So I’ve been thinking about why Aphrodite might have chosen to be a part of the God of the Month Club in January instead of February. For those who don’t know, I let the Gods decide Who gets honored each month by shuffling a deck of index cards marked with Their names. Culturally, we here in the West tend to honor love in February, with the secular holiday of Valentine’s Day. Even if you tend not to celebrate it, being the manufactured Hallmark holiday that it is, it is impossible to avoid. Already stores are putting their Valentine’s Day merchandise on the shelves, and most stores beginning just after New Year’s.
It’s impossible for this to NOT seep into your consciousness somewhat. That is why years ago I wrote my ritual for Aphrodite and Eros to be celebrated on Valentine’s Day, since the theme of love is already in everyone’s consciousness. Pagans are still a part of our overculture, even if we try to distance ourselves from it. But I think sometimes the the symbols of that culture can be adapted to serve our Gods, which is why in my book Songs of Praise, I wrote prayers for secular holidays such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Fourth of July.
So, back to the topic at hand. Why DID Aphrodite choose to manifest in January instead of February? I think She may have chosen to do so in order to emphasize Her aspects other than those of the Goddess of Love and Romance. And my first God of the Month Club post for Her, I didn’t explore these aspects that much. Part of the reason for that is because I don’t personally know Her in those aspects very well. But lets look at some of the information about a few of these aspects in the ancient world, shall we?
Aphrodite is counted as a Sea-Goddess, having spent Her younger days there after being born from the sea-foam. Aphrodite’s first love is said to have been Nerites, the sole son of the Sea-Gods Nereus and Doris (Who otherwise only had daughters). He was transformed into a shellfish when He refused to leave the ocean to join Olympos with Aphrodite1. Aphrodite and Poseidon are also worshiped together in seaside towns, and sometimes Aphrodite was prayed to for a fair voyage under the name Euploia2, especially by sailors.
“In Patrai [in Akhaia], not far from that of Poseidon, are sanctuaries of Aphrodite. One of the two images was drawn up by fishermen in a net a generation before my time. There are also quite near to the harbor two images of bronze, one of Ares and the other of Poseidon. The image of Aphrodite, whose precinct too is by the harbor, has its face, hands and feet of stone, while the rest of the figure is made of wood. They have also a grove by the sea, affording in summer weather very agreeable walks and a pleasant means generally of passing the time. In this grove are also two temples of divinities, one of Apollon, the other of Aphrodite. The images of these too are made of stone3.”
“Worth seeing here [at Orkhomenos, Arkadia] is a spring, from which they draw water, and there are sanctuaries of Poseidon and of Aphrodite, the images being of stone4.”
Aphrodite is also a spring-Goddess, related to flowers and the fertility of plants and animals as well as humans. In Athens there was a statue of Aphrodite that was called Aphrodite Kepois “In the Gardens5”. One of Her epithets is in fact Antheia, which means “the blooming”, referring to flowers. Antheia is also one of the names of the Kharites, the Graces, Who are Her constant companions. Interestingly, this Antheia, the youngest of the Kharites, is also the name of Hephaistos’s second wife after He was said to have divorced Aphrodite for cheating on Him. Perhaps there is a deeper mystery there. Venus, Aphrodite’s Roman counterpart, was originally a Goddess of garden fertility, and was also honored twice a year at rural Roman wine festivals6.
“The whole country [of Elis] is full of temples of Artemis, Aphrodite, and the Nymphai, being situated in sacred precincts that are generally full of flowers because of the abundance of water7.”
Aphrodite also carries the title of Genetyllis or Genetullis, protectress of births. This title is also given to Artemis, Who comes to women in childbirth (perhaps one of the only times that the spheres of influence for Those particular Goddesses overlap!). Genetyllis is also the name of a distinct Goddess of births, and there is a plural version, Genetullides or Gennaïdes, of Deities presiding over childbirth and generation (welcome to polytheism! LOL).
Now, this might be hard to believe depending where you live, but spring is already starting here. Winter is a short and relatively mild affair in Missouri. While the flowers are not blooming yet (that will be at least another month and a half), the cows have already started to give birth. Most farmers out here seem to stagger the births, so that half the herd gives birth around January- February and the other half around June-July. Even if I don’t have cows myself, I love to see the cows and goats out here go through the process. When we have to drive to town, we get to see the herds of cows and goats that line the roads on the way, and in that way I get to enjoy the process of the seasons through the animals of my neighbors. I see the change of the plants on my land, but other than one rooster, we have no other livestock yet. So, in this way, Aphrodite is already becoming active here, as the spring-Goddess and Goddess of animal and plant fertility.
There is even at least one reference to Aphrodite being a plural Goddess; that is, there being more than one Deity by this name, in Metropolis, the main city in Thessaly (Thessalia), a province of Northern Greece. This could refer to Aphrodite in Her different aspects; that is why we pray to the Gods under different epithets, but it could mean something more, too.
“Metropolis [in Histiaiotis, Thessalia] in earlier times was a joint settlement composed of three insignificant towns; but later several others were added to it, among which was Ithome. Now Kallimakhos, in his Iambics, says that, ‘of all the Aphrodites (for there was not merely one goddess of this name), Aphrodite Kastnietis surpasses all in wisdom, since she alone accepts the sacrifice of swine.’ And surely he was very learned, if any other man was, and all his life, as he himself states, wished to recount these things. But the writers of later times have discovered that not merely one Aphrodite, but several, have accepted this rite; and that among these was the Aphrodite at Metropolis, and that one of the cities included in the settlement transmitted to it the Onthurian rite8.”
1 Aelian. On Animals. 14. 28
2 Pausanias. Description of Greece 1. 1. 3
3Pausanias. Description of Greece 7. 21. 10
4 Pausanias. Description of Greece 8. 13. 2
5 Pausanias. Description of Greece 1. 19. 2
6Frances Berestein, PhD. Classical Living: Connecting with the Rituals of Ancient Rome: Myths, Gods, Goddesses, Celebrattions and Rites for Every Day of the Year. HarperSanFrancisco. 2000. page 86, page 158.
7 Strabo. Geography 8. 3. 12
8 Strabo. Geography 9. 5. 17