How was your Valentine's Day?
It's the holiday that may trigger ambivalence in even the most romantic women among us. From grade school celebrations, when you didn't get a Valentine from your favorite crush—thus acquainting you with the sting of unrequited love—to the perpetual annoyance it stirs within or the eternal hope that this year it will be better, it's a holiday that may push all our buttons.
Dating back to ancient Roman times, there are many tales detailing the works of St. Valentine and his death. He was Sainted by the Catholic Church in 496 and Valentine's Day was established to honor his martyrdom.
The tradition of gifting cards, flowers, and candy began in England, with the mythic "Jack Valentine" leaving sweets for children at the back door. In Slovenia, St. Valentine was the patron saint of spring, good health, and beekeepers. He was also the keeper of the keys to the roots of plants, starting all spring growth. It was during the Age of Chivalry in the Middle Ages that Valentine's Day became linked with romantic love.
This day celebrating love brings to mind another icon of love, the goddess Aphrodite! Born of sea foam, she arrived naked onshore via a clamshell, Aphrodite has become synonymous with the passions of sexual love. Considered to be the most beautiful of all the Greek goddesses, the ecstasy of sexuality is indeed a part of her mythology, but there is much more! Aphrodite's archetype also embraces beauty and all the ways it can affect our lives.
Aphrodisian beauty is found in many moments of life. The arms of a lover,
the laughter of children, the bloom of a garden, the arresting glory of a sunset or
in a Milky Way-filled sky, all engage our souls with beauty. Love, joy, nature, and the changing of the seasons, in these the ephemeral nature of Aphrodite's beauty abides. Flowers, beautiful clothing, jewelry, handicrafts, and the decorative arts can all be seen as expressions of Aphrodite's call to beauty and are traditionally associated with women's life sphere. They are the arts that are used, enjoyed, and lived in, and can make everyday life more beautiful.
There is more to Aphrodite than meets the eye. As a midlife mentor, Aphrodite's myths cast her in the roles of wife, mother, the beautiful girl married to the older rich man, the jealous mother in law, the passionate lover, and the goddess who brings her son's wife Psyche to mature womanhood. In Aphrodite's myths, women can find aspects of themselves and their own life's twists and turns, represented as universal experiences that suggest many potential approaches for growth through difficult territory.
Aphrodite, like love, is not perfect. As with all archetypes, she also has her darker side that engages in obsession, seduction, jealousy, rage, dishonesty, lying, and adultery. If your experiences of Valentine's day through the years have included love, desire, rejection, longing, delight, and disappointment you are not alone.
This year, I'm inviting you to experience the deep beauty of the natural world, and the "ephemeral nature of Aphrodite's beauty" in the beauty that surrounds you. Each sunset, sunrise, star-filled sky, flower, or genuine smile you receive fully, is a gift of love from Aphrodite within.
I hope you have a beautiful day after Valentine's Day!
Namasté, Dr. A.