By Amanda Little
Some know of the chubby babies weilding a bow and arrow, and others prefer the goddess arriving on a chariot pulled by cats. Every culture has a deity that rules over love, so take a look at some of them below.
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Cliodhna - Irish
Cliodhna is known in Irish myth as the most beautiful woman to ever walk the Earth. Sometimes depected as the Queen of Banshees or Queen of Fairies, she was known for keeping her love locked away from all until she found Ciabahn, the most handsome man to ever walk the earth. Lucky for her, he also happened to be in Ireland. Some legends say when the other gods found out, they drowned Cliodhna after lulling her to sleep with music. Kinder tales say she was just brought back to the land of the gods. But they still call the sound of waves entering coves in County Cork “Clíodhna’s wave.”
Xochiquetzal - Aztec
The Aztec goddess of love reigned over flowers, marriage, pregnancy, prostitutes, and of course, love. Xochiquetzal (sho-kee-ketz-el) means “precious feather flower,” and she was one of the more popular deities of the time. She is depicted as a beautiful young woman and was wife to Tlaloc, God of Rain. She was also the mother of Quetzalcoatl, the giant feathered serpent god that is among the most popular mythical figures in Aztec mythology. Walking among Aztec ruins, like Templo Mayor in Mexico or Tikal in Guatemala, you may see her gracing the beautifully carved walls of temples.
Hu Tianbao - Chinese
A minor god in the massive Chinese pantheon, Hu Tianbao was once a mortal, but became the god of homosexual love and marriage. As a human, he was attracted to a man in the government during the Qing dynasty, and when he was discovered spying on him, was beaten to death. The gods were moved by his unrequited love, and restored him to life as a diety and he took on the symbol of a rabbit, which became slang for homosexual men in Chinese. A few shrines have been dedicated to him, housing his symbol and allowing worship, but many places still consider gay activity as a punishable criminal offense.
Eros - Greek
Aphrodite is known by many as the goddess of love, but it's her son Eros who brought desire and attraction to humans. Anyone who is a fan of the winged babies shooting arrows know Eros better by his Roman name: Cupid. Before being depicted as a baby, Eros was a young man who fell in love with Psyche, a woman so beautiful Aphrodite became jealous and shot her with an arrow to make her fall in love with the ugliest man on Earth. Depictions of the pantheon, including Aphrodite and Eros, can be found throughout Greece.
Freyja - Norse
Riding in on a chariot pulled by cats, the Norse Goddess Freyja is associated with love and sensuality, among others. Unlike many love gods, she is known for her greed and teaching witchcraft to humans, though that may have something to do with her role in war. She was the Queen of Folkvangr, which was an afterlife similar to Valhalla, where half of those fallen in battle would spend eternity. She fought often with Loki, the trickster god, who would steal and hide her things. She would often have to search the earth for her husband as she cried tears of red gold.
Rati - Hindu
Known for her immense beauty, Rati is Goddess of Desire, wife of Kama, the God of Love. While Rati plays a major role in love and lust, her true claim to fame is changing Shiva the Destroyer’s mind. After the loss of his wife, he was forced to fall in love again by Kama, and so turned him to ash with his third eye. Rati convinced Shiva to bring her husband back, on the condition he remain invisible for eternity. Many shrines throughout India are devoted to Shiva. In some you can find Rati, but there are a rare few honoring the goddess herself.
Oshun - Yoruba
Followers of the Yoruba religion in West Africa tend to find favor in Oshun, the goddess of beauty, complete purity, love, and erotic love. She is renowned for her beauty, and usually depicted wearing jewelry, though sometimes she is a mermaid. She is generally associated with fresh water, and incredibly important resource in West Africa. She is also known as a protector of women and children during childbirth, and a protector against diseases. It’s easy to find shrines dedicated to her throughout West Africa, especially in Nigeria.
Hathor - Egyptian
One of the post popular and long-lasting of the Egyptian Goddesses, Hathor reigned over love, beauty, music, and mining. She is mostly human, but is sometimes depicted with either the head or just the ears of a cow. Eventually, she became the goddess that all others were derived from. She was once the Eye of Ra, the feminine counterpart to the sun god Ra himself, and it was a title passed among many goddesses. Hathor’s story as the Eye of Ra was found in King Tut’s tomb and is called the Destruction of Mankind. She was transformed into the Goddess of War, Sekhmet, by Ra and nearly killed every last human on earth, but stopped when she got too drunk to remember what she was doing and returned to normal. Truly, a love story for the ages.
St. Valentine - Catholic
While not a god under the monotheistic Roman Catholic religion, the origin of the patron saint of love is a bit disputed. Some say it was St. Valentine of Terni, who was martyred by Claudius II, but some also say it was St. Valentine of Rome, who wed Christian couples in secret, and was also martyred by Claudius II. Because of the uncertainty, St. Valentine’s Day was officially removed from the calendar as a feast day, and instead serves as a holiday for couples. However, St. Valentine’s name remains on the list of saints, he is still depicted in stained glass at the Basilica of Terni, and his remains and relics can be found at holy places throughout England, France, Czech Republic, Ireland, Scotland, and Italy.