As we have seen in this video, the nymph Echo played an important role. Here’s more about her:

Alexander Cabanel, Echo, Metropolitan Museum of Art, via Wikimedia, Public Domain

Echo seems to have been there from the beginning of Greek mythology.  Aristophanes in his play Women at the Thesmophoria, produced 411 BC, shows that Echo’s story is so well known that he can have Euripides impersonate the familiar Echo in a throw-away line for the play’s audience: “I am Echo, the Nymph who repeats all she hears.”

Euripides says that Echo is a nymph. Nymphs in the Olympic pantheon were exceptional; they were apparently not quite goddesses but were certainly usually present among the deities.

Psychologist James Hillman wrote about the nymphs in 1972, indicating that the Greeks described nymphs as some thing that was, shall we say, still in the process of becoming some one.   They were “a form of indefinite consciousness located still in nature but not personally embodied.”

So a nymph like Echo was not yet a fully formed woman or goddess; she was usually personified as a maiden, a young girl, virginal.  Here Hillman:

The nymph is still attached to woods, waters, caves, wispy figments, mistiness; she is chaste, nature still intact…a structure of consciousness that has no personal physical life, whose life is all ‘out there’ in impersonal nature…nymphs are…untouched, a consciousness without bodily senses…virginal aspects of consciousness that are not physically real, that are ‘out of touch,’ unsensed.  Feelings and thoughts that remain wispy and flighty, cool, remote, reflective…ephemeral..

Rosher…takes them as personifications of the wisps and clouds of mist clinging to valleys, mountainsides and watersources, veiling the waters and dancing over them.  And Homer says that is where the nymphs live…W.F. Otto, in his chapter on the nymphs, agrees that the word means girl or bride, but connects them mythically first of all with Artemis and the Greek feeling of Aidos, shame, a modest bashfulness, a quiet respectful awe within nature and toward nature…

Who are these nymphs of myth…First of all, many had no names: these ‘impersons’ bespeak on the level of the drive-object the impersonality of the drive…Echo…had no body, no substantial existence of her own…

…For another, we have Eupheme, whose name means ‘spoken fair,’ ‘good repute,’ ‘religious silence.’  From that root we have ‘euphemism’ which means the propitious use of words in which the evil and unlucky is transformed by a good name…

…And we have Selene, goddess of the moon…with the veil that keeps her partly hidden…” (James Hillman, Pan and the Nightmare, 1972)

So our Echo was one of these nymphs.  The Greek writer Nonnus said in his  Dionysiaca (5th century AD) “…Sing Daphne and sing the erratic course of Echo, and the answering note of the goddess who never fails to speak, for these two despised the desire of gods.”

We might take a moment to absorb this bit of information.  The barely embodied nymph Echo, a beautiful young maiden, spurned the physical, fully-embodied love of all who pursued her.  But she, like many young women, can nonetheless feel strong emotional attachment, as we are told.

The Greek poet Moschus (2nd century BC) wrote of the emotional but often asexual nature of the nymphs (and other amorphous figures—satyrs, for example) in his “A Lesson to Lovers:”

Pan loved his neighbor Echo; Echo loved a frisking Satyr; and Satyr, he was head over ears for Lydè. As Echo was Pan’s flame, so was Satyr Echo’s, and Lydè master Satyr’s. ‘Twas Love reciprocal; for by just course, even as each of those hearts did scorn its lover, so was it also scorned being such a lover itself. To all such as be heart-whole be this lesson read: If you would be loved where you be loving, then love them that love you.”

So we learn that Echo spurned Pan, the half god—half goat who had had an ongoing love for Echo.

