There are so many delightful goddesses of love who’ve sprung to mind this week as we approach Beltane. Bast, the lady of wild revelry; the May Queen in her many guises; Hathor, lady of the dance; and, finally, shining Aphrodite, in all her golden glory.
It’s been a life-long dream of mine to travel to Crete, Cypress, and Greece, and although I haven’t yet made the trip, I can’t get golden Aphrodite out of my mind this time of year. She’s not a goddess I know well, nor is she one I work with on a regular basis, but there’s something about May Eve that demands a little extra love and revelry.
Without really planning to, I found myself honoring Aphrodite and, at the same time, transported through time and space earlier this week, and I want to share my happy accident with you. While not strictly travel related, I still feel that I made a pilgrimage of sorts this week, and the ease with which I accidentally transported myself away from the mundane and into the magical surprised me. Although I am usually conscious and careful of the magic I am making, sometimes the accidental moments are exactly what I need.
Did you know that rose-infused water (which turns your bath a lovely pink shade if it’s homemade) combined with Epsom salts and baking soda (just a cup or two of each) turns your bath into a temple pool, complete with murky green water? This was a surprise to me when, on Sunday night, I decided to spice up my detoxifying bath with a jar of rose water I’d been steeping since March. I'm still not entirely sure why it happened, but I've learned to just go with happy accidents in magic (something I'm still learning in my day to day life). If you want to try to replicate this strange, sacred, pool, you can add any essential oils you’d like to the mix (I used tea tree and peppermint), and once you’re in the water, you may find that your mind begins to drift and float away.
It was easy to imagine I’d crept into a sacred hot spring somewhere, and the longer I soaked in the water, the more my thoughts wandered to Aphrodite. Maybe it was the odd chemical reaction paired with the season, but whatever the cause, I rose from my bath feeling renewed and rosy, my thoughts circling around various stories of Aphrodite and her oceanic renewal. It was as if I’d made a sacred pilgrimage without ever leaving home, something that is all too likely at this time of year when energy is high and barriers are low.
Someday, I would like to travel to the lands Aphrodite first delighted in, but for now, I’ve realized that small, unconscious acts can be just as transporting and laden with magic as purposeful pilgrimage.
May this May bring you many beautiful surprises. Namaste and bright blessings, friends!
An Aphrodite of the people is not separate from the culture of the people. While some deities prefer to float around in the sky stroking their long white beards, and others like to stay classically enshrined in pristine and historically-accurate temples, Aphrodite is a party girl who gets bored if you try to keep Her dressed in the same old chitons and flowing gowns all the time. She is not stuck in history, nor in any single vision of beauty and adornment. She is Beauty in all its forms.
I envision Aphrodite in many different social and cultural contexts, and She always has impeccable style for the occasion. She helps me see the beauty of the unexpected.
For instance, if Aphrodite decided, as a sea-faring type, to go to the Pirate Festival, she might well look something like the fierce, deadly, and harshly beautiful Anne Bonny:
If Aphrodite showed up at a Steampunk event, She might have a set-up something like this:
Aphrodite is no stranger to costumes, trends, and fanciness of all sorts. It doesn't demean Her to think of Her as being a participant in our modern world, yet it is also important to think of Her as timeless. She is the ultimate fashionista, actually, having access to the Fanciness of All the Ages.
If you envision Aphrodite in modern dress, a fun costume from any period, or fashion-forward couture, what images spring to your mind? I have a few.
Yoga Princess Aphrodite (reminds me of my friend Ladybug!)
Punk Rock Aphrodite
Pinstripe Suit Aphrodite (reminds me of Amy!)
How about you? Any good links to Aphrodite images that pull you away from the stereotype, away from the historical depictions, and open your view to Her many facets?
If your interest is piqued by this topic, you might want to go check out my Aphrodite Kybernetes Pinterest board, where I curate various images related to my vision of Her.
