Just like Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, Cupid has become an iconic, mythical creature that represents a couple specific things: love and Valentine’s Day. While we frequently see this familiar character illustrated on greeting cards, on TV, and in other places in pop culture, very few people know how Cupid came to represent the emotion of love and be such an icon in the world today. There is quite the history associated with this cute little cherub, and it’s definitely worth learning in the spirit of love and Valentine’s Day!
The Mythology of Cupid
The origins of Cupid dates back to ancient times as he has been a part of mythology for centuries. In Roman mythology, he was noted as the son of Venus, who was the goddess of love. The name Cupid in this case translates to “to desire” which is an appropriate meaning, even in present day. The myth states that Cupid fell head over heels in love with Psyche, even though his mother was green with envy over Psyche’s beauty. Although the two were married, Cupid instructed Psyche to never look at him and he only visited her at night. After Psyche’s sisters convinced her that she should look at her husband, she did so by turning on a lamp during one of his nightly visits. He then left her, prompting Psyche to search for Cupid for quite some time.
Eventually, Psyche’s search led her to the temple of Venus. There, Venus was looking to destroy her and demanded difficult tasks out of her, one after another. The last challenge demanded that she deliver a box to the underworld, collecting some of the beauty of Proserpine. In giving the instructions, she was warned not to open the box under any circumstances. However, she found herself unable to resist and opened the box. Once she did so, she found that a deadly slumber awaited her.
Realizing his true love for Psyche, Cupid then came upon her lifeless body. He forgave her for disobeying him and looking at him in the night. He whisked that deadly slumber back into the box and she was resurrected. Psyche was then made a Roman goddess.
To counter that, in Greek mythology Cupid had a different identity. He was known as Eros and was the son of Aphrodite. The Greek myth is not quite as in depth, believing that Cupid–or Eros–was a primordial god who came to the earth from an egg, or born to Aphrodite the old fashioned way.
Facts About Cupid
There are many little-known facts about Cupid that make him even more of an interesting character.
Love is Blind
In some depictions of Cupid, the character is wearing a blindfold. Why? As the old saying goes, “love is blind.”
Bow and Arrow
Cupid famously carries a bow and arrow. It’s said, though, that he has not one set of bow and arrow, but two. The first—and most commonly thought of—boasts a golden tip. When he hits people with these arrows, it makes them fall in love. His other set is made of lead or silver and has a blunted tip. These arrows are responsible for making their match fall out of love. In mythology, Cupid could use these arrows on both humans and gods, striking them and causing them to fall in or out of love in an instant.
In present day depictions of Cupid, frequently seen as a cartoon, he’s wearing a diaper. However, in most artistic and historical representations of this character, he is naked. This is said to be because love has nothing to hide and is innocent and pure, like the emotion itself. So, you may be wondering, how did he end up wearing a child-like diaper? Well, the only reason to be found for this is to promote modesty and to make this character easier to display in public the way he is.
Beauty and the Beast
Many believe that today’s modern-day tale of Beauty and the Beast is a retelling of the famous Cupid and Psyche tale. Whether that’s true is up for debate, but it’s certainly a theory that exists.