Valentine’s Day just wouldn’t be the same without Cupid – one of the world’s most enduring symbols of love. He’s often depicted as a chubby baby with wings, but this guy is no innocent child. Cupid has a complex backstory, including a family tree rooted in ancient times.

Cupid had a cult following in the ancient world, and was considered even more powerful than his mother, Venus. He had dominion over the dead, the creatures of the sea, and even the gods in Olympus. Cupid was given wings because lovers are often inclined to flights of fancy, and his boyish appearance reflects the fickle and unpredictable reality of romance. He carries arrows and a torch, since love can wound – and illuminate – the heart.

Initially, there were two Cupids – one Roman, and the other Greek. The Roman version came first, and grew in popularity to become the more famous of the two. It is said that Cupid is the son of Mars (god of war), and Venus (goddess of love). He carries two sets of arrows, which have very different purposes. The more famous set – golden with dove’s feathers – causes people to fall in love. The other arrows are leaden with owl’s feathers, creating a mood of indifference in their victims.

Cupid didn’t spend all of his time playing matchmaker – he actually had a complicated love story of his own. Psyche was a princess so adored by her admirers that they failed to worship Cupid’s mother, Venus. This peeved Venus to no end, so she ordered Cupid to force Psyche to fall in love with the ugliest man on earth. The scheme fell apart when Cupid was so overcome by Psyche’s beauty that he dropped one of his arrows on his own foot. Naturally, the two fell instantly in love and got married – the classic “how we met” story. Venus wasn’t about to stand for that, so she tricked Psyche into opening a box containing eternal sleep, and the girl’s out like a light- the classic breakup story.

Cupid then defied his mom and rescued Psyche from her eternal slumber. This forced the trio into a family meeting, where Cupid confronted his mother about the whole ‘putting her daughter-in-law into a coma’ thing. Awkward. Psyche then announced that she was pregnant, reconciled with Venus, and they all lived happily ever after.

As you enjoy the holiday festivities this year, keep an eye out for Cupid . . . you just never know where he might be, and he loves to show up when you least expect him. Happy Valentine’s Day!