I am inspired to write this post in anticipation of a ritual that the Temple of Aphrodite is doing at the upcoming PantheaCon event in San Jose (we are Friday at 3:30). Temple Priestess Amy wrote this ritual, called "The Many Faces of Aphrodite." The ritual invites the attendees to see Aphrodite in several different ways, through various lenses, as a way of breaking down the outworn pattern of Her power as being found only in specific representations or tropes. Because She is the power of Love, and Love is truly everywhere, so is She.
Later that night, at 9 pm, make sure to catch the Rite of Love and Delight, featuring members of CAYA Coven, Sacred Fires Tradition, and Temple of Aphrodite in an all-singing, all-dancing, booty-shaking, thigh-quaking good time! We are going to have some yummy, good, clean, sexy fun ;)
I am devoted to love
I am a vessel of love
I carry love wherever I go
Hey, hey, hey
And in holding love
I love all
For we are One.
I am a being of love
I am a beacon of love
I am a Lover: Mind, Body and Soul
Hey, hey, hey
And in being love
I love all
For we are One
I am in service to Love
I am the servant of Love
I am the Lover of She Without End
Hey, hey, hey
And in loving Her
I love all
For we are One
A daily self-blessing and self-consecration at the altar of Aphrodite is a devotional practice that I have been doing for many years as a way to generate a field of love within and around me, so that all I do in the day comes from love and returns to love. Here is one of my daily practice incantations:
Aphrodite of the sea
Friend of dove and sacred bee
Queen of sensuality
Lay your blessing upon me
That I may walk in love and beauty.
I actually set this to music and I sing this blessing. As I do this blessing, I envision myself walking through my day, with waves and sea foam trailing behind me, with flowers growing up wherever I have been, with bees working industriously around me, and with doves flying overhead. I envision that I am a seamless part of the natural world, and that everything is literally made from the substance of love, with love overflowing the fountain of my heart and flowing into the world.
From love to love,
In all things
Below and above.
Whether you refer to it as May Day or Beltane, it is often held as one of the most passionately beloved of all Pagan and Wiccan days. Here are some of the ways that I have enjoyed celebrating
May 1: Early in the day, clean up your altar. Give it a good dust and polish and make it extra pretty. Then go out and pick some fresh wild or garden flowers or purchase some. Present them to your favorite lust Gods and Goddesses in a water-filled vase on the altar and tie some red and white ribbons at the base.
For years, I have traditionally baked these yummy little scones from Patricia Telesco’s, “Kitchen Witch’s Cookbook.”
TELESCO’S SCONES OF EDINBUGH
Yield: 1 dozen
One and 3/4 cups self-rising flour
3 teaspoons sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoons molasses
1/4 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 375° F. Mix flour, sugar, cream of tartar, cinnamon, ginger. Cut in butter with hand blender. Mix molasses and milk together. Stir in enough milk into the flour mixture so the dough leaves the sides of the bowl. Knead 10 times on lightly floured board. Roll into 3/4 inch thickness and cut into triangle shapes. Bake on greased cookie sheet for 10-13 minutes.
I have found that they cut perfectly into an eight-spoke wheel representing the sabbats and stay nice and fresh for at least five days after. Warmed or room temperature, they are great. Cover them, but do not refrigerate.
I realize most of us do not have access to a maypole, and it is not always easy to locate these sorts of festivities nearby. So in lieu, this will definitely do. Organize a dance outing with everyone you can round up to your local get-down spot. Always a good bet are 80s night themes, as these tend to be the biggest crowd-pleaser. If you have to wait to go out a few days until the weekend, that is OK, too. Have a light supper before going out, and for Aphrodite’s sake, dress up! Whatever makes you feel free-spirited and your sexy best, wear (or don’t wear) it. Plant a flower in your hair. The fake floral retro barrettes can be cute, too.
