This is Part Two in a series about constructing an Altar for Aphrodite. Read Part One here!
In my previous post, I talked about the essential components of an altar, about intention, and about honoring Aphrodite through representations and sacred symbols. For this post, I will go more in depth about representations of the elements and offerings for the Goddess.
Representations of the Elements
Depending on your tradition or personal spiritual experience, you may work with elements of nature in your practice. Exactly which elements will vary from person to person. Personally, I used to work with the five element system (Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit). Now that Deity has become a large part of my practice, that has taken the place of Spirit for me, so now I mainly work with Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. I have some friends that use Spirit in addition to Deity, I know people who use Aether as the fifth element instead of Spirit, and I also have some friends that use the Eastern five-element system of Air, Fire, Water, Wood, and Metal. Some of my Celtic-based friends use Land, Sea, and Sky.
While the following paragraphs will focus on the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, use whatever elemental system works best for you and Aphrodite when constructing an altar for Her! This is what works for me. Experiment and find what works best for you!
When I specifically construct an altar for Aphrodite, I like to use representations of the four elements that are connected to Her. Here are some suggestions and inspiration:
As an enthusiastic nature-lover, I’ve always had a special bond with the element of Earth. This has manifested in different ways throughout the trajectory of my Pagan practice, from collecting cool pinecones and acorns to display on my altar to adorning my ritual setup with crystals of all varieties. When honoring Aphrodite, there are many different aspects of the Earth that you can incorporate.
Flowers are an obvious choice, and I frequently have fresh flowers around for Aphrodite (though not as much right now during the COVID-19 pandemic). As mentioned in the section on Her sacred symbols in my previous post, roses are a wonderful addition. I prefer pink, red, or white. Sunflowers, gardenias, jasmine, lilies, carnations, buttercups, honeysuckle, and wildflowers are also splendid choices. Really, any beautiful and/or sweet-smelling flower would work well to represent Earth. I also like the symbolism of flower buds – possibility just waiting to blossom! Buds are even better if they are able to blossom during their display on your altar.
There are also a multitude of leaves! Redbud leaves are my favorites, because they are heart-shaped and are commonly found here in the southeastern United States. There are many other plants with heart-shaped leaves. I also like to use herbs that are sacred to Aphrodite or are traditionally associated with love. Some of my favorites are basil and marjoram.
I associate several types of wood with Aphrodite: Hazel, live oak, cherry, purple heartwood, and olivewood. Most of these are from my own UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis), and I don’t really have an explanation for them other than intuition.
Because of Aphrodite’s connection with the ocean, sand is a beautiful choice to represent Earth! Hand-collected sand from a beach is optimal, but regular sand will do. Hand-blown glass objects (or if you are lucky enough to find one of those natural glass sculptures from when a beach gets struck by lightning!) are also wonderful options.
Then there are crystals! Rose quartz is probably the most well-known and easily accessible crystal associated with Aphrodite. Cherry quartz (a redder version of rose quartz) and clear quartz also work well. I have a beautiful piece of agate that was gifted to me by a friend that looks like the ocean. Emeralds are historically associated with Aphrodite, though I am not fancy enough to own any at the moment. Other stones associated with the heart chakra also work well, such as nephrite jade and malachite.
As mentioned in An Altar for Aphrodite: Intention and Honoring the Goddess, precious metals and jewelry would be excellent representations of the Earth element.
My go-to Air representation for the past few years has been incense. I like that it produces a distinct scent that helps to pull me into sacred space whenever I am doing a ritual. I consistently use the same incense specifically for this reason. My current incense is a blend of jasmine and vanilla (called Aphrodisia, coincidentally enough!). I have also used jasmine by itself, as well as rose.
Essential oils are also good for this, if you have an essential oil diffuser. I tend not to use essential oils on my altars because of my cat (Essential oils can be dangerous to pets, particularly cats!), but if you are outside or do not have any fluffy familiars, essential oils are a good pick. My favorites for Aphrodite are rose otto, ylang ylang, cinnamon, and tangerine.
Naturally-shed feathers are also an option, particularly from one of her sacred birds, such as swans, geese, doves, or sparrows. Be sure to thoroughly cleanse the feather (both energetically and physically) before incorporating it into your altar. Birds can sometimes have nasty parasites or bacteria on their feathers, and you wouldn’t want those on your altar!
I consider Fire to be Aphrodite’s primary element because of its association with passion, energy, and desire (though She has incredibly strong connections to the other three elements as well).
