Monday, June 1, 2009

Aphrodite in Myth: Her birth...

Like most Gods, the myths of Aphrodite are often conflicting and even contradictory. The reason for this is simple, different people experience the goddess differently, and they interpret what they experience as they are able or willing.

The tales of Aphrodite’s birth were, no doubt, many, but the two most notable ones are the birth of Aphrodite from the sea foam, and her birth as the daughter of Zeus and Dione. Venus, the Aphrodite of the Romans, was also said to be daughter of Ouranos (Caelus) and Hemera (Dies) which are the primordial aspects of Sky and the light of Day (in my world view these are aspects of Zeus, the sky, and Helios, the sun or Eos, the light of morning)

Relating to the birth myths of the Gods is difficult for me. Tales of divine birth are often lacking in love, lacking in familial emotion, rather the Gods seem to almost always be born almost completely formed and capable, which to me says that the Gods are eternal and whole, but their manifestations into the human psyche must, because of our inability to truly comprehend eternity, come as a result of a birth or a beginning.

The myth of Aphrodite that I prefer, and which best fits into my theological view, is that of her birth from the sea foam. But that birth is also the culmination of a very violent act in the mythos, part of the beginning of a new era for the Gods, a new era in the evolution of the cosmos.

As the story goes, Ge created Ouranos, or gave birth to him without benefit of marriage to be her spouse. The word often used is Lord, but in my view no one is Ge’s Lord. They lived in peace for long eons, the world taking form, and then Ouranos and Ge began to produce the gods we would come to call Titans. The Titans are called that because of their size, but also because of their power, which was broad and earth shattering. In essence, the Titans made the cosmos itself tremble.

But Ouranos was a jealous God, and he refused to let these beings be born into the cosmos. Just as he had risen out from the earth, so too would they in order to be born, for the Earth was their mother. Ge trembled and bore her burden, but was pained by what Ouranos had done, and then she spoke to her children. She went to all her children, and of the males she asked for aid, but of them, only Kronos was brave enough to face his father. It would be a shameful deed, but one that must be done if the world was to change.

As always, Ouranos would come to Ge at night fall, his dark veil falling over the earth. As he came to her to bed her once again, he was attacked by Kronos, and in this he used the sickle Ge had provided to sever him from Ge forever. He took Ouranos’ balls, his potency, his manhood, and flung it into the Pontus (Which was the primordial sea, child of Ge) with this the Titans were able to emerge into the world, and with them the world would change forever.

In the Pontus, however, the genitals of Ouranos floated, and about them was a foam formed which drifted about until it came close to the island of Kypros (one of Aphrodite’s many titles is Kyprogenes) where she was met by the Horai (the hours or seasons) and upon setting foot on the island, grass grew below her feet.

The holy island of Cyprus is her birthplace.

I am reminded by this myth that the motions of the Gods are often easily traced by their myths. We find in this region that the Eastern goddess Astarte was very much like Aphrodite, another interpretation of her, who married the vegetation god Adonis, who Aphrodite would also become linked later. But I am also reminded that, in ancient times, and sometimes even in our own times and culture, sex and procreation can be a vicious cycle of violence for many.

Her birth, however, is one of purity, in spite of the violence that preceded it, and the Goddess herself is born pure of the sea foam and upon reaching the land, which is Ge, after all, her gift, and Ge’s reaction, is one of joy. Love was now in the world, and it wasn’t just an animal attraction, as might be inferred from Eros the primordial, but one that was giving and tender and which one could take joy in.

That Love would also lead to violence later seems far off here. The acts of Ouranos and Kronos were not based in love, even Ouranos’ marriage to Ge seems a forced one, after all Ge birthed him to be her spouse, he had no choice in the matter, and here is another echo of something long gone. An echo of a time when a mother chose the spouse of her son, no questions asked, no dissent allowed, and how man took that power away, castrating forever that man who would allow such a thing only to turn around and do it to women.

Myth is, if nothing else, about the echos of reality through time.


mamiel said...

You write a lot about Aphrodite. Do you consider yourself a devotee?

H├ęctor said...

Well, I realize I have not mentioned it in a while, but if you follow this blog from the beginning you will note that I am actually following a path of writing down ideas I get as I ponder and meditate on the Gods while focusing on a particular deity at a time based on a star I created for this purpose.

This is the image: HERE