Thursday, February 16, 2012

A is for Asteria

I have been both a Priestess of Aphrodite and a Witch for several years. Most of my regular blog readers are familiar with writings on Aphrodite. That's how this blog began, in fact -- as a means to explore that priestesshood and share it with others. What I've struggled with in the last few years is finding a balance between the very traditional witchcraft that I practice and the lessons I've learned under Aphrodite's tutelage.

The secret lays in my favorite of Aphrodite's epithets -- ASTERIA. It means "starry" or (when used alone) "the starry one."

Aphrodite is a much more complicated Goddess than most folks realize. Part of her character -- the golden and starry aspects -- are pretty much direct imports from Middle Eastern religions. You can trace the trade routes along with the etymology of the Goddess names from the fertile crescent to Greece. ISHTAR becomes ASTARTE for the Phoenicians, who in turn bring Her to Cyprus and into Greece. Soooooo many of the myths surrounding Ishtar/Inanna and Astarte have direct correlates in Aphrodite's Greek stories. Nearly all of the symbol sets and epithets found manifestations in Aphrodite as well.

She's not just a clone of the Middle Eastern Star Goddess archetype, though. She's also one of the many manifestations of the early European Water-Bird Goddesses (as researched and discussed so wonderfully by Marija Gimbutes) and also the Proto-Indo-European Dawn Goddesses. (I'm not going into all that here. Whew! That would be a fascinating and looooong post. If you're interested, though, I highly recommend Paul Friedrich's book, The Meaning of Aphrodite.)

Okay, so my witchcraft tradition works very heavily with Tubal Cain (who can also be accessed by the angelic name Azazel). He is the bringer of metalcraft and sorcery (among other things) to mortals. He is the Witchfather, bringer of the cunning fire and originator of the Red Thread (the blood line that connects witches to their Mighty dead and, ultimately, back to Nephilium).

Among the most sacred iron used in smithing is that which comes from the stars -- meteorites. Fallen stars and fallen angels have always been intimately linked, just as alchemy, sorcery and smithing have always been linked. And the mighty, alchemical Forge Gods invariably love, desire, seek and sometimes even marry whom? ...... You guessed it, the starry, golden Goddess of Love.

Aphrodite and Hephaestus
Venus and Vulcan
Freya and the Dwarves

Interesting (at least to me) point:
In cultures where the Forge God isn't connected with with Love Star Goddess, he almost always is connected with one of the other two above-mentioned aspects of Aphrodite:

Wayland and the swan-maiden Hervor (a water-bird lady)
Tvastar and Saranya (dawn goddess)
Seppo Ilmarinen and the Bride of Gold (golden lady, made by Ilmarinen)

It makes good sense, doesn't it? The iron lord of the forge would seek and crave the starry lady of love.

I've posted a couple of poems here before that are part of my exploration of the connection between these two. I'm sure I'll write (and paint) more to explore this concept. But here's what I've done so far:

Alchemy  &   To Hephaestus

I also wrote this in response to my own resonance with Asteria (and her depiction in the Star card of the Tarot):

The Star

A foot on the shore.
A foot in the brine.
Sand and sea sparkle
and twinkle and shine
as they drip from my hands
to the water below,
a dancing and decadent
glittering glow.
Morning star, evening star,
Goddess or girl,
your hope and your daydream,
your wish and new world.
I’ll guide you through oceans
turned black with the night
and see you back safely
to the dawn’s golden light.
Lover’s sweet reassures –
words, music and art –
discovered by starlight
in the depths of one’s heart.

I’ll dance in the darkness,
but I AM the light
that burns without ending
through eternity’s night.

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