Nowadays the image we can have of Eros through art (especially since the Renaissance) is that of a winged and chubby boy who shoots arrows so that people fall in love. For those who go a little deeper in mythology, Eros is found as a lesser god, the son of Aphrodite, who over time became the chief divinity of love, sex, and fertility that until then had been the domain of Eros. The name of Eros (Ἔρως in ancient Greek) literally means “love.” The same word for the Hellenes served to name the god and the feeling.
Between the eleventh and eighth centuries before our era in Greece began a linguistic, cultural and religious unification. It wasn’t organized, but it was based on the invasions, wars, conquests and trade between the different peoples who inhabited that area. With the unification of the cults it was necessary to reconfigure the pantheon. Hesiod describes Aphrodite’s birth of the sea foam with Eros and Himeros (the god of lust and sexual desire) accompanying her appearance. Later, other classic writers interpreted that both Eros and Himeros were born just after Aphrodite from the same sea foam or at his side. This is the scene that has been so often reproduced in art throughout history: with the little winged gods fluttering about Aphrodite in a shell or conch. Other genealogies make Eros son of Aphrodite and Ares and he takes the place of his mother as a kind of servant or messenger causing mortals and gods to fall in love. Although other versions attribute this paternity to Hermes, Hefesto or even to Zeus. Plato for his part in The Banquet makes him son of Poros (the opportunity) and Penia (the poverty).
But we can find a different ancestry, which Hesiod gives in the Theogony. There, the poet explains that Eros emerged after the primordial chaos along with Gea (the Earth) and Tartarus (the Underworld). The comediógrafo Aristophanes told in The Birds that Eros arose from a golden egg put by Nix (the Night), that had conceived it with Erebo (the Darkness). In the Eleusinian mysteries He was worshiped as Protogonos (the first to be born). It is just by these last genealogies where we can better understand Eros, since we include it in the myth of Aphrodite he is reduced to a secondary god who does that his own mother would already be in charge of doing.
Eros was the one who lit the flame of love in the hearts of gods and mortals. He was armed with a bow and arrow, with a burning torch, a flute, or a lyre. With the passage of time their dominions passed to Aphrodite, that in spite of gaining more and more relevance it could not eclipse to Eros and in many places they were still worshiping together. Also, along with the development of philosophy, the figure of Eros was unfolded in other gods like Anteros (tgod of the correspondent love and avenger of unrequited love), Hedylogos (god the coaxing and flattery), Hermaphrodite heterosexual), Hymenaeus (god of marriage ceremonies and hierogamic rites), Hymeros (god of uncontrollable desire and unrequited love), Peitho (goddess of seduction), Potos (god of desire, longing or the love nostalgia) and finally it would be Eros himself who would come to control homosexual love and desire in all its forms. None of these gods seem to have had an independent cult for themselves but they have always been associated with Aphrodite or at most Eros.
In this way we could understand three different Eros: the Eros of the ancient cosmogonies, the Eros son of Aphrodite and the Eros of the philosophers. The first Eros, that of cosmogonies, was one of the fundamental causes of the formation of the cosmos. He’s the unifying power of love that brings harmony and order to all that was in conflict, that is, Chaos. He’s described as one of the first gods and is also said to arise from the egg of the world making him the son of some of the primordial gods or even not attributing any kinship since it would have arisen by itself. Later the poets would do it son of Aphrodite, with different parents according to the version representing him like a handsome young man. It is not until much later of Alexander the Great that the poets begin to describe Eros as a mischievous child and even something cruel from which neither gods nor men would be safe. This version is the one that more transcended to the Romans and that gave rise to Cupid. At this stage it does not have that unifying character of the chaotic elements of the universe or with the love that unites the human species, it simply deals with the sensual love from which no living creature or gods can escape. Even in the Hellenistic period he is represented blindfolded. Finally, the philosophers understood Eros as a concept to explain love or how the world united and disunited, attributing to love a divine cognoscence.
Rescuing, then, the meaning of the first Eros and the first cults, without his connection to Aphrodite, either as her son and part of her entourage, or as a philosophical conceptualization, can help us to connect with this god. We know that in Boeotia (particularly in Thespiae) the cult of Eros stood out mainly, being this one of the first nuclei of his cult. There he worshiped as a heavenly god who dominated over the winds that brought the rains that fertilized the fields, and was the god of fertility and love in all its shapes. The representation of the God in Thespians was a stone uncarved, erect, as in many cults of fertility that we can find throughout Europe. In the same city, every five years, the Erotidas were celebrated, a festival in honor to Eros. Other important places of his cult we enter them in Sparta, Samos and Parium. Later with Aphrodite its cult was located in Athens and in Megara, although where there was a gymnasium could be found an altar or a statue of the god where he was worshiped mainly as a god of homosexual unions.
So, who Eros can we address? In reality the spirituality of each one is unique and only one knows how it can fit Eros within its own practices to connect with the divinity. From this Shrine we find that it is much more fertile to approach Eros according to the conception of the cosmogonic myths, the first cults and the mysterious cults. In this way Eros stands as a god who puts order to the universe (just what cosmos means in ancient Greek), he unifies everything under the force of love and he influences the power so that it continues to expand and reproduce. That same conception applied to our worldly life, ends up bringing us to love in all its forms: brotherly, platonic, friendship, sexual, self-love… In addition as a god linked to sex in all conceptions he has had throughout the whole history gives us the opportunity in our days to work from the spirituality all the issues related to sexuality, gender identity and attraction.
But we can not only live from theory, practice is also necessary so here are some of the most basic correspondences so we can mount an altar to Eros and start working with Him: