Archive for September, 2009

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Fiction: Thoth: Bookshop

September 29, 2009

The shop was cool and quiet, but for the tinkling of windchimes that hung beside the blue-tinted windows. The woman paused at the door, glancing around and breathing in the heavy smell of citrus lingering in the air; the small shop seemed deserted, and she was uncertain as to whether or not to continue on.

Finally, she moved forward and called out into the shop, “Hello?”

There was an immediate shuffling noise, and then a door she hadn’t noticed behind the stacks of books slid open and a man stepped out. She took an involuntary step back; the man, though extremely slender, seemed impossibly tall. He had a cruel look about his eyes — no, not cruel, she corrected herself, but calculating. He had the look of a bird about him; a cold, cunning animal.

She shivered, and he smiled. It wasn’t a reassuring smile, but rather a baring of teeth. He clicked his teeth together twice–snap-snap–then turned away and shut the door. She started, and looked again at him. He wasn’t quite as tall as she’d thought; he was barely above average height. He turned back to face her and she started again.

“Who?” he asked coolly, “are you?”

She sniffed, then shrugged her bag from her shoulder and held it securely in her arms. “A customer,” she shot back, just as icily – but she couldn’t hide the tremor in her voice, and the way her eyes skirted away from meeting his. She finally managed to hold his gaze for a split second, and realised that the skin around his eyes was marked–tattooed–with strange dark marks.

“Hieroglyphs.”

“What?” She stepped back.

He gestured at his face–at his eyes–and then smiled again. It was more human this time, and the goosebumps that had been creeping along her arms faded almost as swiftly as they had arrived. She didn’t answer, and he turned away once more. His hair was perfectly straight and so dark it seemed to be beyond black — a colour that was completely its own.

“What do you want?”

“I don’t – I just wanted to look.” Her tone was defensive, now; she scowled and tucked her chin against her chest, as if to shield herself from him, though his back was still to her.

“You came for this.” He turned back, giving his predatory smile once more: she flinched and then looked at his dark, almost feminine hands. There was a sleek book in his hands with a pale grey cover and a title obscured by his thumb. He stepped forward and held the book out until she accepted it. A gleam of silver at his throat caught her attention; he was wearing a strange cross with a loop in place of the upright point that seemed almost familiar, as if she’d seen it before – or instinctively knew it.

She looked down at the book. The title was unfamiliar, but it felt right in her hands. This, she realised, was exactly what she had come for.

“How much is it?” She turned it over in her hands; there was no sticker on it denoting a price, though, as she’d thought there would be.

“A pen.”

She blinked. “I’m sorry? A pen?”

He smiled sharply. “Yes. I like pens.” He held her gaze for as long as she dared to look; and when she glanced away, a flush creeping into her cheeks, he spoke again. “If you have a pen, you may have the book.”

She slowly pushed a hand into her bag and, after a moment, drew out a pen. She held it out, smiling uncertainly, and he took it.

“Goodbye,” he said abruptly, turning away. She followed his example, and paused only at the shop door. Beyond the door, shadows had begun to settle on the streets – it looked to be about five, six o’clock, and yet she’d set off for the shop at midday. She glanced back over her shoulder and saw the man at the door, his arms folded and his strange cross glittering at his throat.

“My name is Djehuti.” He smiled, and then the door opened behind him and he stepped back through it. It closed behind him, and she remained at the shop door for a moment, gazing in the direction he’d gone. The door, barely visible behind the books, had a strange, long-beaked bird painted on it, with more strange writing–hieroglyphs–beneath it.

“Djehuti,” she mumbled to herself, passing her free hand over her hair. She turned, shaking her head, and quickly hurried out of the shop. The darkness had truly begun to set in, now: although she’d looked out of the window only moments before, she’d have guessed that it was now perhaps ten o’clock. She looked down at the book as she walked in the direction of the bus stop, squeezing it as she walked.

Within moments she was on the bus, the book in her hand and an odd smile on her lips. If asked, she would not have known where the book came from — she would have thought she’d always had it.

