14 February 2009

Who is Cupid?

Valentine's Day. It is the second largest greeting card holiday in the United States (second only to Christmas), and the number one day for sending flowers to a loved one. It is the florists' Black Friday. But what about the symbols of Valentine's Day? Those plump hearts, those little candies that say "Be Mine". And, of course, Cupid. What do we know about this Cupid? That he is a chubby little angel, armed with a bow and arrow, right? He shoots the arrow and. . .uh. . .yeah, I don't really know anything beyond that. Nature abhors a vacuum, and my mind abhors not knowing anything about this winged matchmaker. Time to do some research.

Researching. . .

Researching. . .

Back. First of all, Cupid ≠ angel. Cupid is a Roman god. He is the son of Venus and Mars (the gods, not women and men, as described by Dr. John Gray), and, as with most of the gods, he exists to tell a story, explain a piece of science, and/or impart a moral lesson. With Cupid, the story is this:

Venus, Cupid's mother and apparently the jealous type, ordered her son to punish the princess Psyche by making her fall in love with the ugliest man in her kingdom. This would of course bring tremendous shame onto Psyche and would probably result in her being gradually excluded from the more exclusive princess parties. Cupid, Venus' son and apparently the clumsy type, failed in his mission. He accidentally shot himself in the foot with one of his enchanted arrows, and thus fell in love with Psyche himself. It should be noted that there is little reason to believe that the "real" Cupid in the legend is a diapered baby as he is generally portrayed in art and popular culture, so the story isn't as strange as it might sound.

All right, yes it is.

You see, because of Psyche's mortal status, she could not look at her lover, Cupid. She remained steadfast in this (perhaps giving us an explanation for the love is blind phrase? Hmm??) until her sisters talked her into doing it just one time. You know, for the hell of it. Well, this resulted in Cupid punishing his lover with banishment. To make a long story short, Psyche competed in some trials, died, and then was brought back to life, made a goddess, and she and Cupid lived happily ever after.

Well, I don't exactly know what piece of science or moral lesson was to be learned from this tale, but it made for some (mildly) interesting reading. I've often wondered if the ancient Roman actually believed in these tales at one time, like people believe in the Bible today, or if they were always just little stories to be shared over a light feast of grapes and olives. I guess I could go and research that as well, but I've had enough Internet searching for one day and I'm banned from the local library for pulling a Koontz.

Interesting Cupid facts:

His name translates literally as "desire". I don't know if you can say, "I cupid a brownie," though, so use with caution.

He is known as Eros in Greek mythology. (And in Penthouse's Guide to Ancient Myth.)

He rules over the dead in the underworld. Some folks call it Hell, I call it Hades.

Well, quit reading this blog and go show your significant other that you cupid them. And be careful where you shoot those love arrows.


Anonymous said...

i ♥ the graphic.

LilysGramma said...

Great blog, but did you also know that Venus, Cupids mom is also known as Aphrodite, goddess of passionate love and his dad, Mars is also known as Ares, God of War? Interesting combination, don't you think?? And Aphrodite was also reported to be married to Hades, God of the underworld. Its just a big ol' Soap Opera in the world of the gods.

Ambrosia said...

I agree with LilysGramma...ancient pantheons of all kinds were one big Divine Jerry Springer show!

I've often wondered whether or not the stories were taken literally by the ancients or were just morality tales or whatever.

It seems appropriate, however, that the natural child of Love/Beauty (Venus) and War/Passion? (Mars) was Desire (Cupid). Eros was the namesake of erotic, after all.

I spend some time writing rants and things about these guys in my other blog www.misplaced-myths.today.com because they're so...um...interesting.

erick said...

haha interesting. great post

"It is the florists' Black Friday."

Very true =P