Aphrodite was the Greek Goddess of beauty, sexuality, lust. The Romans knew her as Venus. Wikipedia notes that her feast day was known as the Aphrodisiac (also referred to as Aphrodisia), which was celebrated all over Greece but particularly in Athens and Corinth. In Corinth, intercourse with her priestesses was considered a method of worshipping Aphrodite. She was sometimes referred to as Aphrodite, Porne, meaning: Aphrodite, the Temple Prostitute, although, as noted above, temple prostitutes were priestesses who helped worshippers to find communion with Aphrodite, so the expression was one of sacredness.
She was also known as Aphrodite, Kallipygos, or Aphrodite of the Beautiful Buttocks. It is in this form that I worship her, as she shows how healthy it can be for women to love their bodies and to enjoy themselves. There are several famous statues of Aphrodite, Kallipygos. Wikipedia tells this story to explain how she came to be worshipped:
"The people of those days were so attached to their sensual pleasures that they even went so far as to dedicate a temple to Aphrodite of the Beautiful Buttocks, for the following reason. One upon a time a farmer had two beautiful daughters. One day these girls, getting into a dispute as to which one had a more beautiful backside, went onto the public street. And by chance a young man was passing by, the son of a rich old man. They showed themselves to him, and when he saw them he voted in favor of the older girl. And in fact, falling in love with her, when he got back to town, he took to his bed and told his younger brother everything that had happened. And the younger brother also went to the country and saw the girls, and he fell in love with the other daughter. And so when the boys' father tried to get them to marry someone of the upper classes, he couldn't persuade his sons, and so he brought the girls in from the country, with their father's permission, and married them to his sons. And so these girls were called fair-buttocked by the citizens, as Cercidas of Megalopolis says in his Iambic Verses: "There was a pair of beautiful-buttocked girls in Syracuse." And so these girls, when they got wealthy and famous, founded a temple of Aphrodite and called the goddess the Fair-buttocked, as Archelaus tells us in his Iambic Verses."
The fact that there was a religious cult of Aphrodite Kallipygos at Syracuse is also mentioned by the Christian author Clement of Alexandria in a list of erotic manifestations of pagan religion. Clement cites the poet Nicander of Colophon, and generously quotes the alternative term (kalligloutos, "with a beautiful bottom") that Nicander used.
I took a class from Thorn Coyle this Fall and it SUCKED. She sat on her ass and did no teaching at all. She let a couple of folks who love the sound of their own voice (with little justification, trust me) talk, and talk, and talk. I mean, if I take two evenings out of my life to take a class from Thorn Coyle, who presumably spent all the time that I spent in law school learning from Victor and Cora Anderson and thinking about Pearl Pentacle concepts while I was learning to write briefs, I'd like to hear what Thorn has to say, at least before she starts in with the Socratic method crap that I hated wasting my time and money on in law school. I talked to a friend of mine who's taken Thorn's intensive Faerie training and she said, "Well, Thorn's bright, but she's an uneven teacher." No duh.
And, yet, there are times when Thorn hits it all the way out of the ballpark. I think that her post from today deserves to be repeated every day, all year long, throughout 2007:
I went to the market, to realize my soul. What I need, I just don't have... - the Clash
What is your capacity during crisis? What is your capacity during sustained crisis? Do you rally, do you push forward, do you organize, do you grow numb, does depression grip you, do you escape into the brightness of fantasy?
I'm asking because I've been trying to think of ways in which we need to prepare. In the midst of the glories of life and all the things I am truly grateful for, there is a persistent current of impending doom. It could be that I listened to too much Shriekback, Crass, UB40, and Sisters of Mercy as a young lass, or it could be that all my psychic friends keep having ominous visions. My Traditional Jewish Christmas of Chinese food and a movie didn't help, either, because the movie was "Children of Men." No, I'm not Jewish, just culturally omnivorous, and the pan-fried string beans were very tasty, thank you.
See, in case you haven't noticed, the US is creeping further and further toward fascism and inching ever (possibly - I'm no economist) closer to complete economic collapse. The current trade deficit of 4.5 trillion dollars, coupled with the rising appeal of the Euro as a new trade standard, coupled with the fact that the US is dependent on cheap goods made abroad (by workers who probably aren't too happy about their conditions) coupled with the fact that foreign countries who have been happy to buy US debt are getting tired of it... Coupled with the visions of gloom by my personal Psychic Friends Network and from most economists... Coupled with a soupcon of global warming (so long, Ayles Ice Shelf)...
