The Birth of Venus
Aphrodite: The Alchemical Goddess of Love and Beauty
Aphrodite is in a class of her own, as she had a magical quality, and the ability to transform people. Aphrodite is the alchemical goddess, because she alone had magical powers of transformation that could cause both gods and mortals to do as she bid them. She cast spells which resulted in mortals and deities falling in love, and conceiving new life. She turned a statue into a living woman for Pygmalion. She inspired poetry and declarations of love, symbolizing her creativity in using the power of love.
She has traits in common with other goddesses of greek mythology, but does not belong in any group, thus stands alone. Aphrodite was the most sexually active goddess, so she cannot be grouped with the virgin goddesses, Artemis, Athena or Hestia. The only way she is like them is that she does what she wants, when she wants, and lives to satisfy her own pleasures.
Aphrodite also does not fit the profile of a vulnerable goddess, such as Hera, Demeter, or Persephone, as she was never victimized by a man or made to suffer because of one. The feelings and desires were mutual in any relationship Aphrodite entered into, and she valued independence from others (which was not a trait of the virgin goddesses), and she was not looking to get into a permanent situation with any one man (a characteristic of the vulnerable goddesses).
Aphrodite loves relationships and they are important to her, but she does not want to make any long term plans. She wants to consummate relationships and create new life. This archetype can be expressed through sex, or through an artistic or creative project. Aphrodite is able to focus on what is meaningful to her, it is impossible for anyone to sway her from a goal once she has decided upon it. Oddly, she has the most in common with Hestia, the introverted and most anonymous virgin goddess, although Hestia quietly did whatever she wanted as well, she just did not have such a strong connection or desire for men.
Aphrodite is Irresistible to Men!
Whenever Aphrodite imbues something or someone with beauty, it immediately becomes irresistible, and a magnetic attraction occurs. We often call this “chemistry” between people. It is a powerful urge to get closer to someone, to have sex, yet also represents a psychological and spiritual urge as well. It can be an intense conversation where you just “click” with the other person.
Aphrodite generates the desire to know and be known. If this leads to intimacy, impregnation and new life may follow. If this union is of the mind, spirit or heart, new growth occurs in the psychological, spiritual, or emotional spheres. Her effect is not limited to the sexual and romantic. Aphrodite feels platonic love, deep friendships, empathic understandings, and soul connections. When growth is generated, or a vision is supported, or a spark of creativity is encouraged, Aphrodite is influencing it, affecting the people involved.
Aphrodite has very focused attention, and is both receptive and attentive to people. She is always in the limelight, and makes others feel special when she turns her charm their way. The issue here is that Aphrodite acts as if everyone she interacts with is special and fascinating, and it is easy to misinterpret her intentions. While people bask in her glow, they feel important and special. She draws them out, and acts in an affirming and loving way, rather than being assessing or critical. She lives in the moment, and this can be very seductive for anyone to experience. But it misleads people into thinking she is enamored of them, when she is not. This is just her normal way of behaving with anyone.
Many of the gods were in love with Aphrodite because of her beauty and vied for her attentions. Aphrodite was linked romantically with Ares, god of War, and had a long term affair and several children with him. They had a daughter, named Harmonia, and two sons, Phobos and Deimos. Aphrodite and Ares represent the union of two uncontrollable passions, and when in balance (which was often not the case) they were able to produce Harmony.
The child of Aphrodite’s union with Hermes, the Messenger of the gods and Guider of souls to the Underworld, was the bisexual god Hermaphroditus, who inherited the beauty of both parents, and had the sexual characteristics of both. Hermaphroditus can represent either bisexuality or androgyny, the existence of qualities traditionally considered either masculine or feminine.
In some accounts, she has a son called Eros, god of Love. But in some stories Eros is seen as a god who accompanied Aphrodite as she emerged from the sea and was born. Later myths describe him as a fatherless son of hers. The Greeks normally portrayed Eros as a virile and attractive young man, and so did the Romans, though they called him Amor. As years went on, the role of Eros became diminished, and today he is only known as the diapered baby with arrows that we call Cupid.
