Relationships change over time, with both people and deities. One of the deities I have worked with the longest is Aphrodite. When I was younger I saw Aphrodite as a goddess of love and beauty, a warm welcoming mother-like goddess dedicated to beautifying and bestowing romance. This seems pretty naïve, but I was young and the goddess choose to show herself this way. (Why I’ll never know – maybe she wanted the attention, maybe she just “liked” me, or maybe she saw something kindred between our characters I’ll never know.) She was supportive, loving, and like a big sister helping me out and listening to me whine – all the while gently prodding me to do this or that for whatever reasons that were totally her own.
Now, when I look back I don’t recognize this goddess as the same goddess I encounter occasionally these days. Gone are my altars with seashells, pearls, and bathed in blues and white. In their place are altars of pink and red, pearls, and a goddess who does in her own way demand sacrifices – not always something small and insignificant. She is still a goddess of love and beauty, but neither are such innocent and desirable things. There are downsides to the pursuit of love or beauty. In love, feelings get hurt: you can’t always control your own emotions and you can never control or predict another’s. People will get hurt. As Hemmingway said “If two people love each other, there can be no happy end to it.” Nobody on the love-and-light side of Aphrodite points out she is also vengeful and the cause of much unhappiness. It is Aphrodite who is awarded Eris‘s Apple if Discord – and she bribed Paris to get it. Aphrodite’s affairs are much more scandalous than the affairs of the gods and she hurts her poor husband Hephaestrus deeply. Beauty is a lot of work, and to value beauty means extra work. Whether it’s making ourselves beautiful, our home beautiful, or living life in a more conscious way, style takes thought. Sometimes, we sacrifice other things for beauty like time spent doing other things or money that could have gone for something else. This is not exactly a “practical” way to live.
So… getting this back to where I was going with this: our relationships and how we perceive our deities may change over time. I also believe on some level, especially those of us who choose our faith and choose the gods we worship, are attracted to our deities for a reason. I know that for me, part of worshiping Aphrodite has been to incorporate traits she embodies into myself: a love and reverence for beauty for beauty’s sake, a sensuality in life, and definitely a respect for emotion and feelings (the good and bad). Part of worshiping Aphrodite is paying attention to those things. I consciously choose to abide by her rules on the matter. Things like: do my hair, take effort to be pretty, put in the work of making things look nice in your home, and flirt. Don’t be afraid to feel things. All of this is hard work, and it’s also I think important. Certainly paying attention to hair and makeup is fun, but it’s also an important part of feeling good about myself as a woman. Listening to our emotions often gets overlooked in today’s busy world. There are so many other tasks and other considerations, how we are feeling and what we desire as women especially often gets shut out. My goddess reminds me to check in with my desires: whatever they may be, honor them. We can’t always have what we want but we should strive to know what we want – and try always to achieve that. Desire is a large part of Aphrodite’s mythos and I am interested to see how my perceptions and relationship will change in the future.