Pan was spurned by Echo, some writers say, because of a curse put upon him. According to Ptolemaeus Chennus in his History written in 100 AD or thereabouts, the goddess Aphrodite cursed Pan with having an unrequited love for Echo because Pan had been the judge for a beauty contest and had not chosen Aphrodite as the winner.  It seems that an incredibly beautiful youth named Achilleus was so confident of himself that he challenged Aphrodite to a contest, with Pan as the judge. When Pan ruled in Achilleus’ favor, Aphrodite, in a fit of jealous rage, cursed Achilleus with eternal ugliness and Pan with this unrequited love for Echo.

Now some early writers told it differently:

Apuleius  (124-170 AD) in The Golden Ass describes Pan with Echo in his arms, teaching the nymph to repeat all manner of songs. He indicates that Pan and Echo had two daughters, Iambe (from which we get ‘iambic pentameter,’) and Lynx (who was the cause of some of Zeus’s infatuations). But the best known stories of Echo hold with the previous version that Pan never was able to seduce Echo:  “Often Pan chanted Love and never became Echo’s bridegroom.”

Zeus’ infatuation was, as we have seen in the previous video, inadvertently the cause of Echo’s losing her voice.  Hera, wife of Zeus, and jealous of Zeus’ infidelities, was out checking on him, when she came upon the nymphs, whom Zeus often frequented, and Echo with her beautiful and plenteous voice, chattered away to distract Hera while the other nymphs escaped.  Hera, enraged, cursed Echo’s voice so that it could only repeat what others said, never speak for itself.

It was while Echo was already in this condition that she fell in love with Narcissus, (Metamorphoses, Ovid, 43 BC) and was spurned by him, as we have seen in the video.

In yet a third version of Echo’s history, the writer Longus (2nd century AD) says that Echo, who spurned Pan, had a beautiful voice, and Pan was jealous of her singing voice and angered by her refusal.  Pan managed to induce some shepherds (Pan often hung out with the shepherds) to be enraged with Echo and to tear her apart, scattering the pieces everywhere. Then, according to Longus, Gaia, the Great Mother Earth, gathered up the pieces of Echo’s body and hid them in the earth. From there, Echo’s voice is still heard.

And so we read in the Orphic Hymn to Pan (3rd or 2nd century BC):  “Thou Pan loves the chase and Echo’s secret voice.”

So Echo, then, whose name in ancient Greek is sometimes translated simply as sound, sometimes as metered music, is, in all cases, an element (or drive, if psychologists tell the story) of one who is “a voice without a body…condemned to echo what she hears rather than speak her own experience.” (Cheryl L. Fuller from “Emma Jung’s Pen: Jung, Feminism, and the Body.”

Or, again, Echo is one “with no control over its tongue, which is neither able to speak before anybody else has spoken, nor to be silent when somebody else has spoken.” (Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, ‘Homeric Hymn to Pan’).

“Hera made her only able to speak the last words spoken to her. So when Echo met Narcissus and fell in love with him, she was unable to tell him how she felt and was forced to watch him as he fell in love with himself.”  (Wikipedia)

“Echo had no body, no substantial existence of her own… Narcissus, whom Echo loved,…refuses her for the joys of his own reflection…”  (James Hillman, Pan and the Nightmare, 1972)

Much can be discerned and deciphered about our own natures in this history of Echo.

Seeing the similarities in Echo and Narcissus 

Both Echo and Narcissus had an inappropriate relationship to a healthy sense of self. Whereas Narcissus is overly self-absorbed, Echo is overly other-absorbed.

Echo becomes insubstantial and withdrawn because she cannot acquire outward love.  Narcissus needs to have his self reflected  back to him from outside himself.

Both need stronger self-esteem.