Aphrodite and her Exploits with Mortals
Aphrodite also had relations with mortal men. She was desirous of Anchises when she saw him grazing his cattle on a mountainside. She acted the part of a beautiful maiden and seduced him. When he later fell asleep, she took off her disguise and revealed herself to Anchises, telling him she would bear their son, Aeneas, and asked him not to tell anyone she was the mother. Apparently Anchises drank too much and boasted of his affair with Aphrodite, so she had him struck with lightening and crippled.
Aphrodite was also attracted to Adonis, a handsome and youthful hunter. She was afraid for his life and warned him away from ferocious beasts, but the thrill of the hunt,and his fearless attitude ruled his actions. One day Adonis flushed out a wild boar, and wounded it with his spear. The boar was in such intense pain that he savagely ripped Adonis to shreds. Adonis died, but was allowed to leave the Underworld for part of the year to see Aphrodite, although she had to share him with Persephone, when she was in her period in the Underworld. The annual return of Adonis to Aphrodite symbolized the return of fertility.
Women were also powerfully affected by Aphrodite’s charms, and everyone was compelled to follow what Aphrodite dictated. Myrrha was the daughter of a priest, who fell passionately in love with her father. Aphrodite caused this forbidden passion to happen because Myrrha’s mother bragged that Myrrha’s beauty was greater than Aphrodite’s. Aphrodite caused Myrrha to be disguised and during this she had sex with her father several times. When he realized this seductive woman was his own daughter, he was overcome with disgust and horror. He was about to kill her, but then Myrrha prayed to the gods to save her, and she was transformed into a fragrant myrrh tree.
Aphrodite's Mean Streak and Cruelty to Others
Phaedra was another victim of Aphrodite’s power. She was the stepmother of Hippolytus, a handsome man who had dedicated himself to Artemis, and a celibate life. Aphrodite was insulted when Hippolytus ignored her overtures, so used Phaedra against him. She caused Phaedra to fall hopelessly in love with her stepson, although Phaedra tried so hard to resist her attraction to him that it made her sick. Her handmaiden realized what was happening, and told Hippolytus what Aphrodite had done. He was infuriated that anyone would suggest that he would have an affair with his stepmother and said some very unflattering things about Phaedra while she was within earshot.
Poor Phaedra was so humiliated that she hanged herself, leaving a suicide note saying Hippolytus raped her. When his father returned to see his dead wife and the note, he called on Poseidon to kill his son. Poseidon caused huge waves and a sea monster to frighten Hippolytus’ horses, who were so frightened; they ended up dragging Hippolytus to his death. There are many more stories about Aphrodite’s vengeful and cruel acts to other people that are just as shocking, so apparently her beauty was only skin deep. In our times she would most likely be slut shamed. And a mean spirited one at that.
Aphrodite's Task's for Daughter in law Psyche
Are You Good Enough for Your Mother-in-Law?
Psyche was a pregnant, mortal woman, who wanted to be reunited with her husband Eros, Aphrodite’s son. To test her, to decide if Psyche is worthy of her son, Aphrodite gave Psyche what seemed like four impossible tasks to complete. First she lead Psyche to a giant pile of seeds jumbled together, and told her she must sort them. An army of ants came to Psyche’s aid. So the first lesson is that a woman must make a decision, and “sort the seeds”, to see what is the most important situation to be attended to when we have conflicted feelings, and what less urgent matters can wait for attention later. It is imperative not to act on something until clarity has been achieved.
