Beautiful Aphrodite; foam-born upon the golden sands of Cyprus is the quintessential Love Goddess of the Western world. The term ‘Aphrodisiac’ comes from her name, as she is known to ignite the fires of passion and desire.
Mighty Aphrodite has been in our consciousness, myth and art for a long time, and she isn’t going anywhere in a hurry! Aphrodite is love incarnate; she is beauty, unrestrained desire, fevered passion, pleasure and sensuality. Some see her as erotic and uninhibited, whilst others claim her to be cruel and manipulative – laughing at those caught under her spell.
There are many contrary and sometimes patronizing tales of her powers - and let’s face it she has had to deal with some attempted character slurs over the years. But before any judgement is cast let’s just remember that the times she’s survived through haven’t always been kind to beautifulandpowerful women, (beautifulandpowerful? Pass the smelling salts!!). Also these demeaning attitudes to her could have been born from a fear of her uncontrollable nature.
If we look a little beneath the surface of the waves we can learn a lot about our sea born beauty.
Firstly, it is important to note that Aphrodite’s origins are rooted in the Middle East, and that the Cypriot Aphrodite is the last in a long line of ancient love Goddesses. We can start by looking at the Sumerian ‘Queen of Heaven’ – Inanna -a Goddess of love, battle and fertility. We then move to the Assyrians and Babylonians who knew Inanna as Ishtar. Both Inanna and Ishtar were know as ‘the divine personification of the planet Venus’, and as we know the Roman name for Aphrodite was Venus.
From here we move to the Phoenician love and fertility Goddess Astarte and the Syrian Goddess Atergatis, both of these seafaring races would have had strong trading links with Cyprus, therefore the names of these Goddesses would have been familiar to them. The Greek word ‘Aphros’ means foam, so it’s not a great leap to see how these Goddesses brought from over the Sea could have been ‘foam born’.
And so Astarte was absorbed into Cypriot and Greek culture as Aphrodite and Mount Olympus would never be quite the same again!
Aphrodite’s predecessors were Goddesses of love and war, whereas Aphrodite never took on these war-like qualities. In fact she seems to be not exactly suited to the art of warfare. The only time she is mentioned getting involved in wars is in the Trojan War, where she a) was semi responsible for starting it by promising Paris the hand of fair Helen, and b) during the Trojan War, she intervened to save her son Aeneas from being killed by Diomedes. She ended up being wounded by a spear herself, and so she promptly left the battle field, leaving Apollo to help Aeneas out. According to Homer, Aphrodite went crying to her Mother, and Zeus told her to leave war to Ares and Athena and that she should attend to the business of marriage (I can almost hear the words ‘don’t worry your pretty little head about it’, can’t you?).
Perhaps Aphrodite’s war like side was expressed through her love for the war God Ares? She had four divine children with Ares, including the God of Sexual Love, Eros. The doomed and passionate love affair with Ares lasted until Aphrodite was publically humiliated by her husband Hephaestus. With Hephaestus being the God of the Forge, Blacksmiths and Craftsmanship, we can only ponder at the idea that the Ancient Greeks thought it would be better to pair love with craft, rather than war. Obviously Aphrodite had other ideas.
Apart from Ares, Aphrodite had many other lovers, including her famous love affair with the hero Adonis. Adonis as well as being a hero is an annually renewed Vegetation God caught in the yearly ‘life-death-rebirth’ cycle, much like the Irish God Lugh. Again it’s interesting to note that Inanna, Ishtar and Astarte all had seasonally dying/reborn lovers.
The tales of Aphrodite are immense, and if we look at all the things she is known for, it’s enough to make us dizzy! But here’s a start: Aphrodite has been known as a Goddess of the Heavens, Goddess of the Sea and of Liminal places, Goddess of the Night, Goddess of Childbirth, Goddess of Fair Voyages, Goddess of Travel to Foreign Places, and also and perhaps most prominently a Goddess of Nature, as it is said that when she arrived to Cyprus, beautiful flowers sprung from where she stood.
And believe me; this is just scratching the surface about what can be known about Aphrodite!
So, as you can see, you don’t simply have to be ‘looking for love’ to find Aphrodite enticing. Yes, she is the Goddess who will invoke passion and sensuality into your life, and in your relationships she can and will certainly spice thing up! But she is, at the heart of it all, a cosmic force of love and nature; an ancient deity of abundance and the uncontrollable nature of desire. Be careful what you ask for from Aphrodite as she is not a Goddess who will consider the consequences when passion is in the equation!
By invoking Aphrodite into your life, you awaken the sensual Goddess within. With Aphrodite around you can put your ‘to do’ list in the bin and enjoy the simple pleasures of life we often forget when we are running around in the 21stCentury!
Before invoking Aphrodite take some time to think about what you would like her to help you with, she, like all Goddesses, is not one to take lightly, and so it’s important to be still and clarify your intentions first. At first, simply ask her to help you release your inner Goddess, and let her know you’re here to honour her.
Here is a simple way to invite her into your life:
The Aphrodite Ritual Bath/Shower
If you have a bath, run a nice warm bath with rose oil, or another favourite scent. If you don’t have a bath, prepare for a soothing shower.
Set up a simple altar of Aphrodite either in your bathroom or somewhere else around your home. If you have a statue or picture of Aphrodite place it on your altar, you could also place one or two symbols of Aphrodite there too, these can include flowers (especially roses), sea shells, water, pearls, or images of dolphins and doves.
Light a candle - coloured red, pink, white or gold, and carry it from your altar to your bath. You could perhaps light some incense by your bath.
Whilst in your bath/shower repeat a chant/mantra, here is a suggestion, though feel free to use your own.
Shine your radiant light upon me
Reflect my beauty
Body and soul
Through your eyes I am whole’
When you feel ready say a few words to greet her, visualise her standing around you. She may have a message for you; you may want to ask her a question. Be patient and allow any messages to come through.
Thank her for joining you and say farewell for now. Leave your bath/shower, remembering to attend to any candles and incense, and spend the rest of the evening completely relaxing – maybe even treating yourself to your favourite wine and chocolates!
Aphrodite is a Goddess of the senses, so every time you smell the sweet scent of flowers, or hear the waves crashing to the shore, think of her and thank her- for she’ll be with you.