I must have really needed the push. Lady knows I've read stuff before, even stuff written by Rita, that hasn't set me off on a week long reading jag. I must have been hungry, real, real, hungry, and not even known it.
Maybe I wasn't the hungry one. Maybe She was hungry for some recognition at last. I never realized how great a role She has played in my life. I never much acknowledged Her. I suppose I might beg forgiveness, except that She is the Lady of This Moment -- and bearing a grudge is as alien to her as any other frozen emotion.
Aphrodite. The so-called sex goddess. The Playboy bunny of Olympus. How blind I was! How blind we are!
I set off to write a "resource guide" for Rita - to review the various materials about Aphrodite that I have around the house (mostly on the unread shelf, but you know about the unread shelf). What I learned shook me.
Culture blind. Through all the long years of the Greyface Era, our culture has given us just two models of sexuality : repressed or corrupt. The Virgin or the Whore. The good girl or the tramp. We were taught that sex was so dangerous or evil that only the most severe restriction could render it safe. We were taught that only sex so trammeled could be blessed. Sex must be either damned or damned.
And then came the sixties and our rebellion. But our revolution, as in so many other ways, underreached itself. In making sex free, we very often made it trivial. In reaction to the demonization, we banalized sex. We made it a commodity or an advertising technique. Trivial sex, casual sex, hurt people, and the backlash came. Sex apart from love and pleasure has nothing to do with Aphrodite.
Because I insist on the freedom to choose in the moment, a friend who feels safer within limits calls me "promiscuous." Then, seeing the offense on my face, she softens it to "random." I am neither. Very rarely, and not at all in the last sixteen years, have I ever had sex with a person I did not love. Promiscuous means corrupt; random means banal. I am neither; but what I am is simply not visible to Greyface and His followers.
Aphrodite laughs at social rules. All acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals. Sex in the context of love and pleasure can be both free and sacred. And Aphrodite is so very much more than a sex Goddess. She is the transformative power of love and pleasure.
She is the goddess Whose Path is Delight. She is the one who entices us to grow in the ways of beauty, love and pleasure.
How to serve Her? Sensuality comes first, and health must come before that. All the routine advice about sleep, nutrition, and exercise becomes sacred duty for Her priest/esses because Hers is a spirituality of the sensual. Think about this: if your Path is intellectual and your body is achy or de-energized, the quantity of your work may be reduced, but the quality need not. But if your Path is sensual, a body that feels good, has energy and moves freely is a prerequisite. Similarly, you will need a space that is pleasing to all the senses, in which to conduct Her rites.
She is the Lady of living in the moment, and all the ephemeral arts belong to Her. Dancing, flower arranging, conversation, a beautifully set table, all are Hers. these are the pleasures that you have to care enough about to create anew each time. And especially Hers is dressing up, combining art with nature for the purpose of seduction -- but with caution.
All acts of love and pleasure - and no other acts -- are Her rituals. Acts of pleasure, of sensuality, are acts that feel good to all participants. To do Her rites, your body must feel good. So, beware of clothing that hurts, binds, or restricts movement. Such clothing induces alienation from the body. No matter how glamorous or sexy it may look, it is not of Aphrodite, literally not Aphrodisiac. The likes of high heels are blasphemy to Her.
She is the Lady of living in the moment, and of loving the one you're with. She is unowned. Her time and pleasure are Hers to share with whomever She will. She gives what She gives for Her own pleasure and the pleasure of Her chosen partners. What you do in Her name, you must do for the beauty and love and pleasure of the doing, and for that alone. Any ulterior motive -- money, power, prestige, security -- are blasphemies to Her.
And -- this is very important -- the only way you can share Aphrodite's love and pleasure is by yourself experiencing it to the point of overflow. Altruism, charity are not of Her. Any interaction that you must grit your teeth and bear offends her.
She is the Lady of living in the moment, and what She is about is intensity. The transformative power of human attraction and contact, And sex is only one of Her options. Requiring sex is no less a blasphemy to Her than is forbidding sex. Her service is perfect freedom, for She tolerates no a priori constraints of any kind. The moments that belong to Aphrodite are moments of intensity, of contact, of beauty, spontaneity and love.
And finally I saw it. I don't serve Aphrodite primarily in my bed. In fact, although my sexual connections are plural, they tend to be long-lasting. That quality of in-the-moment intensity, beauty, love and pleasure also fills those moments when I share a person's world in the empathy of counseling. Some of those are single encounters, and all of them are sacred. The Lady of Love the One You're With is the counselor's Goddess, and, on some levels, this I have always known.
So, at last, I understand the consecrated women of the temple at Corinth, and those at the older temples of the Fertile Crescent who called Her by other names. Consecrated sex, healing and transformative, was labeled "temple prostitution" because that's the only way Greyface culture could understand their activities.
If we allow ourselves to see it, there is plenty of love to go around, not mere sufficiency but abundance beyond our belief. Indeed our unbelief is the only limit. No act that is truly of love and pleasure could ever threaten or hurt. May Aphrodite continue to live in me -- now that I've caught Her at it!
So, Rita, here's your Resource Guide:
- Bolen, Jean Shinida. Goddesses in Everywoman. New York: Harper & Row, 1984. This is the one that clarified the counseling connection.
- Christ, Carol P. Laughter of Aphrodite. San Francisco: Harper & Row. 1987. A collection of essays. Only the title essay is actually about Aphrodite, but contains some wonderful descriptions of rituals.
- Downing, Christine. The Goddess. New York: Crossroad. 1984. Again, only one chapter about Aphrodite, but it is very intense. Talks about the risks involved in loving.
- Friedrich, Paul. The Menaing of Aphrodite. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978. This is teh scholarly source on which all other writers seem to draw. Much stuff about historical origins and textual analysis of Hesiod, Homer and Sappho. Very interesting and valuable. Not really about the applicablity of Aphrodite to my life here and now.
- Paris, Ginette. Pagan Meditations. Dallas: Spring, 1986. The best single resource I found. Her section on Aphrodite is over 100 pages long, and very clear about what it means to live out Aphrodite's kind of spirituality.
- Qualls-Corbett, Nancy. The Sacred Prostitute. Toronto: Inner City 1988. Interetsing but frustrating. The chapters in therapeutic applications are very inadequate, especially when compared with Bolen.
by Judy Harrow
Used with permission