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Fiction: Aphrodite: Winter

September 28, 2009

She isn’t there in the winter. They – men leaning on staffs and breathing heat into the air – discuss it among themselves. She isn’t there, and they ask why. They invent stories amongst themselves, tales of her with Persephone, threading the pale flowers of the Underworld through her fellow’s hair – but no, no. That is not true, because then she would be somewhere, not here but still there, and she is not.

The truth doesn’t make sense to her. Winter, the chill nipping along throats and shoulders, destroys her. It tears her apart with curved nails and makes her scream – pleasure pain pleasure pain; she’s not sure, it’s hard to distinguish the two when she rules such a vast domain. But winter: still it destroys her, still it kisses her until her eyes stream with tears and she forgets herself.

If she forgets herself, she doesn’t exist. That much is true and that is honest, and yet if the men knew, they would ask: then how does she return? Where does she go?

She laughs at them when she hears their words in the summer, and slaps them with pulsing waves of desire, need. She speaks, without the need for oracles or sacrifice to appease her, for she laughs often and without restraint: “I am everywhere.”

That is the truth. She exists not at all, and yet she does, really: she exists in the occasional kiss, mostly chaste now, just a brush of lips over a brow, or else in the tentative touch of icy fingers.

She has to wonder, though: where does she go? She’s not certain – not to the Underworld, though, and that is all she knows. Not even to the Kharites, with their red-red, ever-smiling mouths – even they succumb to silence in the all but endless winters. To her, they are endless: and yet they are incredibly finite, for she never remembers anything of them.

Once, she asked Zeus where it is that she goes, and he laughed at her, as though she were nothing more than the humans that she herself mocked. “You? You are not of winter, and so you do not live there.”

His answer terrified her, and it still does now. She hides: she wraps herself in Ares’ warmth; she is hot beneath her skin, and flames blaze in her summer-girl veins. She thinks, thinks, thinks, and she dreams, but she can’t find an answer better—or equal—to that Zeus gave, and she doesn’t like that. She doesn’t like to think herself an outcast, but, in the winter, that is what she is.

Nothing grows through the snow that settles over the earth, or even in the chill that creeps in the autumn days and makes her mind hazy and her pleasures harder to find. Not love, or plants, or fruits: not even hate can blossom here. Yes, yes, even Eris fades in the winter – a cooling of the words at first, the sharpness edged with something softer, and then even she goes.

Aphrodite does not stay, cannot stay, when winter sets in. She has tried before – fighting back with teeth and nails, snarling and screaming – but it never works. Ice blazes against her, pulsing like a fire that she can’t control, and it pulls her under. She drowns in the ice like a child, struggling to press her face up through the jagged hole to breathe: and it does not work.

She blames not Demeter, nor Persephone—and from the tales whispered among women with loose-hanging breasts and thin, cruel mouths, she knows this to be strange—but Athene. She is Aphrodite’s undoing: thus the chill winter months must be of her. She curses Athene and flies at her, screams, attacks: and cold, hard Athene simply ignores her.

That, though, is the way of things.

It is only when she looks, finally, to herself that she realises what she knew all along. She looks past the image that the humans set upon her, trying to define who she—she!—is, and she understands. Winter takes her from the scope of humanity and places her back among the kosmos, as Ananke once again: for it is inevitable that the kosmos need her influence, too, in order to remain as they are. In the winter, she realises, she wraps herself with Khronos, and melts, fluid and snakelike, into him. He remains with her when she returns: she understands that. He keeps her heart beating—hers, hers; the only heart of all the gods that truly beats—as she dances with mortals and exchanges kisses with her lovers.

Winter does not seem so harsh, now. She thinks of him in the spring, summer and autumn, and that makes her disappearance easier. She shares kisses with Persephone at the solstice and then waits: but she does not wait long. Winter sears through her, tearing her apart – she feels no agony, not really, but only the bliss of knowledge.

The pulse of ichor, of life, in her veins is kept there by her yearly embrace with Khronos. She melts into him, and he into her, and she becomes new once more. She is refreshed; she shines among the Olympian gods and puts even the Titanes to shame. Her heart beats and her eyes flutter, ichor pulses and need claws at her belly, and she understands that this is her own blessing. She smiles to the sky in the dead silence of a summer night, and looks on with bright eyes to the coming winter months.

