Charming to the sight — The Orphic Hymn to Aphrodite

Heav’nly [Ourania], illustrious, laughter-loving queen,
 sea-born, night-loving, of an awful mien;

Crafty, from whom necessity [Ananke] first came,
 producing, nightly, all-connecting dame:

‘Tis thine the world with harmony to join,
 for all things spring from thee, O pow’r divine.

The triple Fates [Moirai] are rul’d by thy decree,
 and all productions yield alike to thee:

Whate’er the heav’ns, encircling all contain
, earth fruit-producing, and the stormy main, 

Thy sway confesses, and obeys thy nod,
 awful attendant of the brumal God [Bakkhos]:

Goddess of marriage, charming to the sight,
 mother of Loves [Eortes], whom banquetings delight;

Source of persuasion [Peitho], secret, fav’ring queen,
 illustrious born, apparent and unseen:

Spousal, lupercal, and to men inclin’d,
 prolific, most-desir’d, life-giving., kind:

Great sceptre-bearer of the Gods, ’tis thine,
 mortals in necessary bands to join; 

And ev’ry tribe of savage monsters dire
 in magic chains to bind, thro’ mad desire.

Come, Cyprus-born, and to my pray’r incline,
 whether exalted in the heav’ns you shine,

Or pleas’d in Syria’s temple to preside,
 or o’er th’ Egyptian plains thy car to guide,

Fashion’d of gold; and near its sacred flood,
 fertile and fam’d to fix thy blest abode;

Or if rejoicing in the azure shores,
 near where the sea with foaming billows roars, 

The circling choirs of mortals, thy delight,
 or beauteous nymphs, with eyes cerulean bright,

Pleas’d by the dusty banks renown’d of old,
 to drive thy rapid, two-yok’d car of gold;

Or if in Cyprus with thy mother fair,
 where married females praise thee ev’ry year,

And beauteous virgins in the chorus join,
 Adonis pure to sing and thee divine;

Come, all-attractive to my pray’r inclin’d,
 for thee, I call, with holy, reverent mind.

This hymn contains the dichotomy between the Heavenly and Terrestrial aspects of Aphrodite. It begins by calling her Heavenly and saying that Necessity comes from her and that even the Fates themselves bow to her. She is referred to as a goddess of Marriage, which is not a role that most people would assign to her even though she is the mother of the various gods of Love. She is the one that joins people together. 

She is called Cyprus-born and is asked to incline to the prayers of the author of the hymn whether she is in the heavens or in one of her earthly abodes (Syria and Egypt are mentioned). Adonis is also mentioned in this hymn as being part of a chorus praising the goddess, which is unusual in that Adonis was mortal and mortals were not usually named in the hymns. 

This is an unusual hymn for another reason in that it focuses on her relationship with mortals more than is found with some of the other Gods as well as being one of the only ones that does not end with specific blessings that the person making the prayer would like.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s