How do we honor a Goddess whose last known popular worship was thousands of years ago? While we can certainly learn from what was done in the past, we need to look to the present and the future to develop methods of worship that are relevant to modern Pagans and Polytheists. Human society has evolved tremendously over the past few millenia – why wouldn’t how we relate to our Deities do the same?
To create a meaningful modern practice, we must merge the Old Ways with new ones, follow our Divine intuitive guidance, and most importantly, listen to Aphrodite!
Who and What are We Worshipping?
When we worship a Deity, we show honor and reverence not only for that Deity, but also to the virtues they represent. Who and What we worship are inextricably intertwined. We honor the values represented by the Gods, and we honor the Gods as genitors of those ideals.
Aphrodite is traditionally depicted as the Goddess of Love. She is that, and so much more! I’ve explored some of the different aspects of Aphrodite in my writings on this blog, but let’s focus on Love for the purposes of this article.
Love is a cornerstone of the human experience. Love is so universal that this part of Aphrodite’s sphere of influence has not changed much since Ancient Greece. Throughout history, Aphrodite has been a symbol of both Divine and Earthly Love (as her common epithets Ουρανια [Ourania] and Πανδημος [Pandêmos] attest). I don’t necessarily agree with the delineation between the two – I believe all love has Divine qualities and that any love to, from, or between humans is Earthly because of our connection with the material world. No one kind of love is better than the other.
I do think that this aspect of Aphrodite’s sphere of influence has shifted somewhat in the present day. Yes, she is a Goddess of romantic love, passionate love, and even lust – But she is also a Goddess of familial love, love of friends, passions of all kinds, love of objects and activities, and love of ourselves.
The entrance of self-compassion into Aphrodite’s sphere is perhaps the biggest change I have seen in contrast with the ancient lore, and I believe it also parallels the evolution in our society. Self-compassion has always been needed, but never more so that it is today. In the age of perfectly manicured Instagram feeds, diet and exercise marketing, and all the ways our modern world tells us that we aren’t enough, we need self-compassion now more than ever. Aphrodite reminds us to be gentle to ourselves and others. She instills in us the knowledge that We Are Enough.
Why Do We Worship Aphrodite?
The next most important question is: Why do we worship? We must have a compelling reason to give honor and reverence to a Deity, to set aside time in our increasingly busy lives for worship, and to place a value on this type of relationship with the Divine.
I’ve already written about this at length in Reclaiming Worship as a Modern Pagan, and I encourage you to read that post in its entirety (especially if using the word “worship” makes you feel uncomfortable). I’ll summarize here:
I worship Aphrodite because She is worthy of respect and adoration… I worship Aphrodite to celebrate Her, to honor Her, to show veneration for the values She represents, to express gratitude for Her blessings, and so that I may become closer to Her. Even the word “veneration” itself is associated with Her! “Veneration” comes from the Latin Venus, meaning “beauty, love, and desire,” and is associated with Aphrodite’s Roman counterpart. The Italian word for “worship” – venerare – comes from the same root (Venere is Venus in Italian).
To me, all of this links back to love. Love is the root of worship. Love is the inspiration… We worship a Deity because we love them, because we admire their virtues, because we respect their work in this world (and in others), and because we want to, not because we have to.Reclaiming Worship As A Modern Pagan – Priestess of Aphrodite
When Do We Worship Aphrodite?
I believe that When we choose to worship says more about ourselves and our traditions than it does about the actual Deity we worship. If you are a Hellenic Reconstructionist, you probably follow a lunar-based calendar similar to this one (Baring the Aegis) or this one (Hellenion). As you can see, these calendars are VERY involved, and may require a bit of recalculation based on where you live.
When I was deepening my practice with Aphrodite, I gave the Hellenic Calendar a try. Personally, it didn’t work for me, for a number of reasons:
- The recalculation of the lunar calendar to match my everyday solar calendar was a lot of work, and the few months I did it, It didn’t seem organic.
- I don’t have a personal working relationship with many of the deities in the Hellenic pantheon. As a result of this, it felt weird only using parts of the calendar and not the entire thing.
- There weren’t a whole lot of days specifically for Aphrodite in the versions that I found. Since She is the primary deity I work with, I wanted my practice to involve Her more.
- There is something sacred going on almost every day. While the idea of that is wonderful, trying to fit that into my busy life was very difficult, even when I knew it was optional.
- The calendar didn’t match up well to my local climate or to what my Pagan group was doing throughout the year.
- It felt too prescripted. I wanted the freedom to honor Aphrodite based on what was going on in my life. While I am sure that is possible while following the Hellenic calendar, it just didn’t feel natural to me.
That said, if the Hellenic calendar works for you, go for it! The main thing to keep in mind for When to worship is what works best for you and your Deity. I had an open channel of communication with Aphrodite throughout this time, and while She appreciated my effort, She told me it wasn’t necessary. You might have a different relationship with Her. Connect with Her for guidance.
I worked over the next few months to find a sacred calendar that worked for me, and felt right. I wanted an organic way to honor Aphrodite, which meant taking into account my personal holy days, the days celebrated by my Pagan group, and the rest of my life. This last bit was a very important part – To maintain a habit of consistent spiritual practice, you have to find something that works for you and that you are passionate about. It may require the shifting of your schedule some, but a complete overhaul is unlikely to help you with maintaining a regular practice.
My personal sacred calendar of honoring Aphrodite is a blend of all parts of my life.
Personal holy days include: the anniversary of my dedication to Aphrodite and my initiation as Her priestess, my birthday, my boyfriend’s birthday, our anniversary and other important romantic days for us, and random whimsical celebrations whenever I feel like it!
Standard US calendar holidays, such as: New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day (but let’s call it Aphrodite’s Day instead), and Thanksgiving (I think giving gratitude to Aphrodite is a much better way to spend the day than celebrations linked to the US’s violent colonial past).
Traditional Pagan Wheel of the Year Days: Beltane (naturally) and Summer Solstice in particular, but I celebrate all the other Sabbats as well and I find ways to honor Aphrodite at each of these times.
And Full Moons – especially in the summer months, but really all year round.
I encourage you to think about what your personal sacred days are, and to create your own personal calendar of holy days.
This is the first post in a series on Modern Worship of Aphrodite. Part Two coming soon!