Aphrodite is the Greek Goddess of love, beauty, the arts, fertility, sexual rapture and procreation. She is also the protectoress of sailors. Aphrodite is considered by some to be one of the 12 Olympians. Others believe she was originally a Minoan Goddess before being adopted by the Greeks and was considered by them (the Greeks) to be the same Goddess as the Roman Venus. The Greek historian Herodotus states that Aphrodite was originally an Asian goddess, related to Ishtar (Mesopotamia) and Ashtart/Astarte (Syria and Palestine). In Egypt she was known as Hathor.
According to Hesiod’s Theogony, Aphrodite was born when Cronus cut off Uranus’s genitals and threw them into the sea, and she arose from the sea foam fully grown. But, according to Homer’s Iliad, she is the daughter of Zeus and Dione.
Because of her beauty, the other gods feared that their rivalry over her would interrupt the peace among them and lead to war, so Zeus married her to Hephaestus, who, because of his ugliness and deformity, was not seen as a threat. She played a role in the Eros and Psyche legend, and later was both Adonis’s lover (pictured at left) and his surrogate mother. Many lesser beings were said to be children of Aphrodite. Aphrodite is the mother of the god of love, Eros (more familiar as Cupid). Unlike the powerful virginal goddesses, Athena and Artemis, or the faithful goddess of marriage, Hera, Aphrodite had many lovers—both gods, such as Ares, and men, such as Anchises. Aphrodite is one of a few characters in the Odyssey whose actions are a major contributing cause of the Trojan War for (in order to influence Paris and win a golden apple) she offers Helen of Troy to Paris, and as the goddess of desire, she is responsible for Paris becoming so inflamed with desire for Helen at first sight that he is moved to abduct her.
By the late 5th century BC, certain philosophers had begun to draw a distinction between two separate "Aphrodites" (as opposed to a single Aphrodite whose characteristics varied slightly in different local cults of the goddess): Aphrodite Ourania, the celestial Aphrodite, born from the sea foam after Cronus castrated Uranus, and Aphrodite Pandemos, the common Aphrodite "of all the folk", born from the union of Zeus and Dione.Among the neo-Platonists and, later, their Christian interpreters, Aphrodite Ourania is associated with spiritual love, and Aphrodite Pandemos with physical love (desire).
The planet Venus and the spring-month of April are sacred to her. Her festival, Aphrodisia, was celebrated across Greece, but particularly in Athens and Corinth. At the temple of Aphrodite on the summit of Acrocorinth (before the Roman destruction of the city in 146 BC), intercourse with her priestesses was considered a method of worshiping Aphrodite. In some places, as in ancient Corinth, great numbers of females belonged to her, who prostituted themselves in her service, and bore the name of hierodouloi. The priestesses of Aphrodite were considered to represent the Goddess and one method of worshipping Aphrodite was for Greek men to have sex with the priestesses of Aphrodite. The temple would collect donations. This is sometimes called sacred prostitution and was outlawed by Christian and Muslim governments.
Aphrodite is often depicted with the sea, dolphins, doves, swans, pomegranates, sceptres, a mirror, apples, myrtle, rose trees, lime trees, clams, scallop shells, and pearls. The sparrow, the swan, the swallow, and a bird called iynx are also sacred to Aphrodite. Sacred to Aphrodite Urania was the tortoise, the symbol of domestic modesty and chastity, and as Aphrodite Pandemos the ram was sacred to her.
When she was represented as the victorious goddess, she had the attributes of Ares, a helmet, a shield, a sword, or a lance, and an image of Victory in one hand. Her husband, Hephaestus, also fashioned for her a girdle that made any man fall in love with her.
The sacrifices offered to her consisted mostly of incense and garlands of flowers, but in some places animals, such as pigs, goats, young cows, hares, and others, were sacrificed to her.
Her sacred colors are pink and red. Her planet is Venus.
The herbs and plants associated with Aphrodite are: apple, cinnamon, cypress, daisy, iris, marjoram, myrtle, olive, orris, quince and rose. Her stone/shell is abalone, for the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, sometimes rode the ocean waves on a giant abalone shell.