Okay, I’ll admit that I’m in a bit of a weird mood today. Don’t know why. It may be the six hours it took to get a file Kindle ready. Who knows?
Anyway, I was thinking about my children’s series, which should be live on Amazon by tomorrow, and realized I had talked a bit about Gaia and Cronus, but I hadn’t mentioned Aphrodite yet. Those three gods are the ones mentioned in the first two books, so I thought a little knowledge of them was in order, even if they didn’t really qualify as characters.
Aphrodite, for all she’s shown as a vain and shallow bitch in modern fiction, is actually one of the more interesting of the goddesses, at least to me. She actually has two origin stories, and these have been both combined and separated in different sources depending on current scholarship and the needs of the author using her as a character.
In Hesiod’s Theogony, Aphrodite was created when Uranus was castrated by Cronus. The primordial god’s genitals fell into the ocean, and the foam created by this caused Aphrodite to come into being. She floated around on a scallop shell before being escorted to shore by Zephyrs. Her place of landing has been listed as a number of different places, Cythera and Cyprus being two of them. There is actually a rock in Cyprus today that is said to be her birthplace, and this version of her birth is most well-known through Botticelli’s painting The Birth of Venus.
This first version of Aphrodite is called Aphrodite Urania and is considered to be the more heavenly version of love, as differentiated from lust. She is the queen of heaven, the mother who has control over all aspects of earth, a lunar goddess, and has some associations with other goddesses of the time, like Ishtar, Hathor, and Astarte.
The other version of Aphrodite is a bit more mundane. Homer, in The Iliad, lists Aphrodite as the daughter of Zeus and Dione. This is the Aphrodite of the common people, the goddess of sensual, sexual love and pleasure. Her temples were filled with sacred prostitutes, and sex was one of the methods of worship. It was this Aphrodite who was married to Hephaestus and had multiple affairs and children. This is the goddess who was vain and, sometimes, vicious. She was the instigator of the Trojan War and the lover of both Ares and Adonis. In the case of her affairs with Ares, this could be a hold over from her association with other goddesses, such as Ishtar, who were both the goddesses of love and war. In this guise, she is called Aphrodite Pandemos.
Aphrodite in either form has a number of symbols. These include the dolphin, sea shells, and the sea, because of her birth. She is also associated with mirrors, sparrows, bees, and goats (the goats are primarily associated with Pandemos). Roses, the flowers of love, are also connected to Aphrodite.
Aphrodite has always been one of my favorites among the Greek gods, and not because of her association with love. I actually find Urania far more interesting even though there is less written about her. I think it’s the association with the sea and her birth from its waters. Would this myth be telling us that real, heavenly love comes from the depths of ourselves (the sea is associated with the unconscious) and is created through our dreams and aspirations (Uranus is the sky)? Who knows. I just like to consider things.
(This time I put the links for further reading in the text.)