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Fiction: Ekho and Pan: Twilight

September 28, 2009

She exists best in the twilight hours, like the fey that women speak of as they draw close together in the heaving markets and shout to be heard. Nobody leaves saucers of milk out for Ekho, though, and she is not repulsed by iron. She knows only that, in the between hours—when the earth is cool but the air warm—she can think, even if she has neither voice nor body to make her thoughts known.

Pan, though, doesn’t accept that she thrives only in twilight. He needs her most when Selene’s delicate madness thrums through the air: he pulses with hunger, desire, need, and yet she can do nothing for him. She watches him undress and touch himself, and she can’t even feel passion for that, no, not even that.

She has no true body; she has no real desire. Aphrodite’s influence does not stretch to the bodiless, even if it was love that made her waste away. She scorned love for centuries after that; she used to spit at Selene and scream at the lovers who walked, hand in hand, through her domain. They know better now, but it matters not: she would not shout at them anymore.

Pan, Pan, she whispers with her eyes. He’s asleep, as he so often is, during her strongest hours – when the shimmer of her body is there, just barely there, amid the wind and tinkling rain. It is only in twilight, then, that Aphrodite affects her: it is only in twilight that she so hungers for Pan.

He, though, doesn’t stir. She doesn’t know how to wake him: her lips are sewn shut, and the thread only loosens when another speaks first. She remembers Hera and still thinks resentfully of her: after all, she did not fuck Zeus; she merely made it possible for others to. Hera’s wrath is not bound by direct responsibility, though, and Ekho has learned to understand and accept that, even if she does not like it.

She draws closer, away from the trees where she pulses strongest—for it was in the trees that she withered away to nothingness—and has to fight through the wind to get near. The wind tears at her barely-there body – she doesn’t have skin or hair, lips or breasts or wind-warmed cheeks; all she has is her essence, concentrated into one place.

She kneels beside him, twisting her sewn lips this way and that. She feels cold, cold, cold: the hunger in her belly rumbles, sates, rumbles, sates. It bewilders her, but she understands it a little – she is not fully here, and so neither is her desire. The creeping chill in her veins reminds her of that–that she is even less tangible than the ghosts–and she forces her trembling essence to the ground beside him.

He is without his chiton; his dark hairs stand stiffly up from his skin. His face is tilted away from her, and she wishes that it was not; if he was turned towards her, his breath—always hot, hot, hot—might warm her. But he is not, and she doesn’t have the energy to force her not-there body to move once again, so she lies, still and silent, on the cool, hard ground.

Eos flits overhead; dew streams from her fingers and falls down, down, down – it goes through Ekho and she feels it, oh, she feels it. She closes her eyes and imagines that they, too, were sewn. She opens them again and smiles to find that they are not.

Pan, restless in his sleep as in his waking hours, shifts. He turns; his breath warms Ekho’s forehead, and she tries, in vain, to bury herself closer to him. She can’t, though; he is too far away, and she can’t move. The chill has frozen her; it is all that she can do to remain beside him.

He surprises her, then. Still asleep, he inches closer, until his bare, hairy chest presses against where hers should be. She recalls the feeling of her nipples hardening and smiles – if she had a body, that would have happened. His arms remain flung above his head, but one of his legs move; it winds around her essence, her ever-so-barely-there illusion of a body, and draws her closer.

His warmth begins to seep through her; she imagines fire coarsing through her nonexistent veins, chasing away the shards of ice. She imagines heat settling over her like a blanket; she imagines her own body, warmed by sex and flushed, red and open in the early dawn hours.

He stirs. His eyes open, and lock on where she thinks hers are. He smiles, and his head moves. She tilts her own back—or tries to; she recalls how it felt to do so, and tries to recreate that feeling—and feels, just for an instant, the brush of his lips over hers.

The wind finally batters through her, then; she is torn apart and torn away from her Pan. She collects her essence as best she can and flees for the trees, wrapping herself into the dewy leaves; if she lets herself go and simply succumbs to the wind, she will truly fade to nothing.

