What we may know of Aphrodite-Venus is that she was the Goddess of Love and Beauty. In more recent times this has taken on a kind of greeting-card quality, where love or relationship is the romantic fantasy, all rose-colored lenses, chocolates and flowers. And that's lovely enough.
Yet when I found myself in the grips of a radically transformative cycle, where relationships like everything else went topsy turvy, this Goddess of Love and Beauty image seemed a distant possibility.
More recently, I came across an article by the Greek scholar and author, Harita Meenee, and learned that, in distant times, Aphrodite had another role - that of Dark Goddess of transformation. In those times, the Dark Goddess was known as the initiatrix as well as creatrix. Maybe they're one and the same roles - through initiation, a creative process takes place, and something far richer is born from those depths. But over so many millennia, we lost this awareness.
For Dark Aphrodite, as Meenee points out, her role as initiator didn't take place in the deep crypts of the temple, but in relationship itself. Relationship was her cauldron of transformation and creation.
This speaks to an awareness that's been growing in me over the past two and a half years, in the cauldron of shamanic work and a transformative relationship. The bubbling cauldron was birthing a deeper appreciation of the beauty and power of relationship itself that seems so different from the chocolate-and-flowers romantic version (not that these things can't be a part of it, thankfully!).
In modern relationships, it seems that we either get caught up in replaying old stories that are rooted in fears of abandonment or annihilation, and bind ourselves to drama and suffering, or we pretty quickly dismiss the relationship as flawed when issues arise that threaten the romantic fantasy we've been fed in books and movies. Usually, those frustrations get projected out onto others -- it's 'their fault' -- and our reaction is to fuel drama, blame, or run. Common enough.
What if, though, something truly sacred happens when we come together with another person in relationship?
Sobonfu Some shares her Dagara tradition that, just as each person has a purpose and spirit, so to does a relationship. In fact, in her tradition, the spirit of the relationship brings together something altogether more powerful than either individual offers alone, magnifying the individual's purpose and resulting in a great gift to the community when cultivated and shared.
When I came across Sobonfu Some's stories about the spirit of the relationship, it wove together with a powerful, emerging yearning for sacred relationship - well beyond the ideas of 'sacred sex' peddled through the commercialized Western version of tantra.
Through relationship challenges and all that it brought up from my own depths, I knew intuitively that something richer, some deeper awareness, was trying to be born, even as I had no specific understanding of what that was. Even as part of me wanted to run, I was constantly guided to 'stay where you are...something is unfolding.' Rather than running for the hills, I was guided to cultivate the riches in the depths (a 'project' that wouldn't have been possible without the wisdom and love of my inner-circle of trusted friends!).
Many shamanic and energy traditions put the responsibility squarely in our own laps. What comes up in our experience reflects something that's within us, individually or culturally.
So when experiences arose, I was prompted to ask "What is it within me that's bringing this up into my experience?" and "What old stories and patterns are woven through my consciousness and energy field and reflected through this experience?" Sounds like a drag, and often it felt like just that, yet there's a beauty wanting to be born from seemingly unimpressive raw materials.
In the Greek-Roman myths, Aphrodite-Venus was married to Vulcan-Hephaestus, the legendary blacksmith of the gods. Vulcan was said to be pretty hideous to look upon, so much so that his own parent-gods abandoned him. Taken in by another, he grew to be an exquisite artist, taking base metals and shaping them into the most beautiful creations. His artistic alchemy ultimately brought him the recognition and appreciation of others.
But Vulcan was a very serious sort, and very focused on his work, which bored Aphrodite-Venus to death. So she took up tempestuous affairs with her lover, Mars-Ares, the impetuous God of War. All very dynamic, dramatic, and often havoc-creating.
In esoteric astrology, Vulcan is considered an esoteric expression of Venus's capacity for bringing love and beauty into the manifested world -- the ability to take the base metals, which may not look like much, and shape them into something exquisite and rare for their beauty.
This circles back to Aphrodite-Venus as she who initiates us through the cauldron of relationship, where those baser raw materials within us -- and within the relationship -- can be used to create something beautiful.
Coming together with another person, whether in the form of intimate partnership, friendship, or even in the workplace, may offer both the initiating and creative possibility.
Relationship, recognized this way, becomes sacred and purposeful, an opportunity not just to liberate the beauty within us and the relationship itself, but to free and express the gifts of the spirit of the relationship -- a gift that blesses the community and might not otherwise be born and expressed.
How different would it be if we saw relationship this way, if we looked at our partner, our friends, our workmates, and saw a canvas awaiting our artistry -- base metals and raw materials wanting to be shaped into something beautiful?
Love on the Way,
Image Credits: Draper's Aphrodite's Pearls, and Rubens' Vulcan