I just want to make sure we are prepared. Hopefully the doom won't come to pass and we all will be able to only focus on the things that make us feel happy, wealthy, hopeful, and in love. But if times harsher than these are in order, at least we will be strong. And heck, how bad is being strong in any case? Strong people make better lovers.
And yes, in the larger scheme of things - say five billion years - none of this may matter. But I am part of a non-transcendent religion, and I like living in this material plane very much and don't want to see things further messed up than they already are. And the polar bears likely agree. Now, I'm preaching in this forum to a lot of "alternative culture" people who are already doing most everything they can to live closer to some anarchist ideal, but the words still need saying sometimes.
So: How are you in a crisis? What are you doing to get stronger? Are you doing more yoga? Lifting more weights? Are you looking at your propensity to explode or to hide? Are you figuring out how to bolster your alternative communities into more viable networks of support? Are you learning to govern yourself? Learning to garden? Buying less? Re-using more? Are you learning not to always place the blame on other people? Are you telling your friends how much you appreciate them? Are you crying when you need to and laughing when you wish? Stopping to smell the flowers? Are you spreading beauty as far and wide as possible? Pick two from this random list, or add two of your own. But do them. Two of them. At least.
Doom only spells doom if we let it. We should throw parties in the coming year and go dancing. We should also sit longer spells in meditation and at our altars. We should make it into a wild space at least once, and support those who are defending the last of our wild spaces. We should feed strangers. We should get as physically and mentally healthy as we can.
Have what you need and need what you have. A cold wind may blow, but we can keep each other warm.
Kisses - Thorn
I am part of a non-transcendent religion, and I like living in this material plane very much and don't want to see things further messed up than they already are. And the polar bears likely agree.
I tried, badly, to express this point a month or so ago in comments at Eschaton. I don't care that the Earth, in some different form and likely with less life, may still be here billions of years from now. I care that the salmon are dying today due to damns, and that the nature spirits (fairies) who live in trees are dying at an alarming rate, and that humans have entire industries devoted to sucking up energy to produce things designed specifically to be used once and then thrown away. I care about the real worms who live right now in my back yard and the black squirrels and grey squirrel who are right now engaged in a fight for territory in the oak forest where I live. I care about the arisaema that I planted last spring in my woodland garden. I care about the real water in the real Potomac River that looks pink some mornings and brassy green some mornings and misty grey on other mornings. I care about the climate that my grandson will live in 50 years from now, when he's just the age that I am now.
What are you doing to get stronger?
Thorn's question is one that all of us must ask ourselves. Now, at the end of one year and the beginning of another is as good a time as any. We can see, right now, that we're heading for choppy water. What are you doing to get ready? Turn off the tv; its only purpose is to drug you too long for you to veer off the road to extinction. Turn it off and do what you need to do to get stronger.
I thought the earth remembered me, she took me back so tenderly, arranging her dark skirts, her pockets full of lichens and seeds. I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed, nothing between me and the white fire of the stars but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths among the branches of the perfect trees. All night I heard the small kingdoms breathing around me, the insects, and the birds who do their work in the darkness. All night I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling with a luminous doom. By morning I had vanished at least a dozen times into something better.
'Pan's Labyrinth is a movie about a girl who gives birth to herself into the world she believes in,' del Toro continues. '
Now this is a movie that I want to see, even if del Toro ended his sentence with a preposition.
The review quotes del Toro as saying that, A maze is a place where you get lost. But a labyrinth is essentially a place of transit, an ethical, moral transit to one inevitable centre.
That's an interesting way of thinking about the difference between the two; for some reason, I've always liked mazes better than labyrinths. But several friends have convinced me to try labyrinth-walking over the past few years, and I see what del Toro is saying about a labyrinth as a place of transit, although what you find at the center can vary from one walk to the next and may be less inevitable than del Toro says.
The Wild Hunt also reports that: author Stephen King has made [Pan's Labyrinth] his number one movie pick of the year.
"I happened to see this in July and was completely seduced by its beauty and emotional ferocity. Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Mimic, Blade II) directed, and to call this his best work isn't enough. I think this extraordinary R-rated fairy tale for adults is the best fantasy film since The Wizard of Oz. And while it's much darker than Wizard, it still celebrates the human spirit.
