Mythology brings us lots of lots of stories– creation, war, nature and of course, love. Here is a look at a few Roman and Greek goddesses, whose names are interchangable in these stories.
Hera- The Goddess of Marriage
Hera is probably the most powerful Greek goddess, by marriage of course. The faithful wife of the unfaithful Zeus uses her anger at her husband to create storms for the mortals. In divine weddings, it was Hera who presided over the ceremony. In her wedding with Zeus, there was a symbolism of joining hearts. Trees and oxen were dear to Hera, and Zeus ruled over fire and lightening, so a cart of firewood, led by ox was set on fire.
Because the goddess presided over weddings, many symbols of weddings are indeed quite feminine. The breaking of the glass at Jewish weddings stands for the breaking of the woman’s hymen. Brides wear white to represent the beauty of the moon– which is a feminine celestial body. The term honeymoon refers to the lunar menstrual month, also called the sweet moon of sensuality and love.
Venus- Goddess of Love
The notion of women being from Venus is most likely derived from the femininity of the planet’s namesake. Venus is the Roman’s goddess of love. As legend has it, Venus was born of sea foam and water in a conk shell, and said to be the union of the Earth and the sky. She is known to inspire people to love one another, which of course lead to the continuation of the human race.
Romans claim the city of Venice was named for the goddess of love, and each year the city has a celebration honoring Venus and the marriage of Venice to the sea. A wedding ring is tossed into the Venetian Lagoon at this annual festival as a symbol, blessing the Northern Italian city for growth and prosperity.
Venus is also said to be mother of Roman people. While Venus was married to Vulcan, she had many escapades with other gods, like Mars and Adonis. She also had a relationship with the mortal, Anchises by which Venus gave birth to a son, Aeneas. Folklore has it that Aeneas was a Trojan prince who founded Rome. In fact, the great poet Virgil penned an adventure of Venus’ son called, The Aeneid.
Many other stories about Venus mention how roses, perfumes and shellfish all became symbols of romantic love.
NOTE: Venus was known to the Greeks as Aphrodite.
Persephone- Goddess of Innocence
Persephone, goddess of innocence and queen of the underworld is the daughter of the Zeus and the Greek goddess of harvest, Demeter. The story of Persephone is filled with symbolism of the coming into womanhood, or beginning menstruation. Persephone is also a catalyst in her mother’s story, about the changing of the seasons.
Persephone, known as Kore when she was younger, was beginning to turn into a woman and started to attract attention from the gods. She was kidnapped and forced to wed Hades-and live in his dark underworld. She refused to eat, but eventually accepted six seeds of the pomegranate fruit from her husband. This lore is said to have been a symbol that she finally approved her relationship, but would only spend four months out of the year with Hades, and the others with her mother. When Persephone was gone, her mother wept for four months, which is symbolism for winter. When she returned to the light, Demeter made spring happen. Things began to grow and bloom again.
The many seeds of this fruit are said to represent women’s ovaries. (In fact, many painting of the Virgin Mary contain pomegranates.) Being the bearer of spring, it could be concluded that Persephone’s symbolism also can be bearing things, such as children. The delving into a dark underworld for part of the year can be likened to the past rituals of menstruating women being sent to dark huts until they stopped bleeding.
Psyche- Goddess of the Soul
Psyche wasn’t always a goddess; she just married into a family of them. She was a beautiful mortal woman who inadvertently captured the love of Eros, son of Aphrodite. The relationship ensued, much to the dismay of a jealous Aphrodite. There is a bit more fairy-tale to the story, too as Eros kept his identity secret-they lived in the dark. Once she found out who he was, he fled. Because she could not locate Eros, she went to the goddesses for help.
Aphrodite then made Psyche perform four great labors to prove her love for Eros. Of course, there was some divine intervention from ants, other goddesses and an eagle to help her in these feats. Before she could perform the fourth feat, Eros took her to Olympus and married her. (He had asked Zeus for a blessing!) Now a goddess, she and Eros bore a daughter, Hedone.
Psyche is usually depicted with butterfly wings, which symbolize her leap for mortal to goddess. Pshcye means “soul” in Greek. Some say that her story inspired Beauty and the Beast.
NOTES: In Roman Mythology Eros is “Cupid” and Hedone is “Pleasure.”
SOURCES: The Book of Goddesses and various educational websites.