This is an updated encore post from my past years of campaigning for a different kind of Feb. 14 festivity. 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
O, Aphrodite! Heavenly, illustrious, laughter-loving queen, sea-born, night-loving, of awful mien; crafty, from whom Ananke first came; producing, nightly, all-connecting dame. ‘Tis thine the world with harmony to join, for all things spring from thee, O power divine.
Orphic Hymn 55 to Aphrodite, composed sometime between the 3rd Century B.C.E. to 2nd C.E.
Felicitations and good wishes to all, on this most ancient day of Love!
Yes, I know. The patriarchy calls it Valentine’s Day. But you see, for many years, 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 is how She may 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 the beloved, late Waverly Fitzgerald once noted, 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.
But because this day fell during such an important and well-documented festival time for honoring the Greek Goddess of Love, for many years I have called for us to reclaim this holiday in the name of Aphrodite.
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!
Rise for Freedom
Create the New Culture
Today especially, let us reject the violent messages and grim subtexts of the Valentine martyrs. 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 — will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.
Since my observances began a number of years ago via my website, we have had many powerful breakthroughs. I give thanks to great Aphrodite that our prayers, courage, and struggles to change the systemic abuse, assault, and shaming of girls, women, and gender-fluid people are finally being heard.
But we are still up against an ongoing, increasingly desperate system of patriarchy, imperialism, capitalism, and racism in our world today.
In a Center for Disease Control report just released yesterday (Feb. 13, 2023), one in five teen girls said they had experienced sexual violence in the past year. This is an increase of 20% since 2017, the first year the CDC started monitoring this measure.
In addition, more than one in 10 female students, about 14%, said they had been forced to have sex, up 27% from 2019, marking an increase for the first time since the CDC has been tracking this statistic.
“If you think about every 10 teen girls that you know, at least one and possibly more has been raped, and that is the highest level we’ve ever seen,” said Kathleen Ethier, director of the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health, who said the rise of sexual violence almost certainly contributed to the glaring spike of depressive symptoms. “We are really alarmed,” she said.
This must not be brushed off. We are rising up because, like it or not, we are engaged in a destructive, all-out battle for power being fought over trans- and cisgender women’s bodies, as well as the body of our Mother Earth.
Taking Back Our Sovereignty
We can and must effect change. Educate yourself as to who, both politically and in our consumer culture, actually supports the causes that matter for us.
Spread the word to your sisters and allies, join together in unity, and starve the power of those who continue to harm us!
And together, with the 2023 program from One Billion Rising, let us rise for freedom and create a new culture:
That is why we do theater, write songs, poetry and dance.
That is why we stand in the face of injustice and are just.
That is why call out the systems that create insane inequality and we give more.
That is why we open the borders of our heart when the state builds walls, detention centers and refugee camps.
That is why we reach out to include everyone in our circle of rising as the state creates further and further divisions between us…
One Billion Rising
Let’s expedite a career change for the scum who are gutting medical coverage, overturning basic rights, stealing our resources, shredding public school money in favor of elite, private enclaves, and who don’t have a clue about women’s bodies and women’s choice.
And yes, Marjorie, your party has been making plans to destroy Medicare and Social Security, no matter how loudly your lies echo through the halls of power.
Whew. Enough of that!
In the name of Aphrodite, this year I again declare:
Women’s bodies are holy. We are not ashamed. We will not hide who we are.
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 have a right to education and safety. The entrenched culture of tolerance for violence, misogyny, intimidation, and exploitation must change.
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.
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.
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this is a beautiful and powerful call to us all to continue our efforts to safeguard the feminine and re-sacralise the erotic life force embodied by aphrodite and other goddesses. this sovereignty is aligned with the life force that sustains us all. taking it away from women, and creating societies where women and children are not safe has distorted so much in human lives, and is not unrelated to the environmental issues we face as well.
may we rise in love.
Exactly! It is all one thing. Blessed Aphrodite’s Day to you, dearest one!