Cedric portrait by Arlie Adams
Greetings my darlings! Welcome to day two of my Valentine’s Day feature. Being a devotee of the Great Mother in her fierce form of Kali, I thought I’d talk about some gods and goddesses of love and their importance in mythology. Instead of starting with the more familiar Greco-Roman myths, let’s take a look at an older mythos, that of India.
Kama is the Indian god of erotic love and believed to be the forerunner of the Greek Eros and Roman Cupid. Like, Eros, he carries a bow and arrow (to my authoress’ delight, he’s often depicted riding upon a parrot). Like Eros, he takes the form of a beautiful young man. The goddess Parvati, the consort of Shiva, is looked upon by many as the epitome of loving devotion and sensual beauty. Here is a tale that involves both.
Lord Shiva was set away from the celestial kingdom by Indra and the other gods to do penance after killing Daksha, the father of his dead wife Sati. Once Shiva’s anger passed he fell into a deep sorrow and went into a trance, motionless and meditative. He no longer took any interest in the world and creation was unraveling. Demons (Ashuras) were gaining power, and the gods called upon Uma/Parvati, the reincarnation of Sati, Shiva’s dead wife, for help. From her birth Parvati knew she was destined to marry Shiva and conceive a son, who would defeat the demons. She lovingly tended the oblivious god, but still he would not stir. Parvati enlisted Kama to rouse Shiva from his meditation by shooting one of his flower-tipped arrows from his sugarcane bow. Shiva, startled from his slumber, opened his third eye of destruction and incinerated Kama into ash, but when the lord of creation and destruction looked upon the lovely Parvati, he was moved to embrace her as his own. Shiva and Parvati eternally dance together across the cosmos. In the great scheme of things, this symbolizes the cosmic dance of the divine feminine and masculine principles. In other words, all of us need to understand that we embody both of these sets of attributes and understand them to be spiritually healthy. Now, lest you think poor Kama was left a pile of ash, Rati, the love god’s consort, entreated Lord Shiva to restore her husband to life. Shiva relented and Kama was brought to life as a formless spirit, visible only to his wife, Rati.
Other Indian Deities associated with love:
Radha- the wife of Krishna and the personification of divine love.
Sarasvati -Inventor of the Sanskrit language. Goddess of sensual love, creativity, beauty, art, music, learning, science and teaching
Now, let’s move on to the Greco-Roman myths. Most of you are probably familiar with Venus/Aphrodite the goddess of love, beauty and sexual passion. She is often depicted as rising from the sea on a half-shell or even minus her arms (Venus De Milo indeed had arms at one time). In one account, Aphrodite was born out of the sea foam after Cronus cut of the genitals of Uranus and threw them into the ocean, but in another she is the daughter of Zeus and Dione the mother goddess. Ouch on the first one. Her personality was often vain and demanding. (Not unlike the queen of the Immortyls, Giulietta, if I may say). Aphrodite caused much mischief among the gods. (See the judgment of Paris) This lady got around and cheated on her husband Haephesteus with Ares, Adonis and Hermes. (Hmm, reminds me of another Immortyl woman I know.) She became the archetypal mother-in-law when her son, Eros, fell for the mortal girl Psyche.
Eros is the god of sexual desire in Greek mythology and called Cupid by the Romans. Although he's often depicted as a baby, he's truly represented as a youth. As an eternally 19 year-old male, I can tell you why this is. Who is randier than a boy in his teens?
Lovely, isn't he? No, I didn't model for the statue. He's more in Kurt's line.
In some stories, Eros is the son of Aphrodite, but others name his as one of the original gods. In one of the tales, he is sent by his mother Aphrodite to make a beautiful mortal girl anmed Psyche fall in loive with some horrible beast. Instead of shooting the fair lass, he falls upon one of his own arrows and is pierced through the heart, thus falling in love. After much trial and tribulation brought on by jealous Mum Aphrodite, the young couple get together and symbolizes the union of soulful and erotic love.
Other Greek and Roman Gods associated with Love and Sex:
Priapus was the Roman god of male potency. If you take too much Viagra and get an unquenchable stiffy, you suffer from priapism.
Hymen was the Greek god of marriage. He always pops out at the appropriate moment.
Hermaphroditus (The son of Aphrodite and Hermes, depicted often with female breasts and male genitals) He’s been called the god of bisexuality--my kind of bloke.
Satyrs were half man and half goat, known for chasing nymphs. A man with compulsive sexual behavior is suffering from Satyriasis.
Dionysus is the wine god, but he is also associated with orgiastic excess, joy and divine ecstasy. If you’ve indulged too much, you know what I mean.
The Norse goddess of love, beauty and fertility Freyja is somewhat akin to Aphrodite. She also is associated with war and death and receives into her hall the half of warriors who die in battle but don’t go to Odin’s hall, Valhalla. There is some conjecture as to whether she and the Goddess Frigg are actually two faces of one Germanic fertility goddess. She was revered as a supernatural figure in Scandinavia into the 19th century. The name Freyja means, “the lady”, related to the German word Frau. Many things named after her were renamed for the Virgin Mary when Scandinavia was Christianized.
Love Deities of Various Cultures:
Ishtar was the Babylonian goddess of love, procreation and war.
Inanna came from the Mesopotamian region and was also a goddess of love and war. Although a virgin, she is the goddess of sex and procreation.
Ashtart was a Semitic goddess of sex, maternity and fertility.
The Egyptians had Hathor and Isis. Hathor was often depicted as a cow. She is the goddess of childbirth and the patron of lovers. Isis was the goddess of magic, fertility and motherhood. Both of these Goddesses are sometimes shown wearing cow’s horn with a solar disc between them.
Indians revere the cow as the ultimate symbol of motherhood, so I guess this brings us full circle.
In closing, my darlings, love as you see fit to love! It’s divine madness.
*All images used aside from Cedric's portrait are in the public domain.