“I love you,” Pan shouts, his voice raw with hunger and, yet, softened by sleep – and tenderness.

She answers in the only way she can, throwing his words back at him with a slap of emotion, of strangled, tortured, aching love: “I love you.”

So it goes; the twilight passes, and she fades into silence as the day begins.

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Aphrodite-Ananke and Creation

September 27, 2009

When you hear the name ‘Aphrodite,’ it is highly likely that you immediately understand who it is one is speaking of – after all, Aphrodite (and the Roman goddess that she was identified with, Venus) is a popular figure even outside of Hellenic Polytheistic circles. However, unless you have delved quite deeply into the Greek mythologies, it is unlikely that you will know who ‘Ananke’ is. She is not a mainstream goddess; she is not Olympian nor an attendant of such, but rather she is one of the gods—the Protogenos or primeval gods—who are principally responsible for the creation of the cosmos and everything within it.

Simply put, Ananke is the god of compulsion, necessity and inevitability. She was born the sister-mate of the Protogenos Khronos, king of time—who is deeply identified with Aion, the Protogenos lord of eternity—and from their embrace Phanes first begun. Phanes, the primeval god of creation and generation, equated with Hesiod’s Elder Eros and the more well-known (and oft-called ‘younger’) Eros, god of love and the son of Aphrodite.

In my personal view of How The Kosmos Came To Be—based on a mix of classical sources—in the beginning, and for unknowable eons, all that existed was Khaos; the deep mists of the void. Khaos existed, and nothing else: she did not breathe, she did not think, she did not live. And yet stirring in her misty womb—perhaps over hundreds of thousands of years; perhaps for even longer—were the Protogenos gods Ananke and Khronos-Aion. Nature, of course, abhors a vacuum; and so it was the eternal pull of inevitability that pulsed together in the barely-there body of Khaos until, finally, the moment arose and Ananke and Khronos-Aion were born, tangled together.

From Khronos-Aion and Ananke’s violent, and yet utterly sexless, embrace, Phanes’ egg was produced; it grew in Ananke’s womb until the time came for it to emerge. And yet there was, truly, no way for the egg to emerge: there was yet no Phanes, no Protogenos pull to reproduce – and so they could not, did not, reproduce. It was only when Phanes hatched from his egg, deep in Ananke’s body, that they became truly, sexually formed: and at that moment, Ananke was torn apart by the immense pressure of generation, life, sex – the immense pressure that was Phanes. Thus, now, Ananke’s divinity rested with Khronos’ still, but she was utterly formless—more so, even, than Khaos.

Phanes’ arrival—his necessary arrival—into the kosmos kicked everything into action. The other Protogenos offspring that had been stirring within Khaos were instantly born – Erebos, Nyx, Tartaros and Gaia; darkness, night, the stormy pit beneath the earth and the earth itself, respectively. Phanes pulsed, everywhere: the Protogenos gods crashed together and life exploded in the far-reaching darkness of the kosmos.

Gaia, with only Phanes’ massively sexual influence and no tangible partner, produced children such as Ouranos, the heavens, whom shortly thereafter became the father, with Gaia, of the twelve Titanes. The Titanes were led by Kronos, god of destructive time, and the bi-gendered god Agdistis, who would later be castrated and become the goddess Rhea-Kybele. However, not all was as perfectly peaceful as it may sound: and the first war between the gods was not long in arriving.

After the Titanes’ births, Ouranos and Gaia continued to come together—he descended nightly to lie with her—and they produced more children, the Hekatonkheires (six hundred-handed and fifty-headed gigantes). The Hekatonkheires were so awful and terrifying to look upon that, after the birth of the first, Ouranos took it upon himself to force each back into Gaia’s womb. This caused her immense pain, and she eventually went to her Titane sons to ask them for their help. Only Kronos agreed to help.

Kronos, as is rather well known, ambushed Ouranos as he descended to lie with Gaia, and castrated him. The severed genitals of the god landed in the sea, mixing with Thalassa’s Protogenos sea-womb – and Aphrodite began to take shape. Over the course of the hundreds of years during which Aphrodite was formed, Agdistis became Rhea-Kybele, Rhea and Kronos’ Olympian children were born, Kronos swallowed all of the Olympians but Zeus, and Zeus, when old and powerful enough, waged war with the Titanes and won the reign of the kosmos.

