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Happy St. Valentine's Day!

February 14, 2011

Today is St. Valentine's Day, who is a saint who may or may not have actually existed, and if he did exist, he could have been one of fourteen different men. We're not even sure if we're celebrating the one guy or everyone named Valentine (a popular name at the time because valens is Latin for "strong, worthy, powerful"). Traditionally, it is said that Valentine was martyred because he would not deny Christ before emperor Claudius II (not to be confused with Cl-cl-claudius, Caligula's uncle and the fourth Roman emperor). Tradition states that Valentine was beheaded on February 14th, 269 AD.

There is a problem here, though. Claudius II (or Claudius Gothica) has no record of being a great persecutor of Christians. In fact, the rulers prior to Claudius Gothica had been rather tolerant of the Christians; it wouldn't be until Diocletian took control of the empire that Christians would be ostracized and summarily persecuted (about twenty years after Claudius Gothica). Now, most people think that the feats of "St. Valentine" were completely invented by Geoffry Chaucer. There are others who cling to the notion that the Catholic church had to create a holiday to offset the Roman Lupercalia, which was a springtime fertility celebration. You know how those Romans liked a good...or Or at least you should by now.

Speaking of Romans, let's talk about one of their gods! Cupid is inexorably linked with Valentine's Day (which is kind of funny, if you think about it) as being the bearer of bad news love. Cupid, of course, is the Roman God of love, desire, and lust, and he is the son of Venus (the goddess of love) and Mars (the god of war). Never mind that Venus was married to Vulcan. Oh, those saucy immortals!

Cupid is often--and mostly erroneously--associated with Eros, who was an embodiment of the power of love and sprang forth from the primordial ick known as Chaos. Hesiod, the other Greek poet, tried to backtrack and make Eros a son of Ares and Aphrodite, which would line up with the Romans (he did this prior to Roman influence). Cupid's name comes from the Latin cupido, which means "desire" or "lust" whereas Eros simply means "sexual love" in Greek. Eros, however, gives us the words "erotic" and related terms.

Cupid himself did not make it into too many of the ancient epics. He appears briefly in the Aeneid, wherein he causes Dido some added torment before she sets herself on fire (spoiler alert). The most famous myth in which Cupid appears is Cupid and Psyche. He was, however, widely worshiped as a fertility god and a god of sexuality, which sort of lends a certain delicious irony to him being associated with a Christian feast.

The depiction of him carrying a bow and arrow goes back to ancient times. His arrows, at one point, were only used to incite lustful feelings within one or more people. Eventually, he started carrying two quivers: one filled with golden-headed arrows for the love-making; the other was filled with lead-tipped darts and were used to cause war. This could be another reason why Hesiod rewrote Eros' parentage, so that he had both the power to cause love and to cause war, like his immortal parents. Despite this, he was not considered one of the fifteen twelve Olympian gods.

Of course, these days, if something is fun or "too mainstream", some assholes have to come along and try to ruin it for everyone else. Enter AntiCupid, who I can only assume is blue and needs to be trapped away in a special holding field. AntiCupid is the brainchild of all those people who feel spurned or unloved on Valentine's day. All failed relationships and dating problems are AntiCupid's fault, because, you know, it's not you, loser, it's clearly the work of some nefarious godling. AntiCupid's arrows lead to hours of whiny music, cutting and a predilection toward wearing black clothing. His Greek counterpart is "Emos".

Claudius Gothica would be proud.


Scope said...

AntiCupid? Does he make you listen to Hootie & The Blowfish? That would be truly EVIL of him.

MJenks said...

@ Scope: Ah, Scope, AntiCupid only wants to be with you-oo.

Adam L. said...

I thought St. Valentine was the patron saint of greeting card companies.

Now St. Patrick - there's a saint I can support.

Wynn said...

Man I'd like a bow and arrow that causes people to get all hot and bothered. I have no idea who I'd use it on because I'm sexually challenged and bf's all easy, but I'm sure I'd think of something neat.

SkylersDad said...

The Cupid fake motivator is one of the best I have ever seen!

Chelle said...

Valentines Day turns us Emo! I knew it.

I am a little yucked out by Valentine's day. It's the day where we dish out more of our money for useless heart shaped garbage instead of give that money to a food bank... for what? N o t h i n g.

Yep. I'm the wet blanket of Valentine's day. How do you say that in latin?

DEZMOND said...

now was it really necessary to show us your pic as Cupid in black and red boxers?

Eric said...

'Venere' is Italian for 'Venus'. I think I know where veneral diseases come from now.