Aphrodite Rules

Filed in Venus Venusian

New Age Goddess sculpture in beadsGoddesses In Every Woman is a really interesting read, blending feminist philosophy with Jungian psych & mythology to essentially help women figure out which archetypes are strong within them. I was really only interested in the Aphrodite (aka Venus, Ishtar, Inanna etc) chapter but made myself read the rest & was SO shocked at the section on Vesta that i really don’t know if i can bring myself to blog about the asteroid again.

It was the bit about how Vestal Virgins in Ancient Rome were punished if they ‘strayed’ – seriously awful stuff – there is a bit here.

I mean, really, is the asteroid that important?

Image: Aphrodite – Sacred Earth Designs

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38 thoughts on “Aphrodite Rules

  1. Is it important? I am so curious now. I think the Vestals had it rough, but I heard getting pregnant by adultery had an imaginative end in ye olde China that I don’t know if you I should add here, it bothers me no end.

    But I must say the Vestal’s demise remind me of another brilliant childhood book, by Ursula K. Le Guin from the Earthsea Cycle – The Tombs of Atuan. Eek, so freaked me out! The mix of magic and legend was so well related you could taste the dirt…

    • Do you know of a fantasy book where women of some land developed teeth in their vaginas to protect themself from rape? I was talking about it the other day to someone and could not remember what it was.

      • There is a movie about that concept – the ‘vagina dentata’ – called “Teeth” – sadly not a particularly good movie although it certainly makes its point.

        • A very interesting and scholarly read is ‘The Monstrous Feminine’ by Barbara Creed (of Melbourne Uni). The vagina dentata is a psycho-analytic/ feminist male freak-out. Fascinating to analyse why men are so fearful of feminine power and energy.

  2. That’s interesting. I haven’t read that book for years will have to re-read it.

    I thought I read in Merlin Stone’s When God was a Woman about the Vestal Virgins being more like women who were sacred prostitutes.

    Or did the term Vestal Virgins get adapted by the powers that be to suit their agenda. A bit like the virgin birth… Sex & Power & Religion all mixed up.

  3. Oh the shearing of hair + 30 years celibate and you haul water about and tend a fire..and yeah the punishments if the fire went out or somehow your chasity was questioned were truly horrible.

  4. re Vestals – smacks of ‘purity of the elements’ thing, where so-called ‘humanity’ is not even an issue where fire and water must be ultimately pure in the temple (?) as, in the temple, they must be pure to evoke the continuation of the elements in balance – if the fire or the water become impure, their power is diminished (and so too the power of whoever is in charge…?) purity of individuals must be realized in extreme, so that all possibilities of the combination of elements can be realized and ‘life’ manifest ‘ultimately’. The Vestals therefore become corner guards of the extreme limits of manifest reality, and you can begin to understand why their role was taken so seriously.

  5. I love this actually, although half feel I shouldn’t, about women evoking/invoking/becoming different goddesses in their life: some kind of karmic responsibility, to manifest different signposts of reality. Not merely (!) the maiden/mother/crone, but multi-faceted, and the diversity across cultures!

    Still the job is to become/manifest each god/dess one/you strongly associate with, and yet, to passively observe oneself in that role/job, as a role in a play which you love Because…

  6. One of my favourite poems: Advice to Young Ladies, by AD Hope.

    Advice to Young Ladies

    A.U.C. 334: about this date,
    For a sexual misdemeanour which she denied,
    The vestal virgin Postumia was tried;
    Livy records it among affairs of state.

    They let her off: it seems she was perfectly pure;
    The charge arose because some thought her talk
    Too witty for a young girl, her eyes, her walk
    Too lively, her clothes too smart to be demure.

    The Pontifex Maximus, summing up the case,
    Warned her in future to abstain from jokes,
    To wear less modish and more pious frocks.
    She left the court reprieved, but in disgrace.

    What then? With her the annalist is less
    Concerned than what the men achieved that year:
    Plots, quarrels, crimes, with oratory to spare-
    I see Postumia with her dowdy dress,

    Stiff mouth and listless step; I see her strive
    To give dull answers. She had to knuckle down.
    A vestal virgin who scandalized that town
    Had fair trial, then they buried her alive;

    Alive, bricked up in suffocating dark;
    A ration of bread, a pitcher if she was dry,
    Preserved the body they did not wish to die
    Until her mind was quenched to the last spark.

