The root of psychotherapy

Etymologically speaking, that would be psyche, of course, from the Greek psukhe – breath, life, soul – via Latin, to appear in English in the mid 17th Century, meaning some variation of the innermost self. (Some authorities say that the word passed directly from Greek to English in the 16th Century.) Karl Friedrich Canstatt coined the term psychosis in his Handbuch der Medicinischen Klinik (1841). Freud first used the term psychical analysis in his article on The Neuro-Psychoses of Defence (1894).

On its Mythical Quest page, the British Library recounts The Tale of Cupid and Psyche:

“Psyche’s quest to win back Cupid’s love when it is lost to her first appears in The Golden Ass of Lucius Apuleius in the 2nd century AD….

….In her search for him she undertakes a series of cruel and difficult tasks set by Venus in the hope of winning him back.”.

A matter of days ago, musical duo Iamthemorning released their new single, Song of Psyche. Vocalist Marjana Semkina explains:

“The song is vaguely based on a story of Cupid and Psyche, originally written by Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis (Platonicus) for his Metamorphoses in the 2nd century and borrowed by the Pre-Raphaelites for their paintings.

It’s a story of a beautiful mortal woman, who had to go all the way to Hell to earn her place next to her lover Cupid. She’s sent to the Underworld by Aphrodite, who really isn’t expecting her to come back, to retrieve a box filled with beauty ointment from Persephone, but Persephone puts eternal death-like sleep in the box instead.

Curious as she is, Psyche opens the box and falls asleep – and then Cupid comes to rescue her…”.

Looking at Waterhouse’s painting of 1903, Psyche Opening the Golden Box, do you hold your breath?

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