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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Sexuality and Politics

Sexuality is an indomitable force, one that has the power to shape our life, identity, and destiny. It is literally a dark force as it touches the very depths of our souls.

The Dark Power of Aphrodite

Darkness is a tricky concept. It conjures up images of the unknown, the forbidden, or anything hidden from sight. No wonder people often fear the dark, but are also fascinated by it. To be honest, I have always been intrigued by it. Exploring its diverse manifestations is one my great passions, which is why I find the Dark Goddess so alluring. She takes different forms at different times, yet she is ever-present in my journey, challenging me to go further and deeper.

Born and raised in Greece, I am naturally drawn to archetypal images from the Hellenic tradition. Surprising as it may sound, Aphrodite often embodies the Dark Mother for me. Years ago, in an essay titled “Rediscovering Aphrodite: The Erotic Spirit of Greece,” I wrote the following:

As my insights were filtered through my own experimentations, I realized that true "Aphroditean" sexuality extends far beyond physical pleasure. It captivates the heart and spirit, as well as the body, opening the door to a new sense of unity: a Sacred Union not just with loved ones, but also with deep, hidden parts of oneself. Perhaps these parts can be described as "dark," since they are usually kept underneath the surface, but also because they sometimes lie outside of prevalent, all too narrow norms.

However, Aphrodite's archetypal power embraces these "shadow" aspects, as well. After all, she was called Skotia (Dark) and Melainis (Black).1 She is the "lover of night-long celebrations, of mating in the dark," as the Orphic Hymn describes, also calling her "secret goddess, obvious and unseen."2 The word "secret" in modern Greek is mystiko, deriving from the same root as the terms "mystical" and "mystery," as strict secrecy shrouded the ancient Mysteries.3

Little did I know when I wrote this essay that the power of the Dark Aphrodite would soon explode into our consciousness. So many things have changed in Greece and the whole world in just a few years! To understand how the goddess’s energy manifests itself in the present, we need to explore her attributes a little further. Aphrodite is often misunderstood today. She is stereotyped as the cute, blond “Sex Goddess,” as if her realm is simply limited in the bedroom.

Yet sexuality is an indomitable force, one that has the power to shape our life, identity, and destiny. It is literally a dark force as it touches the very depths of our souls. It has little to do with the objectified “sexiness” sold to us by the media and beauty industry, which make millions of dollars by capitalizing on our needs and desires. Aphrodite is the mother of Eros, the magical energy that makes people fall in love. In Plato’s Symposium, Socrates, the famous philosopher, he attributes to the priestess Diotima the following concepts: Eros is the mediator between humans and gods; he is the drive that propels us towards inner beauty and wisdom.4

Still, Aphrodite’s power extends far beyond the realms of love and sexuality. Would it surprise you to learn that she is also a political goddess? Actually, her shrine, just outside the western entrance to the Acropolis, marked the place where the people of Athens once gathered to discuss and make decisions. That is how she acquired the title Pandemos, (Of all People).5That title was later so misunderstood that it came to mean, more or less, “she who goes to bed with anyone,” i.e. a prostitute.6 Yet, the word Pan-demos has the same origin as demo-cracy, which literally means "the rule of the people"—another word that has been grossly misused over time.

Interestingly, the combination of sex and “power to the people” can sometimes be an explosive mix. In the ’60s and ’70s, the struggle for sexual liberation went hand-in-hand with a series of mutually influencing movements. These demanded rights for women, gays and lesbians, workers, students, and Blacks. People chanted “make love not war” in response to the Vietnam horrors and formed mass rallies for peace.

The winds of change swept Europe too as key events show: the uprising of May ’68 in France; the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia during the same year; the Hot Autumn of 1969-1970 in Italy, a wave of massive strikes and factory sit-ins; and the Carnation Revolution in Portugal in 1974, which overthrew a dictatorship. In Greece, we witnessed the Athens Polytechnic uprising in 1973, which eventually led to the downfall of the junta a few months later.

These were truly times of transformation! As the Pagan and Goddess movements grew largely out of those revolutionary years, it is not hard to sense the connection with the archetypal power of the Dark Aphrodite. Today she manifests again as we need her more than ever.

To be continued!

Image: Aphrodite and Eros, Italian, attributed to the circle of Jacopo Sansovino, c. 1550 CE. Getty Center, California. Photo by Harita Meenee.


[1] Melainis: Athenaeus 588C, Pausanias 2. 2, 4; 8. 6, 5; 9. 27, 5.

[2] Orphic Hymn 55.

[3] Harita Meenee, “Rediscovering Aphrodite: The Erotic Spirit of Greece,” www.hmeenee.com/1794/36101.html

[4] Plato's Symposium 201d-212a. Scholars are debating whether Diotima was a real person or not. I believe she was because Plato does not usually use fictional characters in his dialogues. 

[5] Harpokration, s.v. "Pandemos Aphrodite."

[6] In Plato’s Symposium, Pandemos Aphrodite is portrayed as the goddess of inferior, carnal love.

 

 

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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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