Communal Hymn of the Old Thiasos
Sweet, soothing Aphrodite
Heavenly One, Earthly One
whose power takes root
In gods and men alike
Hear our prayers!
Grant us the grace and gift
Of your beauteous sight!
Come and dwell amongst your people
Show us the ways of overpouring Love
So that we may be filled unto the utmost
And burst like grapes, like world-creating fire!
In every face and every smile that ever launched ship or let loose hound,
we see the beauty of your depths,
breaker of men,
eater of hearts,
healer in the dark,
we cry out to you whose warrior sons drive weapons deep in our breasts,
let loose your wiles, terrible and strong as the tide,
Show to us the passion that is your gift to life.
With long hair, wild yet beautiful, smooth yet fierce,
wearing rubies and pearls and all manner of gems,
give us love and lovely things, lady of the sea and all waters!
Mother of our births, for without you no union can be made,
Seducer of our hopes, for by you we fly across seas of desire.
Our sweat is salty; we come from your oceans.
Our tears are salty; we cry for and because of you.
Oh divinity, how beautiful you lie open before our eyes!
Goddess of sky and sea, such radiant glory makes mortals cry.
One glance from you, dare one sweet kiss,
I would willingly die! Aphrodite, thy name is Love.
I have only gratitude for the One who caresses and wakens us into longing
All history may be measured by moments of passion.
Through love, I embody my humanity.
Through love, I become more divine.
Open me further, Great Goddess,
to this higher purpose, touch me again!
I await the next collision.
I pray to Aphrodite,
who brings together what is separate,
who inspires the action of the night.
I [take action] for Aphrodite of the Starry Bull.
Hymn to Aphrodite Rhodophoros
To you we give these hallowed offerings,
a token of our immense affection
O kind-hearted Aphrodite,
loveliest of all the goddesses when you emerge from the pure waters
of the rushing river renewed in your power
and gleaming like the imperishable stars in heaven.
Your gentle feet tread the soft earth leaving no mark
save for the green grass and fragrant flowers that rise up in your wake
proclaiming the arrival of a mighty and revered divinity
in the fair land of the well-born ones.
All the moss-haired nymphs who feast on the sweet honey of bees
and cavort with the trumpet-voiced geese
and cunning, food-thieving raccoons
on the shores of the Willamette
come out to greet you weaving a crown of many-colored wildflowers
to adorn your beautiful brow
which shines golden as the rays of the life-giving lord Helios
who smiles as he watches you dance with effortless grace
amid the blossoming purple irises and the plentiful grape hyacinths.
These skilled daughters of the towering trees and misty raindrops
fashion for you an elegant gown of ivy-leaves to conceal
from all profane eyes the sight of your breasts –
white as the milk that flows from motherly cows,
soft as rose petals in the garden –
and your smoothly rounded hips which sway like leaves
caught in the breeze of a warm May afternoon.
dark as the bedchamber of a bride on her wedding night
as she trembles in pleasure at the first exploring touches of her man,
the nymphs gather with their sparrow-like fingers,
flying too swiftly for a mortal eye to follow
as they braid your perfumed locks and weave
shining stones, glass beads, twigs, rainbow-hued flowers,
the tiny bones of tiny animals
and other treasures that have been left for them
as pious offerings in their verdant, tree-shaded, water-fed haunts.
It was love and appreciation of nature’s beauty
that caused men to gift them such things
so the nymphs feel it only proper
to return a portion of their yield back to you.
And so arrayed you rise from your bed of dew-moistened loam,
marvelous beyond words to describe,
and begin your grand procession through the fair land of the well-born ones
followed by a troop of nymphs and all the birds and animals
who call this place their dear home.
Laughter echoes through the woods
and gay song that brings contentment to the heart
and smiles to the lips of all who hear it,
even if they lack the vision to behold
the old gods walking amongst them once more.
The whole earth rouses itself with life and color wherever you pass
as the gorgeous flowers unfurl with the brilliant colors of early summer
and everything feels fresh and new, full of love’s bounty.
So for these and your countless other blessings we thank you dear Aphrodite,
and pray that you find our offerings as pleasing as we find you.
