In Greek it means “female soul,” corresponding to the Hindu Shakti and the Kabbalah’s Shekina. Classical mythology married Psyche to the love-god Eros: an union of soul with body. Apulaius’s version described Psyche and her bridegroom could come together only in the dark. When Psyche insisted on seeing Eros by the light of her lamp, he was forced to leave her forever.
As an allegory, this states that the passion of the soul might banish sexual passion. This story may have originated from some custom like the one once practiced in Sparta. Young husbands only visited their wives during the night, Sometimes children were born before the couple saw each other’s faces in the daytime.
Psyche was incarnate in the butterfly, because the early Greeks believed that souls could inhabit insects when passing from one life to the next. This belief did not die, but lingered. At Carcassonne in 1329 an amorous Carmelite monk was accused of witchcraft for hiding love charms in houses of women. It was claimed the monk also called up Satan and sacrificed the butterfly, as a symbolic offering of the soul. A.G.H.