As such, this time was not yet right for Aphrodite: the Moirai spun the threads of violence, hate and pain, and there was then no opening for a god such as Aphrodite who encompassed both spectrums of emotions and bodily states; the good (such as love, piety and friendship) and the awful (war, torture and death). And as she was growing—slowly and steadily, in the womb of deep Thalassa—the divine essence of Ananke remained torn apart. That essence resonated with Aphrodite’s own: for both are gods of compulsion, of necessity, of want and need and inevitability, and both longed for completion – Aphrodite for the wars to cease and to be born, lovely and whole, and Ananke to return to her mate Khronos-Aion, who continued to turn the heavens without her.

It was inevitable, in and of itself, that Ananke’s loose divinity would be attracted to Aphrodite’s. They drew steadily closer—Ananke filtered through Thalassa’s womb and delighted in the contact with a fellow yearning divine—until, in a burst of what truly could only be described as fate, their essences merged together. Ananke ceased to exist; Aphrodite alone never truly existed. They became one: Aphrodite-Ananke, the Protogenos, Titane and even Olympian goddess of the necessity of procreation, the compulsion of love, and the inevitability of beauty in a world created by such gods as these.

The war between the Olympians and the Titanes ended shortly after, and the time came for Aphrodite-Ananke to, slowly, be born. At this time, Phanes’ influence was still everywhere, pushing at anything and everything to create, create, create; and it was here that ‘Aphrodite’ and ‘Eros’ first met, as she was being born and he was there to urge her on (and yet he was her own child: for he was the son of Ananke and Khronos, and her essence was now so wound with Ananke’s that it would have been impossible—truly, truly impossible—to separate them; they had totally become one).

From the very first, Aphrodite-Ananke and Phanes connected. As the resonance between Aphrodite and Ananke had occurred, it occurred now between Phanes and Aphrodite-Ananke – but the end result was much different. Instead of their essences merging, Phanes wrapped himself around the child-goddess and all but suffocated her in his embrace. From this, a seed of divinity flickered in Aphrodite-Ananke’s womb—a connection—and Phanes poured his entire divinity into Aphrodite-Ananke in a tidal wave that shook the childhood from her essence and brought about, simultaneously, the rapid development of the child, or rather the children, within her womb.

She gave birth to Phanes immediately: he was now born again as Phanes-Eros, Phanes-Himeros and Phanes-Pothos – the gods of love, desire and passion. By the time that she finally reached the shore of Cyprus, Zeus immediately met her and ordered that she join the Olympian gods, perhaps recognising the Protogenos stir in her eyes and smiles, and she, in turn, asked Nerites to join her. He refused, and refused again the wings she would offer him, and the first instance of her wrath against a wrongdoer of love occurred; she turned him into a shellfish, and gave the wings to her Erotes, instead.

And, thus, Aphrodite-Ananke became known as simply Aphrodite, and her sons not as Phanes-Eros, Phanes-Himeros and Phanes-Pothos, but simply Eros, Himeros and Pothos. It is these words that even I most commonly use, due to ease, but the deity I refer to each time is the same: ‘Aphrodite’ is the mixture of the essences of Aphrodite and Ananke; ‘Eros’ is Phanes reborn as Eros; ‘Himeros’ is, likewise, Phanes-Himeros; and, finally, ‘Pothos’ is Phanes-Pothos.

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Sky Queen

September 26, 2009

She is the moon
Reflecting her brother’s light,
Though no dimmer than he—
Truly
She does not blind with fire;
She soothes with smiles,
With moonlight-love.

She is the pangs of birth,
The cause for tides of fertility.
She is the cause, but it is not she,
She does not laugh at pain;
She tries to shield, to guide,
To soothe with caresses. 

Yet who looks to her?
In this world, who stops and gazes,
And warms themselves in her moonlight?
They should, but they do not,
And she grows distant and cold,
Sad as a broken star.