    How many the black maw has swallowed in its time!
    Spirited girls who would not know their place,
    Talented girls who found that the disgrace
    Of being a woman made genius a crime.

    How many others, who would not kiss the rod,
    Domestic bullying broke or public shame?
    Pagan or Christian, it was much the same:
    Husbands, St. Paul declared, rank next to God.

    Livy and Paul, it may be, never knew
    That Rome was doomed; each spoke of her with pride.
    Tacitus, writing after both had died,
    Showed that whole fabric rotten, through and through.

    Historians spend their lives and lavish ink
    Explaining how great commonwealths collapse
    From great defects of policy – perhaps
    The cause is sometimes simpler than they think.

    It may not seem so grave an act to break
    Postumia’s spirit as Galileo’s, to gag
    Hypatia as crush Socrates, or drag
    Joan as Giordano Bruno to the stake.

    Can we be sure? Have more states perished, then,
    For having shackled the enquiring mind,
    Than those who, in their folly not less blind,
    Trusted the servile womb to breed free men?

      • Even more stunning when you know that Alec Derwent Hope was an old man when he wrote that. A much loved academic at the ANU, he wrote this in 1965. Lots of his poetry is about male erotic desire for women, and is considered anti-feminist – but he can’t not have been a feminist to have written this.

        • And if anyone wants a great poem about jealousy and loss..also by AD Hope.


          Meditation on a Bone

          A piece of bone, found at Trondhjem in 1901, with the
          following runic inscription (about AD 1050) cut on it:
          I loved her as a maiden; I will not trouble Erlend’s
          detestable wife; better she should be a widow.

          Words scored upon a bone,
          Scratched in despair or rage –
          Nine hundred years have gone;
          Now, in another age,
          They burn with passion on
          A scholar’s tranquil page.

          The scholar takes his pen
          And turns the bone about,
          And writes those words again.
          Once more they seethe and shout,
          And through a human brain
          Undying hate rings out.

          ‘I loved her when a maid;
          I loathe and love the wife
          That warms another’s bed:
          Let him beware his life!’
          The scholar’s hand is stayed;
          His pen becomes a knife

          To grave in living bone
          The fierce archaic cry.
          He sits and reads his own
          Dull sum of misery.
          A thousand years have flown
          Before that ink is dry.

          And, in a foreign tongue,
          A man, who is not he,
          Reads and his heart is wrung
          This ancient grief to see,
          And thinks: When I am dung,
          What bone shall speak for me?

          • Hope’s poetry is absolutely beautiful. What a genius the man was. Thank you for bringing him to us.

  7. there’s a picture of the vestal painted or maybe drawn in pastel by a woman named angelica kauffman on that vestal link – It’s nice that she’s there – she was one of the few women who gained success as an artist in the late 17-1800’s I think she was accepted into the academie and was one who shone the light for the women around her and to follow in terms of accessing a male dominated domain, being accepted into it and finding success.

  8. One point & no, not a historian. In ancient rome vestal virgins were the only class of women who (once they left the luxurious vv villa aged 40 and were allowed to marry if they liked) who could lead relatively independent lives. They left wealthy & sought after etc. But at what cost…
    Ancient Athens had the Heteriae (sp) – also independent women (unlike wives who in both societies were owned by their husbands) but independent via their wits & beauty…courtesans…That is why i called this post Aphrodite Rules..Sure the sacred flame of whatever has to be kept alive but how much more beautiful to serve our lady Aphrodite…cultivating the arts of beauty & love, poetry, art…divination, music, magic…the love of children, animals, nature, hot men…Pic of the ruins of the VV temple here…those poor, poor girls (the ones who transgressed)

    • I’m all for keeping the sacred flame of whatever alive but I’m a libran and I require sumptuous surroundings.

      • Lol, I can do a lifetime appreciating the Goddess and being a channel for purity – as long as there is a great spa, delicious togas and poetic nights in that garden underneath the full moon?!

  9. interesting…i honestly can’t add much about the vestals except to say yep those blokes sure know how to keep a good girl down. We need no to create more stories, or make more popular, the existing stories about women’s freedom and fighting for independence. There are numerous tales about men, individuals who fought against the odds and the status quo to be free or to follow their destiny. But until you replace “he” with “she”, I think it can be difficult to relate as a woman to these tales.

