It’s almost Valentine’s Day! Have you been struck by Cupid’s arrow yet?
Oh, who’s Cupid?
He’s that tiny baby that flies around and shoots people and then they fall in love and stuff. You know, the one that’s usually pretty naked, but has a diaper on.
Oh, you think Cupid’s kind of weird?
Glad to hear it.
So do we.
Let’s take a look at the real story of that tiny little cherub.
Cupid, Eros, and Amor
or, Could a Cupid by Any Other Name Be as Fat?
Picture Cupid in your head.
Do you see a fat, cherubic, baby with a quiver full of arrows and a diaper full of… love? Of course you do, because that’s our modern interpretation of the guy.
But this adorable little imp has been called many names, been portrayed in many ways, and been known in as many ages throughout history. There are many cultures with their own origin stories, but the ones we most closely associated with the Cupid we know and love today are those of the Romans and Greeks.
From Roman mythology, we get the name Cupid, which means “to desire”, which derives from the Latin word cupere. Cupid is, quite literally, the child of the goddess of love, Venus. In Greek mythology, he is known as Eros, and, depending on the source, was thought to be a primordial god who came into the world either asexually, from an egg, or the son of Aphrodite (Venus’ Hellenistic counterpart).
In classical Greek and Roman art, Cupid (Eros) is a slender, winged young boy, but later artistic depictions of the god show him starting to eat more Souvlaki and getting increasingly chubbier.
Shot Through the Heart
And Cupid’s to Blame
Just as Coco Chanel had her little black dress, Cupid has his trusty quiver and set of arrows. Say what you will about the diaper, but the kid knows how to accessorize. It’s said that Cupid does not have just one set of arrows, but two. One with a barbed golden tip to make people fall in love, and one with a lead, or silver, blunted tip to make someone fall out of love, or even hate a person. Cupid had the divine power of using these arrows on both mortals and gods, and use them he did. Which brings us to…
Maybe You Should Rest on Your Laurels
Of all the forces in the world, love just may be the mightiest of all. According to mythology, the god Apollo found out the power of love first hand one day after bragging about how big and strong and cool he was to Cupid after a battle.
The conversation went something like this:
Hey Cupid, those are some dumb arrows you got. You should leave the fighting to the big boys like me.
(Grabs his man-parts intimidatingly)
Um, Apollo, ever heard of heartbreak? The worst shit ever?
(Gets struck in the heart with a golden arrow)
Just as Apollo is struck, this hot piece Daphne walks by. Cupid used his trusty blunted silver arrow to strike Daphne and ensure that she’s in no mood for a man.
Apollo, hit by the golden arrow, falls in love with Daphne instantly and starts chasing her. Unfortunately, Daphne wants nothing to do with him.
Apollo soon realizes that Cupid is right, and loving someone who doesn’t want you is worse than any physical pain. (Thanks Cupid). Daphne is pissed at Apollo’s intense pursuit, runs to her dad, the river god, and asks him to save her. Her dad listens and turns her into a sick, gorgeous laurel tree. Apollo is heartbroken, but still loves the tree and vows to adorn himself with laurels after every victory, and that’s why Olympians and frat guys at toga parties everywhere still wear them today. (Thanks Cupid).
The Lover Becomes the Love-ee
How Cupid Got Psyche-d
We all know Cupid can make people fall in and out of love, but did you know he was once in love himself?
In this tale, Cupid is a little older, a young man, so the idea of him in romantic love is a bit more palatable than picturing a chubby baby falling in love with a lady.
According to the story, Cupid’s mom Venus sees that a mortal girl is born with a beauty so great that people forget to worship Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. Venus starts to miss all the attention and altar sacrifices, so she sends down her son, Cupid, to the unlucky beautiful girl, Psyche, fall in love with a gross monster. (Because that’ll show Psyche!)
Cupid agrees, but, of course, falls in love with Psyche after “accidentally” hitting himself with one of his own golden arrows. Cupid begins to visit Psyche in dark every night but tells her she must never look at his face. Which she obviously does, so Cupid gets upset and leaves. Psyche searches everywhere for her mystery lover and finally asks Venus to help her find him.
Since nothing can be accomplished in myths without some ridiculous tests, Venus decides to put Psyche to the test before she’ll help the girl find her love.
First, Psyche has to sort a bunch of grain. No problem. Then she has to steal some fleece. Done. For the last task, Psyche is sent with a box to the underworld to get some beauty from
the queen of the underworld. She makes it to the underworld, gets the box of beauty, and all she has to do is not look in it, and bring it to Venus.
BUT PSYCHE SUCKS AT NOT LOOKING AT STUFF.
So she opens the box. Inside is a sleeping potion that knocks her out. Turns out, Cupid had been helping her accomplish tasks all along, so he brings Psyche to Jupiter to see if the king of the gods can help Cupid’s jealous mother chill the heck out. Jupiter’s a bit of a sap, so he agrees to help Cupid and Psyche out. Jupiter turns Psyche immortal so she and Cupid can live happily ever after.
At least until there’s something else she’s not supposed to look at.
Cool, Now What About the Diaper?
This Should Have Been the Number One Question. Or Number Two…
In every classic artistic interpretation of Cupid, he’s naked. Naked because love has nothing to hide. Naked because he’s a child and innocent and pure. Naked because he couldn’t find an outfit that matched his wings. For any and all of these reasons, Cupid is nakkie. So why do we see him in greeting cards and classroom decorations wearing a diaper? Because this is America and the only thing we like bald is our eagles. But seriously, the diaper is most likely just for modesty’s sake and definitely makes Cupid easier to cosplay in public.
Whether you like him chubby and diapered, or slender and nude, whether you call him Cupid or Eros or Amor, this Valentine’s Day, let’s celebrate this bringer of love and affection by showing those close to us we love them. Or by hiding in a laurel tree until February 15th…