Hymn to Arsinoë-Aphrodite Zephyritis
Three in number were the Graces,
those beautiful goddesses of blooming flowers and soft gowns
handmaidens of the Paphian Queen who adorned her at her birth
when she rose lovely-shaped from the waters of the primeval ocean
and stepped onto dry land,
already wielding power over the hearts of men and gods alike.
But now they are four, since the radiant Arsinoë has come to join their ranks.
Mortal-born was she, with good blood of the Lagides in her veins.
When she came forth from her mother’s lucky womb,
no gods stood in attendance to ease the pangs of labor or wash the babe clean,
but none were needed for Arsinoë’s nature was so pure,
her temperament so sweet,
that the Queen was delivered of her in ease
and wept only at the sight of her beauty.
The charm of the Golden One was about her from the first,
and her nurses counted themselves uniquely blessed
to be charged with her care.
Is it any wonder then that her brother fell under her spell even in their youth,
and followed her about like a love-sick puppy wherever she went?
Her father, too, was wrapped around her dainty finger,
and never could say no to what she wished.
Therefore he gave his consent to let the siblings wed,
though this had never before been the custom of their people.
But they lived in Egypt now, not mountainous Makedon,
and it was common practice for the Kings of that land
to share the holy bed with their sisters.
Nor did Hera refrain to bless this happy union
– and how could she when it was her brother Zeus and no other
that she saw fit to take to her bosom in loving embrace?
Arsinoë made her Ptolemy happier
than any man who had ever walked the earth before him,
being modest and always pleasant-natured,
seeing to his every want and bearing him many fine sons and daughters
to carry on his name.
She was wise as well,
and gave him advise in running the country,
sage counsel worthy of any philosopher.
Her chief virtue, however,
was that she showed a special concern for the gods of her country,
going out of her way to keep their solemn festivals
and build fine houses for them.
In fact, she excelled all others in her pious deeds,
like an athlete competing in the arena of religion,
and she showed especial care for the worship of love’s goddess.
Never did a day pass by without a prayer to Aphrodite on her lips,
and always she brought costly offerings to the altar,
pleasing to the Kytherean’s heart.
More than Queen, Mother or Wife
– titles dear to Arsinoë –
did she pride herself on being the goddess’ slave,
serving her in every way possible
and with all that she had at her disposal.
And so it was that when Arsinoë’s allotted number of days
had reached their end,
Aphrodite took it into her mind to reward this exceptional votary
for a lifetime of faithful service.
She sent the Sons of Zeus,
horse-taming Kastor and Polydeukes, strong of arm,
down from the heights of snow-capped Olympos
to snatch Arsinoë up before she could taste the bitter wine of death.
She then bathed her in the waters
of the sacred river that flows through the heavens,
removing the wrinkles that marred her face so that
once more she appeared a maiden
flush with the ripeness of youth.
And she dressed her in the gowns of her attendants,
which gleam like the fire-pulsing stars,
and she crowned Arsinoë with a crown
like that which Dionysian Ariadne wears,
making her one of the gods in heaven
with a share of Aphrodite’s own power,
to revel in her company for all time.
And men on earth worshiped her as a goddess too,
building a resplendent temple for her at Zephyrion
where she could watch the waves crash against the rocks
and guide sailors away from all danger.
Nor did Alexandrian wives neglect her cult,
supplicating Arsinoë often to bless their marriage
so that it might have even a small part of the happiness
that she and her Ptolemy once enjoyed.
So hear my prayer, O Arsinoë-Aphrodite,
and smile upon me for this heartfelt hymn,
composed for you out of the best that I have to offer,
like the gifts you once made for the Heavenly Queen.
And grant that my soul will not be tossed about on the mad sea of love,
but that I always find my way safely into the arms of the one I hold dear,
each of us experiencing unmeasured joy in the other’s company!
Whatever the gods touch becomes a myth, immortal.
A rock on the wave-swept beach,
a bird high up in a tree,
and yes, even the human heart.
All these the gods can cause to exist for all time in the memory of man.
This love I feel has its origin in the Golden One,
fair Kypris who dances amid the flowers,
whose light feet cause the green grass to rise up
and whose melodious laughter coaxes the nourishing rain
from the night-dark clouds.
Even if one of the Nine Maidens of Helikon were sitting upon my lap,
stroking my cheek and whispering their honey-sweet words into my ear,
even then I could not begin to sing of the depths of my love,
the intensity with which it has laid claim to my soul.