When dancing, keep hydrated, alternating water between fruity cocktails, wine, or virgin daiquiris. Get sweaty– Couples dance, group dance, make a sandwich cookie out there with some abandon. After all, you do look your best when you shake it uninhibitedly. Before you are completely spent, head home and use some of that lustful raised energy to get it on with your partner. Better yet, pull over to a secluded side street/alley/park that you know won’t be patrolled and start making out there. Hot!
Telesco, Patricia, (1994). A Kitchen Witch's Cookbook. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications
Photo, "Women Jumping In Meadow Stock Image," by Vlado from freedigitalphotos.net
Special thanks to the band Midnight Star for the blog title refernce.
I saw red and had to stop for a moment. Once I was coherent again, I posted a response. It was only a few sentences. I could have written much more; an essay; a whole book even. Suffice to say, those who would label Aphrodite a "whore" have 1) bought into the sexual double standard and 2) have a very shallow understanding of that Goddess.
Yes, Aphrodite is a Goddess with a keen interest in sex (not unlike Freyja, Inanna and The Kathirat), and sexuality is a vital, integral component of being human. But to see her as only that -- an adulterous nymphomaniac -- is to fail to comprehend even a fraction of her majesty and mystery and power. Aphrodite is sex and passion and the giddiness of a new crush; she is new love and love grown stronger with time; she is the love between friends, love between spouses, between parents and children, between siblings, between grandparents and grandchildren. She is love of the natural world, the link between humans and others. She is the fierce protectiveness and loyalty inspired by love. She is love of and devotion to country and community. She is the Goddess who inspires crazy risks and impulsive leaps of faith. She is the anger and rage born of a broken heart; she is the righteous revenge taken for shattered trust and broken promises; she is the grief and anguish felt for a lost loved one, a lost community, a dying country.
And she is beauty. She both is and inspires that awed humility we feel in the presence of a great work of art or a stunning natural vista or a newborn flower curling up out of the snow. She is also the desire to create beauty: a garden, a quilt, a sculpture, a painting, a bouquet, a home.
And that doesn't even touch on her connections to sea and sky, war and freedom, sovereignty and genealogy, and so much much more.
Aphrodite has been the subject of countless works of art, as well as poems, essays, graphic novels and even children's books. All, in their own way, contribute something to our understanding of this complex Goddess.
Two Queens of Heaven by Doris Gates and Trina Schart Hyman, for instance, chronicles her birth from the sea; her love for Adonis and Anchises; her son Cupid's love for Psyche; and the tales of Atalanta, Hero and Leander, and Pyramus and Thisbe. (The other Queen of the title is Demeter; a good fit, when you consider that Aphrodite's interest in sex extends to flora and fauna, as well; Aphrodite inspires the lust that allows Demeter's plants to grow and domesticated animals to procreate.)
In contrast to Two Queens of Heaven, which is relatively sombre and even tragic in tone, Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams' Goddess Girls series* is much more light-hearted. These coming-of-age tales set at Mount Olympus Academy follow several different teenage Goddesses -- Aphrodite, Artemis, Athena, Pandora, Persephone and Pheme -- as they navigate the trials and tribulations of school, mean girls, and first crushes. Though only very loosely based on Greek mythology, the series is nonetheless a great way to introduce curious girls to Goddesses like Aphrodite.
Children a bit too old for Two Queens of Heaven will probably enjoy Stolen Hearts, a graphic novel retelling of Eros/Cupid and Psyche by Ryan Foley and Sankha Banerjee. Deviating only a little from the original tale (Aphrodite is still the "villain"), this adaptation features a framing sequence with the wise female philosopher Demiarties, guest appearances by Persephone, Zeus, Apollo and Charon, and gorgeous artwork.
Like Two Queens of Heaven, Baring and Cashford's The Myth of the Goddess includes a combo chapter on Aphrodite, Demeter and Persephone. Opening with a line from Rilke -- " ... for beauty is nothing / but the beginning of terror, which we are still just able to bear" -- the authors examine Aphrodite's birth as related by Homer and Hesiod, the meaning of her name, her relationships with other Gods, and what it means to call her "Queen of Heaven and Earth."
