The Dark Side of Aphrodite

Everything has its dark side. When we face the sun or the moon, there is a shadow behind us. Where it was bright in the morning it will be dark in the night. Life gestates in the dark and is born into the light. When something dies, something else is born and when something is born something else dies.
It's a circle really; not a linear opposition. Everything cycles like Maiden, Mother and Crone, Birth, Life and Death, Summer Winter Spring.
Aphrodite's powers are like that too... waxing and coming to fullness...waning... waxing again.
I first found out that I'm an Aphrodite woman when I read Jean Shinoda Bolen's book Goddesses in Everywoman. She has a special section in the back of the book devoted to this Goddess, whom she calls the "alchemical" Goddess. Because, falling in love is such a transformative process, as anyone reading this who has been there will surely agree.
Aphrodite women are especially susceptible to falling in love, and we tend to fall hard. We are deeply passionate and our romantic connections reverberate karmically througout our lives. I believe anyone can experience this, but it seems that if one is strongly influenced by the Aphrodite archetype, our experiences can be particularly intense. We can know incredible heights of ecstasy and tragic depths of suffering too.
Politically we have special challenges too as Aphrodite women, because of social attitudes towards sexuality. Women with powerful sexual feelings are often misunderstood. Seen as sluts or trivialized in other ways... criticized for being "too romantic" or too emotional. Aphrodite Herself has been cast down from her former position of honor and respect in patriarchal culture. No longer do we have temples of love or priestesses to preside at Her Mysteries. No longer is the state of being in love sacred, nor do we have the kind of communities that would make it possible for true lovers to thrive in thier relationships.
But even in the best of circumstances the state Aphrodite inspires can be troubled as well as blissful. Lovers' feelings can change, and love can hurt. An Aphrodite woman can feel these things, sometimes more intensely than folks ruled by say Hestia or Demeter.
An Aphrodite woman may find herself quite alone in this world because not many understand her.
While I was reading Bolen's descriptions and her interpretations of the Myth of Psyche, I found myself saying "yep....yep...that's me...that's me" a lot, and chuckling. It was then that I made my conscious dedication as Aprhodite's priestess. I had already familiarized myself with Her as Muse as well as Lover, having read about Sappho's life and traditions that always linked poetry, art, and passionate love. I feel that Aphrodite comes alive in me at those special times like making love, making music, and makng ritual. She sweeps through me and puts me into a trance. I become a channel of beauty, revelation, inspiration, pleasure, prophecy, creativity, sensuality. A compatible circle of participants, if the energy is right, can go there with me... or a compatible lover... sometimes I feel there are faeries or spirits there with me... sometimes I can go there alone. This experience has always been the foundation stone of my spiritual practice; everything else comes out of it; the teachings, the rituals, the songs and poems and myths, the politics, the quest for sisterhood...
All through my life, at the same time, the Dark Goddess has also called and spoken to me. Sometimes through transformative events, sometimes through sorrow and loss. One of Her names is the Faery Queen and she presides in the Underworld or the Spirit Realm. She is the veiled Persephone who will only reveal Her face to us when it is our Time for the final Passage. She teaches us of things eternal and reminds us of our mortality as well. I realized that She has a connection to Aphrodite when I experienced some dark lovers... love connections that were hurtful, partners who were inappropriate or abusive... times when my heart got broken. Such times always bring deep change and realization. My struggles as a priestess are connected to both these Goddesses as well, since I am a priestess of Change. The irony is to be such a sensitive and connecting channel... a receptacle and transmitter of energy that has everything to do with connection. Esther Harding even calls the Goddess "the connecting principle." Yet because it is so at odds with what society considers the "norm" that it creates separation just where it's supposed to be creating connection. I think a lot of Goddess women must experience this weird contradiction in their lives too; no matter which archetypes they feel most influenced by. But the true disconnect is out there in the world; a whole society built on isolation and severance. The breaking up of our circles... being cut off from Nature... separations of people by age, race, economics, prejudice, judgements...so many separations. They learn to mask it all with socially accepted behaviours... uniforms, modes of dress, small talk, party talk, status games, competitive strivings, noise, publicity... on and on. So then someone comes along who is actually connected - connected to themselves, to Spirit...to the Mother... the trees...the earth...the animals...the young ones...the elders... and what is truthful and healthy now seems alien and weird. Amazing when you think about it.