Via Witchvox, we have several articles on the continued quest. on behalf of slain Wiccan soldiers, to get the Veterans Administration to allow their religious symbol -- the Pentacle -- to be placed upon their memorial markers and gravestones. I've covered this story throughout the year and I'm going to continue to cover it until the courts force the VA to do the right thing.
Since 1978 the armed forces have recognized that they need to make accommodations for service members who are Wiccan. Wiccan soldiers have served in the armed forces at least as far back as the Korean War. Jill Medicine Heart Combs, a member of the National Board of CUUPS (Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans) and a National Board member of Pagan Pride Project International spoke about her husband, Gerwin Dee Combs. "My husband is a Wiccan veteran. For the last two years he has been in a VA hospital. He is in a coma and his medical records reflect that he is in a persistent vegetative state. I know at any moment my husband could die and I know he would want a Pentacle on his headstone and as of now, he could not have one."
Jill became visibly more emotional as she spoke, "Congresswoman Jean Schmidt of Ohio's 2nd District wrote a letter to me this summer stating that the VA is concerned about the "legal and moral aspects" surrounding VA approval of the Pentacle. The First Amendment of the Constitution protects freedom of religion. It is not the job of the VA to determine the morality of any particular religion, but for the record my husband's religion is moral. I will tell you what is immoral. It is immoral for the VA to deny religious freedom to veterans who have served their country in the fight for freedom."
What's doubly ironic, and sad, about this is that the VA has a list of "approved" symbols -- something that no self-respecting government with a First Amendment should ever have -- and those symbols include religions of which I'm willing to bet you've never heard. The VA even approved a symbol for atheists. But not Wiccans.
If you are an American Wiccan and you volunteer to serve your country and are killed doing so, tough shit. No marker for you.
The State of Nevada, home to slain Wiccan soldier Patrick Stewart, has behaved more honorably than the VA, providing his widow with a plaque engraved with a Pentacle. [T]he Governor of Nevada, Kenny Guinn, intervened and provided a memorial plaque with the Pentacle on it, saying that Sgt. Patrick Stewart had died for his country and that was all he needed to know. At a ceremony to bless the plaque, retired military chaplain and Christian minister, Rev. William Chrystal . . . led a group of Pagan veterans in a salute to Sgt. Patrick Stewart, and then described his own relationship with Sgt. Stewart. He honored Sgt. Stewart's Wiccan beliefs when he said, "I wear this uniform proudly, as Pat's Chaplain and as a Christian minister. I think it was Red Cloud the Sioux who said that there many paths to the Great Spirit." If you haven't watched the video of this event, you owe it to yourself to do so, box of Kleenex in hand. Rev. Chrystal did a lovely, respectful job. I honor him.
Senator Reid's office and the Governor's office were also present. a representative from Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid's office, delivered the following statement, from Senator Reid, "This day is long overdue. Ever since Sergeant Patrick Stewart's death, his wife Roberta has worked to ensure he is properly recognized. I commend the Nevada Office of Veterans Services for making it happen. All of our troops deserve nothing less that to be properly recognized. I will continue to work closely with the US Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that the issue is addressed at the federal level."
Nicholas Vander Poel, Regional Representative for Nevada Governor-elect and Representative Gibbons also spoke at the Dedication: "I remember standing in Rancho San Rafael, telling Roberta if there was anything we could do, please do not hesitate. We did not want to let her down. We were constantly in contact with the VA and we wanted to make sure that Sgt. Stewart was recognized." Following the Dedication, Representative Gibbons released this statement: "Sgt. Patrick Stewart made the ultimate sacrifice defending the freedoms we enjoy, religion being one of them. Sgt. Stewart defended a constitution that said he had the freedom of religion and it was only fitting to see him receive a plaque honoring his beliefs. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to Roberta and the family."
My bet is that most Americans react to this story the same way that Joe Soucheray, writing in the Twin Cities Pioneer Press does. Although Joe doesn't know anything about Wicca, and although he can't write about it without cracking a few jokes, for him the bottom line is this: Sgt. Patrick Stewart of the Nevada National Guard died for his country. That's more than all the lawyers and activists always hectoring each other about religious rights have ever done. I don't care whether Stewart's widow wants a likeness of Mickey Mouse chiseled into his stone, much less a pentacle. . . . But Wiccans? . . . I don't know what they do, or what time their Mass starts. All I know is that they haven't caused the world any big problems.
And if they die for us while wearing our uniform, they certainly should have their own proper markers at their graves.
Dear VA, 2007 would be a good time for you to start to act like Americans.
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."