Note the following quotations:

“As you become more capable of providing yourself with the approval you seek, your need for external validation will start to dissipate, leaving you stronger, more confident, and yes, happier in your life.” Rachel S. Heslin

“I thought narcissism was about self-love till someone told me there is a flip side to it. It is actually drearier than self-love; it is unrequited self-love.”  Emily Levine

“Narcissists feel superior to others, yet depend upon others to reflect back a positive self-image.”  Darlene Lancer

“Women are still in emotional bondage as long as we need to worry that we might have to make a choice between being heard and being loved.”  Marianne Williamson, A Woman’s Worth

“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.” Lao Tzu

“The main condition for the achievement of love is the overcoming of one’s narcissism. The narcissistic orientation is one in which one experiences as real only that which exists within oneself, while the phenomena in the outside world have no reality in themselves, but are experienced only from the viewpoint of their being useful or dangerous to one. The opposite pole to narcissism is objectivity; it is the faculty to see other people and things as they are, objectively, and to be able to separate this objective picture from a picture which is formed by one’s desires and fears.”  Erich Fromm

“Narcissistic personality disorder is named for Narcissus, from Greek mythology, who fell in love with his own reflection. Freud used the term to describe persons who were self-absorbed, and psychoanalysts have focused on the narcissist’s need to bolster his or her self-esteem through grandiose fantasy, exaggerated ambition, exhibitionism, and feelings of entitlement.” DSM-5 Guidebook: The Essential Companion to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

“The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook on life. That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ—all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least among them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself—that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness—that I myself am the enemy who must be loved–what then? As a rule, the Christian’s attitude is then reversed; there is no longer any question of love or long-suffering; we say to the brother within us “Raca,” and condemn and rage against ourselves. We hide it from the world; we refuse to admit ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves.”  C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

The Actual Classical Text concerning Narcissus in Greek myth

NARCISSUS AND ECHO, THE HOUSE OF CADMUS, from Metamorphoses Book 3, Translated by Brookes More, via Theoi.Com

[339] Tiresias’ fame of prophecy was spread through all the cities of Aonia, for his unerring answers unto all who listened to his words. And first of those that harkened to his fateful prophecies, a lovely Nymph, named Liriope, came with her dear son, who then fifteen, might seem a man or boy—he who was born to her upon the green merge of Cephissus’ stream—that mighty River-God whom she declared the father of her boy. – she questioned him. Imploring him to tell her if her son, unequalled for his beauty, whom she called Narcissus, might attain a ripe old age. To which the blind seer answered in these words, “If he but fail to recognize himself, a long life he may have, beneath the sun,”—so, frivolous the prophet’s words appeared; and yet the event, the manner of his death, the strange delusion of his frenzied love, confirmed it. Three times five years so were passed. Another five-years, and the lad might seem a young man or a boy. And many a youth, and many a damsel sought to gain his love; but such his mood and spirit and his pride, none gained his favour.

[359] Once a noisy Nymph, (who never held her tongue when others spoke, who never spoke till others had begun) mocking Echo, spied him as he drove, in his delusive nets, some timid stags.—For Echo was a Nymph, in olden time,—and, more than vapid sound,—possessed a form: and she was then deprived the use of speech, except to babble and repeat the words, once spoken, over and over. Juno confused her silly tongue, because she often held that glorious goddess with her endless tales, till many a hapless Nymph, from Jove’s embrace, had made escape adown a mountain. But for this, the goddess might have caught them. Thus the glorious Juno, when she knew her guile; “Your tongue, so freely wagged at my expense, shall be of little use; your endless voice, much shorter than your tongue.” At once the Nymph was stricken as the goddess had decreed;—and, ever since, she only mocks the sounds of others’ voices, or, perchance, returns their final words.

