The Goddess of love is represented in all of the ancient cultures. She has numerous different facets reflecting the prevailing society’s views on love, sexuality and marriage.
Although often depicted as Goddesses of great beauty, many had gone beyond the point of the young maiden, crossing the threshold into marriage and motherhood.
For most of these Goddesses their beauty proved no guarantee of a fairy tale happy ending as they encountered many difficulties in their marital relationships.
On this page I wish to concentrate on eight of the most well-known Goddesses that are associated with love and relationships, to see why they have been given that epithet.
Below I describe the geographic area that they come from and give a brief summary of their other attributes and the relationships they were involved in.
The Greek Goddess of Love Aphrodite is also the Goddess of beauty. She owns a magical girdle that can make any man desire her.
Relationships: She has many relationships with Gods and mortals alike including: Anchises, Adonis, Dionysus, Hermes, Poseidon and Zeus.
Fearing that jealousy and rivalry between the Gods trying to win Aphrodite's attention will lead war, Zeus her father, forces her to marry Hephaestus. He is the ugly blacksmith God.
The union is not a happy one and she has an affair with her brother Ares. When her husband finds out he constructs a magical bed to ensnare the lovers. He further humiliates them by inviting the other immortals to come and laugh at the entrapped lovers.
Aphrodite has the last laugh as she divorces her husband and is then free to be with Ares.
The above image of Aphrodite is from the fourth century B.C and is from the Metropolitan Museum website. It shows the Goddess of Love with Eros, performing the mantel dance.
This Welsh Goddess seems to be a strange candidate for a Goddess of love.
Relationships: She marries Matholwch, the King of Ireland.
Although she sets off to her new country full of love and hope for her marriage, she has been paired with a weak willed man. He bows to the pressure of his people, who demand that she be punished, over a dispute about her bride price.
Branwen is sentenced to a harsh life of servitude in the castle’s kitchens. She eventually gets a message to her family and war breaks out as her brother seeks to rescue her. The war leaves many dead and Branwen dies of a broken heart for all the suffering that has been caused in her name.
In addition to being the Norse Goddess of love, she is also associated with fertility, war, divination and magic.
Relationships: She was married to Odr, there is confusion to whether this is an alternative spelling of Odin, who was king of the Aesir.
What fragments of her myths remain inform us that whoever her husband was, he spent lots of time travelling away from Freya. In his absence, fidelity was not her strong point.
One day when she was walking, she came across four dwarves who had made a beautiful amber necklace known as the brisingamen. So entranced was she with the beauty of the jewellery, that when offers of gold and silver were turned down she agreed to spend a night with each of them in turn.
Unfortunately Loki, a jealous God whose attentions she declined, had seen this exchange. He stole the brisingamen when she was sleeping and showed it to her husband as proof of her infidelity.
As penance Odr forced her to create an epic war among two kings and left her alone again as he returned to his travels.
Known as the Greek Goddess of marriage, perhaps you would think that she represented the ideal wife in the perfect partnership.
Relationships: In reality when the mighty Zeus, King of the Olypians failed to woo her, he resorted to trickery and raped her. Eventually she relented and became his Queen but he continued to have many affairs.
These made Hera understandable jealous and angry and many myths tell of how she avenged the Goddesses, women and Nymphs who had relationships with her husband.
Hera was so enraged that she even to lead a revolt against Zeus. Although she was unsuccessful, she did use her wit to interfere with many of her husband’s plans.
In Roman mythology she is Queen of the Gods. Juno is also the protector of women, watching over all aspects of their lives especially fertility and childbirth.
As part of the celebrations of her main festival, the matronalia, husbands gave gifts to their wives.
In Roman mythology she is also afforded a much wider role in society as she is the matriarch who protects the state and its people.
Relationships: her myths follows a very similar plot to that of her Greek counterpart, Hera. She is married to Jupiter who has many affairs.
Relationships: Parvarti is created by the Gods in an attempt to draw Shiva out of his depression, after the death of his first wife.
Parvarti tries leaving him gifts of flowers and food but nothing seems to work. Eventually she renounces her beauty and refuses all food and goes into the forest alone. This finally appeals to his ascetic nature and he agrees to marry her and to return to the world.
The marriage is not consummated as Shiva refuses to become a father. Parvarti does not give up on her desire to become a mother and succeeds in achieving her wish more unconventional means.
Radha or Radharani as she is also known is the Hindu Goddess of love and worship.
Relationship:she is the devoted consort of the God Krishna. It might be argued that she is the ultimate Goddess of love as her love for Krishna is said to represent the highest form of love and devotion in the universe.
Radha is not considered to be subservient to Krishna as her love completely enchants him and together they represent the male and female energies of the universe.
They never marry nor have children as their relationship is chaste. This is a model of love that might not prove very popular with many men and woman today.
Venus's name has become synonymous with the ideals of love, beauty and desire. The Roman Goddesss shares many of her Greek counterpart, Aphrodite’s characteristics and mythology. However is is given a much wider role in Roman society where she is also Goddess of victory and fertility.
Relationships:Like Aphrodite this Goddess of love has many lovers. Eventually she is forced to marry the Vulcan the blacksmith God. Her main lover is Mars, the God of war.
Unlike Juno she was less associated with the formal legal aspects of marriage. Instead she represents the more physical aspects of a union between a man and a woman. In this role she still had an important part in prenuptial rites and wedding nights.
Originally I had planned to write this to provide a list of Goddesses you might wish to envoke or include in a ritual to encourage more love into your life. However there are two things I always say to people at this point:
Firstly never do anything with the intent to make a specific person love you, as this is sorcery not magic or positive thinking. Instead concentrate on making yourself more confident and promoting lovable qualities.
Secondly if you are using Goddesses as archetypes or role models make sure you are well informed about the energies you are inviting into your life. Ask yourself whether these Goddesses represent the type of love and relationships you wish to have.
It was the second point that I had the most difficulty as I realised that none of these Goddesses fitted the bill of what most modern woman want in love. I started to question whether they should be described as a Goddess of love? What do you think?
What became apparent was that although many of these Goddesses of Love had hard lives, enduring many hardships, they never give up. They are the survivors!
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