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Aphrodite Venus Ishtar Astarte Inanna Hathor



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painting: Bouguereau's Birth of Venus

Bouguereau's The Birth of Venus: page 118, You and the Universe




"Aphrodite" in Greek, Aphrodite, or "foam-born," was what the Greeks called Venus. Greek legend tells that Kronos/Saturn castrated his father Ouranos/Uranus while Uranus lay in bed with Gaia. When Saturn threw his fatherís testicles into the sea near Cyprus, Venus emerged from the foam. Hesiod (c. 700 B.C.), a Greek poet known for Theogony and Works and Days who lived just after Homer, tells it as follows (Theogony, II. 176-206, translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White; a preceding extract appears on page 74):

Then the son from his ambush stretched forth his left hand and in his right took the great long sickle with jagged teeth, and swiftly lopped off his own fatherís members and cast them away to fall behind him. And not vainly did they fall from his hand, for all the bloody drops that gushed forth Earth received, and as the seasons moved round she bare the strong Erinyes and the great giants with gleaming armour, holding long spears in their hands and the Nymphs whom they call Meliae all over the boundless earth. And so soon as he had cut off the members with flint and cast them from the land into the surging sea, they were swept away over the main a long time: and a white foam spread around them from the immortal flesh, and in it there grew a maiden. First she drew near holy Cythera, and from there, afterwards, she came to sea-girt Cyprus, and came forth an awful and lovely goddess, and grass grew up about her beneath her shapely feet. Her gods and men call Aphrodite, and the foam-born goddess and rich-crowned Cytherea, because she grew amid the foam, and Cytherea because she reached Cythera, and Cyprogenes because she was born in billowy Cyprus, and Philommedes (Genitals-lover) because she sprang from the members. And with her went Eros, and comely Desire followed her at her birth at the first and as she went into the assembly of the gods. This honor she has from the beginning, and this is the portion allotted to her amongst men and undying gods, the whisperings of maidens and smiles and deceits with sweet delight and love and graciousness.

This ancient goddess, however, predates even her Cypriot and Greek forms. In Sumer she was known as Inanna, in Babylon and Assyria Ishtar, the Egyptians called her Hathor, Quaddesha and Aset, to the Phoenicians she was Astarte, to the Hebrews Ashtoreth and Ashera, and to the Philistines Atergatis. And Homerís tale that Zeus and his female form Dione were her parents creates an interesting paradox. Her foam-born birth occurred when Zeusí father Saturn castrated Zeusí grandfather Uranus (preceding paragraph). At that point Saturn had yet to father his Olympian children, including Zeus himself.

Aphrodite's husband was the lame blacksmith god Hephaistos (Roman Vulcan), but her lover was Ares (Mars).  Her children by Mars were Harmonia, Deimos (Fear) and Phobos (Panic).  The latter two were usually involved in strife and battle; the planet Mars' two moons were named after them. She was also the mother of Hermaphroditus with Mercury (Hermes), Priapus with Dionysus (Bacchus), and Beroe (after whom the city Berytus in Lebanon was named) with Adonis.  Adonis was so beautiful that while still a boy Aphrodite concealed him in a chest with the queen of the underworld, Persephone, who in turn became so enamored of Adonis that she wouldn't give him back.  Zeus settled their dispute by dividing Adonis' year into three parts: one part he would have by himself, one part would be with Persephone, and the remainder would be with Aphrodite. But Adonis chose to spend his own part of the year with Aphrodite.

Aphrodite was also the mother of Eryx and Rhodes by Poseidon, Aeneas and Lyrus with Anchises (a mortal king killed by Zeus for drunkenly telling of his affair with Venus), Astynois with Phaethon (a beautiful young boy whom Venus ravished), Eryx with Butes (of Jason and the Argonauts), and Eros (Cupid) and Anteros (the avenging spirit of spurned love) by unknown fathers. Eros is alternately considered one of the first gods (as there could have been no immortals until Eros caused all things to mingle), hatched in Erebus (Darkness) from Nyxís egg, or the son of Zephyrus (the west Wind) and Iris (the rainbow), or Saturnís son. There is much dispute as to the parentage of some of her other children as well. Aphrodite is an erotic, fully sensual, unbridled, and often wanton goddess of love.

Venusí symbol depicts the predominance of higher aspirations over the worldly and sensual desires of Earth, or the spirit (circle) overcoming matter (cross) through love. The goddess of love, money, beauty, and art, Venus is the brightest object in the sky other than the Sun and the Moon.  Both Mercury and Venus display phases like the Moon when viewed through a telescope because they are closer to the Sun than we are. This is why Venus can only be seen in the evening soon after sunset or in the morning before sunrise. Because of this she is known as both the morning star and the evening star.

This Aphrodite-Venus-Ishtar-Inanna-Hathor page and much of this 600-page website are excerpted from the personalized Fine Art Book You and the Universe.


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