For February 14, 2017, @thehorseandcrow honors the deity of love in its most potent and rebellious form: [Herm]aphrotidos. The many manifestations of this multi-spirited deity has inspired all to unite in love and spirit through acts of revolutionary feminization, compassion and beauty by invoking our most ancient origins. #spiritbio #hermaphroditos #divinefemmine #unityofspirt #thehorseandcrow
Alternative Names: Astarte, Venus, Isis, Virgin Mary, Inanna,
Planetary Associations: Moon, Venus
Plant Associations: Rosemary, Myrtle, Mandrake, Pomegranate
Powers: Unity of Spirit, Fertility (Generation and Conception)vital and essential spirit revolution, Androgyny, Messenger of Love, Feminization, Self Sufficiency
Throughout our lives, we have heard many versions of the birth of Aphrodite. Wrapped in rosemary or hair, she floated onto the shores of Paleo-Pafos, on the island of Cyprus, in a shell, bringing messages of love and the erotic. It’s possible that images of idealized goddess, come to mind, when invoking this natal mythological memory. But, as the maidens of Cyprus ran to shore to receive and cover her body, from the indecent eyes of mortals, one image that may not of come to mind, is an image of one of the most potent parts of her being–her phallus. In the same way we asked, ‘what is behind the Mona Lisa smile?’; we should be asking, what is behind the history hiding the manifestation of one of love’s greatest features?
The Roman-Greco arrival of culture and rule of Cyprus, marked the end of centuries of feminine fertility worship. Worship of nature and fertility was exchanged for a classical system that not only subordinated women, to that of slavery, but also castrated their spiritual and mythological importance on earth. Prior to this, the fertility goddess, most idolized on what is known as the ‘Island of Love’, was a war goddess known as Astarte–of whom, embodied both masculine and feminine traits. According to the signs at the Sanctuary of Aphrodite, fertility gods/goddesses, in the shape of clay-figurines, found around her temple, can be dated back to 5000 BCE or even earlier. What the sanctuary sign doesn’t say, but what archeological evidence firmly establishes, is that most of these figurines encompassed a much more potent and powerful divinity –a deity with the ability to create and produce life, independent of another life-form, a fierce, omnipotent creator and protector of all life and nature–was worshipped much longer there.
Hundreds of years went by and the Aphrodite ‘goddess’ myth became deeply ingrained in Western culture and society. Her image became tarnished with tempestuousness, the erotic, and clouded with all the judgment of what man considered a woman’s madness. Her role changed but the rituals that represented her compassion and omnipotent spirit, lived on. For example, cross-dressing rituals, used to build compassion for the other gender, especially in times of marriage and birth, continued to be practiced.
Of the many cross-dressing rituals that survived Roman-Greco patriarchy, it isn’t exactly clear whether the participants were consciously aware of the symbolism of such acts. What is clear is that the divine feminine meaning behind them, was deeply ingrained and preserved in mythology of their time and reflected the ancient roots of the power of embodying both genders. Many tried to justify the contradiction of this new, weak-willed goddess. They created stories that placed evil in the hands of women. Like, the story of the male child of Aphrodite and Hermes who was so corrupted by an insatiable female rapist nymph, he was inevitably doomed to the existence of carrying both female breasts and a male phallus. They were known as ‘Hermaphrodite’.
The name alone suggests a much more beautiful representation of the being known as Hermaphroditus. It is a combination of the god/goddess’ Hellenic/Roman mythological parentage–the son of Hermes (Messenger/Mercury) and Aphrodite (Love/Venus), combined, the deity was symbolically a Messenger of Love and Union. If we dig etymologically a bit further Hermes comes from the word ‘ermas’ . In Greek, ‘ermas’ means ‘marker or pile of stones’ and is associated with speed and good luck. However digging even further, we may associate the word ‘kermas’ with that of ‘the worm that produced red dye.‘ Aphrodite literally means “sea-foam” and is associated with creation. An etymological understanding of the name, may harken us back to the very first beings of creation–the worm and the sea foam that created life.
As mysogyny spread through the land and its culture, Aphroditus (Hermaphroditos) was kept alive unconsciously through ritual, but very consciously, in archaic cults, in their ceremonies and festivals. Described in Saturnalia by Roman historian/writer, Microbius, there was the peculiar rituals of a cult of men and women, on the island of Cyprus, in the 4th Century BC, of whom worshiped a female-male god under the moon. The god-goddess they worshiped was Hermaphroditos. In the cult’s flamboyant ceremonies, the most important ritual of sacrifice, was one’s singular gender. According to Philostratus of Lemnos, gender roles were confused. In the ceremonies, women were…” to act the part of men, and men put on woman’s clothing and play the woman.” They would exchange gender roles in order to be in tune with spirit–an entity much higher than physical manifestations of identity, that they felt was being jeopardized, by a toxic level of patriarchy in classical Hellenistic culture. They believed that both men and women suffered spiritually from mysogyny. With the use of very powerful ritual plants, they used this spiritual practice to connect back to their own, and thus to the universal spirit, present within us all.