Next Aphrodite ordered Psyche to acquire a golden fleece from terrible, horned rams. Again, this seemed impossible. A green reed advised Psyche to wait until the sun went down, because the rams would quiet down and go to sleep. Once this happened, Psyche would be able to safely pick the golden fleece from the brambles on which it hung. The golden fleece is a symbol of power, which a woman needs to acquire so that the world does not destroy her. It is important to be able to learn to use power wisely, by waiting, observing, and acquiring it slowly and indirectly. Remember that Aphrodite herself often used her powers in a destructive way that hurt others. Power in itself is neutral.
Psyche's Tasks from Aphrodite, Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty
The third task was for Psyche to fill a crystal flask from a stream that ran from up in the clouds to under the earth. It cascaded from the summit of the highest cliff, and then ran to the lowest depth of the Underworld, before it was once more drawn up through the earth. The stream was a metaphor for the circle of life. An eagle came to Psyche, because he had the ability to see the land from a large perspective, then swooped down to grasp whatever was necessary. Sometimes it is difficult for a woman to take the long view or see the “whole picture”, when she has so many people and problems vying for her attention. Women must learn to get some emotional distance from problems, or else sometimes they cannot see the forest for the trees. They must learn to figure out what is most significant and important, and only then decide how to act upon the issues.
The fourth task sent Psyche to the Underworld with a small, empty box that needed to be filled with beauty ointments from Persephone. Psyche was frightened, as she felt this task is the one that meant death for her. This is the hero’s test, where the most determination and courage are needed. Aphrodite knew she was making it especially hard for Psyche. She told Psyche that pathetic and poor people would ask her for help as she was trying to complete this task. But she would have to ignore them, to “harden her heart” to compassion, and continue onward. If she failed, Psyche would have to stay forever in the Underworld.
To say “no” is a particularly hard task for women, as they are used to being receptive to others. Many women, including this writer, allow themselves to be imposed upon and diverted from accomplishing whatever goal is important to them at the time. Even if the person who “needs” help only wants some company or comfort, a woman must say no if it takes her away from doing something that is necessary and important to herself and her own well-being. Psyche must exercise choice every time she says “no.” She completed this task too, and evolved. So although it seems that these tasks are just another case of Aphrodite being cruel, she actually taught Psyche valuable lessons, ones that all women can use to simplify their lives and achieve their goals.
Aphrodite's Love of Beauty and Sexuality
The Aphrodite archetype in mythology affects women’s enjoyment of love, beauty, sexuality and sensuality. They feel a desire to fulfill both creative and procreative functions while feeling this powerful pull. Aphrodite has children because of her desire for the man, and her desire for the romantic experience. She is a great force for change. When an artist or writer stays up all night for weeks to work on a painting or write a book, the creative result is still a union that gives birth, but to a creative work of some kind.
Aphrodite came out of the sea in all her naked, golden haired beauty. But she can also be part of a plain looking woman, who is charismatic and attracts others with her warmth and charm. If she works, she is best suited to a career in the arts, such as music, dancing or drama. She is most concerned with being happy in work, not in how much money she can earn. Unless Aphrodite has strong Hera instincts, she will not want to be chained to a marriage.
She does like children though, and they respond to her well. She makes children feel special, and can really get into the spirit of play and make believe. An Aphrodite woman often has many female friends who enjoy her spontaneity and attractiveness. Many of them share the same qualities. Other women that surround her seem to act more as her attendants, because they either enjoy her company or like to live vicariously through her romantic dramas. She will have no friends of the “Hera” variety, as she will be mistrusted by a woman who is afraid that her man will be stolen away from her. An Aphrodite has a long history of “stealing” her supposed friend’s boyfriends and husbands, ruining relationships, and then casting the men aside once the damage is done.
The middle aged years will be hard for Aphrodite if her attractiveness has been her biggest source of security. She will feel anxious that her beauty is fading. But she may also be tired of her former lifestyle and get an urge to settle down. If she has been engaged in creative work, her enthusiasm and abilities to find inspiration may grow and she may develop even more skills with which to express herself. As she grows old, she can keep her capacity to see beauty in whatever or whomever she focuses on.
