Aphrodite, or Venus as the Romans called her, was greatly revered by the ancient peoples who loved to carve her image, write her poems, and tell of her outrageous love affairs. Several hundred years after the Christian church was the dominant force in the area, bishops were still complaining in letters to each other that the populace continued to spend their money for the little Venus figures that are still being found in the thousands.
Traditionally, it was believed that Aphrodite arose from the sea, and the place where she is said to have stepped ashore is a foamy, turbulent, churned up beach in Cyprus; the word Aphros actually means foamy, and I can assure you that whenever you get into any kind of association with Aphrodite, you will be all churned up!
The morning and evening star is associated with her. Indians in Latin America have symbols for the sun, the moon, and the morning and evening star. Their symbol for the morning and evening star is a zigzag line, because the course of this star is variable, seemingly unpredictable. That’s Aphrodite for you—always there, but it may be dangerous to rely on what you think will be her position!
Aphrodite was the goddess of beauty as well as sensuality, sexuality, fertility and creativity. She is a direct descendant, mythologically and archetypally, of Innanna of Sumeria. Innanna is depicted as beautiful, in her lapis lazuli necklaces and with her shadowed eyes. Aphrodite also inherited Inanna’s doves and temple priestesses. Ishtar is the Babylonian equivalent, the epitome of creativity and fertility. It is important to note, however, in our secular and degraded culture, that the worship of these goddesses took place in temples, as spiritual acts, not in the profane and irreverent ways that we often experience them in our own time. The goddess in ancient times would have, and did, in fact, destroy those who profaned her worship. Perhaps this is the source of much of our own miseries. Let us get back, then, in right order, to this ancient achetypal heritage.
The modern Greek historian Edith Hamilton wrote of Aphrodite: “With her beauty comes. The winds flee before her and the storm clouds; sweet flowers embroider the earth; the waves of the sea laugh; she moves in radiant light. Without her there is no joy nor loveliness anywhere.”
Thus, life in the presence of this Aphrodite, this goddess of beauty and creativity, is life enriched, charmed, made livable and joyful. How sad it is that we sometimes go about our daily rounds out of touch with this element that makes us so vibrantly alive, how sad when we, like the lyrics of the song, can only say, “Where is the wonder that I once knew…?”
Those of you who have attended my lectures on the Archetypes of the Feminine know that I can go on at great length about this subject, detailing how it relates to various aspects of our lives. (And thank you, those of you still encouraging me to get all this material into book form.) But for now, that’s enough perhaps to encourage you, on Valentine’s Day, at least, if not every day, to honor this great archetype within you. Beauty, love, sensuality, creativity…what more could you ask?
Picture Credit: Aphrodite Syracuse, Roman copy of the 2nd century CE after a Greek original of the 4th century BC, National Archeological Museum of Athens, CC 2.5