This is an encore post from past years with a few pertinent updates. In the name of blessed Aphrodite, let us reclaim this day of love in the true spirit of celebration, honoring the divine gift of all love. All pleasure. Consensual unions only, of every kind. Warmest merriments and blessings to you! ~ Beth
Do you not see how mighty is the Goddess Aphrodite?
She sows and gives that love from which all we upon this earth are born.
~ Empedocles ca. 490-430 BCE
Felicitations and good wishes to all, on this most ancient day of Love!
Yes, I know. The over-culture calls it Valentine’s Day. But you see, I’ve been campaigning to reconsider whether we really want to align this day with a bunch of obscure martyred Christian priests named St. Valentine.
Instead of a day that is steeped in our culture’s fascination with death, consumerism, conflicted sexuality, and tragic love, I prefer to celebrate the gifts of powerful Aphrodite, whose focus is on the life-affirming joy, sanctity, and pleasure of the erotic.
The Parentalia, an eight-day Roman festival honoring dead ancestors, was celebrated at this time. All temples were closed, no marriages took place, and government officials did not show their rank. People visited the graves of their parents and other relatives, bringing offerings of milk, wine, honey, oil, and spring water.
Sunset tonight is the time that would have begun the portion of the Parentalia called the Lupercal. This is a day of fertility dedicated to Juno-Lupa, the Goddess Juno in the guise of Mother She-wolf. Of course, Juno is also considered the Roman version of Hera, Goddess of wise counsel, love, and marriage.
Women’s pleas for children were granted by Her, which may be be linked to the origins of Valentine’s Day. The custom of sending love notes may have originated from the practice of casting lots to draw the names of partners during these celebrations.
(Later the Church tried to abolish this practice, suggesting that the names of saints be substituted, but as Waverly Fitzgerald notes, unsurprisingly, it was not a hit).
Coincidentally (or perhaps not), according to some interpretations of the Celtic calendar, today is also the holy day when Arianrhod was ordered to step over the magical truth-discerning wand of Her uncle, Math, to prove Her virginity.
Some Neo-Pagans also celebrate this day as the wedding between Danu, Mother of the Land and Cernnunos, God of Nature and the cycles of Life.
History of the Love Goddess
There are many incarnations of this great Olympian Goddess of pleasure, joy, beauty, love, and procreation. Her power transcends culture and time. She is known as “Aphrodite Marina,” “Maiden of the Sea,” “Aphrodite Urania,” and simply the “Goddess of Love.” Her Roman identity is Venus.
Although one of the most widely recognized of the Greek Goddesses, She probably did not originate in Greece, but was originally an aspect of the Mother Goddess that came from the sea traders of the eastern Mediterranean. Some scholars believe that Aphrodite is a version of the older Goddess, Astarte.
Of course, Aphrodite is well known for Her love affairs, which were numerous and rather spectacular, and resulted in many offspring, including Her son, Eros. Her most notable lovers were the Gods Ares, Dionysius, Hermes, Poseidon, and the mortal, Adonis.
However, She was not generally thought of as a Mother Goddess by the Greeks. Instead, She was a very important representative of the Maiden aspect of the Triple Goddess.
Remember, though, that the Maiden is not usually an untouched virgin, and Venus Aphrodite is an obvious example. Instead, this term refers to the fact that She is free of ties to marriage or relationship, and is not dependent on a lover or husband for Her power, identity, or security.
The Golden One
Although Aphrodite is beautiful, and beloved by all the Gods and Goddesses of Olympus (no small feat in itself!), She is no wimp. She is very serious about honoring the gifts of love and sexuality, and can be harsh against those who thwart the natural flow in all living beings.
To punish Glaucus for refusing to let his mares breed, She caused the mares to throw him from his chariot during a race, after which they ate him. Moral of the story: do not trifle with Aphrodite!
Often known as “The Golden One,” She is worshiped with gifts and ornaments of gold, which, like Her eternal youth and beauty, never tarnish. Doves, snow geese, and lovebirds are also often associated with Her because of their gentle natures. She is a Goddess of flowers, as well.
The echoes of this day for honoring love and the choosing of partners have remained in folk customs and celebrations for thousands of years now, such as those in the Middle Ages, when people believed that birds chose their mates on this day.
In honor of the marriage of the birds, and for the favor of Aphrodite, you might wish to set out special treats for the birds on this day. Or join the annual, international Great Backyard Bird Count coming in a few days.
Of course, any other ways you may wish to celebrate this day are only limited to your imagination!
Thou Art Love
Today especially, rejecting the grim subtexts of the Valentine martyrs, and instead, embracing the messages of mighty Aphrodite, I once again ask you join me in the One Billion Rising revolution.
Like most women, I have endured the bigotry, profanity, and even violence heaped on us, just because we are female. In fact, one in every three girls and women on this planet — one billion women and girls — are beaten, exploited, tortured, or raped every year.
Since last year’s observance, we have had many powerful breakthroughs, and I give thanks to great Aphrodite that our prayers, courage, and cries for help about the systemic abuse, assault, and shaming of girls and women are finally being heard.
It’s been a shocking year that has revealed decades of the cruel sexual abuse of girl athletes and exposed powerful, disgusting sexual predators from Hollywood to the U.S. White House. But the stupid, smarmy objectification of girls and women in pop culture and media grinds ever on.
So in the name of Aphrodite, this year I again declare:
Women’s bodies are holy. Our bodies belong only to us. We are not commodities. Our sexuality is a divine gift and we share it only when and with whom we please.
We are sacred and the entrenched culture of tolerance for violence, misogyny, intimidation, and exploitation must change.
Are you listening, fellas? #TimesUp
I suggest that we fight back by obeying Aphrodite’s directive that we recognize as good and blessed the erotic forces within ourselves and all of life. That we honor our bodies and claim our power to determine how our bodies are treated.
And then resist and wage a war of love in every way that we can.
This Is OUR Year
The President sets the tone in America, and his shameful spectacle has gone from bad to worse.
But the real harm or help is usually at your legislative level, both nationally and locally. Educate yourself as to who actually supports the causes that matter for us. Spread the word to your sisters, join together in unity, and VOTE!
Kick out the jerks who are defunding family programs, gutting public schools in favor of elite, private enclaves, and who don’t have a clue about women’s bodies and women’s choice.
And every day, especially on this celebratory day, strut your stuff, whatever your gender may be, and be glad of your sacred sexuality! Enjoy this day of beautiful liberation and celebration.
Live as if the Love in you matters.
All acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals.
Blessings this Aphrodite’s Day.
(With gratitude as always to Waverly Fitzgerald, priestess of time lore and magical histories.)