Thursday, July 24, 2008
All you need is Aphrodite
Some months ago, Laurelei Dabrielle--High Priestess of Dragon's Eye Coven--sent me an invitation to review her book, In Her
Service: Reflections from a Priestess of Aphrodite (Magic Woods Publishing, 2007). I was in the middle of one of the busiest
times in both my personal and professional life. It was sent in the form of an e-book, which usually makes me leery--quality
being a gamble there. I took a look at the stack of pages emerging from my printer, took a quick flip through ("Chapter
1: Priestess or Prostitute?") and thought, "Right...I'll get around to this someday..."
1:06 pm | link
out to be July 22, which is the Great Lady Mary Magdalene's day and, as I learned from Dabrielle's text, deep into Hekatombaion,
the first month of the Athenian calendar, during which fell the bathing feast known as Aphrodisia. I also discovered that
there was much to admire and enjoy in Dabrielle's well-written account of this little-publicized aspect of pagan practice.
a Baptist in the Midwest, Dabrielle began to explore neopagan paths through the Internet and some covens and eventually felt
most called to service of the One she calls "the violet-crowned Kyprian" and many other expressive honorifics.
She interprets and honors Aphrodite in a way that makes sense to her, and she's not out to convert anyone to her particular
approach. She is, by her own admission, a "hodge-podge," and I can certainly identify with her eclecticism and avoidance
of dogma. She does not take herself too seriously, and her voice, throughout the book, is conversational even when authoritative.
you have never considered Aphrodite (a.k.a. Venus) a serious goddess, then read this book, and the scales will fall from your
eyes. I remember once hearing someone opine that the reason so many ancient statues of Aphrodite are armless is because they
were deliberately ordered de-armed by the testosterone-fueled, but highly threatened, powers that be. I can't say if that's
historically accurate, but Dabrielle underscores the formidable power of Aphrodite as more than a beneficent, even lightweight
and easily-trivialized, goddess of romance and sensuality. The Lady should be understood as a Great Goddess archetype--Mother
Creator, Majestic Harlot and Fierce Avenger. In Her Service relates the interwoven myths that show Aphrodite in all of these
Okay, so what about the nervous-making "prostitution" angle? Dabrielle includes an extensive
discussion of the historical practice of "temple prostitution" or "sacred sex" and its problem for modern
sensibilities and United States law but argues that "sex is only one aspect of Her service" and, indeed, an aspect
that can be omitted if does not suit you. Priestesses did then and do now invoke, contact and often embody the Goddess, enabling
supplicants to benefit from Her energy, whether it be through simple, compassionate acts of warmth and kindness or through
actual ritual copulation as in the neopagan Great Rite (physically uniting the embodied Goddess and God). While Dabrielle
notes the many ways in which Aphrodite worship may be expressed, she has her personal limits and counsels readers to decide
what's best for them and respect their own boundaries, too.
"At its essence," she writes, "the force
at work is that of Love," and goes on to speak about the priestess (and Goddess) as healer in a way that reminds me of
the wonderful role Ann Margaret played in the movie Grumpy Old Men! Really! Rent that very funny movie, and you'll see what
Besides the personal and historical material, Dabrielle offers examples of ritual procedure, a mytho-history
of the Venusian idea, some lovely description of the Three Graces (considered by some to be daughters of Aphrodite and ideal
models for us) and the Oreads, mountain nymphs (who gift Aphrodite with unpolished gems and wildflowers, appealing to Her
wilder side). She previews a book she's working on which should please potential lesbian and bisexual fans of The Goddess
who might otherwise wonder what all of this has to do with them.
Dabrielle also lists and translates numerous names
for Aphrodite, breathtaking in their diversity. Some of them are:
* Eurynome: Creatress who rose from Chaos and
danced all creation into being
* Moira: Fate
* Ambologera: Postponer of Old Age
* Chrysheie: Radiant
* Euploios: Fair Voyage
* Praxis: Action
* Epitymbria: She of The Tombs
and the inevitable
* Porne: Goddess of Lust and Patroness of Prostitutes
of Aphrodite meditations and rituals seems always to be thus: Find beauty within oneself and love it fiercely. I certainly
can't argue with that!
You can find In Her Service on Amazon.com.
(c)2008, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Monday, July 14, 2008
9:11 am | link
a novel by Sarah Avery
Drollerie Press, 2008
what would you do if you were a couple of Wiccan-oriented siblings, and you discovered that your deceased Theosophist parents
had been living among a clutter of household toiletries (enough to fill a mall) and stolen art, and they communicated with
you, incessantly and insistently, from the Great Beyond via a snowstorm of Post-It Notes? Huh? Well, I don't know either,
but if you're at all curious about how Bob and Sophie Baines handled it--and have patience--you can follow them through their
wacky journey of discovery, all the way to a realm of multiple post-life existences.
You won't understand the title
of Sarah Avery's cleverly-conceived and executed--yet strangely unaffecting--"Closing Arguments" until the slam-bang
showdown at the end. But here's my verdict: While I was amused by the Post-It gambit (at least, at first) and the winking
references to Madame Blavatsky being celebrated in songs with bawdy lyrics (none of them shared with us, unfortunately), I'm
disappointed that this novel doesn't really take off until its final scenes. Nor does it pass my standard and ultimate challenge:
Make me care. Avery's publisher--Drollerie Press--describes itself as specializing in "quality transformative fiction
celebrating myths, legends, and fairytales." But for each of those forms of story, readers or listeners must become interested
and invested in the fortunes of the lead character(s). That did not happen for me here.
In the last 15 or so pages--past
some distracting soap opera stuff about substance abuse and domestic violence--the book bursts into life and actually becomes
more grandly mythic. We finally learn what the heck's behind the story's central mystery, and we meet a villain who should
be played by Jack Nicholson--and, hence, given a lot more screen time--if Avery's book is ever grabbed up by Hollywood.
Nicholson in "Closing Arguments." I could certainly see that, and the story has plenty of sophisticated dialogue
and lots of visual elements that make it a good choice for adaptation to a movie. But the character thing? Make me care.