This will enable her to grow older with grace and vitality. She will retain a youthful attitude towards life, and staying young at heart will continue to win her new friends of all ages. After all, Aphrodite women are extroverts with a lust for life and a passionate personality, and this does not have to fade with age. If she developed her skills and became educated, Artemis and Athena traits will become more prominent in her now, as she finds new interests to occupy her and her life centers less around men. If she marries and has a child, Hera and Demeter influences will have given her more family stability and maturity. If she cultivates some of Persephone’s introversion, she can have a rich fantasy life instead of being a heart breaker and home wrecker.
Our Inner Aphrodite
As women we all need to develop capabilities and strengths as our courage and determination are tested. Despite all the problems we encounter, and trials we endure, each one proves to us that we are much more capable and stronger than we ever believed. There is an old saying, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” All people value love and will risk almost anything for it. We must be sure we wisely choose whom we love, and then we will be winners, because our relationships will have value, and we in turn will be valued and respected in them. So although we may not wish to emulate all of Aphrodite’s traits, by learning her story we can see parts of our own selves, and learn something unique not only from her, but from each of the goddesses in Greek mythology. Pay attention to the inner goddess in yourself!
Bolen, Jean Shinoda, M.D. 1984 Goddesses in Everywoman Publisher Harper Collins New York Aphrodite: Goddess of Love and Beauty, Creative Woman and Lover pgs. 233-262
Monaghan, Patricia 2011 The Goddess Path Publisher Llewellyn Worldwide U.S. Myth and Meaning of Aphrodite pgs. 89-100
Jung, Carl G. 1964 Man and His Symbols Publisher Dell Publishing New York The Archetype pgs. 58-59
Campbell, Joseph 1964 Occidental Mythology The Masks of God Penguin Group New York The Serpent's Bride pgs. 9-26
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Can you suggest some books written on the goddesses of Greek mythology?
Answer: I love Jean Shinoda Bolen's books. Try "Goddesses in Everywoman," or "Goddesses in Older Women." They are about Greek Goddesses, and super interesting!
Question: Why was Aphrodite cruel to Psyche?
Answer: On the surface, it does seem like Aphrodite was cruel to Psyche. But a new relationship between a bride and her mother in law is often hard at first. I recall when I was first married, I thought mine was critical of me. Now, with the perspective of age, I realize she was trying to tell me I worked hard and was being too EASY on her son! Also, Psyche wasn't immortal, although that was taken care of later. So at first Aphrodite didn't think Psyche was good enough for Eros. Many parents don't think a partner is good enough for their daughter or son at first; they need time to get to know them better.
So Aphrodite was trying to teach Psyche the tasks which women must learn, so others don't take advantage of our kindness, even our loved ones. Sometimes, like me, it's hard for a young woman in love to understand that. Psyche was only trying to help her daughter in law learn important lessons a mature woman needs to learn.
Question: Why is Aphrodite a heroine?
Answer: I never said she was. She is a goddess in Greek Myth. She was the most beautiful one. There is more information if you read the article.
I'm not sure if people understand that these are not real people. They are archetypes, certain types of people with whatever traits I wrote about. You probably have a friend like Aphrodite; she's the popular girl, the Prom Queen, she's boy crazy. She's not a specific person; she's a person with those traits.
Question: What are Aphrodite's duties?
Answer: Most of the gods of Olympus didn't really work, they were exalted and infallible, so just did whatever they wanted. In Aphrodite's case, it appears she had a lot of affairs and cheated on her husband quite often, yet was fascinated with the beautiful crafts he made. They aren't real people, they are archetypes, so they do what they want and don't have real responsibilities, although sometimes would take on a cause if they were bored or in the mood.
© 2011 Jean Bakula
Billy on November 14, 2019:
what did aphrodite control?
Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on August 16, 2019:
Yes. Also, some women feel at least two or three archetypes that are/were part of them at one point or more in their lives.
