Posts Tagged ‘The Soul’

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Aphrodite Anaduomenê

January 14, 2010

Aphrodite Anaduomenê is an oft-forgotten aspect of this wonderful goddess. It is not an aspect that is hostile to the interpretation of her as borne of Zeus and Dione, too—it exists separately from the question of her parentage, curving away from such questions with all the speed and skill of the winged divine.

The sea has always represented mystery. It is the Unknown – even more than our sprawling fields or city streets at night, when the amber light of the streetlights or of the lanterns held high can stave away the darkness. The sea cannot be pushed back, cannot be made anything other than well and truly Other. It ebbs and flows, rising and falling—it can crash down in a tangle of shimmering fury, or it can lap languidly against the shore.

Does this not describe Aphrodite, too? Even removed from her oceanic aspects, one cannot deny that this description also fits the goddess of beauty, love, sex and human nature. She might sun herself in summer-light with the Kharites, but she also dances in the winter months with the Erinyes. She is often shown, in art both Ancient and modern, without clothes; suggesting at her open nature, at her willingness to Reveal herself to all whom ask. But so many look only at the surface—at the beauty of the skin—that they do not look beyond, to the mysteries concealed in her veins and behind her smiling eyes.

Aphrodite Anaduomenê, rising from the sea, is the goddess of the otherworldly Unknown. She is a tantalising link between this world—that which is known and can be both experienced and perceived by the human senses—and the world of the gods, which is beyond our limited mortal perception. She, as well as few of her fellows (such as Hermes, the lord of the liminal spaces), represent the Journey, both between this world and the gods’, and in one’s own life.

In life, you cannot know everything that will happen – just as we can only ever guess at what truly occurs within the ocean. Even with our machines and all our modernity, we can never know what truly lurks at the depths of All That There Is. To find out that would be to discover the forgotten Links, to unearth the true depths of human consciousness and to reveal the shadows that linger in every mortal soul.

She rises from the sea to bring this knowledge in her wake. To open oneself to the ecstatic mysteries of Aphrodite is to open oneself to those of Life itself. Beauty, grace and pleasure are masks she wears, and so are grief, pain and loss. One must accept and even embrace each of Aphrodite’s masks to understand the depths of this ancient, sea-rising goddess—and she rises from the sea, the mystery of the Unknown, to help facilitate just this in her suppliants.

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Linger

October 15, 2009

A kiss: the linger
Of fingers on smooth,
So-sensitive skin.
Love, bright as a bruise,
Something that smiles with
Too many teeth and
Says, I was here,
And I loved this girl.

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Aphrodite and Mirrors

October 12, 2009

Over the years, many people have thought that the connection between Aphrodite and mirrors is the goddess’ due to pride – or, worse, to vanity. This has simultaneously evolved with the impression of her as a weak, fragile god who has no desire that is not sexual in nature. The mirror becomes, under this impression, merely a way in which she can satisfy her need to witness her beauty. However, this idea creates far too human an impression of something divine, otherworldly—it creates human explanations for the actions of the gods, as though expecting the gods to abide by our moral rules of conduct. The gods, though, do not abide by our rules: they abide by their own social order, something that is at once incredibly alien and familiar to us.

The mirror is an often-seen attribute of Aphrodite; it is as linked to her as Dionysos’ wine or Zeus’ thunderbolts. The mirror is a key part in unlocking exactly who Aphrodite is – as the myths told in Ancient Greece are oftentimes man-made, even if they may be divinely inspired.

The astrological symbol for the planet Venus—named for the Roman’s goddess of love, Venus, who was often identified with the Greek Aphrodite—is the same symbol as that used for the biological female: a circle with a small cross beneath. In alchemy, the Venus symbol also stands for the metal copper, and this provides an interesting link between copper, females and mirrors – in antiquity, polished copper or bronze was used in mirrors. The Venus symbol is also thought to represent the very mirror of Venus or Aphrodite: therefore the connection between Aphrodite and mirrors becomes ever more pronounced.

