The worship of this most seductively beautiful goddess originated in Asia, spread to countless shrines in Greece and centred upon Cythera. Aphrodite sprang from the seed of ouranos (Uranus, the Heavens), scattered upon the sea when Ouranos was castrated by his son, Cronos - hence the legend of the birth of Aphrodite from sea-spume. She was the wife of the lame god hephaistos, whom she deceived on many occasions. She symbolizes the irresistible generative force, not in its fruits, but in the passionate desires which it kindles in all living creatures. Thus she is often depicted with an escort of wild animals around her, as in the ‘Homeric’ Hymn, where the poet first conjures up her power over the gods and then over the beasts.
This is love in its physical form of lust and sensual pleasure, but not yet love on a specifically human plane. ‘On the highest level of the human psyche where love is complemented by a marriage of souls with its symbol as Hera, the wife of Zeus, Aphrodite is the symbol used to express sexual perversion, since pleasure is naturally inseparable from and acts as a spur towards the reproductive act. The demands of nature are then satisfied pervertedly’. One may wonder, nevertheless, whether an interpretation of this symbol may not develop along the lines of current research into the exclusively human elements of sexuality. Even theologians, bound by a strict code of morality, are studying the problem of determining whether the sole end of sexuality is reproductive or whether it is not possible to humanize the sexual act independently of its procreative element. The myth of Aphrodite may still remain for a time the image of a perversion, perversion of the enjoyment of life and of lifegiving forces. However, it is not because the intention to create new life is missing from the act of love, but because love itself still remains dehumanized, on an animal level appropriate to the beasts who form the goddess’s train. Yet such a development could lead to the reinstatement of Aphrodite as the goddess who sublimates brute appetite by incorporating it into a truly human way of life.