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Ask Dr. P


Galdino Panzarone


Dr. P.  I love Valentine’s Day.  It’s so romantic.  It’s such a pure contrast to the sex-oriented relationships you see on the soaps today.  What do you think?

 Valentine’s Day!  Romance.  Sweethearts, flowers, chocolate candies –  is it all innocent?

 Let’s examine some of the season’s symbols:  the heart, Cupid, Cupid’s arrow, and the color red.

 The Heart:  This symbol takes some knowledge of religious history and anatomy to explain.  Eventually we’ll see that there is a connection between the heart symbol and Cupid.  But we start with Cupid’s mother Venus.

 Venus was the Roman name for the Greek goddess of beauty, Aphrodite.  Aphrodite was beautiful all over but was unique in that her buttocks were especially beautiful.  Her shapely rounded hemispheres were so appreciated by the Greeks that they built a special temple to Aphrodite Kallipygos, which literally meant, “Goddess with Beautiful Buttocks” (This is true, no lie.).  It was probably the only religious building in the world that was dedicated to buttock worship.  The month of April (Aphrilis) is named after Aphrodite, and, of course, on April Fools’ Day people become the butt of jokes.

 I suppose priests at Aphrodite’s temple who were delayed in the performance of their liturgy would have been a little behind in their devotions.  This rarely happened because they would have hated making asses of themselves before the worshipers of Aphrodite.

 No less an authority than Desmond Morris (in his 1985, Body Watching: A Field Guide to the Human Species) states that the origin of the heart symbol with its deep cleft was probably the shape of human female buttocks seen from the rear, and not an actual heart (Imagine a Valentine’s heart here, but upside down, with the point up.  Can you visualize it?).  Any student of anatomy will tell you that real hearts are amorphously fist-shaped and colored bluish-brown with fatty streaks of yellow-white.  Real hearts are not red and shaped like a Valentine.

 Cupid:  Cupid was the name given by the Romans to the Greek god Eros (who was called Kama by the Hindus in India).  He was the god of Love, Desire and Lust.  Just as Venus was the mother of Cupid, Aphrodite was the mother of Eros in ancient Greek religious mythology.  We see here that the goddess of Beauty gives birth to the little god of Love, Desire, and Lust.  Ain’t that the truth?  It is from Cupid’s Greek name, Eros, from which we get the words “erotic” and “erotica.”

 This Cupid was no innocent kid, even though he was a cute cherub who flew about nekkid shooting people in the heart with his arrows.  He was the god of desire and lust, not romantic love, and this was “heavy business” even for that period in history.

 Now we have school kids exchanging with each other hearts with pictures of Cupid on them!  We need paper Valentine detectors as badly as the metal detectors.  Where are the morality police when we need them?  Or at least, where are these kids’ mothers?  And speaking of mothers. . . .

 Cupid’s relationship with his mother Venus was not entirely wholesome.  The situation seems to antedate Freud’s notion of the Oedipus complex.  Renaissance paintings, whose artists were more familiar with Greek and Roman religious mythology than are we, show a rather incestuous relationship existing between Cupid and mom Venus.  In Bronzino’s (1545) famous painting, Cupid kisses his mother on the lips, fondles both of her breasts and one nipple, while she caresses—no kidding—his arrow.  Incidentally, his buttocks are prominently displayed.  Michaelangelo did a similar painting of Venus and Cupid, as we see in copies.  The original was lost.  It was possibly burned by an art critic offended by the painting’s perverse eroticism.  Most of this is in art historian Edward Lucie-Smith 1991 book Sexuality in Western Art.

 Cupid’s Arrow:  Cupid’s adventures in India were nastier than his in Europe.  Being known as the god Kama, in India he represented passionate, lustful sexual desire.  There he was a professional.  The famous sex manual of India the Kama Sutra was named after him.

 In Hinduism, Shiva is one of the Big-Three manifestations of Brahma.  Kama (a.k.a. Cupid and Eros) was induced by lesser Hindu gods–who were jealous of Shiva’s dominance–to distract Shiva with love and desire.  Kama was about to shoot his “flowery” arrow of lustful fire and passion energy into Shiva when Shiva saw him and incinerated Kama with a white-hot blast of yogic energy from his third eye.  The light was so brilliant that it greatly diminished the brightness of the sun.  Of course, in Hinduism there is reincarnation.  Kama returned as a tree.  Arrows are made from straight tree saplings.  The arrows aren’t “flowery” any more, but are rigid and deadly effective.  And since then, Cupid prefers to do his mischief by candlelight, moonlight, or even total darkness.

 Disheartedly yours, with tongue in cheek,

Dr. P