil falls on Amor, he wakes up in pain and fury-and abandons her in a monstrous flight. One of his arrows wounds Psyche: the erotic awoken within her, as Johannes the Seducer would put it, and she is left without Eros, who is hiding in his mother’s palace. Aphrodite, furious, pursues Psyche and forces labors upon her, the last of which is to bring up a vial of beauty from Persephone. Psyche opens the vial and collapses: finally, now, Amor comes to her and they go to Olympus to be married, where their baby, Pleasure, is born.