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

Let’s examine the season and its symbols.  Is it all this seemingly innocent and romantic?

February:  February has been the traditional time of year, after the winter solstice and during the apparent lengthening of the daylight period, that finds many animals, birds, mammals, with us among them, beginning the yearly frenzy of incipient spring mating and reproduction.  Mardi Gras festivals, and carnivals of various sort have occurred worldwide at this time of year.  Sexual inhibitions fall like icicles off of a hot roof.  It’s amazing what people will do while masked or otherwise weirdly costumed (as little as the costume may cover) during this traditional February party time.  Valentine’s Day is our second shot at the revelry after the end of the big party a month and a half earlier.

The Romans held love and fertility celebrations in February.  These were called the Lupercalia, a time of love, eroticism and sexual license.  February was sacred to, and named for, Juno Februata, goddess of the “fever” (febris) of love.  Like Marti Gras and Carnival, a wild time was to be had, and it is interesting to learn how the enthusiastic revelers “hooked-up.” It was done by public raffle.

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.

Desmond Morris (in his 1985, Body Watching) 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 (visualize a Valentine’s heart here, but upside down, with the point up).  Any student of anatomy will tell you that real hearts are fist-shaped and not red but colored bluish-brown with fatty streaks of yellow-white.

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 appropriately gives birth to the little god of Love, Desire, and Lust.  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.

Cupid’s relationship with his mother Venus was not entirely wholesome.  The situation seems to antedate Freud’s notion of the Oedipus complex.  Several paintings from the Renaissance, whose artists were more familiar with Greek and Roman religious mythology than are we, show a rather incestuous relationship existing between Cupid and 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, probably burned by an art critic offended by the painting’s perverse eroticism.

Disheartedly yours, with tongue in cheek,

Dr. P

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