    I read a similar(?) book (The goddess in you / women etc?) when i was 20ish…but it only dealt in detail with maybe 6?? of the greek goddesses, Diana, Artemis, Athena, Persephone, Aphrodite and … Demeter. At the time I found the information about the myth and journeys of Persephone the most enlightening, and i also related to Artemis. interesting…might have to revisit

  10. There are some similarities with the Kumari Devi of Nepal, particularly in how they are selected pre puberty, treated as a goddess for a period of time, carried around by palanquin so feet don’t touch the ground, and able to marry after service. It is also viewed as auspicious to marry a former Kumari. Not sure if they have greater rights than other Nepalese women though, or if there are punishments for transgressions.

    • soooooooooo true they put themselves there out of need for control/power over others/greed and then make the rules to suit them and theirs and that’s it

  11. OHHH i just read the punishments – thats terrible! but i can see why they’re would be a high level of interest in enrolment – its like some exclusive private school!
    The heart is a strong symbol even in today’s society – i mean the anzac fire burns in the heart of melbourne…

    • OH that’s a really touching thing to say matt – the fire still burns tho sometimes I think the trench comraderie of their ANZAC spirits has dissipated due to the passing of time and migration – that’s such a lovely thing you’ve said tho. Very saggitarian. Very in honour of the ancestors. Warms the cockles.

      I have such a powerful connection with those men in the old wars who went away to fight – not in terms of glorifying war but just in terms of the fact they thought what they were doing was right and they were willing to put their lives on the line for the safety of others and in defense of a way of life a lot of people now take for granted. They fought so we could be free. Their fire should never go out. But we should get a grip and stop fighting wars I think – it’s a diversion.

      Wiki is awesome I just found their link to women warriors and it extends to these times – there are women known as the white stockings who fought in the baltic states in the 80s – an elusive troupe of women wearing white pantyhose (80 denier?) apparently roamed round taking pot shots at the enemy. I love the whole white stockings reference – similar to that of the sans culottes in the French revolution. It’s life affirming to read about feisty women. Thanks mystic great post.

      This is the wiki link – it’s powerful good http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=List_of_women_warriors_in_folklore,_literature,_and_popular_culture&redirect=no

      • My grandfather was an army man from Latvia and fought in some early wars – I am sure it was with the White Tights to whom he referred when he said very sadly that women and war do not mix well. He never mentioned in detail what happened to women who were caught by the enemy, but I get the impression reality can get in the way of a good story being a life affirming myth of strength…

        • yeah I totally agree with you there Firetrine – just as the french revolution wasn’t necessarily so much fun for the peasants after the dust settled – it’s the importance of knowing there’s feisty women out there is what I was getting at – knowing as a gender we don’t have to be powerless victims. The women on the side of the enemy never fare well at the hands of the victors – is it better to live on your knees or die on your feet? Or whatever it was the old man in the brothel said to Nately in Catch 22.

    • it has to do with embracing the sacred feminine and you know it – it has to do with using the muses as metaphorical mentors in our mundane daily lives in order to lift our spirits and make us feel a bit less ordinary – which one do you feel most resonates with you? Maybe we could start looking at the centaurs and the masculine archetypes – I’ve recently discovered regulus the star of kings and some other crazy arabic stuff. I’d love to know which hypothetical archetype you would choose william – you’re good with words and a bit of a trickster and you’re a sensitive type with a kind heart and don’t appear to be motivated by any kind of ill feeling… you’re a zelator?

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  14. Hi Mystic,

    I love your site and read it often. The history of the Vestal priestesses has been corrupted by historians who ignore the pre-patriarchy history. Vesta was a Titaness. Her priestesses had a very different role when the Great Mother religion still reigned supreme over the Olympian pantheon. Her priestesses were sacred hierodiles. The children they bore became the annual Kings who served the Great Goddess. It gave the women who served in her temple an enormous amount of political power and status. Patriarchal priesthoods who took over under the change of guard needed to usurp the power and oppress women through the oppression of Goddess Worship. It was during this phase that the mistreatment of the vestals took root.