Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, this column will appear in print on Valentine’s Day. As a gesture to this most festive and dangerous time of year, I shall explain all you need to know about love but were afraid to ask. You may thank me or throw rocks at the end of the column. One of our contemporary love goddesses, Tina Turner, once asked the musical question: “What’s love got to do with it?/ What’s love but a secondhand emotion?”
Good question, Tina. Let us go right to the source, Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.
I got to thinking about Aphrodite after seeing the play “Venus in Fur” at the Gilbert Theater. It was an excellent production that left me dazed and confused.
Aphrodite is in charge of love. Aphrodite came from a nontraditional family situation. Her father was Uranus, the sky god who became involved in a domestic violence episode with her brother Cronos. Cronos chopped off Uranus’ male naughty bits with a scythe and threw said bits into the ocean. This did nothing to preserve family harmony.
However, as Uranus’ blood spread out into the ocean, it eventually formed Aphrodite, who arose from the sea foam as a beautiful, fully grown woman. If you hang out long enough in museums, you will see paintings of Aphrodite standing on a seashell. Now you know why.
Aphrodite spent most of her time nekkid as a jaybird, according to Greek mythology and Renaissance painters. She was a big ol’ friendly gal and not too choosy about the concept of marital fidelity. Like most Greek mythology, there are a lot of different versions about her carryings on, so I will just pick a version that seems likely
She was married to a god named Hephaestus. After a while, she took up with Ares, the god of war, during the Trojan War. Ares wooed her by reciting a poem later made famous by Andy Griffith. Ares got down on his knees and told her, “Sure as the vine twines round the stump, you are my darling, Sugar Lump.” No gal could resist a line like this, so she hopped into bed with Ares. Unfortunately for Aphrodite, the Sun god, Helios, saw her and Ares at the Motel Sixtus. Helios, being a noted gossip, immediately blabbed to Hephaestus about Aphrodite catting around.
Hephaestus was not amused. He made a net out of solid gold to catch the lovers. The next time Aphrodite and Ares had a rendezvous, Hephaestus threw his net over them while they were in flagrante delicto, which is fancy talk for caught in the act. Hephaestus invited a bunch of his god and goddess friends in to point and laugh at the netted Aphrodite and Ares and yell “Nanny, nanny, boo, boo!” at them. Needless to say, this was an embarrassing event for Aphrodite. Almost as embarrassing as when Scarlet O’Hara got caught hugging up on Ashley Wilkes in “Gone with the Wind,” and Rhett made her go to the spring formal wearing a red dress so she would stand out as a painted woman.
Fortunately for Aphrodite, not all Greek gods were mean like a chili bean. Poseidon, the god of the sea, felt sorry for her. He paid Hephaestus to let her go. Aphrodite was as resilient as Scarlet O’Hara and soon went back to being her old cheerful self. She gave birth to a son, Eros, who was the god of lust. The identity of Eros’ dad remains in question as paternity tests did not exist back in those days, although he looked a lot like Ares. She had another son, Priapus, whose dad was probably Dionysis, the god of wine and religious ecstasy.
Aphrodite’s mother-in-law, Hera, was jealous when Aphrodite got pregnant with Priapus. Hera smeared Aphrodite’s pregnant belly with an evil potion that caused Priapus to be born with certain deformities, which will not be described in a family newspaper such as Up & Coming Weekly. Let us just leave it that Priapus was able to be a good farmer due to his deformity. Aphrodite went on to have many more amorous adventures, which shall remain unspoken in this column.
The Romans were so taken with Aphrodite’s story that they stole it. As in the old TV show “Dragnet,” the Romans changed the names of the gods to protect the innocent. In Roman mythology, Aphrodite became Venus, Ares became Mars, her husband Hephaestus became Vulcan. Confusing, ain’t it?
So, what can we say we have learned about love? That it seldom runs smooth? That love is all you need? Turns out the only thing for sure about love is that it is complicated.
Happy Valentine’s Day. Full refunds or chunks of granite available from the front desk if you feel this column wasted your time.
Photo: Tina Turner