Aphrodite has two birth stories, with the most commonly believed story is that from Hesiod’s Theogony, that she was born when Cronus cut off Ouranus’s genitals and threw them into the sea. So potent was the sky father that a great sea foam arose and from the sea foam Aphrodite was born and was carried to shore a on a scallop shell, fully formed and radiating beauty. In the Illiad however, Homer it is mentions that Aphrodite’s parents were Zeus and Dione.
No matter what her parentage, Aphrodite is said to have been born near Paphos, on the island of Cyprus. This became the epicenter of her worship and she was sometimes called Cypris, or Cytherea.
Aphrodite is best known as the Olympian Goddess of Love, Desire, and Beauty. Depicted as a beautiful woman with a shapely youthful form, and a lighthearted spirit, she was often accompanied by the winged God Eros (love). Aphrodite, was the personification of the generative powers of nature, and the mother of all living beings. Homer said that she excited this passion in the hearts of gods and men, and by this power ruled over all the living creation. Aphrodite had the power through a magical girdle to charm both Gods and mortals to fall in love. All, that is, but the virgin Goddesses Hestia, Athena, and Artemis could fall under her spell. She was well known to bestow blessings and favor upon those who worshiped her, though as often goes with passion and desire, stories of Aphrodite also paint her as cruel and punishing those who neglected or scorned her worship.
Because of her great beauty, other gods feared that their rivalry for her favors might lead to conflict and war. To keep the peace Zeus married her to Hephaestus the God of Craftsmen and Blacksmiths, who, because of his ugliness and deformity, was not seen as a threat. That however didn’t stop the passionate Aphrodite from taking many lovers from both Gods, and mortal men. She had a passionate and lasting affair with Ares, God or war; a short affair with Dionysus; The Herald of the Gods, Hermes, seduced Aphrodite and she bore him a son; and she bore Poseidon, God of the Sea, two legendary daughters. The Goddess of Love also played a role in the Eros and Psyche legend, and she was both lover and surrogate mother of Adonis.
The Festival of Aphrodisia, was celebrated across Greece at her sacred temples about the time of the third week in June to the third week of July. It is suggested that intercourse with temple courtesans was considered a method of worshiping Aphrodite. In Corinth, at one time Aphrodite’s Temple had more than a thousand salves and courtesans, both male and female. In Sparta, Aphrodite was worshiped with song and dance.
Aphrodite’s cult is thought to have eastern origins, and was wide spread around the Mediterranean from North Africa to Gaul. In some places her myths and legends were combined with other local Goddesses to create new faces and epithets of Aphrodite that fit the needs of her worshipers.
Throughout the Levant the Goddess Astarte was worshiped from the Bronze Age to Classical Antiquity among the Canaanites and Phoenicians. When her worship spread to Cyprus she was adopted into the Greek Pantheon as Aphrodite. Astarte was closely connected with fertility, sexuality, and war. Her symbols, like Aphrodite, included Doves and the Planet Venus. Herodotus wrote that the religious community of Aphrodite originated in Phoenicia and came to Greeks from there. He also wrote about the world’s largest temple of Aphrodite, in one of the Phoenician cities.
The Egyptians identified Aphrodite with the Goddess Hathor, who embodied the principles of joy, feminine love, and motherhood. Hathor also carried bloody war aspects which
To the Romans she was Venus, a Goddess of Victory, Fertility, and celebrated as the Patron of Prostitutes. The first Roman Temple to Aphrodite was diffused with Greek aspects and not a new creation.
Common Epithets of Aphrodite
Aphrodite’s many Epithets show just how many things the goddess was called on for.
- Basilis (Queen)
- Ourania (Heavenly)
- Dia (Divine; Shining)
- Symmakhia (Ally in Love)
- Pandemos (of All People)
- Morpho (Shapely Form)
- Kallisti (the Fairest)
- Nikêphoros (Bringer of Victory)
- Nymphia (Bridal)
- Epistrophia (She Who Turns to Love)
- Kallipugos (of the Beautiful Buttocks)
- Migôntis (Marital Union)
- Porne (Fleshy; Prostitute)
- Aphrogeneia (Foam-Born)
- Philommeidês (Laughter-Loving)
- Pothôn Mêtêr (Mother of Desire)
- Khryseê (Golden)
- Eustephanos (Richly-Crowned; Well-Girdled)
Unexpected Epithets of Aphrodite
Before you start to think that Aphrodite is all about goodness and light, let’s not forget that love, desire, and passion can stir darker emotions as well. Our Goddess of love was not just about romance, she was a devoted mother and fierce protector of her children. She has a passionate and illicit romance with Ares, the God of War and Battle Rage.
- Hoplismena (Armed)
- Areia (of Ares, Warlike)
- Androphonos (Killer of Men)
- Enoplios (Bearing Weapons)
“During the Trojan war, Aphrodite, the mother of the hero Aeneas, sided with the Trojans. A Trojan Prince had declared her the most beautiful of all the Goddesses, and she blessed him with her favor. She successfully intervened to save Paris from his contest with Menelaus but when she endeavored to rescue her darling Aeneas from the fight, she was pursued by Diodes, who wounded her in her hand. In her fright she abandoned her son, and was carried by Iris in the chariot of Ares to Olympus, where she complained of her misfortune to her mother Dione, but was laughed at by Hera and Athena. She also protected the body of Hector, and anointed it with ambrosia. “ [theoi.com]
Associations for Aphrodite
- White Male Goats
- Scallop Shells
- Rose Quartz
- Myrtle & Myrrh
- Romantic Love
- Perfume & Sweet Smelling Incense
- Planet Venus
- Month of April
- Patron of Prostitutes
- Patron of Lovers
- Patron of Military Moms (?)
Aphrodite translates to “born of the sea foam”
Delphic Maxims are Greek proverbs said to be given to the Oracle at Delphi from the God Apollon as instructions for living a good life. The 147 Maxims express many different concepts, but these (in my opinion) are closest to the station of Aphrodite.
- #8 Be Yourself
- #9 Intend To Get Married
- #20 Love Friendship
- #73 Be Happy With What You Have
- #76 Pray For Happiness
- #124 Love Whom You Rear
Modern Myth & Magic
Today Aphrodite is most celebrated around Saint Valentine’s Day as a symbol of Love, Passion, and Fertility.
Valentine’s Day began its romantic connotations until Geoffrey Chaucer wrote his poem about the Valentines in the 14th century. The tradition of courtly love began to flourish, and the feast day for a martyred Roman clergyman famous for performing marriages of Roman soldiers against orders quickly evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards known as valentines. Even though there is no ancient association with this festival, Greek symbols of love were quickly adopted into the common nomenclature. Today Aphrodite and Eros are inescapably linked to the holiday.
But Aphrodite would say
Love shouldn’t need a special day
to make an appearance
Thank you for joining us for this discussion. The material presented is originally from Aphrodite: Goddess of Love, a White Oak Grove CUUPS discussion with Kristen Kirk. ©2017 Kristen Kirk