painting of hindu god kama
How did Cupid go from Roman god to Valentine's Day mascot? And how is Christianity involved?

Cupid: You may know him as that cute, cherubic, winged baby who shoots arrows that make people fall in love.

Beloved by couples and hated by singles, this little fella is the unofficial symbol not only of Valentine’s Day, but of the entire concept of love itself.

But who is he, exactly? 

You may be aware of Cupid’s mythological origins as a Roman god, but what about how medieval Christians rebranded him from a mischievous pro-fornication demon to a symbol of romance?

Or his close association to the Hindu god of love, who also just so happens to also be a boyish, bow and arrow-wielding god?

This is the secret religious history of Cupid. 

Cupid’s Origin Story

Cupid is the ancient Roman god of love and desire, and counterpart to the Greek god Eros (from whom we draw the word "erotic").

Eros was more beefcake than baby: young, handsome, and with more abs than you can shake an arrow at. When the Roman era began – and the Romans began reinterpreting Greek myths to fit their own culture – artists began portraying the god of love as an innocent, chubby, winged little boy, rather than a young man with rippling physique. 

Cupid was the son of Venus and Mars, and originally represented the intersection of love and war… but the wee lad was always a mama’s boy. He followed mom’s lead, buzzing around, shooting would-be lovers with his arrows, injecting them with rampant physical and emotional desire.

In other words, he was a playful cherub bringing lovers together – hardly a malicious figure. But that later changed. 

Related: The Violent, Sexy, Pagan Origins of Valentine's Day

Demon of Fornication?

As Christianity took hold in Europe, Cupid went through several artistic interpretations. During the Middle Ages, Cupid was viewed by some religious scholars as a “demon of fornication” – a deceptive, evil little nymph who poisons the minds of good people with depraved, lustful thoughts of carnal desires.

This interpretation is often attributed to Theodulf of Orleans, bishop of Orleans and prominent writer and poet during Charlemagne’s reign. In his “De libris quos legere solebam,” he describes Cupid as "terrible and wicked," a "demon of fornication" who wields "the devil's force."

As Theodulf viewed him, Cupid's quiver was a symbol of his "depraved mind," his bow a symbol of "trickery," and his arrows a symbol of the "poison" of lust. 

It’s quite the rebranding: Where once a playful symbol of love existed, now Cupid was a sex-crazed demon for a moralistic Christian age.

Hindu Cupid?

painting of hindu god kama
Kamadeva, a Hindu god that predates Cupid.

Meanwhile, in India, Hindus had a remarkably similar love god of their own: Kamadeva. The figure of Kamadeva actually predates Cupid/Eros by several centuries, so it would be more accurate to say the Greeks and Romans have their own version of Kamadeva.

Like Cupid, he shoots love darts from a bow. But physically, Kamadeva is closer to Eros than Cupid: young and hunky, as opposed to young and chunky. Kamadeva rides a parrot named Suka, according to legend, and with a bow of sugarcane and arrows made of flowers, he evokes the sweetness of young love in early spring. 

Unlike his western counterpart, nobody every accused Kamadeva of being a demon, though. 

A Valentine’s Mascot

Okay, back to Cupid and his troublesome rebrand. 

Fast-forward several centuries, and mythology-obsessed Renaissance artists decided to reject the demonic interpretation of medieval Christians – restoring Cupid to his playful, cherubic roots.

Where once there was a single Cupid, Renaissance artists often included numerous versions in a single canvas. And not just in mythological paintings; Cupid had a tendency to sneak into biblical paintings as well.

Related: How Shakespeare and Chaucer Helped Create Valentine's Day

As Valentine’s Day exploded in popularity in the 19th century, greeting card advertisers looked to Renaissance art for inspiration. Lo and behold, there was Cupid: a popular symbol of love, now free of the lusty, demonic baggage he carried in centuries past. 

A Valentine card from 1909.

The cards were a hit! Adorable, chubby Cupid resonated with couples who wanted a cutesy, innocent representation of their affection.

And the rest is history. Far removed from his rocky religious past, Cupid is now a universal – and secular – symbol of Valentine’s Day.


  1. Nicholas J Page's Avatar Nicholas J Page

    I thought Cupid was a Myth shows how much we were taught at school .Which was zero

    1. Matthew Mastrogiovanni's Avatar Matthew Mastrogiovanni

      God and Jesus are myths you know?