The Cult of Aphrodite
According to Bullough’s, in their book, “Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender“, the archaic cult annually worshiped a male version of Ishtar/ Astarte, later known or morphed into of Aphrodite. The male-female deity had female breasts and a male phallus and usually wore traditional female clothing. The human form, or god-impersonator of the deity, whom was followed by a procession of worshipers, led the ceremonies as a god-goddess or what is now defined as a Hermaphrodite. During these festivals, men, allowed to join if they wore deerskin (traditionally female attire), would lay on beds and act out the pains and wonder of childbirth.
The act of cross-dressing, while instilling the feminine/masculine principle, is an act of rejecting the role of assigned societal and biological order. At the time the cult of Aphroditos were conducting their ceremonies, women were forced to adhere to strict gender roles and their value in society was that of child rearing functions alone. Ancient Greek society rejected their intellectual and spiritual faculties. (Sound familiar?) As mentioned earlier, the festival/cult of Aphroditos, provided a recognized space for breaking this mould. As noted in Vanessa Di Francesco’s essay on Breaking the Mould: Hermaphrodites in Fourth Century and Hellenistic Sculpture: “Eva Keuls suggests that one of the crucial strategies of the Athenian phallocracy’s “defeminization process” is the denigration in myth, ritual, and art of the female’s reproductive role vs. the glorification of the male’s.” The act of revealing what’s underneath, and one not finding what they expect, allows us all to consider the mystery that is hidden in all of our potential abilities to create.
Radical Defiance to the Status Quo
Therefore, unifying the two genders was an act of radical defiance from de-feminization was not only a protest but a call to re-invite feminization back into society again. Di Francesco further explains, that by providing Hermaphroditos a formal place/time of worship in Hellenistic society, the spirit and respect of both genders became more balanced again. The sacrifices to this deity marked a period, in where women, were given more freedom and men rediscovered a place back in home and family life. The emergence of this practice, in Cyprus, and later in Greece, marked a period of radical feminization of society both in Athens and in the surrounding regions. Therefore, Hermaphrodite or Aphrodite’s cult worship, was a rejection of a watered down version of masculine fertility worship back to it’s most ancient and prehistoric roots. But what were these?
The Bearded Goddess
In our modern history, Aphrodite has been hailed as the ultimate goddess of love, fertility, and female sexuality. However, on the island her creation story begins, the deity was once considered the bearded goddess. Before there were Roman or Greek Gods and Goddesses, fertility deities spread across the vast regions of what is now today Mediterranean, North Africa, and Southern Europe. Cyprus, a small island in the middle of all of this, surrounded by water, had been populated and miniature elephants and dwarf hippopotamuses, washed up from the nearby North African coastal waters. Very little is known about the civilization that occupied the island at the time of its earliest habitation by humans, however, recent archeologists have uncovered vast well systems and continue to discover small clay figurines—known as fertility dolls–long before the cult-worship of Roman-Greco Aphrodite took place. Unlike fertility dolls of the classical and modern era, these deities had both male and female features. Also their worship, was much more akin to the worship of nature and was mainly formless minus the existence of the god-goddess of creation.
The Goddess of War and Protection of Life and the Dead
As mentioned before, the worship of Aphroditos was seen as the worship of the male version of Ishtar or Astarte–goddess of fertility, love, war, sex, and power –a predecessor of Aphrodite. Ishtar was worshipped as early as 3500 BCE. Prior to that, Venus was associated with Astarte, another war goddess found to be worshipped on the island of Cyprus . Inanna–the Sumerian goddess of love and war, fertility and wisdom–preceded Astarte–whose mythology can be traced back to 4000-3100 BCE. Inanna is associated with the 8-pointed star–which has been discovered in the ruins a the Temple of Aphrodite, in Kouklia, Cyprus. Her stories and the archetypes that followed, “embodied the traits of independence, self-determination, and strength in an otherwise patriarchal Sumerian pantheon”. Again, we see the role the most important archetypes played to be those which refused to give into unfair patriarchy.
The further back you trace fertility worship, specifically if you look at Isis, the Egyptian divine feminine goddess–we see history has left out their counterpart–or their essential duality–not only of their gender, but the duality in their divine essence. In the case of Isis, her history was often repressed by her formerly male counterpart–Osiris–in mythology. Piecing these all back together, we can begin to see a world that our heros and gods are illuminated by their shadows and strengthened by their protection and determined healing of their creative counterpart.
