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Lust, one of the seven deadly sins, has always been taboo. It’s not something that people openly discuss, but it’s always been a popular theme in art and literature. Whether it be lust for sexuality, power, or money, this strong desire is one of the things that make people human.
However, it’s something that shouldn’t be confused with passion, as passion is a force that pushes people to achieve something that often benefits others, while lust only serves one’s personal interests.
Since lust is such a popular subject, several symbols have been used to represent it over the years.
What Is Lust?
Lust is a strong desire for something, be it a sexual attraction to another person or an insatiable appetite for something like money or power.
While some religions consider lusting over a person a sin, scientists would argue that it is merely a chemical reaction that people experience when they meet someone new.
Studies say that pheromones, androgens, and other hormones all work together, feeding the human instinct to procreate.
But is lust a healthy emotion?
According to Erica F. Zajac, a therapist who specializes in sex positivity, lust is an emotion that can’t be easily classified as healthy or unhealthy. It’s the way that a person expresses it that can make it either negative or positive. For example, acting on lustful feelings by cheating on one’s partner is far from ideal and can cause huge problems down the road.
Symbols of Lust
As an emotion that has always been viewed as negative, lust has acquired various symbols over time.
1. Apple – The Fruit of Lust
Apples have come to symbolize lust because of how they were used in the Bible as well as in Greek mythology. In the Old Testament, Adam and Eve happily lived in a paradise until the devil disguised himself as a serpent and approached them. The serpent tempted them into eating the forbidden fruit, so they were punished and banished from paradise.
Interestingly, the Bible never mentions an apple when it talks of the forbidden fruit. It’s possible that this idea was introduced by Christianity and that it could’ve been a deliberate play on the words malum which meant evil and malus meaning apple. This translation has resulted in the representation of an apple as the original sin that led to the fall of man.
Ancient Greeks also considered the apple as a symbol of love and sexual desires. It is said that Dionysus, the god of wine and merrymaking, offered apples to Aphrodite to express his love for her. It is also said that the mother goddess Gaia gave golden apples to Hera and Zeus as a wedding present and that gods and mortals alike coveted this gift.
2. Chocolate – The Food of Lust
Chocolate has been considered an aphrodisiac since the time of the Aztec civilization. From a scientific point of view, chocolate contains the chemicals phenylethylamine and serotonin, believed to be mood boosters and mild sexual stimulants. It’s a popular gift on Valentine’s Day, when it’s typically given in heart-shaped boxes. This has associated it with lust, love, and passion.
3. Blue – The Color of Lust
Blue is usually used to symbolize lust. Although different shades of blue might mean contradictory things like loyalty and trust, it is the color most often associated with lust. What’s more confusing is that in Christian art, the color blue is usually related to the Virgin Mary, making it a symbol of purity and virginity.
However, some link lust to blue because they compare it to the deepness of the ocean. When you are engulfed in lust, you can lose yourself, thinking about nothing but the person or thing you desire. This has been compared to drowning in the ocean.
4. Goats and Cows – Animals of Lust
Two kinds of animals are usually used to represent lust – cows and goats. The idea that cows symbolize lust may have a relation to the Egyptian goddess Hathor. She is usually depicted in the form of a cow, or a woman with the head of a cow. Over time, the goddess became a personification of love and kindness, but she was initially depicted as a cruel deity who was out to punish humans for their sins.
The goat was also believed to symbolize lust because it represented the devil in Christianity. Another reason for this connection came from the 12th century ethnographer Gerald of Wales, who used a goat as a symbol of sex. Moreover, male goats, called bucks, are sometimes considered to be the epitome of masculine virility, and have been widely associated with sex and lust.
5. Calla Lilies – Flowers of Lust
While calla lilies are often used to symbolize purity because of their white color, they signified lust and sensuality in Roman mythology. It is said that Venus, the goddess of love and desire, once saw calla lilies and became jealous of their beauty. She then cursed them by adding yellow pistils right in the middle of their flowers. This story has made calla lilies a lesser-known symbol of lust.
6. Himeros – Greek God of Lust
In Greek mythology, Himeros is portrayed as the god of unrequited love and sexual desire. Similar to his brother, Eros, Himeros too held a bow and arrows that he shoots to evoke feelings of lust and desire in humans. His twin brother Eros represented love and lust.
7. Asmodeus – The Demon of Lust
Asmodeus, the demon of lust, is one of the Seven Princes of Hell. He is known to spread lust among not just common people but also influential kings, queens, and even divine beings. He is commonly depicted as a monstrous creature with three heads – one each of a man, a bull, and a sheep. He is also known as the husband of Lilith, who was considered the first woman ever created in Jewish mythology.
It is said that Asmodeus had a playful personality. He preyed on people who would easily succumb to feelings of lust. It is said that he plagued a girl named Sarah, killing all seven men who wanted to marry her because they were sexually attracted to her.
8. Cruella’s Lust for Life – Disney Symbol
If a Disney villain was picked to represent lust, Cruella de Vil would fit the bill. Aside from being depicted as bold and beautiful, her lust over dalmatians is noteworthy. She also had an eccentric personality and a strong obsession for all things fashionable, making her the perfect poster child for lust.
Lust is such a strong emotion that it has been a mainstay in mythology, religion, and literature. As such, there are many symbols that represent lust. While it may not be welcomed by all because it’s considered sinful and immoral, the way it has been portrayed in various cultures and contexts is truly fascinating.