So, in recent years I have become more and more conscious of my connection to the Dark Goddess. I found her identity as the Faery Queen when I read some of RJ Stewart's work; he calls Her both.
I began to work on a new version of the Myth of Psyche and Aphrodite, which I have on cassette and have begun to write up at my website.
( http://shekhinah.net/Aphrodite.htm ) In the traditional myth Psyche is assigned four magical tasks she must complete before she can be reunited with her true love. One of them I found quite puzzling; she was sent to the underworld to get a box of beauty from Persephone. She was instructed not to open this box, but to bring it back to Aphrodite. Of course she cannot resist and she opens this box. This part of the story is so much like the other familiar myth Pandora's Box. I was intrigued by the connection between Beauty (one of Aphrodite's powers) and the Underworld Goddess. Why go there of all places, to find the secret of Beauty? Yet it was a strong hint of the connection between Aphrodite and the Faery Queen.
When I re-wrote the myth, I had Psyche open the box to find a mirror within. She falls into a swoon from the intensity of her revelation - beauty can be kind of psychedelic, you know? ...and awakens on the shore near Aphrodite's Temple and birthplace, where our story began. This is different from the patriarchal version in which Psyche also goes into a dead faint, but instead wakens on Mount Olympus, home of the gods where she is reunited with her lover, Eros or Cupid; Aphrodite's son. In the patriarchal version Aphrodite and Psyche are placed in competition, and the Goddess' tasks are her efforts to keep the lovers apart. Psyche is depicted as an upstart... a threat to Aphrodite's position. There are many hero tales of this nature, like Jack and the Beanstalk or Phaeton, or Icarus... no so many female ones. Even in the patriarchal Psyche there is some victory for women because she does attain immortal love in the end and does complete all the tasks despite Aphrodite's jealous rages.
But I decided Aphrodite would not be the jealous mother-in-law in my version. Instead She would be Psyche's priestess.... the initiator who teaches the seeker about love's mysteries and what it means to be a priestess of this Gate. And of course I had to add a fifth task since I find fours linear and oppositional and usually try to remedy that with odd numbers, circles, spirals, etc.
Psyche's fifth task is to answer the riddle "Who is Love?" She hears the priestesses of Aprhodite calling to her singing/chanting this riddle, and as she listens she sees the Goddess Herself rising up out of the sea. Aphrodite's arms are open to her, and they merge and embrace. When Psyche looks up into the Goddess' eyes she sees - again- her own reflection - of course. :0)
So there it was laid out before me... these two sides of the same Goddess.... Her upper and lower world manifestations. And the human woman lover and seeker who must journey between them and learn the lessons of both. It all coalesced for me when I made my Shield. That was when I dedicated myself to the Faery Queen, and it became clear to me that they are really One goddess.
"...for thou art the Dark Goddess
And thou art the Golden One..."
I hope this writing helps a little to explain and answer your questions, sisters. It's difficult to put it all into words, but this is a start anyway. I hope some day to share the myth with you. I would like to make a ritual theatre piece with nine dancers...with music and song and poetry, Seven dancers to be the Pleiades; Aphrodite's priestesses. Yes that's who the seven sisters are in that constellation up in the sky. Pleiades means "doves" and that's what her priestesses were called, because the Dove is Her bird. Bird of love... of peace. I found this out in Barbara G. Walker's book The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. Incredible book; one that needs to be on every Goddess woman's shelf.
One dancer to be Psyche of course, and one to be Aphrodite. I of course would be the Muse... the sound track storyteller bard poet singer, weaving it all together with voice and guitar. I imagine the Seven being each dressed in a color of the rainbow, and when they open their cloaks they become wings... :0)
I think this bit of writing is actually one of the Sacred Discourses for the Grove; it feels that way to me, so I'll be adding it to the Links. A new thread of teachings for our studying adventures; perhaps it is called Goddesses or Finding Our Special Goddess.... or.....? Any thoughts or suggestions? I would love to have your feedback and additions too.
Passing the rattle....
Shekhinah

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