V for Vendetta, the Houses of Parliament, and the God of Counter-Love at Piccadilly Circus

Here is a quote from my new novel (coming out in days), which takes place in London at this same time in March next year, about a statue in Piccadilly Circus that is arranged to point towards Westminster Palace (the Houses of Parliament). This is right before the scene in which the character tries to visit someone in the House of Lords and becomes the subject of scrutiny from the security services. I wrote this part in September of last year:

I walked out of the store and immediately noticed a statue of Cupid standing on top of a fountain in Piccadilly Circus, which was directly in front of me. I walked over to it and sat underneath it while I looked at a London Underground map that I had gotten from the front desk at Regent Palace. I was trying to figure out how to get to the Houses of Parliament on the tube.

The place where I sat happened to be next to a plaque that explained the statue. As it turned out, it was actually a figure of Anteros, the brother of Eros (the Greek version of cupid) and the god of “counter-love,” who bore butterfly wings instead of the cherubic wings of his brother. This, as Wikipedia explained to me on my phone for 20 cents a minute, was taken by most to mean that he was the god who punished unrequited love. In other words, if you were in love with somebody and they didn’t love you back, you could call on him to get revenge.

My sixth sense for occult symbolism started to itch at the sight of this. The explanation just didn’t seem complete. It felt to me like a cover story to hide the dirty truth, as I so often found whenever I dug beneath the surface of folklore and mythology. The interpretation offered by the designer of the fountain was even more tame, calling Anteros the “god of selfless love.” It was a monument to Lord Shaftesbury, a Peer of the Realm and philanthropist from the late nineteenth century. He had worked all his life to improve the lot of miners, children working in factories, and lunatics living in asylums. The statue was meant to represent his love for people who could not return his love.

This struck me as an odd, awkward and forced metaphor. Why conflate charitable and reformist work with something that is obviously an erotic symbol? In fact, at the time it had been installed, there had been many objections to its “pagan sensuality,” and most people in modern times still assume that Shaftesbury Fountain is a statue of Eros. There was even an adult cinema that had once stood right in front of the statue called “Eros Theater” for exactly this reason. Indeed, the entire corner was a haven for burlesque parlors, dirty movies, and prostitution. There was even a rumor, though untrue, that “Piccadilly” was an old word for prostitution. I also found that the arrow in Anteros’ bow had been designed to aim directly at Parliament, just where I was headed. I decided that was no coincidence, and that I had better be on about my business.

During my research, I noticed that a modern film about a terrorist attack on Parliament, Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, contains a scene in which this attack is foreshadowed that involves the Anteros statue. A news report about the “terrorists” is shown playing on a giant TV screen at Piccadilly Circus, and the statue is seen. The report is interrupted by a broadcast by “V” himself. This then cuts immediately to am images of Westminster Palace on a security monitor, with V standing next to it. At the end of the film, Westminster Palace is completely obliterated with bombs. See the stills below.

Photo I took of the statue of Anteros at Piccadilly Circus in 2005
Anteros atop Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, who has just fired his weapon at Parliament
Regent Palace at Piccadilly Circus, where I stayed in 2005. It is now demolished, but I have resurrected it for fictional purposes in the novel
The Eros Theatre, formerly at Piccadilly Circus
Another Shot of Eros Theatre
Me at the Sovereign’s Entrance to Westminster Palace, 2005
Protest signs without human protestors in front of Westminster Palace, 2005. They had just been forced to move the designated daily protest area further away because of the 7/7 attacks (two days earlier). So this was another one of the things they were protesting at the time, and they left their signs there to make their point.

As I said yesterday, I will make an announcement about how to get the book this weekend. Please join my mailing list to ensure that you are one of the first to know when that happens. Cheers!

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