Every culture has some form of higher being, to be a model for their behaviour, as well as to look up to. In Greek times, these were the gods and goddesses who made their home on Mount Olympus. Women identified with the goddesses because they shared some feminine attributes. Goddesses were a “symbol of motherhood and fertility, but also of strength, wisdom, caring, nuturing, temperance, chastity, cunning, trickery, jealousy, and lasciviousness” (Clarke, 1999). However, not all of the goddesses possessed all of these attributes. The goddess Aphrodite, for instance, was not nurturing, nor was she very caring.
Aphrodite was one of the nine that were known as the Great Goddesses, “an awful and lovely goddess,” according to Hesiod (Theogony), born of the foam that ensued when Kronos cut off Uranos’ genitals and they fell into the sea. She first walked ashore in Cyprus, and was welcomed by the Seasons (Hours):
"The breath of the west wind bore her
Over the sounding sea,
Up from the delicate foam,
To wave-ringed Cyprus, her isle.
And the Hours golden-wreathed
Welcomed her joyously.
They clad her in raiment immortal,
And brought her to the Gods.
Wonder seized them all as they saw
(Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite).
She tempted many, even Zeus: “she beguiles even his wise heart . . . mates him with mortal women, unknown to Hera” (Hesiod). The goddess of love, “she was a particular favourite with the city’s many prostitutes but also supervised the sexual life of married women” (Blundell, 1998). To curb her promiscuity, Aphrodite was married to Hephaistos (god of the forge), who cared deeply for her, and made he...
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Demeter, also, had secret rites performed for her. These were known as the Eleusian Mysteries, and were held in the town of the same name. The ceremonies were held twice every five years, in September and in March. Initiation was open to all; they were sworn to secrecy. Initiates were purified in the sea, then proceeded from Athens to Eleusis. This all took place over a period of nine days, after which the initiates went back to their very ordinary lives.
Blundell, S. (1998). Women in Classical Athens. London: Bristol Classical.
Clarke, A. (2000). The Greek (and Roman) Goddesses. http://www.louisville.edu/~aoclar01/ancient/greece/greekgod.htm
Homer. The Homeric Hymns.
Garriso, M. (2000). Classical Mythology – Aphrodite (Venus). http://www.trinity.edu/mgarriso/Myth/MythAphrodite.html
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