In honor of the month celebrating Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be good to examine the Greek gods and goddesses responsible and with strong connections to love.
First up, everyone’s most well-known Greek goddess of love: Aphrodite. Aphrodite is a surprisingly complex. Certainly she had numerous affairs, almost as many as her (adopted) father Zeus. Like many of the Greek gods, there are multiple stories regarding her birth (a result of so many different regions having their own worship and stories).
First, she was born from the castrated genitals of Uranus, the father of Cronos. The genitals mixed with the sea, creating sea foam, from which Aphrodite was born (the word Aphrodite means sea-born, foam-arisen, or foam-born). This makes Aphrodite, in terms of parentage, on a level equal with Cronos; she is a primordial Titan. The Titans are vastly powerful, and far more elemental than their Olympian counterparts, who didn’t come along until Cronos started siring children. The second story of her birth makes her a child of Zeus by the Titan Dione. This story is far more pedestrian, but serves to illustrate a duality to Aphrodite.
The worship of Aphrodite was not a universal thing, much as there are different religious sects to Christianity such as the difference between a Methodist and a Baptist, there are subtle differences in worship of Aphrodite. One group believed her to have a more spiritual nature, stemming from her birth by Uranus. The other group believed, as the offspring of Zeus and Dione, she was a more sexual being.
Now, no matter what, Aphrodite was a sexual being, a goddess of beauty and desire under either circumstance. The two Aphrodites didn’t differ in terms of sexuality, but on whether or not that sexuality included a spiritual component. At all times Aphrodite is a goddess of sexual love.
This is only the beginning of Aphrodite, a taste for the Valentine’s month. Aphrodite will get a much more thorough treatment another month, but next week we look at her son, Eros (you might know him as Cupid).