Mythic Wisdom: A Greek Author’s Perspective

Connecting the past with the present has always been a powerful experience for me, maybe because I live in a land rich in history. In this blog I am going to explore a variety of topics, which I find deeply meaningful: women’s roles, gender and sexuality issues, activism, goddesses and gods, etc. By examining myths, symbols, and archetypal figures, I feel that we gain a fresh perspective on our lives and society. Ancient history, art, and literature can become amazing sources of inspiration. By learning from the wisdom of the past, we can transform ourselves and the world we live in.

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Α New Sexual Liberation Movement?

In my previous blog post, “Fighting Fascists in the Streets of Athens,” I talked about our continued struggles against Golden Dawn, the Greek Neo-Nazi party and its thugs. They have targeted immigrants, left-wing activists, and the LGBTQI+ community. Recently there have been attacks against gay men, lesbians, and transgender people. Last spring a trans woman was shot near the Golden Dawn headquarters. Luckily, she survived. Is this violence really surprising? Hitler sent thousands of gay men to the death camps, where they were brutally tortured and killed. They are known as the “men with the pink triangles” and their slaughter has been named the Homocaust.

As LGBTQI+ people have suffered attacks from sexists and fascists, they have sometimes organized their own protests while also taking part in larger antiracist demonstrations. Marching with them, I have felt rejuvenated by the colorful flags and clothes, as well as by their fresh ideas and subversive sense of humor. They know how to reclaim the very words used to insult them: “Better a fagot than a fascist,” one of their picket signs read. “I love you, you fagot!” proclaimed another.

The struggles for the LGBTQI+ rights, such as same-sex marriage and recognition for one’s gender identity, have gained a lot of publicity and support. In a fairly conservative country like Greece, where there is no separation between Church and state, the rainbow community has succeed in mobilizing unprecedented numbers of people. Resistance takes many forms as movements influence each other and feed one another.

At the Athens Pride Festival, I could not help but think of Aphrodite. The goddess of sexuality and love defies stereotypes. In Cyprus, her home island, in the city of Amathous, there was a statue of the Bearded Aphrodite or Venus Barbata, as she was called in Latin. She was also honored there as Aphroditos, the masculine form of her name.[1] This worship came to Athens too, where both women and men celebrated by cross-dressing. Adonis, her young Cypriot lover was at once “girl and boy,” according to the Orphic Hymn in his honor. Last but not least, Aphrodite is the mother of Hermaphroditos, who combined features of both genders.[2]

The energy of the Goddess of Love touches us all, regardless of gender or orientation. The archetype of the Dark Aphrodite leads us to question social norms on sexuality and relationships. In Greece, where the divorce rate is higher than 50%, more and more people are wondering: could it be that there is something profoundly wrong with the dominant paradigm? The ideal of the “heterosexual monogamous couple who gets married, has children, and stays together till death” is beginning to seem flawed. Many people are now experimenting with various forms of open relationships such as polyamory. Some dare to speak up publicly, posing the question: wouldn’t it be better to base our love lives on openness and freedom rather than on jealousy and oppression?

A Final Note

I’ve been an activist for many years, participating in various social movements. I’ve marched countless miles in protests and I’ve spent a huge amount of time in meetings and discussions with other activists. So, what is the motivating force behind all this? All too often, people in the Goddess community assume that the main emotional drive behind activism is anger. In that frame of mind, fiery or warlike goddesses like Durga, Sekhmet, and Pele might be invoked.

Few would consider the Goddess of Love as a motivating archetype in taking collective action. Yet angry as we may be about social ills, it takes a lot of love—and self-love—to sustain the effort to make the world a better place. Only if we care deeply about our own wellbeing and that of others will we find the courage to walk the talk and take all necessary risks involved.

Aphrodite, as an embodiment of the Dark Goddess, can be an invaluable ally in our struggles. One of her ancient titles was Eleemon, Compassionate.[3] Another was Enoplia, Armed. We need both these qualities if we want to succeed in our work of transformation. In fact, we already possess them. Her powers are ours too as she lives inside us. In the dark corners of our psyche lie our greatest riches, which will only multiply as we share them with others. That is the nature of fierce love and solidarity, the special gifts of the Dark Aphrodite.

 

Photo: Hermaphroditos, the son of Aphrodite. Fresco from Herculaneum, 1-50 CE, National Archaeological Museum, Naples, Italy.

Attribution: "Ermafrodito, affresco Romano di Ercolano (1–50 d.C., Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli) - 02" by Unknown. - [1].. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ermafrodito,_affresco_Romano_di_Ercolano_(1%E2%80%9350_d.C.,_Museo_Archeologico_Nazionale_di_Napoli)_-_02.jpg#/media/File:Ermafrodito,_affresco_Romano_di_Ercolano_(1%E2%80%9350_d.C.,_Museo_Archeologico_Nazionale_di_Napoli)_-_02.jpg


[1] Marie-Louise Winbladh, The Bearded Goddess: Androgynes, Goddesses and Monsters in Ancient Cyprus, Cypern (Cyprus): Armida, 2012.

[2] Ovidius Met. iv. 289, &c.; Diod. iv. 6; Lucian, Dial. Deor. xv. 2. See also “Hermaphroditos,” Theoi Project, www.theoi.com/Ouranios/ErosHermaphroditos.html.

[3] Eleemon: Hesychius, s.v. “Chalkedon” and “Kypros.”

 

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Harita Meenee is a Greek independent scholar of classical studies and women’s history. Her graduate studies were in the field of archetypal and women’s psychology. She works as a writer, translator and editor while also being a human rights activist. Harita has presented cultural TV programs and has lectured at universities in Greece and the US. She is the author of five books, as well as of numerous articles and essays published in Hellenic and international anthologies and magazines.

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