But shine on, glitter and dance again!
I smile for you, my Lady!
I take the time and I dance for you!
I whisper my thanks for all you have done–
And all that you continue to do.
 
The addict expecting birth and needing her fix;
You help her gently, pushing to focus her mind,
And realise what she is doing,
And you hold her as she cries.
 
The man who knows not how to care for his babe,
You come to him in dreams—
For night is when you shine best—
And you lay your hands upon his brow.
That is all he needs; and that is you.
 
Silver dashing through clouds,
Dancing over swollen waves –
That is you.
 
The scream of a newborn,
Or the party-hats of a child –
That is you.
 
The smiles of parents,
Kissing their babe for the first time –
That is you.
 
Mother,
Sky Queen,
Titanide,
Selene.
 
That is you.

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Aphrodite: Goddess of the Body

September 24, 2009

When Aphrodite is discussed—as is often inevitable in Hellenic Polytheist circles; for who can truly say they have never felt anything for this goddess?—the subject of her influence is, of course, always key. She is named the goddess of beauty, of love, of sex; and even of war, grief, death. I propose, though, that we push aside these names and dub her, for simplicity’s sake, Aphrodite: Goddess of the Body.

As the daughter of Ouranos (as asserted by writers such as Hesiod, Cicero, Apuleius and Nonnus)—born of his castrated genitals plunging into the sea—Aphrodite would be, in terms of power and influence, on the same level as the Titanes; in truth, she would belong to a generation between Titan and Olympian, for she would have been born in the period between Kronos’ castration of his father and the birth of Zeus. Her mythologies regarding the time between her birth and her arrival at Olympos are not extensive: the classical writers speak only of her love for the sea-god Nerites and of her arrival at Rhodes, where she ‘was prevented from stopping there by the sons of Poseidon’ (Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, 5. 55. 4). In retaliation, Aphrodite struck them with madness. Immediately thereafter, it seems, she returned to the sea and continued on until she reached Kypros, where she was met by the Horai (according to the Homeric Hymn 6 to Aphrodite) or Peitho and Eros (according to Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5. 11. 8). Finally, a child- or youth-Aphrodite of the seas is mentioned by Pausanias, as a depiction on the base of Poseidon’s statue: ‘Thalassa holding up the young Aphrodite, and on either side as the nymphs called Nereides.’ (Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2. 1. 8.)

Alternatively, Aphrodite is borne of Zeus—who is first and foremost king of the skies or heavens, and as thus can be identified with Ouranos, Protogenos god of the heavens—and Dione, whose name springs from Dios, which means Zeus or Divine One. (I, personally, would argue that Dione is the goddess of divinity, and as thus her name is so deeply connected with Zeus’ own because one of his primary influences is as guide or leader of fate—Moiragetês—and the keeper of the order of the cosmos –Kosmêtês.) As the daughter of Zeus, she would be level simply with the other second-generation Olympian gods – Apollon, Ares, Artemis, Athene, Dionysos, Hephaistos and Hermes, and as the daughter of Dione she would be on par with the other minor Titanes. As such, Aphrodite loses much of her immense power under the constraints of this myth of her birth; I, personally, choose to focus on her as Aphrodite Ourania (‘the heavenly’) rather than Aphrodite Pandêmos (‘common to all’).

As both Aphrodite Ourania and Pandêmos, it is undeniable that Aphrodite’s concerns seem more to be with the body than anything else. As Aphrodite Ourania, she holds together the atoms in the bodies that the gods adopt; without her pull, the gods would all be abstract, shapeless beings much akin to the Protogenos god Khaos. As Aphrodite Morpho (‘shapely, of the form’), she holds together the human body, too: the human form. As Aphrodite Ambologêra (‘delayer of old age’), it is she who brings about the constant cycle of cells dying and being replaced in the body, and she too is responsible for youth and the young; and as Aphrodite Despoina (‘the ruling goddess’ or ‘the mistress’), she is blatantly responsible for the body as the goddess who ‘rules’ it. Further evidence comes from the myth of Pandora’s creation: Aphrodite ‘shed grace upon her head’ – shed life upon her; gave her life – ‘and [gave her] cruel longing’ – desire – ‘and cares that weary the limbs’ – menstruation; the cycle of fertility in the female human body. Thus, it can be concluded that she who so inflames the body is responsible, too, for its continued existence; without her, there would be no shape to the body—we would all just be a random mesh of DNA strands clinging together—and, even if by some miracle the body was shaped, it would be incapable of fighting illness, or remaining fertile, or producing young, and so on.

