“He smells like night-blooming flowers Crushed, juicy petals on the pillows His voice is full of ocean Humming like the surf He kneels before me like I am his goddess He is a god” ― Francesca Lia Block, Psyche in a Dress
When we last left off, Psyche was sent to gather some water from the source of the Styx and the Cocytus rivers. Both of these rivers flowed through the Underworld but they also had bits and pieces of river in the mortal realm. To truly understand why this trial was a big deal, there’s some stuff you have to know about the rivers. The Styx was an important river to the gods. If they swore an oath by the Styx they HAD to honor it because the Styx was more than just a river, she was a the daughter of Oceanus and Tethys and wife to Pallus. In other words she was a full blown goddess and she was the very first to go to Zeus’ aid in the Titanomachy. As a thank you, Zeus promised every vow would be sworn upon her. If gods lived off worship, which is my take on the myths, that’s a huge deal. Sometimes those vows didn’t go well. Like when Helios swore to give his son Phaeton anything he desired. The boy wanted to drive the sun-chariot which Helios knew would end in his death. Ditto for one of Zeus’ mistresses (Dionysus’ mother, Semele) who was offered the same deal, anything she wanted. She asked for Zeus to show his true self and powers to her and since mortals can’t look upon the divine in all its glory, she was incinerated where she stood. The Styx also granted magical properties to those who braved a swim in the river. Hence Achilles’ invulnerability. His mother dipped him into the Styx by holding him by the heel. He was only vulnerable in the spot that she held him.The Cocytus is known as the wailing river, but otherwise isn’t as interesting. What’s important is that both of these rivers were sources of angst and power, so asking a mere mortal to bottle water from their source was a big deal. The cliff near the spring was dangerous to climb, the air repelled mortals, and dragons slithered through the rocks making the climb THAT much more frightening. She tried to climb the rocks but failed and started crying. Zeus felt sorry for her and sent eagles to battle the dragons and help her retrieve the water. Venus was furious because Psyche had divine help at every turn. So she set Psyche’s final trial in a place where most gods could not help her. The Underworld. More on that Friday.