Who was Aphrodite?
Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love, passion, pleasure, female beauty and procreation.
Aphrodite was said to have been born in the sea off the coast of southern Cyprus from the foam produced by Uranus’s castrated genitals, these having been severed and thrown into the water by his son, the God Cronus.
Aphrodite was said to have had numerous siblings, including:
Aeacus, Angelos, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Athena, Dionysus, Eileithyia, Enyo, Eris, Ersa, Hebe, Helen of Troy, Hephaestus, Heracles, Hermes, Minos, Pandia, Persephone, Perseus, Rhadamanthus, the Cyclopes, the Furies, the Giants, the Graces, the Hekatonkheires, the Horae, the Litae, the Meliae, the Muses and the Titans.
Aphrodite was married to the God Hephaestus, with whom she had no children, but was frequently unfaithful to him. Her lovers included the Gods Ares, Poseidon, Hermes, Dionysus and Adonis as well as the mortal Anchises, the argonaut Butes.
Amongst other children with different lovers she notably shared with Ares she their children Eros, Phobos, Deimos, Harmonia, Pothos, Anteros and Himeros.
With Hermes she gave birth to Hermaphroditus, with Poseidon she shared children Rhodos and Eryx, with Dionysus she parented Peitho, The Graces and Priapus, with Butes she shared Eryx, Meligounis and other unnamed daughters and finally with the mortal shepherd Anchises she gave birth to Aeneas.
Aphrodite was also the lover and surrogate mother of the shepherd Adonis, who went on to be killed by a wild boar.
Aphrodite has become famously symbolic in Western art and culture of female beauty, resulting in her appearance in numerous sculptures, paintings, books, poems, films etc. She is often depicted rising from the sea or crouching naked with wet hair.
Her most prominent symbol is the dove and she is often also depicted with sparrows. Her connection to the sea means she is often symbolically linked to swans, geese, ducks and the like, as well as the sea itself and accompanying symbols such as conch shells and dolphins.
Flowers such as roses, traditionally associated with love, are also symbolically linked to Aphrodite, as is the myrtle flower, apples and pomegranates.
Aphrodite’s association with love, beauty and sexuality have led to occupations such as the following being linked to her: acting, beauty therapy, cheerleading, courtesan, designer, entertainment, flight attendant, gynecology, hairdressing, interior decorating, modelling, plastic surgery and public relations.
Similar deities to Aphrodite which are found in other cultures include the
- Roman Goddess Venus
- the Mesopotamian Goddess Inanna
- the Phoenician Goddess Astarte
- the Babylonian Goddess Ishtar
- Egyptian Goddess Hathor
- Norse Goddess Freya
- Japanese Goddess Kisshoten
- Hindu Goddess Lalita.
Unlike many of the other mythological deities, she has also found a place as a major deity in modern Neopagan religions, such as her own Church of Aphrodite, in Wicca, and in Hellenismos.
The Aphrodite Archetype
Whilst most well known in the form of femme fatale or seductress, the Aphrodite archetype actually embodies all forms of love, be it sexual, maternal, companionship or spiritual. She embodies the side of each person that is passionate and emotional, capable of forging lasting partnerships based on mutual love.
The Aphrodite archetype is not vulnerable or easily victimized and will not be made to suffer for the sake of pleasing a man. Whilst they enjoy relationships and their sexuality the feelings shared must be mutual and the archetypal Aphrodite values their independence, not necessarily feeling the need for a long term partner. They prefer to live life for the present rather than make long term plans, although they do enjoy creating new life and so children will play an important role in their life at some point. Their creative side can also be expressed through artistry or work rather than just through their sexuality. The archetypal Aphrodite is able to focus with a clear mind on any goal set for themselves, be that relationship oriented or otherwise, and work towards that in an uncompromising manner.
That said, whilst sexuality need not be their focus in life the archetypal Aphrodite can undoubtedly be alluring to the opposite sex and is often very attractive, able to develop an easy chemistry or connection with others. They can generate desire of any type in others, and also display a strong desire in themselves, be it sexual or more generally for knowledge. This all means that they are capable of attentiveness, intimacy and deep feeling, be it romantic or platonic.
The archetypal Aphrodite enjoys attention and life in the limelight and enjoys reflecting this light towards others in her life too in order to make them feel special. This can be misinterpreted at times by people who think she is more interested in them than in reality she is. Conversely, the archetypal Aphrodite can also appear obsessive towards those whom she feels most strongly for, finding it difficult to recover should they leave her rather than the other way around, and her attentions appearing stifling if they are not reciprocated in kind.
A contemporary example of the Aphrodite archetype might be seen in Hollywood actress Marilyn Monroe. Seemingly destined for stardom, Marilyn had an indefinable allure that men were attracted to and women, whilst feeling threatened by, couldn’t help but admire. She enjoyed sharing her life with others but could not commit on a long term basis, undergoing a series of high profile marriages and relationships, often adulterous, with high profile men such as President John F Kennedy, his brother Bobby Kennedy, author Arthur Miller, baseball player Joe DiMaggio, actor Marlon Brando and singer Frank Sinatra. Her sexy and vivacious exterior hid feelings of vulnerability, obsessiveness and pain at not being able to start a family with her second husband Arthur Miller.
Characteristics of the Aphrodite archetype
“To Aphrodite. Heavenly, illustrious, laughter-loving queen, sea-born, night-loving of awful mien; crafty, from whom Necessity first came, producing, nightly, all-connecting dame. ‘Tis thine the world with harmony to join, for all things spring from thee, O power divine. The triple Fates are ruled by thy decree, and all productions yield alike to thee: whatever the heavens, encircling all, contain, earth fruit-producing, and the stormy main, thy sway confesses, and obeys thy nod, awful attendant of Dionysos. Goddess of marriage, charming to the sight, mother of the Erotes, whom banquetings delight; source of Persuasion, secret, favouring queen, illustrious born, apparent and unseen; spousal Lukaina, and to men inclined, prolific, most-desired, life-giving, kind. Great sceptre-bearer of the Gods, ’tis thine mortals in necessary bands to join; and every tribe of savage monsters dire in magic chains to bind through mad desire. Come, Cyprus-Born, and to my prayer incline, whether exalted in the heavens you shine, or pleased in odorous Syria to preside, or over the Egyptian plains they care to guide, fashioned of gold; and near its sacred flood, fertile and famed, to fix they blest abode; or if rejoicing in the azure shores, near where the sea with foaming billows roars, the circling choirs of mortals thy delight, or beauteous Nymphs with eyes cerulean bright, pleased by the sandy banks renowned of old, to drive thy rapid two-yoked car of gold; or if in Cyprus thy famed mother fair, where Nymphs unmarried praise thee every year, the loveliest Nymphs, who in the chorus join, Adonis pure to sing, and thee divine. Come, all-attractive, to my prayer inclined, for thee I call, with holy, reverent mind.”
― Orphic Hymn 55 to Aphrodite (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.)
“Aphrodite embodies sexuality free of ambivalence, anxieties and self-consciousness, a sexuality so natural and quintessential to her that no myth deals with her virginity or its loss.”
― Arianna Huffington, The Gods of Greece
‘Ah, Aphrodite, if I sing no more
To thee, God’s daughter, powerful as God,
It is that thou hast made my life too sweet
To hold the added sweetness of a song.
There is a quiet at the heart of love,
And I have pierced the pain and come to peace.’