In times both modern and ancient, the mirror is implicitly connected to beauty and the imagination – all of which are connected to Aphrodite. The Roman writer Apuleius makes the connection between Venus-Aphrodite and mirrors: ‘Bands of Tritoni sported here and there on the waters, one softly blowing on his echoing shell, another fending off with silk parasol the heat of the hostile sun, a third holding a mirror before his mistress’s face, while others, yoked in pairs to her chariot, swam below.’ (Apuleius, The Golden Ass 4.31.) Here both the Triton-drawn chariot and silk parasol have symbolic connections – the first identifying her as a goddess intimately linked to the sea, who can control the sometimes-vicious Tritoni, and the second linking her to the delicacy of love, which blossoms or fades beneath her influence, here shown as the ‘hostile sun.’

Further symbolism of the mirror shows a connection to secrets—both the hiding and revealing of them, as linking to Aphrodite’s epithets Kythereia (as ‘she has keuthomenon [love hidden] within herself’ – Suidas s.v. Kythereia) and Kypris (as ‘she furnishes kuoporis [pregnancy]’ – Suidas s.v. Kypris)—and, as such, to the intense, secret-shattering aspects of light. This links back to the planet Venus, which in Ancient Greece was ruled by two gods, one of which was named Eôsphoros (bringer of dawn) or Phôsphoros (bringer of light); identifying Aphrodite’s sacred planet, Venus, as a bringer of light. This, in turn, is further confirmed by her epithets Dia (divine, shining) and Khryseê (golden).

The mirror also, in turn, symbolises revelation and truth: the mirror often shows the face, and the eyes, as shown in the painting Venus At Her Mirror or Rokeby Venus of Venus-Aphrodite by Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez, in which the goddess gazes into the mirror with only her face revealed. The eyes, in turn, are the paths to truth: they are the “window to the soul”, or, ever-more interestingly, the “mirror of the soul.” Aphrodite, in gazing into the mirror, is therefore not merely enjoying the sight of her own beauty, but is acknowledging the truth of all that resides within her – for, as Aphrodite Ourania, she is that which keeps together the entire kosmos and continues the survival of all.

In conclusion, then, Aphrodite’s mirror is not merely a symbol of pride or vanity, but rather of the truth of survival – sometimes harsh, sometimes gentle. It symbolises the truth of the human body, the imagination of humans and gods, and the nature and prolonged existence of all that there is and ever was.

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Read Write Prompt #19

October 11, 2009

Read Write Prompt #19: Go Green!

Eros to Psykhe.

The desert sands still bear the mark of my
Feet; the ice caps still burn, though I am no
Longer there. I am here, I am with you.

The earth longs for me, for the pulse of my
Heat, my burn, my love. The sky, too, delights
In my presence – but I am with you, here.

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Read Write Prompt #11

October 9, 2009

Read Write Prompt #11: What Equals Metaphor Plus Math?

Prometheus.

My hands are scarred with the heat of the flames,
The cause for so many consequences,
So much pain. Agony, torture; eagles
Pecking at my liver each day and night.

The humans light their incense for me, but
They do not sacrifice to me; no, that
Honour they reserve for the one who would
Have rather left them crippled as rabbits.

I wait.

Fire was not the only gift I gave.
I taught them how to build great things, how to
Read the patterns of fate in the stars, and
How to read and write – letters, symbols, maths.

The first to know was a girl. I sat her
On the centre of my palm and whispered
To her the secrets of the many arts.
She liked one best of all: mathematics.

I wait.

She would swing her legs over my fingers
And smile up at me – her secret half-smile
That seemed to say that everything I
Would teach her would fall on welcoming ears.

She asked, once, why the human soul was not
God-like; why it did not live forever.
I swept her up onto my shoulder, kissed
Her hands, and taught her how to count to ten.

I wait.

She did not live long after that. I took
Her back, back, back to humanity, and
They sowed up her lying lips with black thread,
And gouged the eyes from her small, pretty head.

I taught another, and another. My
Secrets eventually forced themselves
Into the universal knowledge of
Mankind. They learned: finally, but they learned.

I wait.