[370] One day, when she observed Narcissus wandering in the pathless woods, she loved him and she followed him, with soft and stealthy tread.—The more she followed him the hotter did she burn, as when the flame flares upward from the sulphur on the torch. Oh, how she longed to make her passion known! To plead in soft entreaty! to implore his love! But now, till others have begun, a mute of Nature she must be. She cannot choose but wait the moment when his voice may give to her an answer. Presently the youth, by chance divided from his trusted friends, cries loudly, “Who is here?” and Echo, “Here!” Replies. Amazed, he casts his eyes around, and calls with louder voice, “Come here!” “Come here!” She calls the youth who calls.—He turns to see who calls him and, beholding naught exclaims, “Avoid me not!” “Avoid me not!” returns. He tries again, again, and is deceived by this alternate voice, and calls aloud; “Oh let us come together!” Echo cries, “Oh let us come together!” Never sound seemed sweeter to the Nymph, and from the woods she hastens in accordance with her words, and strives to wind her arms around his neck. He flies from her and as he leaves her says, “Take off your hands! you shall not fold your arms around me. Better death than such a one should ever caress me!” Naught she answers save, “Caress me!” Thus rejected she lies hid in the deep woods, hiding her blushing face with the green leaves; and ever after lives concealed in lonely caverns in the hills. But her great love increases with neglect; her miserable body wastes away, wakeful with sorrows; leanness shrivels up her skin, and all her lovely features melt, as if dissolved upon the wafting winds—nothing remains except her bones and voice—her voice continues, in the wilderness; her bones have turned to stone. She lies concealed in the wild woods, nor is she ever seen on lonely mountain range; for, though we hear her calling in the hills, ’tis but a voice, a voice that lives, that lives among the hills.

[402] Thus he deceived the Nymph and many more, sprung from the mountains or the sparkling waves; and thus he slighted many an amorous youth.—and therefore, some one whom he once despised, lifting his hands to Heaven, implored the Gods, “If he should love deny him what he loves!” and as the prayer was uttered it was heard by Nemesis, who granted her assent.

[407] There was a fountain silver-clear and bright, which neither shepherds nor the wild she-goats, that range the hills, nor any cattle’s mouth had touched—its waters were unsullied—birds disturbed it not; nor animals, nor boughs that fall so often from the trees. Around sweet grasses nourished by the stream grew; trees that shaded from the sun let balmy airs temper its waters. Here Narcissus, tired of hunting and the heated noon, lay down, attracted by the peaceful solitudes and by the glassy spring. There as he stooped to quench his thirst another thirst increased. While he is drinking he beholds himself reflected in the mirrored pool—and loves; loves an imagined body which contains no substance, for he deems the mirrored shade a thing of life to love. He cannot move, for so he marvels at himself, and lies with countenance unchanged, as if indeed a statue carved of Parian marble. Long, supine upon the bank, his gaze is fixed on his own eyes, twin stars; his fingers shaped as Bacchus might desire, his flowing hair as glorious as Apollo’s, and his cheeks youthful and smooth; his ivory neck, his mouth dreaming in sweetness, his complexion fair and blushing as the rose in snow-drift white. All that is lovely in himself he loves, and in his witless way he wants himself:—he who approves is equally approved; he seeks, is sought, he burns and he is burnt. And how he kisses the deceitful fount; and how he thrusts his arms to catch the neck that’s pictured in the middle of the stream! Yet never may he wreathe his arms around that image of himself. He knows not what he there beholds, but what he sees inflames his longing, and the error that deceives allures his eyes. But why, O foolish boy, so vainly catching at this flitting form? The cheat that you are seeking has no place. Avert your gaze and you will lose your love, for this that holds your eyes is nothing save the image of yourself reflected back to you. It comes and waits with you; it has no life; it will depart if you will only go.

