The Secret Life of Cupid

By Laura Aviles, Staff Writer 

Chocolates, flowers, post cards, letters, movie tickets, jewelry, love songs, not so love songs, the list can go on and on. The month and the day have arrived when many people celebrate and demonstrate love to their plus one. Messages on social media can result in melted hearts or make you feel like Ebenezer Scrooge has taken over your body. Bah! Humbug! This is not A Christmas Carol, but certainly it has some remembrance to the mixed feelings of those for whom Cupid has not yet shown up. Perhaps he is on vacation, perhaps he is tired of so many splits, perhaps he cannot be sober and likes to hang around by performing some lab testers, or perhaps, with a little drop of luck, he really is a believer in love and is just waiting for the right moment at the right place. Could it be that Cupid is actually a  T-bird lovebird with strong beliefs in globalization and inclusion? How did it all start? Why is the 14th of February called Valentine’s Day? Are Valentine and Cupid the same?

I don’t want to throw out the party, but popular myths claim that the beginning of this celebration is not a romantic scene at all. It started in ancient Rome as a festival called Lupercalia, which was an archaic rite connected to fertility. During this feast women were beaten with whips made of goatskin skin and dogs, wet in the blood of these animals, since they believed that this ritual gave them fertility. Centuries later, in 496, Pope Gelasius I abolished the celebration of Lupercalia and replaced it with a Christian festival named Candlemas, which aimed to celebrate the purification of the Virgin Mary and was established on February 2.

The love side began in 1382, when Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a poem called “Parliament of the birds,” in which Valentine’s Day is mentioned for the first time as a day of celebration for lovers.

“For this was on seynt Volantynys day

Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make”

From the poem of Chaucer, people began to consider Valentine’s Day as a day dedicated to love. Eighteen years later, King Charles VI of France created the “Court of Love,” whereby on the first Sunday of each month and during Valentine’s Day a series of competitions were held in which participants competed to get coupled up with courtesan ladies.

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It is also important to notice that Cupid and Valentine are not the same.

Cupid is the god of love from Greco-Roman mythology. It means desire. Cupid has no shame; he is represented as a naked man with wings carrying a bow and arrow.  In fact, he has two arrows: one with a sharp golden point, and the other with a blunt tip of lead. This means that if a person is wounded by the golden arrow he is filled with uncontrollable desire, but the one struck by the lead feels aversion and desires only to flee.

Saint Valentine, on the other hand, is the person to whom we owe the celebration of this day. The Catholic church makes references to three martyrs: one was a Roman priest and one a bishop of Interamna, Italy, who were both buried along the Via Flaminia outside Rome. The third one was said to be a saint who suffered on the same day in the Roman province of Africa. Little is known about the lives of these three men, as there are not many documents with background information, but there are many rumors legends. Most of the legends were likely invented during the Middle Ages in France and England when the festival of February 14 began to be associated with love. It follows the story of Saint Valentine, who would have been executed that day because he didn’t want to renounce Christianity and had secretly married soldiers after the marriage of professional soldiers was prohibited by Emperor Claudius II. Another legend claimed that he is the patron of lovers because his party coincides with the time of year when the birds begin to pair.

Either way, Valentine and Cupid are surrounded by love stories. Because, you know, love is in the air.

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