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Aphrodite

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Venus (Aphrodite) Anadyomene ("rising from the sea"), painted by Tiziano Vecelli, also known as Titian, about 1520.

Aphrodite, meaning "sea foam" -- also known as Amathusia ("from Amathus," the location of one of her most ancient temples), Areia ("warlike"), Despoina ("mistress"), Kourotrophos ("protector of young people"), Pandemos ("for all the people"), and Urania ("heavenly" or "spiritual") -- is the Greek goddess of love, lust, beauty, pleasure, passion, and procreation, as well as the patron goddess of prostitutes of all classes. Elements of Aphrodite's worship and representation can be traced back to the cults of Astarte in Phoenicia and further back to Inanna in Sumeria. Areia and Urania are among her most ancient titles, echoing the warrior functions of the older goddesses as well as Inanna's title "Queen of Heaven." However, under the Greek name Aphrodite, she is the daughter of Zeus by his wife (or mistress) Dione, a goddess about whom little is known. When Cronus, the father of Zeus, castrated the sky-god Uranus and threw his genitals into the ocean, Aphrodite arose, beautiful and fully grown, from the resulting sea-foam. The Greek city of Corinth was one of the main centers of her cult. Her major festival was the Aphrodisia, celebrated in mid-July to mid-August, which included a procession and offerings of flowers, fire, and incense.

Aphrodite participated in the creation of humanity when Zeus ordered her to make Pandora, the first woman, physically irresistible, specifically to bring evil into the world. But she also blessed the pious and celibate sculptor Pygmalion, who was carving a cult statue of her, with which he fell in love. She transformed the statue into a human woman, whom he married. In the Iliad, the classic Greek epic attributed to Homer, she is to be the consort or wife of Ares, Greek god of war; later, in the Homer's Odyssey, she is the wife of Hephaestus, god of metal craft, who made her many items of magnificent jewelry. Aphrodite caused her father Zeus to fall in love with various mortal women, betraying his wife Hera. Zeus eventually cursed her to love the Trojan shepherd Anchises. She appeared to him claiming to be a human princess rather than a goddess, and allowed him to seduce her; only after becoming pregnant did she reveal her true form. She promised the terrified Anchises that their son would be the demigod Aeneas, who became a Trojan war hero and later a founder of Rome. The ancient Romans identified Aphrodite with their agricultural goddess Venus; according to the Roman historian Livy, Aphrodite and Venus were officially identified in the third century BC.

Aphrodite is frequently portrayed nude, accompanied by dolphins, doves, sparrows or swans, and holding a mirror or surrounded by roses. Representations of her birth often show her standing in or near a giant scallop shell in the surf. Modern Neo-Pagans of the Hellenic Reconstructionist tradition celebrate the Aphrodisia to this day. Hoodoo psychic readers, spirit workers, and root doctors who petition the Greek deities within the Pagan and Neo-Pagan traditions on behalf of clients may work with Aphrodite when there are pending spiritual and magical issues regarding love, sex, and romance.

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