A chill clings to the air yet the sun shines brightly overhead. A tease. A hint of promise.
In February we still rest in the belly of winter waiting impatiently for the Wheel to turn & begin another cycle of rebirth. Imbolc reminds us that there’s warmth just around the corner. In a matter of weeks bits of green will assert themselves through the ice & snow.
Although traditionally the day belongs to the Celtic goddess Brigid, mistress of the forge & of bardcraft, one might feel the pull of any number of deities at this time of year. It might be tempting to blame Hallmark for this. Thanks to Valentine’s Day, many love &/or fertility gods can be acknowledged this month.
Aphrodite is the quintessential goddess of love. But what is it about her that captivates us?
At the risk of sounding like a cheesy seasonal greeting card, love is eternal. Aphrodite has been around before Zeus & his lot ascended Olympus. She came into being when the titan Cronos slew his father Ouranos & chucked his severed genitals into the sea. Eventually she was adopted into the Olympian family, but Zeus was left with a problem. Because of her great beauty it was feared that jealousy would ultimately lead to war as they gods fought over her like a pack of dogs with a particularly tasty bone. Hmm… perhaps if she was married off she’d be less of a threat? So Aphrodite was given to the lame smithy god Hephaestus for a wife.
Oh yeah. That worked out well.
Perhaps being the embodiment of physical love & desire, it was a bit unreasonable to assume she could remain faithful. Her numerous conquests ranged from Adonis to Ares, god of war. Some girls groove on testosterone & the whole bad-boy mystique, I guess. Hephaestus wasn’t happy about his wife’s… umm… hobbies. Once the sun god Helios rode the skies in his chariot & caught her getting a little too friendly with her flavour of the moment. He swiftly warned the smithy god, who crafted a magickal net to capture the pair as they got physical & shame them before the rest of the gods. The incident didn’t dampen their lust, as she went on to bear him a number of children.
Being beauty personified, maybe it was natural for her to be a bit vain at times. Like most Greek deities, she could also be somewhat vindictive. Look at what happened with Psyche. It infuriated Aphrodite that a mere mortal would be compared to her. Fearing that those who once adored her would now turn to this upstart, she sent Eros to shoot her with his arrows & cause her to fall in love with the ugliest man on earth. However he accidentally pricked himself with his own arrow & fell in love with her instead. Aphrodite said she would allow the union if Psyche could pass a certain challenge. She was allowed to stay with her new husband as long as she never knew who he was or what he looked like. A visit from her sister left Psyche with doubts. She gave into temptation & looked upon his face. Aphrodite said that she could regain her husband if she completed 4 tasks, which she does with the help of Zeus. As a bonus she’s raised to godhood & the couple are reunited.
As you gather around your hearth fires & wait for things to warm up, consider Aphrodite’s ultimate lesson. See her at the moment of her birth, stepping from the sea in all her glory. A creature of grace & foam, she has always been unabashedly herself. She celebrates physical love, but also love in its broader aspect. This includes self love. Aphrodite challenges us to be bold & go forward with confidence, accepting the quirks that make each of us unique.