Aphrodite has a modern PR problem: she's described as an air-headed woman with jealousy issues, who is only concerned with romantic love, while in ancient Hellas, Aphrodite was the Goddess who personified love in all its forms, from romantic, to obsessive, to abusive, to paid for. She rejoices in physical desire and beauty. In a form, She is the anti-Hera--who puts the sanctity of marriage above all--although she also has a marriage epithet (Aphrodite Hera, Αφροδιτη Ἡρη). Aphrodite's marriage to Hēphaistos is not only portrayed as an arranged one, it is also a childless marriage--a rare oddity in ancient Hellas, where the lack of legitimate children was feared above all. The only children Aphrodite has are with her lovers, mostly with Ares, Hermes and Dionysos. Aphrodite might have, in fact, divorced Hēphaistos, a very rare occurrance in ancient Hellenic life, as well as in the lives of the Theoi.
Also famously, ritual prostitution was a valid form of worship for Aphrodite in Cyprus, the center of her cult, in Cythera, Corinth and in Sicily. The women were called 'hierodoule' (ἱεροδούλη), temple slave, and 'made love' with paying customers. The practice was considered distinctly 'un-Hellenic' by 460 BC, but it made Corinth very wealthy, indeed. The practice seems to have lingered in converted Corinth from earlier worship of Astarte, who was brought into the pantheon as Aphrodite in Hellas. Pindar describes this exact practice beautifully in his 'Eulogies' (Fragment 122):
"Young women visited by many, servants of Peitho in rich Corinth, you who burn the tawny tears of pale frankincense, on many occasions fluttering in thought to the Uranian mother of desires, Aphrodite--To you she has granted without the possibility of refusal, O children, to have the fruit of your soft bloom plucked in lovely beds. And with necessity, everything is beautiful."
Aphrodite is the patron, protector and avenger of hierodoule as well as hetairai--female companions, a term used non-sexually for women, about women, but used by men to indicate a woman hired for entertainment, often leading to sex. She passes no judgement on those who enjoy the sanctity of sex and offers protection to those who practice it for money. When these women (usually, anyway) were wronged, they could call upon Aphrodite to have their abuser punished. And so, I'm going to start off this mix-tape with a song by Donna Summer, because it's a song about prostitution that is a little sad but also empowering.
Donna Summers - Bad Girls
"Hey, mister, have you got a dime? / Mister, do you want to spend some time? Oh, yeah / I got what you want; you got what I need / I'll be your baby; come and spend it on me"
Poe - Hey Pretty (Drive By 2001 mix)
To stay with the theme, I'm moving on to a song about S-E-X. No one thought this post would be suitable for the work environment, right? Anyway, I adore Poe. She has a uniquely haunted sound, and has never been afraid to push a few boundaries. There are many songs about sex, and many are more explicit. What I like about Poe, though, is the sexual prowess of the woman in relation to the passiveness of the man, and the narrative, which is sexy as hell because of its slow build. I also love the fantastic spoof of a video that accompanies the song, but that might just be personal taste. Bonus points: the guy in the video is Poe's brother. Remind you of someone?
"Hey pretty, don't you wanna take a ride with me / Through my world? / Hey pretty, don't you wanna kick a slide / Through my world? / (Do you get the gist of the song now?)"
Imogen Heap - The Walk
I posted an Imogen Heap video for the Ares mix-tape (and Hera's but that's mostly unrelated) so it seems only fitting I include one for Aphrodite as well, especially when the accompanying song tackles Aphrodite's infidelity to her husband and attraction to Her lovers. While the song suggests some trepidation in the face of overwhelming feelings of desire for someone who one should not feel desire for, I am certainly not sure that was--and is--ever the case for Aphrodite. She seems to relish Her lovers, and in the time spent with them. Yet, I could see someone praying to Aphrodite to make these feelings go away, especially in modern society. Also, that desire described right there? Definitely Aphrodite's doing.
"Big trouble losing control / primary resistance at a critical low / on the double gotta get a hold / point of no return one second to go
No response on any level/ red alert this vessels under siege / total overload, systems down, they've got control / there's no way out, we are surrounded / give in, give in and relish every minute of it"
Rihanna - Disturbia
I must be very clear that there are no ancient sources that connect Aphrodite specifically to any form of madness, yet, we all know love makes you crazy sometimes. Obsessive love, kinky love, desires that are frowned upon by society--Aphrodite covers those too, I'm quite sure.
"Put on your pretty lies, you're in the city of wonder / ain’t gon’ play nice, watch out you might just go under / better think twice, your train of thought will be altered / so if you must falter be wise
Your mind’s in disturbia, it's like the darkness is light / disturbia, am I scaring you tonight? / disturbia, ain’t used to what you like / disturbia, disturbia"
Pat Benatar - Love is a Battlefield
I must end this mix-take with a very 80's video of the very aphrodesian Pat Benatar. This women-power power ballad represents all the best parts of Aphrodite's domain; from the epic love, to the pain it can cause, to the love for friends (and family), and the love for the self that Aphrodite governs just as much as external love. Love is a battlefield sometimes, but Aphrodite can ease the fight--unless you work against Her, then She will kick your ass. If that ass-kicking incorporates over-rehearsed dance routines, you'll have to find out for yourself, though.
"We are young, heartache to heartache we stand / no promises, no demands / love is a battlefield
We are strong, no one can tell us we're wrong / searchin' our hearts for so long, both of us knowing / love is a battlefield"