I was honored to be asked to guest post at one of my favorite blogs, The Pagan Princesses. I decided to write about Aphrodite and my evolving relationship with her. I’ve written about it before on the blog, but this time I threaded the story through with The Charge of the Goddess, a text that I haven’t connected to until recently.
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Listen to the words of the Great Mother…
…So begins The Charge of the Goddess, an inspirational text mainly used by Wiccans and other Witchcraft Traditions. Several versions exist, but I prefer the text used by the Reclaiming Tradition, which was adapted by Reclaiming’s founder, Starhawk, and based off a version written by Doreen Valiente.
I’ve read The Charge of the Goddess several times since I’ve been Pagan, but never connected with the text. I am not a Wiccan, and because it was mainly used in Wiccan and Witchcraft Initiatory Traditions I didn’t really feel compelled to study it. Further, even though I am a religious Pagan, until recently working with deities seemed like a nice idea…but not a reality I actually experienced. While other co-religionists had devoted relationships to a variety of deities, I mainly stuck to praying to my ancestors and setting out offerings to land spirits.
Much to my surprise, that changed earlier this year.
This year has been a tough year for my family and those that I love. There have been amazing times—incredible opportunities, wanted pregnancies, healthy babies, new jobs—but there has also been a fair share of sorrow. Death, pregnancy loss, pet loss, financial hardship and just plain old struggle. One significant event a year seems almost fair—that’s life, that’s the Wheel, and most Pagans of all stripes recognize this as equanimity. But when the struggle and grief persist the Wheel seems to turn into a miller’s stone.
After several months I, out of the blue, began connecting to Aphrodite. She was not a goddess that was even on my radar—I always thought that given my ancestry I’d eventually connect to the Celtic pantheon—but there she was. The first time was in the middle of TJ Maxx, no less. I was shopping for a friend’s wedding. I had tried on dress after dress in several different stores. I only had a half hour left before my babysitting time was up—so—my mind connected to Aphrodite. She’s the goddess of beauty, right? So I sent a prayer. Fifteen minutes later I left the store with two beautiful, well-fitting dresses, shoes, necklaces and makeup.
Over the next few weeks I just felt Her. Beautiful, sensual, tempestuous, glorious and ancient.
I was baffled (but grateful!) at first. My knowledge of Aphrodite was limited to the standard Pagan 101 correspondence table. Aphrodite: to be invoked on Fridays, loves roses, use pink candles. I had always associated Her with Valentine’s Day and not much else—honestly, not even giving Her much thought. Why was she connecting with me, a married lady? Wasn’t she for…others?
In retrospect, the timing was perfect. My husband and I had just lost a pregnancy. Medical bills rolled in, life was stressful and busy. I didn’t see much beauty in life at the time, or much room for lust, passion or sensuality.
Despite that, I quickly fell in love. Reading over her epithets, beautiful words like Asteria (of the stars), Urania (heavenly), and Epitymbia (of the tombs) felt familiar, like I had prayed them before in times of joy and times of grief. Patterns in my life began to connect, and when I looked at them anew, I saw Her.
Let my worship be in the heart that rejoices, for, behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my ritual.
I wanted to find ways to work with Her. Aphrodite is a very erotic goddess. I read about how some use sacred prostitution as a means of connection. I found the idea intriguing, but as an oath-bound married woman, that wasn’t for me. What more? I found her turning my attention to the details of my relationship with my husband. Sure, we couldn’t hole up in a love nest for weeks, but I (and we) could try more. Walks, talks and doing chores for the other person are free. Candles, a home-cooked meal and a simple bouquet don’t require much in the way of money or time, but the thought goes far.
Also, She has been a powerful goddess to work with after pregnancy loss. The whole experience of miscarriage is horrific, haunting and ugly. I won’t try to redeem it, but I will say, that at times I glimpsed beauty and grace surrounding the situation. A pot of ‘Mystic Blue’ salvia from a friend. Someone left me a jar of Floridix iron supplement. And eventually, my husband and I were able to heal, and we did it together.
Sing, feast, dance, make music and love, all in My Presence, for Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and Mine also is joy on earth.
As I worked more with Aphrodite, I began to see that throughout my life I had been a pleasure-seeker, a bon vivant. From a passion for good food and good wine to a cultivation of the art of doing nothing—these things seemed very Aphrodite to me. So each time I eat a delectable morsel of food, I think of Her. When I steal some hours of silence to nap and relax, I devote them to Her. When my husband and I are going out for a date and somehow my unskilled hands slick on makeup like a pro—I definitely thank Her.
I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal, and beyond death I give peace and freedom and reunion with those that have gone before.
I realize in these acts of pleasure, these small moments of a joyful heart, there also lies Aphrodite Epitymbia*, and Aphrodite Maelinis (of the dark/night). Not only is this shadow present in the slippery temptations of gluttony and addiction, but also in the essence of passion, sensuality and wonder. Because these moments make up life. And all life is flowing towards death, in ways small and great.
For behond, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am That which is attained at the end of desire.
In the still depths of dark nights, when grief and sorrow wrap around me like a shroud, that provides an honest comfort. It moves what is happening now to something less egocentric and more universal, it moves the thoughts circling in my head to something closer to truth and freedom. That one goddess can imbue aspects of love, grace, passion and desire as well as decay, death, fear and suffering helps me integrate those concepts in my interior and exterior world.
From me all things proceed and unto Me they must return.
In the light of Aphrodite, The Charge of the Goddess has come alive for me. Where once lay meaningless typeface, now words breathe with inspiration and resonance. What has been an individual devotion now has a broader context. Through those words I’m able to connect with other traditions, such as Wicca and Reclaiming. Does that mean my path is taking me there? I don’t know, and that’s okay. I am just grateful that those words have been revealed to me, gifting me with something to ponder, enjoy and be inspired by.
Names of Aphrodite: http://www.theoi.com/Cult/AphroditeTitles.html
Aphrodite Epitymbia: http://www.theodora.com/encyclopedia/l2/libitina.html
Reclaiming Tradition’s Charge of the Goddess: http://www.reclaiming.org/about/witchfaq/charge.html