Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.” –Thornton Wilder, “Bridge of San Luis Rey,” 1927
As we begin to celebrate the Season of Love, for ourselves and for others, you might consider the many ways to say “I love you” and the many meanings the word “love” contains. How many times have I said “love you” when I meant, “miss you” “I’m worried” “I wish we could be together in person.” When I studied Latin and Greek, I was impressed by the Greeks, who had 7 different words for love. I was grateful to be given an articulated category for the different sensations I was feeling— I return to these teachings often when I feel uncertain of the kind of love I am in or want to express. Perhaps I don’t say the Greek out loud, but I’m always curious to uncover more about the specific sensations, categorizations, and desires of the love I feel for someone. That being said, there are infinitely more than seven categories, and infinitely more expressions… and how lucky we get to keep discovering.
Eros, Love of the Body
Think Cupid, shooting a bow and arrow, straight into the heart. This kind of love the Greeks found most dangerous, as it was a physical, primal love, based on sexual attraction. It’s where we get the word “erotica.” As Anne Carson says in her book, Eros the Bittersweet: ““Eros is an issue of boundaries. He exists because certain boundaries do. In the interval between reach and grasp, between glance and counter-glance, between ‘I love you’ and ‘I love you too,’ the absent presence of desire comes alive. But the boundaries of time and glance and I love you are only aftershocks of the main, inevitable boundary that creates Eros: the boundary of flesh and self between you and me. And it is only, suddenly, at the moment when I would dissolve that boundary, I realize I never can.” In other words, Eros is two people looking at each other across the room and imagining what might happen next.
You can’t go wrong with Plant Alchemy’s Love Stoned Tincture. This sweet aphrodisiac contains a blend of mood-enhancing herbs. The fusion of cacao, rose, and vanilla makes this love potion truly blood-warming and inspiring.
Philia, Love of the Mind
Other known as “brotherly love,” the kind that is warm, platonic, and sincere. It’s what two family members or siblings feel for each other, or when you have a deep knowing that you share the same goals or values as a friend. The Greeks found this more powerful than Eros, which they deemed a bit too fleeting. Philia is a love that feels sure to last.
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Ludus, Playful Love
This is a joyful, flirtatious kind of love. Think flirtation, teasing, and belly laughs. Think seduction, no strings attached. This type of love is uncommitted and focused on pure fun and conquest. “Ludic” lovers often have more than one partner and choose not to commit to one person.
To induce ludus, try Extra Sol Drops, which generates yang energy, an activator for your day. It connects to the solar, fire, masculine energy. Sol if often taken in the morning to provide an invigorating, energizing effect on the physical and energetic body.
Pragma: Long-lasting Love
This love is pragmatic, extremely long-lasting, and committed. It’s realistic. Think: two people, married for 30 years, doing the taxes together. This love will get the dishes done. It’s profoundly deep but sometimes doesn’t present itself like Eros— it requires patience, tolerance, and hard work.
For pragma, Essential Rose Life’s Indulge Mood Oil might help access steadiness. soothes the mind and senses, offering reprieve from nervousness, tension, and anxiety.
Agape: Love of the Soul
Some might call Agape unconditional love. It’s giving yourself to the world in order to help a greater cause. It’s helping an elder cross the street. This love is generous and sees people in their best light. Some say Penelope in The Odyssey is the perfect example of Agape— it’s a love that can veer towards martyrdom. The Greeks viewed it as “the purest form of love.”
To learn more about the soul, check out Kim Kran’s Wild Unknown Archetype Deck as she illuminates the revelatory power of archetypes—the ancient, universal symbols that have endured across time and cultures and reside deep in our shared psyche.
The Greeks decided this could be either good or bad. Too much of the wrong kind of Philautia leads to narcissism, greed, and excessive power. But philautia is also necessary for giving to others from a place of nourishment instead of depletion. Philautia can mean checking in with yourself before a date, buying yourself a healing face-mask or massage. It can also mean using others to get what you want and excessively concerning yourself with your image.
To access your feelings of philautia, try Mexican Moon Bath Salts.Bathing has taken on a new appeal, inspired by a groundswell of inspiration from ancient rituals, to the cleansing of body and soul. This beautiful bath blend has a medley of flowers lovingly picked in the Zapote valley of Oaxaca by an indigenous family in the region of Teotitián.
Storge— Love of the Child / Family
Storge is a love that the Greeks saw as effortless, easy, and part of human nature. It’s associated with responsibility and duty, and serves as a sort of sanctuary. Some also describe this as romance growing from friendship, into a sort of familial care for each other.
An offering for Storge might be the School of Life Know Thyself Cards.This is a terrific deck to stimulate insight, and reflection.Lay out the cards out on a table and contemplate the questions at hand, or play with friends and family.
There are many kinds of love, and all ways to express how we feel (to ourselves and others). Hopefully these terms can be a sort of roadmap for more understanding, for within each category are hundreds of more definitions and expressions. For more herbal offerings for the Season of Love, click here.