But I recognize its twin in the stories of old,
Philemon and Baucis who sprouted leaves
so that their fingers would touch forever,
Medeia who fled her father’s home and her precious motherland
for Jason’s tender kisses,
Kleopatra who endured the serpent’s sting
to be reunited with her dear ivy-crowned Antony.
Yes, here in these ancient tales I sense an echo of what I feel for my beloved.
Will men of a future generation remember us in such illustrious company?
If Aphrodite who made all this possible wills it,
it will be so.
by Amanda Artemisia Forrester
Golden-skinned, full-hipped, heavy-breasted
Dances and laughs, loves and eats, drinks and plays,
Among the Halls of the Gods
Our powerful Lady of Love is named as an Olympian
But in reality She is a Force far more primal
Than the civilized generation of Gods She is among
For Her birth was part of the saga of creation
Born from sea-foam and blood from the severed manhood of Father Sky,
Thrown into the primordial ocean by Kronos
Aphrodite therefore is older than the King of the Gods
And indeed She moves Zeus as She will
Arisen from the sea, She came to drive the world mad with lust
And turn one’s heart to another in partnership.
She causes animals to couple and so the flocks and herds to increase
Likewise She is the Hunger for union in the higher species
The drive to abandon the safety of isolation for the risk of heart-break,
In hopes of forming a new singular entity from two separate ones,
An equal partnership with the potential for increase.
Love is kindness, but not merely gentleness,
For Aphrodite has a steel core to Her,
Under the flowers, cheerfulness, and rosy cheeks.
Aphrodite is a Goddess of the harder lessons too, of “tough love”,
Not merely the fun roll in the hay.
She governs the first flirtations of love,
But also the stick-to-it-ativeness, the slow periods,
The intimate knowledge of a couple long together,
Who know each other’s every psychic crack and crevice,
As well as bodies well-loved and well-used.
A fiercer Goddess is She, too, than some may at first suspect
She dons golden armor to follow Ares into battle,
For Aphrodite understands the true value of a rare love
And will stop at nothing to protect Him.
So this is my hymn to the laughter-loving Goddess
Golden-skinned, wide-hipped, heavy-breasted —
But more than many may have supposed.
On the Festival of the Charites
Let the sweet voices of the maiden-choir rise up
like the fragrance of rose petals on the fair altar of Kypris,
singing the praises of the Charites,
the dance-loving daughters of Dionysos,
who bring peace and joyful celebration to the city,
warming the hearts of all with their radiant beauty and gentle grace.
When these three who are never separated come down
from the shining heights of Olympos
to take up residence in their temple during the days of their festival,
strife is banished from the land, men forget their petty differences
and even the law-courts are closed
for everyone is too busy drinking and enjoying each other’s company to
bother with such things.
Flowers and fine clothes and who will win the contest of beauty is all
that anyone can think of.
We Alexandrians are especially devoted to the goddesses,
for they aided our Queen when she sailed up river to meet the Roman general.
They made her seem the very image of Aphrodite
and put power into her charming words,
so that his grievances and thoughts of war were forgot
and all he longed to do was lay with his head in her lap
and taste the sweet fruit she offered him.
In this way our country was saved
and since that time we have been dutiful
in keeping the festival of the Charites.
So you noble girls,
chosen to sing on behalf of our city,
call the goddesses here
and let them know we’re ready to celebrate them in proper Alexandrian style!
Aphrodite of surpassing beauty,
golden lady of love and joy,
please share your blessings with me.
Kindle the flames of passion within my breast,
fill me with an aching longing for others,
delight my eyes with the awesome beauty of all creation,
make me melt with unimagined ecstasy.
To Aphrodite Bakcheios
Raise a glass in honor of the mistress of the feast
wine-loving and frenzied goddess of wet grace
who revels with nymphs in river-fed grottoes
whose dancing feet excite the pulse of life in all creation
who leads the wild beasts as they roam through primordial forests
who laughs in the darkness and can bring to completion with just a smile.
Heart-render, tomb-haunter, hunger and fire
and the fathomless depths of the sea, maenadic Aphrodite
who wields the scourge of the mysteries, hail to thee!