While Baring and Cashford chronicle the history of the Goddess/es from prehistory through the present, in Savage Breast Tim Ward chronicles his personal encounters with the Deity as he visits sacred sites around the Mediterranean. He finds Aphrodite on Cyprus, her holy island. As he visits museums and ruins, his appreciation and awe grow. At one point, Ward comments "Up close, you are too dangerous for mortal man. .... the ability to pass judgment on a woman's flaws and feel oneself superior, all are rendered useless when Aphrodite sets my limbs on fire."
This sentiment -- that Aphrodite is dangerous -- is shared by Galina Krasskova at her Gangleri's Grove site. Shamans and spiritworkers, some of whom refer to Aphrodite and her sisters as The Ladies of the Pink Building, understand just how much it can hurt to earn their ire and disfavor; matters of the heart are not to be taken lightly.
Jason Mankey, on the other hand, sees Aphrodite as dangerous in another way: as the Goddess who oversees our most primal urges, she is a threat to the status quo, a danger to the social order. She is, ultimately, a Goddess of Freedom, encouraging rebellion against entrenched and oppressive social mores.
Speaking of the status quo: in her essay "Aphrodite, Ancestor of Kings" in Goddesses Who Rule, Beverly Moon examines the connections between Aphrodite (and then Venus) and ruling dynasties in Greece and Rome. Aeneas, for instance, the son of Aphrodite herself, founded the village which would eventually grow into Rome and the Julii (Julius Caesar and Augustus and company) based their claim to power on their descent from the Queen of Heaven. In the Hellenistic Near East, it was not uncommon to worship a deceased queen as a manifestation of Aphrodite. Even democratic Athens was home to a temple for Aphrodite Pandemos, "goddess of harmony and peace, [who provides] the common bond and fellow feeling that is the basis for community."
Along with written works, Aphrodite has been the subject of innumerable works of art, from ancient times through the Renaissance and into the present. Aphrodite and the Gods of Love, compiled by Christine Kondoleon, includes images of more than one hundred sculptures, carved gems, mosaics, and vases, each chronicling a different aspect of her personality or element of her mythos. Malcolm Bull's The Mirror of the Gods, meanwhile, focuses on Venus in the artwork of Renaissance Europe. While sometimes depicted with her husband Vulcan, or Deities of agriculture such as Bacchus and Ceres, she is usually alone; it is only the Goddess, and the viewer, and the awe and lust and humility inspired by her beauty.
For modern devotional works, look to the Green Egg Omelette anthology, which collects some of the best articles, rituals and poems from the legendary journal. While the whole book makes for a fascinating read -- consider Ed Fitch's "Paganized Hymns" and Marion Zimmer Bradley's "A Feminist Creation Myth" -- section ten, "Gender and Sexuality," is of particular interest. It includes Tom Williams' "Hymn to Venus," Diane Darling's essay "Agents of Aphrodite: In Her Majesty's Sacred Service," plus general pieces on sex, gender, polyamory, and sex as worship.
For those with an interest in the intersection between psychology and spirituality, Ginette Paris' Pagan Meditations includes a lengthy section on the Goddess. Over the course of seven chapters, Paris discusses the symbolism of Aphrodite's birth, the Goddess' connection to flowers and gardens, her link with depression, her ties to nudity and pornography, and the arrows of eros. While Paris is a Jungian by training, and thus has no belief in the Gods as autonomous beings, I nonetheless find her writings fascinating and insightful.
The above represent just a fraction of the texts available on Aphrodite. There are many more that I could not recommend here because I haven't read them (Pierre Louys' poem Aphrodite: Ancient Manners, for instance, and Monica S Cyrino's academic text, Aphrodite). If I missed one of your favorites, please let me know. And next time someone calls Aphrodite a whore, send them here for a quick education.
*Holub and Williams just launched a new series about the Gods of the Greek pantheon entitled Heroes in Training.