It is as Aphrodite Pandêmos that she becomes a simple—if ‘simple’ is a word that can ever be used to describe a goddess, and a goddess such as Aphrodite at that—goddess concerned only with the matters of the heart. She becomes common to all the people; she strikes, or sends her son Eros to strike, any whom she pleases, be they god or mortal, with the shaft of desire. ‘This is the portion allotted to her amongst men and undying gods,—the whisperings of maidens and smiles and deceits with sweet delight and love and graciousness.’ (Hesiod, Theogony, 176 ff.) If you whittle her down just to Aphrodite Pandêmos, that is all she is: the goddess who presides over love as a collective, and love affairs, desire, love poetry, sensuality.

As Epistrophia (‘she who turns to love’), Apostrophia (‘averter of unnatural desires’), Nymphia (‘bridal’), Migôntis (‘[of the] marital union’), Hêrê (‘of Hera’), Apotrophia (‘the expeller [of unnatural desires]’) and Gamelii (‘of marriage’), Aphrodite becomes, well and truly, a goddess of marriage and marital love. That is, though, to be expected: she is the goddess who binds people together – on an molecular level, as Aphrodite Ourania, keeping the body together; on a sexual level, Aphrodite Philommeidês (‘genital-loving’), keeping lovers together; on a communal level, as Aphrodite Pandêmos, keeping the community together; and on a marital level, as Aphrodite Gamelii, keeping married partners together. Indeed, Aphrodite’s influence as a goddess of marriage is clearly very strong; Pausanias described ‘a cave [in which] Aphrodite is worshipped, to whom prayers are offered . . . especially by widows who ask the goddess to grant them marriage’ (Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10. 38. 12) and Aeschylus once stated that, ‘she [Aphrodite], together with Hera, holds power nearest to Zeus, and for her solemn rites [of marriage] the goddess of varied wiles is held in honor.’ (Aeschylus, Suppliant Woman, 1030.)

That, though, is still not all there is to Aphrodite. She also holds the epithets Symmakhia (‘ally’), Areia (‘warlike’) and Hôplismenê (‘armed’). Thus, with these titles—as well as her relationship with Ares, the Olympian god of masculinity, passion, war and blood—she becomes a goddess not just of love and form, but also of war. She becomes a goddess of grief and mourning—the love for those who have died—and she becomes a goddess of nationality – the love of one’s nation. As such, she, by association, becomes also a goddess of hate: hate for those that the soldiers fight, for love and hate both stir the body with equal vigour, and the body is undeniably Aphrodite’s tool.

Then there are her associations with the sea to consider. Her very name comes from the word Aphros, meaning sea-foam. She held several epithets alluding to her nature as a sea goddess: Anaduomenê (‘rising out of the sea’), Euploia (‘fair voyage’), Limenia (‘of the harbour’), Pontia (‘of the sea’) and Xenia (‘of the foreigner’). At a very basic level, she could be considered connected to the sea only because of one of the myths of her birth—from Ouranos’ castrated genitals—but with Aphrodite, nothing is only skin-deep. She holds sway over the four realms: the sky, as Aphrodite Ourania, the heavenly; the sea, as Aphrodite Pontia, of the sea; the earth, as Aphrodite Porne (‘fleshy, of flesh’); and the Underworld, as the khthonic Aphrodite Androphonos (‘killer of men’).