Written in the Stars
We can trace all of these stories back through archeological discoveries and texts of the worship of deities associated with Venus. In fact, in its most primordial sense, all ancient mythology was a way of remembering the stars and the planetary movements, through storytelling. In the earliest depictions of this omnipotent god or goddess, Venus had a tail (therefore had yet to form as a stationary planet) and was considered the morning star and an evening star because it could be seen both in night and daylight, due to its brightness.The masculine and feminine principles of Venus had a powerful dark goddess (adult woman) an attribute of the warrior and at the same time, a powerful light maiden (youth). Maybe the cosmos have more to tell us than we think. In describing ‘Inanna as the planet Venus”, the author points out, “The origins of Venus and Aphrodite expresses and always has, both her masculine principles of action and protection equally to the loving, abundant, beauty aspects of Venus.”
Mythology: Evolving Back to The Source
On the new moon of January 27th in Aquarius, the comets of Osiris and Isis emerged in the sky conjunct with, one another in a rare and cosmological reminder of what is considered a cosmic “twin flame”. Osiris, lord of the underworld and of life, love, and youth, strongly supported by Isis, the two part goddess of the underworld (her counterpart being the goddess,Nephytys of birth and life) in spreading creating and protecting life and the flow of the cosmos and this world. Mythologically this existed until one day, their jealous evil brother, Set, murdered Osiris, and cut his body into many pieces across the land. Instead of avenging his death with war, Isis set out to find all the missing pieces and found all but one– that of his phallus. She was helped by Thoth (associated with Hermes, known as the great arbitrator and creator of the alphabet and astrology,) to find the words and therefore the magic and secrets of the dark underworld, to put together the missing piece of her late husband–so that she may once resurrect him, produce life and return order to earth. She created a phallus out of gold and proceeded to inject it into her body in order to impregnate herself.
Here, she becomes the Egyptian manifestation of the war goddesses which formed the earliest depiction of a feminine goddess–Neith–worshipped at first as a goddess with male genitalia and later as the triad goddess of Isis-Neith-Artemis–embodying the power of the divine feminine to create life independent of another.
The son of Osiris and Isis–Horus–finally avenges his father’s death and becomes ruler but while young, he is impetuous and hot blooded. It takes time and physical blindness for him to find the strength of the spirit and wisdom in his mother. Finally he sees, that to truly bring back order, he must learn the way of his mother and of how women have suffered sexually. Later by understanding his mother’s wisdom, or sorrow, they overcome the evil ruler together.
Throughout time, what Neith represented was the “Opener of Ways”. More importantly, she represents opening the door to intelligence and compassion as a counter to evil and war. You can exchange the mythological beings but not their roles or the lessons they had for humanity.
“The story of Isis and Osiris holds the intensity of their love that can weave together the most disparate of parts, and heal the dismembered and fractured parts of our being”– Union of Isis and Osiris, Gary Crawford
Overall, Neith, the primordial goddess of all things, most likely wasn’t the very first creator god/goddess but she has, in her many incarnations, the deepest roots in ancient and modern history and understanding of the earth’s mother–the divine virgin–a role that has both intimidated and inspired humanity since the beginning of human life. Her association with primordial water and her ability to create life autonomously was considered to be both feminine and masculine combined into a kind of bodily perfection, that mortals could never possess.
The spirit of Neith is above gender and embodies the creative potential of all life when we can understand the underworld (our shadow) and world and use it’s secrets for magic. She will never be fully understood, nor should she, but she should be respected and worshiped as a loving protector and healer of the wounded. As inscribed on the ancient and lost worship place of Neith:
‘I am all that hath been, and is, and shall be; and my veil no mortal has hitherto raised.”’ –Inscription on the Temple of Neith
Ultimately, the most important representation of the god-goddess of Aphrodite/tos was a conical stone that had no figure at all–because when it comes down to it–the spirit is formless and undefinable. The power of understanding [Herm] Aphriditos as a symbol, is that true love isn’t about fighting or even acquiescing into the same system that harms us, but about rising above it to appeal to the most sacred parts of ourselves and this universe. These are the parts that connect us with the primordial source of it all–our spirit. We can do this by re-connecting with our spirits through love, beauty, healing and by believing in more than one path to creation. The unity of our dark and light is ultimately the worship of our most essential selves– as is the worship of the masculine and feminine tendencies within all of us. Our current crisis isn’t a war on women, it is a war waged on all humanity’s ability to create and accept all parts of themselves because of the stories and the lies we have been told. It’s about knowing that injustice has occurred but understanding that we need to rise up to our highest self, our spirit self, with grace and beauty… it’s about honoring the moon and it’s sun, that allows us to see all this, in plain sight. Let feminization create a 3rd way for us once more.
Spirit Bios are stories about pioneering womyn, genderqueer, and multi spirited humans that deserve a greater place in our modern history. Spiritbio’s aim to empower, illuminate, and inspire others through writing about the important spirits in our modern and ancient history. #hermaphroditos #afroditos #aphrodite #venus #thehorseandcrow #femmefuturism #storytelling @sloukaides #valentinesday
February 14, 2017