      1. Colleen McAllister's Avatar Colleen McAllister

        Not to me. And not to any real believers

        1. Robert Edward Szekely's Avatar Robert Edward Szekely

          Some will argue argue that real believers are self-deceivers. Just sayin'. Keep that in mind, y'know. ;)

        2. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

          What is a real believer, Lady Colleen?

          Are those that believe in the Gods, Vishnu, Thor, Wotan, or Ganesh, real believers? I guess they are if they believe in them…..right?


  1. Rev. Dr. Father JJ's Avatar Rev. Dr. Father JJ

    according to the cristofascists it probably causes lust, fornication and masturbation because, well....everything does

    1. Dr. Zerpersande, NSC's Avatar Dr. Zerpersande, NSC

      Much like it will come as no surprise when it is found that cancer is hereditary in white mice.

      1. Dennis Chevalier's Avatar Dennis Chevalier

        Or that cancer comes from donuts but the donut holes cure

    2. Bond Wright's Avatar Bond Wright

      Well anyone who thinks that (what cristofascists think) simply didn't manage to get layed in high school and spend their rest of their lives jealous of and whining to every one else who did manage. These things do boil down psychologically to simple explanations in the end. Ask Wilhelm Reich and Sigmund Freud.

  1. Matthew Mastrogiovanni's Avatar Matthew Mastrogiovanni

    Cupid was never a pro-fornication demon. Christians demonize everything other than God and pedophile priests.

    1. Robert Edward Szekely's Avatar Robert Edward Szekely

      I think someone got Cupid confused with Pan the Satyr. ;)

  1. Theresa C. Marquess's Avatar Theresa C. Marquess

    Hey there Y'all, Happy Valentine's Day! Holidays do tend to break the monotony of winter and who doesn't love a box of chocolates?

  1. Merlin's Avatar Merlin

    All about control and domination which equal power and profit. It’s like judo of the mind (using one’s own strength to control them

  1. Steven Ferrell's Avatar Steven Ferrell

    Don't know why we even have such a holiday as Valentines Day. Why do we need a day set aside to celebrate the one we love. My wife and I will be married 50 years in May and we do not celebrate Valentines Day. She is my Valentine every day.

    1. Catherine's Avatar Catherine

      @Steven Ferrell

      That is awesome. Rare and awesome :.) I wish you both another 50 ^.^

      I think Hallmark picked up for profit, where governments began with creating holidays to appease common folk. There's also a social engineering factor if Edward Bernays' early marketing ploys and Google and FB are considered.

      The origins of all our holidays (U.S.) is not commong knowledge these days. Mother's Day was created for mothers who lost sons in war. I told my sons I hope to never 'celebrate' a mother's day. Father's day was made because there's a mother's day. Oddly enough, there was no children's day until fairly recently.

      Labor Day, Veteran's day (I'll celebrate when every day is Armistice Day as it began), July 4th (we celebrated what for real?)... all whitewashing of bad times. Thanksgiving was established to celebrate a final massacre of indians. Yay us?

  1. Catherine's Avatar Catherine

    Valentin'es Day is only another commercialized day with a twisted history. Like other holidays, though less politicized. Posted elsewhere:

    "Saint Valentine of Rome who, far from being lucky in love on February 14th, was beheaded."

    "The holiday began as a feast to celebrate the decapitation of a third-century Christian martyr, or perhaps two. So how did it become all about love?"

    1. arawngraalrd's Avatar arawngraalrd

      The missal I remember described a country belief, that Birds would couple up on that day of the year. I don't think I was involved in either the Kamadeva or Zeus Cupisceid stories, but I do think them the same god. Shiva ressurrected Kama as a thoughtform, and it was as a toughtform that he seduced Princess Psyche.

  1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

    Ah, Cupid. Nature's matchmaker (or pimp).

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    Um sorry but no. Venus was just the romanized version of the Greek Goddess Aphrodite. No temples were ever built for her, no ceremonies were ever made or credited to her and she had no priests or worshippers. So if you are trying to claim that she existed like Jupiter/Zeus then your whole story makes no sense and is nothing but a fairy tail. Now I am not saying that Jupiter/Zeus ever existed...but its pretty flimsy for someone to try and make up a story like this

    1. Dr. Zerpersande, NSC's Avatar Dr. Zerpersande, NSC

      1- Statements such as ‘…your whole story makes no sense and is nothing but a fairy tail’ and ‘…its pretty flimsy for someone to try and make up a story like this’ coming from YOU? 2- fairy tale 3- it’s

      1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

        Sorry Zerp, but the only one making fairy tales here is you and then you get mad when nobody with sense believes them

        1. Dr. Zerpersande, NSC's Avatar Dr. Zerpersande, NSC

          Trying to join in but can only do so with something so weak as yours?