Susan Goodman on August 04, 2019:
Reading your article, I realize that the Aphdrodite archetype opened for me when I was 24 and lasted for a number of years. I became quite different then from how I'd been before (relatively shy, with little confidence). It's a period that was both joyous and perplexing at the time. Is this something you've encountered before?
Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on January 23, 2019:
What a lovely poem! Aphrodite is a good goddess to choose as your personal one to commune with. Thanks for sharing your creativity, you really captured her essence here.
Mera on January 23, 2019:
The poem is here:
Goddess of beauty and love
As delicate as a young dove
Her beauty has no match
She is beauty itself
Protectress of her devotees
She is who brings mortals to their knees
Her heart is open to us all
Welcoming us to understand love and compassion
She is who I intend to honor
She is a fascination to me
A goddess of unimaginable beauty
She shines as bright as a twinkling star
Her beauty is like flames which burn men's hearts and shows them the path of undying love.
I am in awe of her..never met her..but my heart craves it.
Love seems easy when you remember her
Love drives us and she is the embodiment of love.
She is proud and there are millions of reasons why she should be.
May she hear my prayers and accept me as her loyal devotee...
I want to be more than just my greeds.
Love is what I need.
And who else to look upon for this other than the most beautiful Aphrodite.
May she be in our hearts always.. Showing us the right way with love.
Water born you are,as graceful as beautiful sea waves if not more..much more..
You rose from the sea,I believe your heart is a sea full of love and waves of desires.
I opt to honor you for all you are.
Wherever a rose blooms it shall remind me of you..
O great goddess may I become a loyal devotee of yours..
And I want to overcome my greeds..I shall want nothing but your love and blessings.
You are really wonderful... The more I write for you The more I find you in my heart.♥
Mera on January 19, 2019:
Here is a poem that I wrote for her a few minutes ago...English is not my first language.And I am not very good at this poetry stuff as you all will see if you read my poem
Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on September 14, 2018:
It's not weird. I used to go to a women's group once a week, and we would discuss a different Goddess. We would talk about how we saw her traits in ourselves, or traits we wanted to cultivate. It was a good class.
I don't know if you believe in reincarnation, but you could be having memories of living in that time period, or even being or knowing Aphrodite. We "feel" an affinity to a country or person when we are recalling past life experiences. I have written articles about this, some are on Exemplore.com. Owlcation.com, or Hubpages.com. Google Reincarnation with my name and you will find them. I write about Edgar Cayce, a Christian who had to fight with his beliefs when he discovered the truth about reincarnation. Take care.
Crystal on September 13, 2018:
I trust you are well.
this may in a way sound like 'uuuuh' but I have a strong feel, almost a vivid belief that the spirit of Aphrodite somehow is in me... like I am the goddess roaming the earth in a day light hidden between everyone else.. There's nothing mentioned here that I have not done, or feel the capability embedded in me that I could do, well except giving life to a statue loh..
it has been in my head for a while, myth or not, some facts are stranger than fiction.
Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on September 12, 2018:
Thanks for your lovely note. I hope you find your Aphrodite.
Aztekk on September 11, 2018:
What a terrific article. Reading this has help me make sense of what archetype a woman I happened to be infatuated with is. She is firmly and strongly like Aphrodite. Reading this has helped me accept and understand that perhaps she will never be only mine. I can’t wait to read your other articles. Thank you for writing this.
Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on May 16, 2018:
I'm so glad you learned something new. It's fun, isn't it? There are so many Greek gods and goddesses, reading up on them will keep you busy!
Zahara G on May 16, 2018:
Aphrodite is the first Greek goddess ive ever heard of, and probs the reason I like mythology now.
Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on February 27, 2018:
There is nothing wrong with a beautiful painting of a naked woman. Who sends their children outside naked? A knowledge of the Humanities is an important part of any young person's education.
Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on February 21, 2018:
This is a famous painting by by Botticelli, and most kids who have parents who are intelligent enough have seen it in museums. Your comment is inappropriate, and the site has approved this by putting the article on a niche site.
christian morus on February 20, 2018:
the first picture is sooooo inappropriate for kids it worried me of all the kids that watched if they wear something like that they would get in trouble if they did
Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on April 14, 2013:
Thanks for reading and commenting!
Jon E. Royeca from Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines on April 13, 2013:
I like anything beautiful Greek.
Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on March 12, 2013:
I'm glad you enjoyed the piece and learned something from it. I've been getting a lot of mail that make me think a lot of students are studying the humanities. The stories really are interesting, and the characters are all people that we know.
Mrs.Bieber on March 12, 2013:
Thanks i REALLY learend a lot from it and it helped me with my report i hate reading stuff like this but yours was very good it cought my eye and REALL THANK YOU this just saved my life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on January 18, 2013:
I'm very happy you read my article and that your grade is saved. Thanks for citing the source, always important when you write. The Greek Myth gods and goddesses were all pieces of work, weren't they?
Ivy on January 18, 2013:
I am doing A report on Aphrodite and i just wanted to let you know that this story just saved my grade thank you and dont worry i cited it promise that's part of the grade.
Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on September 25, 2012:
Even though Persephone was young, there's more to it. She has the special power of moving from the regular world and the Underworld. Plus I suspect she had feelings for Hades, she didn't fight too hard to get away! Venus in Scorpio, I just wrote a post on them on Spiritualitypathways, you may like it. It's under Venus in Scorpio People. I didn't mean Aphrodite was slutty or anything. And she did marry Hephasteus, even though he had a physcial defect, so his artistry was something she appreciated about him, although she was unfaithful. She seems like the kind of woman who everyone just likes, even other women, as a friend.
Jan on September 25, 2012:
Yeah, lol@aphrodite and getting around. I did lol a little at that, but I believe it wasn't meant to be taken too literal. :P
Perhaps it really means that she offers such an exalted love to one man.
Well my husband has Venus in Scorpio (still mars ruled in a venus sign, but broke the aries venus mould finally and very happy)
so it's not a far cry still from the "athena"-esque archetype. However, I never realised I could identify with athena...so that does give me a bit of pause, but yes a bit of Demeter and Persophene. (even though Persophene sounded very sorrowful) After 30, I've begun to realise how "hestia" I really am. Although, not as "glamourous" as aphrodite. :)
Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on September 19, 2012:
Thanks for writing in, the Goddess series got interesting, everyone was trying to figure out "who" they were. We found that most women have strong traits of 2 or 3 of the Goddesses. So if you identify with Athena, she has the clarity to stand up to the Aries man, who is aggressive, but it stems from insecurity. Since you are faithful, you have some Hestia or Demeter in you. And I like to think we all have a touch of Aphrodite, even though she did "get around" so to speak! I like Athena and the way she is so independent. If you know a lot about about archetypes you would be a good Tarot reader, and Joseph Campbell has written a lot on the topic. Thanks for stopping by!
Jan on September 19, 2012:
hi Jean, I thought I had always identified with Athena, Justice and clarity but, with the past ex's Ive had, they were all Mars ruled men, and even the first love, had a stellium in aries, with aries in venus.
With the pattern I realised, wow, i must be the aphrodite archetype. :/
but at the same time, I'm faithful when in a relationship .
It's all very interesting, and there's plenty of sites that try to depict what type of female archetype a woman is.
Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on June 13, 2012:
Thank you for visiting, April!
April on April 23, 2012:
These are great things about aphrodite
Hi John, on May 17, 2011:
I didn't know much about it, until I started reading books by an Jungian analyst who used the Gods and Goddess archetypes to understand her patients. My son majored in Humanities, along with his K-5 teaching cert, so he had taken a mythology course and helped with the idea. Take care, Jean
John Sarkis from Winter Haven, FL on May 16, 2011:
Great Hub. I love Greek Mythology....