Love is in the air with Cupid at Gainsborough Old Hall

Can you find Cupid's arrows at Gainsborough Old Hall this half-term?
Can you find Cupid's arrows at Gainsborough Old Hall this half-term?

This year, Valentine’s Day has fallen just before the half-term holiday and Cupid has been busy loosing his arrows around Gainsborough Old Hall and doesn’t know where to find them, writes Victoria Mason-Hines.

Can you help him find the hearts he has hit and spell out the name of Lord Burgh’s true love?

The history of Valentine’s Day has its roots in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia.

The festival of Lupercalia was a fertility festival celebrated in mid-February by ancient Romans.

Pope Gelasius I recast this pagan festival as a Christian feast day circa 496 AD, declaring February 14 to be St Valentine’s Day.

I have looked at the three legends of St Valentine’s before.

So this year, I thought I’d a look at the origins of our friend Cupid.

In classical mythology, Cupid is the god of desire, erotic love, attraction and affection, but long before the Romans adopted and renamed him, Cupid was known to the Greeks as Eros, the god of love.

One of the first authors to mention Eros (circa 700 BC) was Hesiod.

He described him in ‘Theogony’ as ‘one of the primeval cosmogonic deities born of the world egg’.

Although later accounts of the lineage of Eros vary, describing him as either the son of Nyx and Erebus, or of Aphrodite and Ares, or of Iris and Zephyrus, or even of Aphrodite and Zeus—who would therefore have been both his father and grandfather.

In myths, Eros is a minor character who serves mostly to set the plot in motion.

He is a main character only in the tale of Eros and Psyche (Greek for soul).

In this story from ancient Greek mythology, which was later retold by Roman authors, Eros mother, Aphrodite (in the Roman story Venus), became so jealous of the beautiful mortal Psyche that she told her son to induce Psyche to fall in love with a monster.

Instead, Eros became so enamoured with Psyche that he married her—with the condition that she could never see his face.

Eventually, Psyche’s curiosity got the better of her and she stole a glance, causing Eros to flee in anger.

After roaming the known world in search of her lover, Psyche was eventually reunited with Eros and was granted the gift of immortality.

In the stories of the Archaic (Greek) period, Eros was represented as a handsome immortal that was irresistible to both man and gods.

In the Hellenistic (Roman) period, he was increasingly portrayed as a playful, mischievous child and had adopted the name Cupid.

During this time, his iconography acquired the bow and arrow that represent his source of power.

A person, or even a deity, who is shot by Cupid’s arrow is filled with uncontrollable desire.

It is this chubby love-inducing putto/cherub that has persisted over time and has become the ubiquitous Valentine’s Day mascot.

So come and join us at Gainsborough Old Hall this half term and see if you can find all the hearts Cupid has hit with his arrows.