My journey to Aphrodite formally began in the summer of 2016, though one may argue that my informal journey started long before that.
I had always been drawn to love from the time I knew what the word meant. As I got a little older, I became a classic “hopeless romantic” and eventually got to drop the “hopeless” part once I found myself in serious relationships. I found Paganism at a young age (eleven years old) and knew it was the right path for me. I could feel it deep in my bones. Up until this time, I worked mostly with the more general Goddess and God, echoes of the Wiccan-inspired books that were all I could get my hands on growing up.
Then along came Aphrodite.
In 2016, I sought Her out in crisis, and She answered. She has been gentle, but She has also been fierce. She has been with me every day since then, and I am so incredibly thankful for Her presence in my life.
I’m not particularly proud of why I originally pursued Aphrodite, but life is messy, humans are fallible, and I endeavor to be as honest as I can on this blog so that others may be empowered to speak their truth. In the summer of 2016, my boyfriend of five years broke up with me and moved out of the apartment we had been sharing for two years. He said that living with me and my OCD was too much. (And to be honest, it probably was. I had emotion regulation issues and a lot that I needed to work on. Grad school had wrecked my life and my sense of self.) He came back a few days later and we talked. We decided that we were going to get back together and try to make things work, but that he still wanted to move out. I was incredibly upset, and sobbed the entire time. (For those of you who want a status update, we are still together and things are much better now.)
I was devastated. I place an extraordinarily high value on my relationships, particularly romantic ones. I had no indication that my boyfriend would decide to move out, and it shocked me. I knew I had to make things right. Initially, this took the form of reading a pile of books on relationships and marriage. (You can find some of the ones I found useful in the Resources section of this website.) I read every credible book I could get my hands on, thinking that there must be something for us to try, something else that I could do, to make things better. We started couples therapy, which we continued for about a year. I started aggressively pursuing treatment for my OCD. I had been seeing therapists for years, but the techniques never really worked for me, and I was reticent to go on psychiatric medication. I tried a new therapy modality that worked much better for me, and went on mental health medication roulette to find a combination that worked and didn’t give me awful side effects. And, finally, I reached out for Divine help.
In the beginning, my call was general – to Spirit, the Goddess, and the God. At this point in my spiritual journey, I had not worked personally with any specific deities. A few months later, I realized I needed to up the ante, and I started calling on love goddesses. I did a lot of research on love goddesses in different pantheons and across different cultures, and the three that stood out to me were Aphrodite, Venus, and Turanna.
Aphrodite I had known since childhood. My mom really enjoyed Greek mythology, and shared that passion with me. I had read the tales, seen the Disney movie Hercules, and even won a 7th grade spelling bee by spelling Her name. I knew there must be more to Her than what selected media I had been casually exposed to growing up. She was well-known and worshipped in many places for a long time.
Venus I became familiar with later on. At first, I just took Her to be the Roman equivalent of Aphrodite – synonyms that could be substituted. I became more acquainted with Her through my studies in Italy. During my time abroad, I saw Classical and Renaissance art in museums, including Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” (which sounds so much prettier in Italian, by the way – “La Nascità di Venere”). Some scholastic exploration revealed that Venus was originally a goddess of flowers and gardens before She became conflated with Her Greek counterpart.
New to me was Turanna, the Tuscan folkloric fairy of love and harmony, and the modern day incarnation of Turan, the Etruscan goddess of love and beauty. I had studied the ancient Etruscan people in one of my history classes in Italy, and I was fascinated with the mixture of cultures that had taken place during the Roman Republic and Empire.
Aphrodite, Venus, and Turanna share much lore in common – in fact, with a cursory search on the internet, it is difficult to find much to distinguish one from the others. While they each started with their own distinct followings, the exchange of cultures over the centuries, particularly the Greek influence on the Romans and the Roman influence on the Etruscans, meant that much of the mythology blended together. Even in my early days, I still felt that they were separate entities. Through working with these goddesses, these distinctions became apparent.
Aphrodite is a lover and a fighter. She helps those whose relationships are in trouble to fight for their love. In the lore, She was frequently the lover of Ares, the god of war, and perhaps love and conflict are not as separate as we would like to think. She has a very fiery nature, though She is also associated with water and the ocean, from Her birth of rising from the sea foam.
Venus is a nurturer, originally a goddess of blossoms, gardens, and vineyards. She helps love to grow, from the original spark of passion, to the depth of real love. While all three goddesses are known as goddesses of beauty, Her particular affinity for flowers draws me to Her as the goddess of everyday beauty.
Turanna is a peace-keeper. Her domains are that of love and harmony. If you are having conflict in your relationship, She can calm frayed nerves and soothe wounds of the past. Turanna survives on in Catholic Tuscany as the “good fairy of peace and love.”
I had come to view these goddesses as a different type of triple goddess – not that of the maiden, the mother, and the crone – but a triple goddess of three love goddesses who were wrapped up into one over the course of history. I liked to call on them in concert for this reason, though each goddess has Her own specialties.
In working with these goddesses, I felt called to lead a ritual for my Pagan group for the July Full Moon in 2017. I specified for the ritual to be for ages 18 and older, so we could talk about all aspects of romantic love. I decorated the altar with artistic portrayals of couples of all kinds in romantic and passionate acts. I wrote invocations for the three goddesses in English and their native languages. I had two friends help me with the Greek (Aphrodite) and Latin (Venus) translations. I wrote the Italian invocation for Turanna, which was as close as I was going to get to ancient Etruscan. I led the group in a heart-opening meditation, and then each person went up to the altar to collect a vial of rosewater as we chanted to each goddess in her native tongue, asking for Her blessings of love. Everyone was really into it and participated fully, even with the multilingual chanting! (I had printed slips of paper with phonetic pronunciations to help with that part.) It was a beautiful ritual and we all raised some lovely energy.
A month or two after that ritual, it became apparent that the love goddesses were no longer answering me equally. One, in particular, had begun to get much, much louder.
It started out small, at first: an indescribable pull to linger over Her invocation, a faint feeling of warmth or tingling when I called to Her, flashes of just knowing She was there. Then, it became a bit more obvious. The little signs of presence became bigger. A sense of “I’m supposed to do this now” began to pervade my everyday rituals and spiritual rites. I was still questioning if it was Her up until the day She asked for my blood.
Now, it’s not all morbid and shocking as it might sound. I had recently purchased some new (sexy) underwear, and I was cutting the tags off for them to be washed. As I was cutting, the scissors slipped, and I suddenly had a small gash in my finger, completely by accident. As I finished cursing and got up to get a paper towel to stop the bleeding, this overwhelming feeling consumed me. “Aphrodite… wants my blood…” I murmured, dazed and incredulous. I shook my head and proceeded to reach for the paper towel, when I was hit with the feeling again, but stronger this time.
“Okay,” I told myself, not one to ignore Divine pushes. (Ignoring Divine pokes and pushes is a good way to get yourself hit in the head with the Cosmic 2-by-4.) “Aphrodite wants my blood,” I said a little more resolutely, and I reached into a cabinet for one of my shot glasses. I placed it on my altar, and squeezed as much blood as I could from my now-starting-to-clot cut into the glass as an offering. I spoke a prayer to Aphrodite, and then went to sanitize and bandage my wound.
I didn’t realize it then, that it was the moment that Aphrodite picked me, but over the next month or so, my work with the other love goddesses trailed off. Once I realized what was happening, I respectfully called in Venus and Turanna, and thanked them profusely for their blessings and the lessons that each of them had taught me. (I’m sure they already knew what was going on.) Then my deeper journey with Aphrodite began.