The Birth of Venus is a painting by Sandro Botticelli probably made in the mid 1480s. The painting is in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy
I love this painting not only because it is by favourite painter Sandro Botticelli, but also because I love Venus as the goddess of love, sex, beauty, and fertility, victory and even prostitution!
Greek counterpart Aphrodite is a – The Goddess of Love and Beauty
The Greek goddess Aphrodite, the original “Golden Girl”, the Goddess of Love; perfectly attired for the occasion in a simple string of pearls and a couple of strategically placed scallop shells, stepped out of the ocean on the island of Cypress and set the ancient world on its ear. Aphrodite, goddess of romantic love had finally arrived! Never had there been such sensual beauty and impeccable taste and a new era of sexuality had been birthed.
While Aphrodite was more generally known to be associated with romantic love, her broad appeal also encompassed wild sexuality, the shadow aspects of sex and temples full of priestesses who offered their bodies as sacred prostitutes to the men who would come for a taste of the goddess’ delights.
The Corinthian Temple
A famous temple to Aphrodite stood on the summit of Corinth in the Classical Age. It is said to have housed 1,000 sacred prostitutes who would ply their profession in the city below. Corinth was a city catering to sailors and traveling salesmen. Even by the Classical Age it had earned an unsavoury reputation for its libertine atmosphere. The name “Corinth” became synonymous for immorality. After landing at the Corinthian docks, sailors would apparently wheeze up the thousand-odd steps to the top of a stunning crag of rock called the Acrocorinth, which offered 360-degree vistas of the sparkling Mediterranean. There they would pass beneath the marble columns of the Temple of Aphrodite, goddess of Beauty and Love, within whose incense-filled, candlelit confines 1,000 comely girls supposedly worked around the clock gathering funds for their deity.
The Transformative Power of Sexuality
Aphrodite represents the “cosmic life force, associated especially with the transformative power of sexuality.” Aphrodite’s unbridled sexuality means lofty ideals such as liberation and renewal, energy and empowerment, ecstasy and oneness, both with others and with the divine.
“Aphrodite’s rituals of love and pleasure are the acts which connect the inner and outer planes … we must actually dance, sing, feast, make music, and love in Her honor. It is with our bodies that we worship Her, and through our bodies that She blesses us. By these earthy rituals the false divisions between body and spirit, between mind and nature, are healed. We find the Sacred within us and all things, within our beautiful, living Mother Earth.”
-Judy Harrow in Gnosis
As a Goddess whose temples were filled with sacred prostitutes, Aphrodite reminds us of the transformative powers of sexuality.