Candles are my favorite representation for Fire. I try to use beeswax candles as much as possible, since beeswax is all-natural and supports pollinators. I usually opt for regular beeswax, which can be various shades of yellow in color, but I have also used red beeswax (a color shared by both Aphrodite and Fire). Your candleholder can also display symbols of Aphrodite, whether it is a shell, a sacred animal, a flower, or particular color.
Candles can also be left unlit if your altar happens to be somewhere that burning fire would not be okay (like in a public park or within range of your fluffy familiar’s tail). Sometimes I will leave a match next to the unlit candle, or will mentally light it if I am unable to in the physical world.
Water has natural associations with Aphrodite, and there are many forms of water that you can use on your altar to honor Her.
Ocean water is my favorite, but I don’t always have that on hand unless I have made a recent beach trip. Handmade salt water will also work – just sprinkle three pinches of salt into your vessel and stir clockwise. Clean freshwater, either from a local stream or your kitchen tap, is also suitable.
I will often use rosewater for Aphrodite, which has a wonderful scent. I use a fairly small amount (an ounce or less, typically) since the scent is strong and rosewater isn’t particularly cheap. Teas made with sacred herbs are also an excellent form of water for your altar (just make sure your pet won’t accidentally drink them!) I frequently have rose tea on hand, and I will use that in ritual altars.
Arrangement of the Elements
Depending on your particular practice, you may place the elements in different locations on your altar. I place Earth in the North, Air in the East, Fire in the South, and Water in the West. I know some practitioners that will place water on whichever side of the altar is closest to a body of water on the physical plane, or Earth closest to the mountains. I tend to start in the North for my quarter calls and casting a circle, while a good number of my friends start in the East. Do whatever works best for you!
Also, remember that your vessels for the elements are another way that you can honor Aphrodite in your altar. While this is certainly not necessary, the design on your incense holder, the material of your chalice, or the pattern carved into your crystal can all add to the ambiance and feel of your altar.
I talked a bit about Physical Offerings versus Offerings of Action in my article Going Deeper – Connecting with Divinity. For this post, we will be focusing on Physical Offerings, since our altars (for the most part) will be in physical space.
I plan to write a more in-depth article about offerings in the future, but here is a brief overview of some of the physical offerings that I use for Aphrodite.
Food is one of my most common altar offerings. If it’s delicious and gives you pleasure, Aphrodite will like it. I will frequently set aside a portion of whatever I am eating that morning/afternoon/evening as an offering to the Goddess. If it is food that you have lovingly cooked yourself, so much the better! I love the idea of sharing my meal with Her. While I have not yet succeeded at praying before meals, I will often pray to Aphrodite as I savor my first bite, thanking Her for the pleasure in food. This is also a part of my Devotion to Aphrodite through Conscious Eating.
Fruits are always a good choice. I’ve offered Aphrodite a myriad of fruits, including apples, figs, blueberries, cherries, red grapes, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, sweet tangerines, blood oranges, mangoes, passionfruit, peaches, and many others.
I’ve also offered food items that aren’t quite foods by themselves, including honey, olive oil, organic cane sugar, and spices such as marjoram and basil.
Recently, Aphrodite specifically requested some strawberry and honey ice cream that my friend had gotten me for my birthday. I was happy to share!
Many of my drink offerings are also a portion of whatever I happen to be drinking. This can range from rose tea in the morning, to water at lunch, to red wine at night. Some other drink offerings include: herbal tea, sparkling fruit juice (peach is a favorite), apple cider, basil lemonade, whiskey, ouzo, pineapple juice, and rosewater (though I typically buy the beauty/skincare rosewater, which you probably shouldn’t actually drink).
My other offerings typically have some crossover with some of the things I listed under Elemental Representations, including: special crystals, beach sand, rose petals, a specific scent of incense or essential oils, a candle lit in Aphrodite’s honor, or saltwater.
You can also offer a piece of art that you have made, a prayer written on a piece of paper, or pretty much anything else that strikes your fancy. The important thing is to make sure it is offered in love.
This is Part Two in a series about constructing an Altar for Aphrodite. Read Part One here. Stay tuned for Part Three, coming soon!
*Please note that an “altar” (ending with an -ar) is a place for spiritual things. “Alter” (ending in an -er) is a verb meaning “to change.” I frequently see this misspelled on the internet and I wanted to clarify any confusion.