Aphrodite is the ancient Greek Goddess of love, beauty, sexual ecstasy, consuming passion of all sorts, fertility, the marriage bed, romantic love, protective love, desire, vengeance for lovers scorned or deceived.
At her simplest, Aphrodite is the Greek Goddess of love, physical beauty, desire, sexual rapture, and fertility. She is also a sea Goddess, and patroness of sailors, a war Goddess, and the Goddess of all passions, not just lustful ones. She had important cults in Crete, Cyprus, Corinth, and Sicily and was generally worshiped throughout much of Greece. The center of her cult was Cythera and her priestesses offered their favors to the faithful as a form of communion with the Goddess.
She is credited also with starting the Trojan War by encouraging the affair between Helen and Paris and she is said to have participated actively on the side of Troy, even sustaining a wound in battle.
Aphrodite is often depicted as being selfish and vain, but she also loves fiercely and protectively. To scorn her gifts means eventual punishment and she will often respond to aid in the revenge of a woman scorned. But the passion of Aphrodite isn’t limited to the realm of love and passion as the common man thinks of it. It’s significant that the two most long-term lovers of the Goddess of Passion are Hephaestus, God of Invention and Ares, God of War.
The Birth of Aphrodite
According to the Hesiod’s Theogony, Cronus, son of Gaia and Uranus, castrated his father and threw his genitals into the sea. Aphrodite then rose from the sea foam near Paphos. In this version, she was attended by Eros and Himeros when she stepped forth from the sea, but other stories say she was their mother.
According to Homer’s Iliad, Aphrodite was the child of Zeus< and Dione<. (However, Dione means “Goddess” and could have referred to any divine female entity. In fact, Aphrodite was often referred to herself as Dione.)
Other stories say she is the daughter of Thalassa and Zeus.
Plato decided she was two Goddesses: Urania, daughter of Uranus, the Goddess of pure love, and Pandemos, daughter of Zeus and Dione, Goddess of “common” love.
Lovers and Offspring
She was married to Hephaestus (though he’d rather have been with Athene) as Zeus feared this great beauty if left single would be the cause of strife on Olympus, but she bore him no children. In fact, she didn’t seem very interested in him at all though he adored her and showered her with gifts, including a girdle that made the wearer irresistible to men.
To Ares, God of War, she bore Harmonia, Deimos, and Phobos. In some stories, she also bore Eros, Himeros, and Anteros to Him, but other stories say that Eros existed before any of the other Gods save Gaia Herself and Chaos. Hephaestus once forged an unbreakable net of chains to catch her in bed with Ares and brought the other Gods together to mock them, but they just envied Ares! He wasn’t going to release them, but Poseidon talked him into it.
By Hermes, she bore Hermaphroditus, Eunomia, Peitho, Rhodos, and Tyche.
To Dionysus, she bore the Charites; Aglaea, Euphrosyne and Thalia, Hymenaios, and Priapus.
After she bragged that she was the most powerful of the Gods because she had caused them all to chase mortals and she herself had never done so, Zeus caused her to fall in love with the shepherd Anchises and to him she bore the Trojan hero Aeneas, an ancestor of Rome.
She also loved Adonis (translates to “My Lord”) with the same ferocity bordering on madness that she had inspired in his mother, Myrrha (or Smyrna), for his grandfather and father, Theias. In fact, he was perhaps her greatest love.
To Adonis, she bore Beroe, but Adonis was gored by a bull (or boar) while out hunting, even though she had warned him not to go. She flew to his rescue, but too late, she arrived just in time to hear his dying breath. Persephone also adored this handsome boy and would not give in to Aphrodite’s pleas to return him from the underworld. Zeus intervened and ordered each Goddess to have him for half the year.
Women in Byblos would ceremonially mourn Adonis at harvest time (?) and (according to James Frazier whose scholarship is admittedly questionable) a spring ritual consisted of casting a figure of Adonis into the ocean as a sacrifice symbolic of that of the plants that would be harvested for food.
Aphrodite also bore Eryx to the mortal Butes.
Acidalia, Anadyomene (She who emerges), Cytherea, Despina, Kypris, Pandemos, Urania
She has been associated with Ishtar, Astarte, Hathor, Turan, and Venus.
The energy of Aphrodite is the fire, the passion, the spark that is the beginning of all mortal creation. It is every passion, every worldly obsession, everything that we pursue thoughtlessly and tirelessly until it is gained, achieved or completed.
It is not just the desire for the touch of another human, but also the desire to create the finest piece of art, the passion behind the concerto, the drive that makes a dream come true. Every new thing that comes into existence, whether it be a new baby, human or animal, or a fantastic new invention or a brilliant new idea, begins with the spark of desire that is Aphrodite- And it is the ferocity of passion fueled by this desire that also makes her a War Goddess.
The Festival Aphrodesia was celebrated in February throughout Greece and especially in Athens and Corinth. It was celebrated by the sacrifice of doves, dancing and athletic games. Women may also have cut off their hair as a sacrifice to Aphrodite.