Aphrodite is a very classic example of a love and beauty goddess. Her worship evolved from the worship of the Goddess Ishtar, whose cult evolved from that of Inanna.
Interestingly, she isn’t always just a goddess of lust, pleasure, love, and beauty — in some areas, she was seen as a warrior.
Aphrodite’s origins are disputed. In Homer’s Iliad, she’s the daughter of the Titaness Dione and Zeus. On the other hand, in Hesiod’s Theogony, Aphrodite is born when Cronus cuts off Uranus’s genitals and hurls them into the sea.
Plato reconciled this by attributing these different origins to different aspects of her: One was Aphrodite Urania, who was born from Uranus and the sea and represented a kind of transcendent love of the body and soul.
The other was Aphrodite Pandemos, who represented lust and sensuality. Urania was considered the elder aspect, while Pandemos was the younger.
In some legends, Aphrodite is married to Hephaestus (the god of smithcraft and metalworking) and a lover to Ares. In the Iliad, Aphrodite is Ares’ consort while Hephaestus is married to someone else entirely. In Theogony, Aphrodite is also unmarried.
In the Odyssey, Aphrodite is Hephaestus’ wife. Knowing that Hephaestus would be very angry if he caught them, Ares sets a young soldier named Alectryon to guard the door and warn them when Helios, the sun God, draws near.
Unfortunately, Alectryon falls asleep. Helios catches Aphrodite and Ares making love in Hephaestus’ bed and warns him. Hephaestus, enraged, fashions a net of finely woven gold and ensnares the two illicit lovers before calling all of the other pantheon in to shame them. An angry Ares turns Alectryon into a rooster, who must always crow at dawn to warn of the sun’s arrival.
Eros, who represents lust and desire, is sometimes called Aphrodite’s son, but this is a relatively modern idea. In the past, Eros was viewed as a primeval force older than Aphrodite herself.
Priapus, a fertility god, is also considered one of Aphrodite’s children (though his paternity is disputed).
Aphrodite’s attitude is an accurate portrayal of the double-edged sword that love and desire can be. On one hand, she generously rewards those who honor and respect her. On the other, she can be vicious to those who don’t show her the proper respect.
Legends are full of stories of people cursed by the fickle love goddess. In one case, a girl’s mother bragged that her daughter was more beautiful than Aphrodite.
In retaliation, Aphrodite curses the girl with lust for her own father. When the girl ends up pregnant, she’s driven out of her home. Aphrodite turns her into a myrrh tree and takes the baby (the future Adonis) to Persephone to raise.
In another story, the women of the island of Lemnos failed to make sacrifices to Aphrodite. In return, she made them reek to the point where their husbands refused to sleep with them.
A young woman named Polyphonte disrespected Aphrodite simply by choosing a virginal, unmarried life with Artemis, and Aphrodite made her pregnant by a bear.
A similar story involves a young man who devoted himself to warfare and the worship of Ares, neglecting love and marriage. Aphrodite cursed him by making him fall in love with his own mother, and he subsequently drowned himself.
Aphrodite is also responsible for the Trojan War. All of the gods and goddesses were invited to the marriage of Thetis and Peleus, save for the Goddess of Discord, Eris.
The cunning Eris god her revenge by producing a golden apple inscribed “For the fairest.” She threw it among the goddesses, then walked away laughing.
Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite each claimed that the apple was intended for them. They demanded that Zeus choose the rightful owner, but he refused. Instead, he put the decision to Paris, a prince of Troy. Each goddess tried to bribe him to increase her chances.
Hera offered power, Athena wisdom, and Aphrodite the hand of the most beautiful woman in the world. There was only one problem: The most beautiful woman in the world was Helen, and she was already married to Menelaus of Sparta. Paris of Troy taking Helen precipitated the war.
Another epithet of Aphrodite, chiefly used in Sparta, was Aphrodite Areia. This aspect stressed her connection to Ares, and treated her as a warrior goddess.
There was also a male Aphrodite, called Aphroditus. He was shaped and dressed akin to a woman but shown with full beard and erect genitalia.
He was eventually overtaken by the mainstream, feminine depiction of Aphrodite, and became associated with Aphrodite and Hermes’ son Hermaphroditus.
Symbols & Associations
In general, Aphrodite is symbolized by a lot of things you might expect, like hearts, roses, cherub-like figures, and seashells. She’s also symbolized by:
- Myrtle flowers.
Aphrodite Urania has her own specific associations and symbols. She was commonly depicted on a tortoise, swan, or globe.
Aphrodite Pandemos is also associated with rams and goats.
Aphrodite has power over love, lust, fertility, and beauty. There are multiple legends that involve her causing people to lust after each other or become pregnant.
Like other Greek gods, Aphrodite can also cause people to transform, as when she turned Myrrha into a myrrh tree.
Objects related to beauty and love are all suitable offerings for this goddess. Aphrodite likes:
- Depictions of white doves.
Signs Aphrodite is Calling You
Aphrodite may be reaching out to you if you feel a sudden interest in her, her story, or one of her specific aspects. If you feel this “pull,” follow through and see what you discover.
You may also be called by Aphrodite if you feel an urge to engage in more self-love, take more time for yourself, or invest more time and energy in your appearance.
Dreams of Aphrodite or her signs and symbols can also indicate that she’s trying to contact you, though subtle things like this are likely to be combined with more overt signs.
The repeated appearance of animals associated with this goddess can also mean that she’s nearby. Look for white doves or swans in particular.
Crystals Associated with Aphrodite
Aphrodite is strongly associated with all pink crystals. Morganite, rose quartz, and pink calcite, to name a few, are tied to love and the emotions. She’s also connected to:
Herbs Associated with Aphrodite
Herbal aphrodisiacs are closely connected to this goddess, as are fragrant herbs like roses or myrtle. She is also associated with:
- Ylang ylang.
- Plants with heart-shaped leaves.
- Plants used for their youth or beauty-promoting properties.
- Ingredients used in perfumery.
Working with Aphrodite
Aphrodite loves positive attention, so working with her isn’t difficult. With that in mind, it’s also important to understand that she won’t stand for being slighted — if you make an altar to her, or choose to dedicate yourself to her, you need to keep it up.
You can make an altar to her by choosing a safe surface in your home and laying it with a clean cloth. Something in pink is good, but anything that evokes beauty or sensuality will also work.
Consider red or pink silk, lush blue velvets, or even lace. Top it with candles, incense, a statuette of her, a vase for fresh roses, and a bowl for receiving offerings. You can also include a blend of her herbs, a selection of pink crystals, or even seashells.
You may also wish to work with Aphrodite by getting in touch with your own beauty and sensuality. Get a massage, facial, or hair treatment. Take up ecstatic dance. Learn to make your own herbal beauty products. These things all put you in touch with some of her energy.
Sacred sex can also be a part of connecting with Aphrodite. While the academic world is still torn about how much ritual sex work was actually historically part of this goddess’ worship, she is associated with lust and desire.
Even if sacred sex wasn’t part of her rites, that doesn’t mean it can’t be now. You can ask Aphrodite for help with your confidence and enjoyment of sex, dedicate the act to her, or even use it as a means of power raising during ritual magic that involves Aphrodite.
Aphrodite is a beautiful goddess of love, but she can be as cruel as she is delightful. She represents the duality of desire — the heights of passion, the hunger of wanting something unattainable, and the depths of despair when desire is unrequited.
Though she is loving and sensual, she is by no means soft. This goddess is a warrior fit for Ares, and doesn’t hesitate to act when she feels that she’s been disrespected.