          Better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

    2. Robert Edward Szekely's Avatar Robert Edward Szekely

      Daniel, sometimes I can't help but wonder if you're a hallucination caused by indigestion.

      1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

        But we all know you are a hallucination caused by ignorance

    3. arawngraalrd's Avatar arawngraalrd

      Everybody worshipped Aphrodite, so she didn't need a temple, and every virgin was a priestess. Zeus, or Deos, simply meant we were considered bright. Jupiter is just a pronounciation of Zeus Pater.

      1. Bond Wright's Avatar Bond Wright

        Right on.

      2. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

        sorry but no. you need to go to the library and read up on greek myths and roman myths

  1. Kevin Oconnell's Avatar Kevin Oconnell

    It's nice to have fun with these man made myths , but I don't hold much faith with them, I don't recall God ever mention anything about him so I don't wast my time with trivia concepts.

    1. Dr. Zerpersande, NSC's Avatar Dr. Zerpersande, NSC

      1- Once again the irony simply drips off a statement 2- It’s ‘waste’ and ‘trivial’ unless you just don’t waste your time with final letters.

    2. Rev. Dr. Father JJ's Avatar Rev. Dr. Father JJ

      you do realize that your 'god' is just another man-made myth, right? what makes you so confident that your myth is less myth than someone else's myth?

      1. Bond Wright's Avatar Bond Wright

        Great comment. Reminds me of when the white invaders tried to sell Chief Seattle on their version of god and he said: Why should I change my myths for your myths? He also said: You are telling me to make my young people work. If I make our young people work--then they will stop dreaming. And that would be bad.

        1. Rev. Dr. Father JJ's Avatar Rev. Dr. Father JJ


        2. Catherine's Avatar Catherine

          @Bond Wright

          Wasn't living a full life without working for a government not part of their culture or lifestyle, implied?

    3. Ari Joseph Bertine's Avatar Ari Joseph Bertine

      At the time when the forbidding of worshiping other gods was made an edict, I don't think there was much contact with the ancient Greeks yet. And by the time that the Greeks and the Hebrews were engaging regularly, Eros had been relegated to a much lower status than he originally held, so it's not likely that he was really paid much attention to. He wasn't one of the main gods in competition so any rancor directed at him was probably not worth recording. At the time when other gods were mentioned as enemies, it was mostly the Sumerians or Babylonians, and the other ancient Hebrew gods like Chumash.

      1. Catherine's Avatar Catherine

        @Ari Joseph Bertine

        Isn't 'Chumash' a book?

        1. Ari Joseph Bertine's Avatar Ari Joseph Bertine

          My apologies!! You are right, Chumash is the word for a part of the Torah. I spelled the name wrong, I meant Chemosh. D'oh!

          It is very interesting that the same word appears in different parts of the world as different things. The pronunciation is pretty different but it does make one wonder if there's any connection. Probably not. I imagine there's only so many millions of word combinations possible with the sounds we can make. xD

      2. Catherine's Avatar Catherine

        Interesting. Chumash is also a North American native tribe.

        "In the Mishnah (Yoma 7:1 and others), the word chumash refers to a chomesh—one-fifth of the Torah (i.e., one book). Over time, however, the word came to mean what it does today, an abbreviation for Chamishah Chumshei Torah—a single book or codex containing all five-fifths of the Torah."

  1. William Joseph Moczan's Avatar William Joseph Moczan

    Never knew Cupid was celebrated other than USA.

  1. Bond Wright's Avatar Bond Wright

    He's probably pro- sacred rite (sexual intercourse). (as righteous pagans call it). And, lust is good. Mary daley a catholic scholars wrote a book about lust. It's worth looking into. What is

    1. Bond Wright's Avatar Bond Wright

      What is lust? It is simply love of one's fellow man (and woman)--that's all!
      Riane Eisler, Mary Daly and Marija Gimbutas. Check them out.

      1. Catherine's Avatar Catherine

        @Bond Wright

        Rather than a sole Catholic feminist perspective, doesn't it make more sense to follow origin and historical meaning of the word?

  1. Takaya Kovani Sweeney's Avatar Takaya Kovani Sweeney

    Pagan ✅

    Greek ✅

    Nothing to see here…

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