Apollon and Aphrodite for a while struck me as a strange pair when I first heard of Apollon’s cultic prominence on her sacred island Cyprus. But upon certain reflections it started making sense to me why Aphrodite has been a thorn in my side *cough* blessing in my life for much of my adulthood.
I had always assumed that many of my issues in my youth dealing with Aphrodite had strictly to do with simply ignoring a goddess who was hanging around in my life in favor of following Artemis around. I summed this up to a Hippolytus experience. And this is quite probably part of what gave me a problem, since I will say that she played merry hell with me for many years until I established a shrine and started showing some damned appreciation. But I never took even a moment to investigate why she was in my life.
I mean, I gave it a passing thought, O well I was born under the sign of Scorpio…very Ares, and so of course Aphrodite tagged along. Except, Ares himself doesn’t have a very active part in my regular life…so why then would Aphrodite? I just shrugged it off as a mystery of the universe and kept plodding along in my worship.
Yet, there is a close relationship with Aphrodite and Apollon. Never-mind how similar Aphrodite may appear when hunting with her beloved Adonis to the figure of Artemis…not even going to go there. When looking at the functions of Aphrodite and her domain, it significantly overlaps with that of Apollon in ways that are similar, but of a different nature, to the overlapping he shares with Athena and Artemis. Aphrodite almost seems like the odd goddess out as she superficially appears to have nothing at all in common with these virgin goddesses. But then, it really doesn’t have anything to do with *them*, but rather what is going on directly in that intersecting of domains between her and Apollon. It certainly wasn’t Artemis who brought Aphrodite into my life. Yet, which deity is the most prominent in my life… Apollon. And to confess following that is Artemis, Aphrodite and Poseidon. And Aphrodite’s presence is the only one I spent any time at all resenting, yet it is perhaps one of the most beautiful relationships she shares with Apollon….and one of the most life affirming.
While his relationship with Athena focuses more on the cognitive level and the role of logos along with chthonic purifying natures and the implementing of art, and his relationship with Artemis deals more with their shared functions in purification, healing, the expression of music both as musician and dancer, hunting, light-bearing and so forth as a kind of mirror of his power in the physical world, his relationship with Aphrodite addresses the most enduring and benevolent functions of Apollon’s nature and domain.
Aphrodite holding dear the very expression of beauty, love, and harmony is intrinsically tied to Apollon’s art in the world. His music is beautiful, although his playing seems more function than for the sole purpose of just serving beauty. His music turns round the order of the cosmos. It is the illumination of beauty and perfection of Aphrodite, who herself is beauty and harmony. By Apollon’s nature he brings these things into the light and sustains them. He himself is of course the most beautiful of the gods, but this is a superficial tie between them. A very slight case can be made for a beautiful god being connected to a beautiful goddess. But I would argue it is by his nature and how he acts in tandem with Aphrodite is what makes him beautiful. He is not harmony, but he sustains harmony. He keeps all the spheres and bodies of the heavens moving in their necessary harmonic order. The movement of order which allots the passage of time pertains to him directly. It is Aphrodite who is the mother of harmony. Harmony issues from her, just as beauty issues from her. I would even argue the benevolence of the Kharities, whom Apollon is likewise associated with leading, is intimately connected to her nature.
This extends then even to what we may consider their primordial natures. This is with Arkadians who viewed Apollon as one of the eldest among the gods, one of two gods of the seasons. If we take Apollon as a god who functions with the passage of time, purifying the exchanges between seasons, months, and years….and as a herder god who sustains life of the crops and the beasts he guards (but as equal potential to decimate these same as the god of wolves, locusts and mice) we can see him as a god overseeing and protecting life in general. We see this theme arise again when he protects mankind by persuading Zeus to not destroy the lot of us, and would further make sense when dealing with Apollon as a leader god in the mysteries and his fathering of the Korybantes in the Samothrakian mysteries. He is providing the way as a caretaker would. Perserving us even as he has mythically acted in the welfare of Zeus and Dionysos in terms of the Samothrakian mysteries, the Dionysian mysteries, and the mysteries of Zeus at Arkadia where Pan and Apollon oversaw the rearing of the infant Zeus by the nymphs.
Now if we look at Aphrodite in her most primordial form, we see a mother of life, the very womb from which all life has come. The mother of Eros in both senses… a god who is very different from Apollon but likewise at the same time bears a remarkable similarity. Enough so that Eros at a protogenios god is often confused with Apollon as a primordial god perhaps which I have taken more often to be as Polyphanes who is born within the egg with the other first borns that he separated and helped manifest….Gaia, Ouranios. This confusion I see as working playfully almost in the myth of Apollon and Daphne where Apollon and Eros almost seem to be set against each other to serve the purpose of the myth. Eros acting directly on Apollon to conceive his action on the world.
But back to Aphrodite. If we taken Aphrodite in this manner, and see her in this light, as the abundant life-provider, who enjoins all life in acts of pleasure and joy (procreation, love, romance, beauty, art) as an order of creation. Then we find Apollon who organizes and order the expression of these things in a manner which continues and sustains it. Thus Aphrodite’s art is one that Zeus says is best for bringing together marriages, and Apollon is the god of the sacrament of wedding as evidenced by the hymns of the wedding (which he did the honors of himself at the wedding of Thetis), which fits perfectly with his nature as overseeing laws (followed by his son Hymenaios who is the god of the wedding song itself). Aphrodite instigates the marriage, Apollon is the protector and orderer of the marriage act (which also explains his role at Crete as a punisher of adulterers). He sustains the creation of Aphrodite. Likewise if Aphrodite can be seen as the mother of life, as a god who protects the herds and crops he is sustaining and nurturing that which she has created.
Which brings us back to Cyprus, the greatest capital of Aphrodite where her most renowned sanctuary rested. I always thought it curious that of all the epithets of Apollon that are abundant, that it was here that he was Hylates, the god of the wood. A woodland that acted as a deer preserve on the island. This can certainly seem to point to a key point of his relationship with Aphrodite to be so honored on her sacred land as a preserver of life, and why here he was so closely identified with Reshep another plague god, one of Canaanite origin, who acted as a preserver of life. Because such preservation so delights Aphrodite, who herself can become war-like in her attributes to protect that which she holds dear to herself.