Aphrodite, goddess of romance and passion, of fashion beauty and art,
has captivated poets and painters for centuries. Known for her
numerous affairs of the heart, as well as her willingness to help
others find the love they sought, the myths of the Greek goddess
Aphrodite reveal the awesome extent of her power.
The Greek goddess Aphrodite, the original “Golden Girl”, perfectly
attired for the occasion in a simple string of pearls and a couple of
strategically placed scallop shells, stepped out of the ocean on the
island of Cypress and set the ancient world on its ear.
Aphrodite, goddess of romantic love had finally arrived! Never had
there been such sensual beauty and impeccable taste. The other Greek
goddesses now had their work set out for them . . . a new standard had
been set, and the world would never be the same! Henceforth there
would be candlelit dinners, heart-rending arias in operas, high-heeled
shoes and bright red lipstick (not to mention soap operas). Romance
was here and planning to stay.
It is not clear how the Greek goddess Aphrodite (also known as the
Roman goddess Venus) came to be “sea-born”. One legend was that
Aphrodite was the daughter of the Titan Uranus, formed from his
genitals that had been severed and tossed into the sea by his son
Cronus who was in the process of usurping his father’s throne.
What is certain is that the her arrival caused quite a stir! Every
Greek god and goddess was dying to meet her. The Horae (Hours)
welcomed her to step ashore and adorned her with the finest gold
ornaments and cloth, then brought Aphrodite to Mount Olympus to
present her to Zeus and the other gods and goddesses.
To his credit Zeus instantly realized that this captivating creature
could become the source of all sorts of trouble, her radiance stirring
every man’s passion and leading to constant fighting for her
attention. To head off this possibility, Zeus decided she must be
married at once (“taken off the market”, so to speak) and awarded the
goddess to his son, Hephaestus, god of the forge. It goes without
saying that Hephaestus must have thought himself the luckiest man
alive, especially since he was lame and “no great looker” himself. But
he was reliable and hard working.
Overjoyed with his good fortune in acquiring this stunning bride,
Hephaestus did his best to please Aphrodite, designing and creating
for her the most beautiful jewelry and furniture that had ever been
seen. He even went so far as to make Aphrodite a magical golden girdle
that made her irresistible to men when she wore it. Whatever could he
have been thinking?
Of all the imaginable pairings of Greek god and goddess, this one had
to be the worst mismatch possible. Needless to say, their marriage had
its ups and downs. Aphrodite, goddess that she was, felt she had
married below her “class” since Hephaestus was decidedly “blue collar”
even though he was a god . . . he was not at all what she, with her
impeccable taste, had in mind. Aphrodite insisted upon an “open
marriage” (at least for her) and indulged in numerous love affairs
with both mortals and other gods.
Except for a few occasions when he was overwhelmed with jealousy or
resentment, Hephaestus seemed to accept this arrangement, happy to
just have and hold her when he could. Indeed, their marriage seemed
companionable, with little passion perhaps, but little conflict as
It was as if everyone recognized that Aphrodite had one gift and one
gift only . . . to make love. And that one gift was so special that no
one seemed to resent it. While all the other gods and goddesses had
lengthy lists of divine duties to perform, the goddess Aphrodite was
assigned only one . . . to bring love into the world.
Athena once caught Aphrodite weaving and reprimanded her for
encroaching upon Athena’s area of responsibility. Aphrodite was quick
to apologize and vowed never to do any work ever again!
Although they were surely envious of her beauty and her exciting but
easy life, other women weren’t usually jealous or resentful of her
charms. Although none were what could be called really close friends,
they found her to be quite friendly and extraordinarily generous. She
even went to the extent of loaning Hera her magic girdle to help her
keep Zeus’ wandering eyes where they belonged. The goddess Aphrodite
was always ready to help both the deities and mortals to win the loves
The Greek Goddess Aphrodite, however, is best known for her own love
affairs, which were numerous and varied and resulted in many offspring
by her various lovers. Her most notable lovers were the gods Ares,
Dionysius, Hermes, Poseidon, and the mortal, Adonis.
You’d think the other Greek goddesses would have been green with envy,
but the willingness of the community to suspend their norms for the
goddess Aphrodite is clear. Her flagrant affair with Ares, the god of
war, was obvious to all and the cause of much embarrassment for her
husband. Hephaestus fashioned an invisible net made of bronze and
captured them in it while they were in bed together.
Hauling the pair in front of a jury of the Olympians, he demanded
their punishment. Reluctant to get involved, the court instead chided
Hephaestus for being silly and giving Aphrodite an outfit that
rendered her irresistible in the first place!
Although the goddess Aphrodite seldom seemed very serious in her
affairs, one love caused her great suffering. She had begged Adonis,
her beloved mortal, to give up the dangerous sports he enjoyed because
she could not bear to lose him. But Adonis ignored her advice and was
killed by a wild boar while hunting. When he died, Aphrodite heard his
cries and hastened to his side in her swan-drawn chariot. She cursed
the Fates that had ordained his death and, with Adonis still in her
arms, turned the blood drops that fell from his wounds onto the soil
into windflowers, also known as the short-lived anemone, as a memorial
to their love.
Aphrodite’s most famous son was Eros, the god of love, who helped her
with her work. A talented archer, his job was to shoot arrows dipped
in Aphrodite’s love potion, hitting her unwitting victims, causing
them to fall madly in love with the next person they saw. Many of the
great love stories began this way, but many respectable homes were
broken up as well.
Although she was most often loving and generous, Aphrodite could be
quite malicious and vindictive as well. She insisted upon being given
the honor she felt was due her and was quick and harsh in punishing
those who weren’t sufficiently appreciative of her efforts. Ares,
Medea, Psyche, and Atalanta, to name but a few, could attest that the
Greek goddess Aphrodite’s power was immense.
Often the punishments rendered by the goddess Aphrodite, though
severe, held important lessons embedded within them. These were
lessons that sparked growth and ultimately improved the life or
extended the vision of the person she was punishing, as in the case of
The influence of the Greek goddess Aphrodite can be seen as
generative, far beyond that of romance, love, or desire alone. She is
associated with the life-giving sea. Just as the waves lapping on the
shore refresh and renew the beach, Aphrodite brings us hope and the
awareness of the transforming power of love and beauty.
Symbols of Aphrodite;
Scallop shell, seashells, mirrors, golden apples, the Evening Star
(planet Venus), the ocean, and the triangle
Dolphin, swan, dove, sparrow, bees, and goats
Rose (especially any fragrant rose), quince, myrtle, mint and grape
(fruit, leaves, and vines), apples, artichokes, laurel, ash and poplar
Stephanotis, musk, verbena, vanilla, incense, vervain, and roses
Gems and Metals:
Pearls, gold, aquamarine, rose quartz, jade, sapphire, silver, and
Red, pink, violet, silver, aqua, pale green (seafoam), and any shade
of light blue
‘May we live in peace without weeping. May our joy outline the lives we touch without ceasing. And may our love fill the world, angel wings tenderly beating.’