It is that final influence—over the Underworld—that seems so alien in connection to Aphrodite. But the connection does hold: as well as the epithet Androphonos, she is also Aphrodite Anosia (‘unholy’), Epitumbidia (‘she upon the graves’), Melainis (‘black, of night’), Skotia (‘dark’) and Tumborukhos (‘gravedigger’). Thus, one cannot deny her khthonic aspects – the question simply is how, exactly, she influences the Underworld. It is primarily because love—and therefore she; or Eros, at her command—kills; wars are never waged for anything but the love of oneself, or one’s country, or of money, or of one’s religion, etc, etc. Love is the primary force behind everything, and it is love that Aphrodite commands: thus she is the goddess of death, deadly love, and the grief for that which it leaves behind.

For me, personally, it is only when you take all of these aspects into account that you finally get the full picture of who Aphrodite is. She is a goddess of the heavens, a goddess of the earth, a goddess of the sea, a goddess of the Underworld, a goddess who keeps the body together, a goddess who directs love and desire, a goddess who rules over marriage, a goddess of the community and a goddess of war. And yet she is more than that: she influences love poetry, music, dance, festivity – she is a goddess to whom no doors are closed, and to whom there are no boundaries. All of the emotions and states that affect the body—life, hunger, desire, fury, hatred, humility, embarrassment, blood, madness and death, to name but a few—are under her command: the body is her vessel, her plaything, and, to her devotees, there is no forgetting that. If you are impious, she can literally unravel you at the seams – and although it is always better to treat gods with respect, as opposed to disrespect, I think that especially applies here!

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Queen of the Wild Ones

September 18, 2009

Io Artemis, Queen of the Wild Ones!
She who protects the young and innocent,
She who guides women through childhood, marriage—
Until they finally lift up their veil,
And leave Artemis for Aphrodite,
Abandoning chastity for marriage—
They abandon their claim to the hunters
Who roam with Artemis, Queen of the Hunt,
But she is never forgotten by them.

She is remembered like a long-lost friend,
The distant memory of a flower,
Opening its petals; bearing its scent,
Taking them to the forests of their queen,
Where the wolves and deer play together;
A world of eternal sunshine and bliss,
Of wonder and wildness: the world of gods.

Even when the girls cross that final line
And they become girls-no-more, women now;
She still keeps a place for them in her world,
Where they could hunt and dance in red-hot blood
And sing in the amber glow of firelight.
They cannot come back to her in body;
They are kept from her by their love of men,
Or of one man—their man—it matters not;
The Wild Girl lies only with her nymphai,
And she does not know the touch of a man.
But they can always return in spirit,
After the smoke clears; after they are ash;
And the weight of mortal life rests no more
Upon their shoulders and delicate throats.
 
She welcomes them back, then; spirits, daimones,
They become like the nymphs; they dance for her,
Sing for her, love her; they hunt in her name;
They scream at the tall trees and low bushes,
At the flowers that waver in the breeze,
So that her echo might dance forever,
Even if—by some awful twist of fate—
She, Artemis, Wild Girl, dances no more;
Even if she lies broken and bleeding,
An angel fallen from nowhere at all
But the song in the hearts and on the lips
Of her girls, human and divine alike.
 
But such things would not ever come to pass;
For she could outrun even the Moirai.
She dances faster than the Anemoi,
Swifter than her nymphai companions,
And, yes, far quicker than the thread of fate.
She is bound by them, the sisters of fate;
And yet she is not. She is free to roam,
To dance, to refuse to submit to men
Who leer after her; instead she strikes,
Changing them, shooting them; killing them all.
 
She is not delicate, a pretty toy
To be dressed and shown like a common dog.
No: she is the cruel mistress of the wild,
The queen of girl-children and young women,
Of all animals – predator and prey.
She is one of her father’s favourites;
She rules the wild places with her nymphai,
Screaming and stomping and dancing all night;
Even the day is not safe from her yells,
And from the blood that drips from her red lips.

She is the bright sun, and she is the moon;
She reflects her own light, girl-queen, child-god;
And yet truly she is none of these things.
She is the wilderness, the screams of birth,
The blood that spills and the earth that yields.
She is where the wild things are: she rules them;
Artemis Hêgemonê, queen of night,
Queen of day; Olympian girl-goddess.
She who answers to none, and who accepts
Any who offer their spirit to her,
Who dance, scream and spill rich blood in her name:
Artemis, Artemis! Io, io!