They understood the changing of seasons.
They knew when to plant, and when to simply
Wait for Demeter’s winter to pass by.
Finally, they understood their own world.

They drew maps, found correlations where none
Had ever thought to look before. At last,
They flourished. They bred–like rabbits–and Zeus
Watched all, and now his eagle comes for me.

I will not have to wait for long.

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Pretty Girl

October 5, 2009

Break your heart into a thousand pieces
And give it to me, pretty little girl.
You think you’re better than me, think that you should
Be worshipped as me – a goddess! I laugh.

Sparks of fire and ice shudder through veins;
Rainbow-fast, dizzying and bright-bright-bright.
Love to hate me, to want me, to love me,
And I hate you, hate you, hate you; you bitch.

My boy’s lying on the floor, stitched-lips, dead
To the world, and it’s your fault, stupid girl.
Don’t you know who I am? Do you think that,
Because you’re beautiful, I’ll let it slide?

Do you know who I am? I’m not a toy,
A kitten with claws unsheathed – oh no, no.
I’m everything you could only dream of,
And I’m ready for you, idiot child.

I’ll count your eyes and your throat and your toes,
And I’ll laugh and dance – gold, gold, gold – on your
Grave; Eros will dance too, human girl, for
He loves me more than he ever loved you.

Stupid girl, pretty girl, what trouble has
Your too-fast hands, dripping wax, and broken
Heart got you into? I’ll tell you, my girl,
When you arrive. We have plenty of time.

I’ll learn what makes you scream. I’ll break you, girl,
And I’ll do it with a laugh and a smile.
I have eternity to know what will
Make you cry for love and pain; I learn fast,

And I can keep you alive forever.

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Thoughts on Thanatos

August 17, 2009

Death.

He is maggots sliding through empty veins, gnawing at dead flesh. He is the flames that burn to accept the bodies of those no longer in this world. He is the son of black Nyx, and yet his touch—gentle, unassuming, soothing—can strike at any given moment. He was born dead: he has never known warm sunlight or open-mouthed kisses; he does not understand what it means to breathe. He does not know how to live, how to survive.

He is limitless, unstoppable; and yet he tempers his own power. He binds himself to the rules of the Underworld, and to the word of his Lord, Hades. He is the steadfast companion of his drowsing brother, Hypnos; and he rides in his mother’s chariot as she draws her thin mists over the world each night. He lives alone but for his butterflies – magnificent, beating, pulsing, alive. They remind him of his oaths, and they keep him grounded when he would otherwise drift with shadow.

He is not cruel. He does not laugh as he takes the souls of the newly-dead. He inhales their spirits—dead lips to dead lips, cold flesh to cold flesh—and takes them to the mouth of the Underworld. It is not his duty to do this, and yet he does: he cares, though he cannot name such tender feelings, for he does not understand them. He is the brother of the Moirae, the Fates, and he is the minister of Hades. He is a king of kings: neither Hades nor his brothers can control him, try as they might.

He is not violent death: he is the gentle slipping-away of one’s final breath. He is the final blankness that touches the eyes of corpses; he is the carrion, hopping closer to stare at the tantalising flesh of the dead. He is the cycle of life and death, the pulse of mortality. Some say that he is born and he dies with each breath humans take – some say that he was never even born, he simply was, simply is.

He is the everlasting search for truth. He cannot be swayed to leniency, but he is merciful, and he is gentle. He is beyond remorse, beyond guilt; and yet his shoulders are weighed down by the magnitude of his own power. Every death he brings rests heavily upon him, a fresh load for him to carry, and he can barely bring himself to do as he must – but, yes, he must. He cannot control himself any more than Hades, Poseidon and Zeus can: for he is death, and death answers truly to nobody, not even itself. He ignores his screeching, violent sisters and draws his butterflies about him like a cloak. He is a child, a youth, an adult; all of these and none of these. He is what best helps those who look upon him – but he is always dark-eyed, for death is nothing if not the wrapping of shadows around throat and skin.

He is Thanatos. He has a thousand names, truly, but he is who he is, regardless of what he is called. He will visit any who ask, and many who do not: for he is death, death, death.