[435] Nor food nor rest can draw him thence—outstretched upon the overshadowed green, his eyes fixed on the mirrored image never may know their longings satisfied, and by their sight he is himself undone. Raising himself a moment, he extends his arms around, and, beckoning to the murmuring forest; “Oh, ye aisled wood was ever man in love more fatally than I? Your silent paths have sheltered many a one whose love was told, and ye have heard their voices. Ages vast have rolled away since your forgotten birth, but who is he through all those weary years that ever pined away as I? Alas, this fatal image wins my love, as I behold it. But I cannot press my arms around the form I see, the form that gives me joy. What strange mistake has intervened betwixt us and our love? It grieves me more that neither lands nor seas nor mountains, no, nor walls with closed gates deny our loves, but only a little water keeps us far asunder. Surely he desires my love and my embraces, for as oft I strive to kiss him, bending to the limpid stream my lips, so often does he hold his face fondly to me, and vainly struggles up. It seems that I could touch him. ‘Tis a strange delusion that is keeping us apart. Whoever thou art, Come up! Deceive me not! Oh, whither when I fain pursue art thou? Ah, surely I am young and fair, the Nymphs have loved me; and when I behold thy smiles I cannot tell thee what sweet hopes arise. When I extend my loving arms to thee thine also are extended me—thy smiles return my own. When I was weeping, I have seen thy tears, and every sign I make thou cost return; and often thy sweet lips have seemed to move, that, peradventure words, which I have never heard, thou hast returned. No more my shade deceives me, I perceive ‘Tis I in thee—I love myself—the flame arises in my breast and burns my heart—what shall I do? Shall I at once implore? Or should I linger till my love is sought? What is it I implore? The thing that I desire is mine—abundance makes me poor. Oh, I am tortured by a strange desire unknown to me before, for I would fain put off this mortal form; which only means I wish the object of my love away. Grief saps my strength, the sands of life are run, and in my early youth am I cut off; but death is not my bane—it ends my woe.—I would not death for this that is my love, as two united in a single soul would die as one.”

[474] He spoke; and crazed with love, returned to view the same face in the pool; and as he grieved his tears disturbed the stream, and ripples on the surface, glassy clear, defaced his mirrored form. And thus the youth, when he beheld that lovely shadow go; “Ah whither cost thou fly? Oh, I entreat thee leave me not. Alas, thou cruel boy thus to forsake thy lover. Stay with me that I may see thy lovely form, for though I may not touch thee I shall feed my eyes and soothe my wretched pains.” And while he spoke he rent his garment from the upper edge, and beating on his naked breast, all white as marble, every stroke produced a tint as lovely as the apple streaked with red, or as the glowing grape when purple bloom touches the ripening clusters. When as glass again the rippling waters smoothed, and when such beauty in the stream the youth observed, no more could he endure. As in the flame the yellow wax, or as the hoar-frost melts in early morning ‘neath the genial sun; so did he pine away, by love consumed, and slowly wasted by a hidden flame. No vermeil bloom now mingled in the white of his complexion fair; no strength has he, no vigor, nor the comeliness that wrought for love so long: alas, that handsome form by Echo fondly loved may please no more.

[494] But when she saw him in his hapless plight, though angry at his scorn, she only grieved. As often as the love-lore boy complained, “Alas!” “Alas!” her echoing voice returned; and as he struck his hands against his arms, she ever answered with her echoing sounds. And as he gazed upon the mirrored pool he said at last, “Ah, youth beloved in vain!” “In vain, in vain!” the spot returned his words; and when he breathed a sad “farewell!” “Farewell!” sighed Echo too. He laid his wearied head, and rested on the verdant grass; and those bright eyes, which had so loved to gaze, entranced, on their own master’s beauty, sad Night closed. And now although among the nether shades his sad sprite roams, he ever loves to gaze on his reflection in the Stygian wave. His Naiad sisters mourned, and having clipped their shining tresses laid them on his corpse: and all the Dryads mourned: and Echo made lament anew. And these would have upraised his funeral pyre, and waved the flaming torch, and made his bier; but as they turned their eyes where he had been, alas he was not there! And in his body’s place a sweet flower grew, golden and white, the white around the gold.

Ephebe Narcissus, Louvre Museum, Photo by Jastrow, Public Domain
Ephebe Narcissus, Louvre Museum, Photo by Jastrow, Public Domain

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“But no one heard Echo’s voice, except Hecate, who heard the girl, and the Sun, who saw all, as Persephone cried out to her father Zeus to save her…”

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