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Wednesday, 18 April 2012 00:00

Invoking Aphrodite

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Dear Sappho,

Who was Aphrodite and how much power did she have in the ancient world? I understand that Sappho invokes Aphrodite in some of her poem fragments. Can you tell me more?

Dear Invoking Aphrodite

Aphrodite may have been only one of many Goddesses in the ancient world but she was THE only Greek Goddess of sexual love, desire, and beauty. She is associated with the sea and, according to legend, was born of sea foam arising from the genitals of UranusUranus, who was the son or husband of Gaia (Earth), and the father of Chronos (Time).

Zeus and other Gods feared for the possible troubles that could be brought up amongst Aphrodite’s jealous lovers and married her to who someone who was not considered a threat. She had many mortal lovers as unfaithful wife to Hephaestus, himself a crippled God and a metal smith.

In the ancient world Aphrodite had a famous sanctuary on Mount Eryx on the north-west coast of Sicily and centers in Cyprus and Cythera and Corinth. Her later day Roman Goddess version was incarnated as Venus, The Goddess of Love. Her position can be seen, recognized and worshipped as the Divine Female archetype of love, beauty, desire, and passion. Aphrodite can be both cruel and forgiving in love, an ally and a force to prevail against. As we may say Dear God many times during a day, in conversation to the world around us, Sappho might have said Dear Aphrodite instead as both a prayer, and as an invocation.

Consider this personal invocation to Aphrodite by Sappho as one of her few poems that survive.

Prayer to Aphrodite

Glittering-Minded deathless Aphrodite,

I beg you, Zeus’s daughter, weaver of snares,

Don’t shatter my heart with fierce

Pain, goddess,

But come now, if ever before

You heard my voice, far off, and listened,

And left your father’s golden house,

And came,

Yoking your chariot. Lovely the swift

Sparrows that brought you over black earth

A whirring of wings through mid-air

Down the sky.

They came. And you, sacred one,

Smiling with deathless face, asking

What now, while I suffer: why now

I cry out to you, again:

What now I desire above all in my

Mad heart. ‘Whom now, shall I persuade

To admit you again to her love,

Sappho, who wrongs you now?

If she runs now she’ll follow later,

If she refuses gifts she’ll give them.

If she loves not, now, she’ll soon

Love against her will.’

Come to me now, then, free me

From aching care, and win me

All my heart longs to win. You,

Be my friend.

By aligning herself with Aphrodite, Sappho is confirming their bond as allies, as friends with common interests and goals. Sappho acknowledges her prior victories with Aphrodite’s help, and gives thanks in advance that such Love will continue to prevail.

Blessed Be,