April ~ Aphrodite’s Month

Venus was one of the most celebrated deities of the ancients. She was the goddess of beauty, the mother of love, and the queen of laughter. She is said to have sprung from the froth of the sea, near the island Cyprus, after the mutilated part of the body of Uranus had been thrown there by Saturn. Hence she obtained the name of Aphrodite, meaning froth. As soon as Venus was born, she is said to have been laid in a beautiful couch or shell, embellished with pearls, and by the assistance of Zephyrus wafted first to Cytherae, an island in the Aegaean, and thence to Cyprus; where she arrived in the month of April. Here, immediately on her landing, flowers sprung beneath her feet, the Horae or Seasons awaited her arrival, and having braided her hair with fillets of gold, she was thence wafted to heaven. As she was born laughing, an emanation of pleasure beamed from her countenance, and her charms were so attractive, in the assembly of the gods, that most of them desired to obtain her in marriage. Vulcan, however, the most deformed of the celestials, became the successful competitor.

One of the most remarkable adventures of this goddess was her contest with Juno and Minerva for the superiority of beauty. At the marriage of Peleus and Thetis, the goddess Discordia, resenting her not being invited, threw a golden apple among the company, with this inscription, Let the fairest take it. The competitors for this prize were Juno, Venus, and Minerva. Jupiter referred them to Paris, who then led a shepherd’s life on Mount Ida. Before him the goddesses appeared. Juno offered him empire or power, Minerva wisdom, and Venus promised him the possession of the most beautiful woman in the world. Fatally for himself and family, the shepherd, more susceptible of love than of ambition or virtue, decided the contest in favor of Venus.

The sacrifices usually offered to Venus, were white goats and swine, with libations of wine, milk and honey. The victims were crowned with flowers, or wreaths of myrtle, the rose and myrtle being sacred to Venus. The birds sacred to her were the swan, the dove, and the sparrow.

It were endless to enumerate the variety of attitudes in which Venus is represented on antique gems and medals; sometimes she is clothed in purple, glittering with diamonds, her head crowned with myrtle intermixed with roses, and drawn in her car of ivory by swans, doves, or sparrows: at other times she is represented standing with the Graces attending her, and in all positions Cupid is her companion. In general she has one of the prettiest, as Minerva has sometimes one of the handsomest faces that can be conceived. Her look, as she is represented by the ancient artists and poets, has all the enchanting airs and graces that they could give it.

Birth

According to Greek Mythology, Aphrodite was born from the foam of the sea shore near Paphos, Cyprus. This miraculous creation resulted after Cronus castrated his father, Uranus. It is said that Cronus cut off Uranus’ genitals and threw them into the sea. As the genitals drifted over the water, the blood and/or semen that issued forth from the severed flesh set in motion the growth of the child who would become Aphrodite.

 

However, the Iliad (Book V) provides another explanation of Aphrodite’s origin, in which she was considered a daughter of Dione, the original oracular goddess at Dodona (“Dione” meaning quite simply “the goddess,” the feminine form of Δíος, “Dios,” the genitive of Zeus). “Dione” seems to be an equivalent of Rhea, the Earth Mother, whom Homer relocated to Olympus, and refers back to a hypothesized original Proto-Indo-European pantheon, with the chief male god (Di-) represented by the sky and thunder, and the chief female god (feminine form of Di-) represented by the earth or the fertile soil. Aphrodite herself was sometimes referred to as “Dione.” Once the worship of Zeus had surpassed the oak-grove oracle at Dodona in popularity, some poets made him out to be the father of Aphrodite. Alternatively, Aphrodite was said to be a daughter of Zeus and Thalassa, a primordial sea goddess, since she was born of the Sea.

As a goddess of love and lust, Aphrodite represents another important link in the historical chain of erotic female figures within ancient mythology. She carries on a tradition of eroticized female divine which featured such goddesses as the Sumerian Inanna, the Mesopotamian Ishtar, and the Syro-Palestinian Astarte, among others. The female body and the goddess is an aspect of spirituality which has been largely absent from the western monotheistic religions. As such, Aphrodite has always been a particularly captivating character in western culture, inspiring several famous works of art such as the Venus de Milo and Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, as well innumerable references in popular culture. Undoubtedly, Aphrodite is one of the most identifiable images of the goddess in the western world.

April—Aphrodite’s Month

Old English April(is)
Latin Aprilis
Etruscan Apru
Greek Aphro, short for Aphrodite.

Aprilis had 30 days, until Numa when it had 29 days, until Julius when it became 30 days long.

Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love and beauty. She is identified with the Roman goddess Venus.

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