From her comes not so much the ecstasy of desire as the charm, which kindles and propels it. She is the enchantment that radiates from things and beings and enraptures the senses with its smile. Not only men and beasts but plants, inanimate images and appearances, even thoughts and words, derive their winning, moving, overwhelming sweetness from her. (Otto)
Enjoyment of Love and Beauty, Sexuality and Sensuality
The Lover archetype, personified by Aphrodite and Venus, governs women’s enjoyment of love and beauty, sexuality and sensuality. The strength of the Aphrodite archetype on a woman can drive her to fulfill both creative and procreative functions. Aphrodite is also a tremendous force for change through the process of attraction, union, fertilization, incubation, and birth on the physical plane as well as on the artistic plane. On the artistic plane is where one births something new into being, whether it is an idea, an invention, a poem, or a theory. The sensual process of creating involves touch, sound, imagery, movement, and sometimes smell and taste in the here and now, sensate focusing, and pleasurable and playful experiences.
Engaging in massage or dance are examples of learning to be at ease and enjoy one’s body, a prerequisite for making love. Cultivating an interest in art, poetry, and music is also valuable from the aesthetic sense.
Shadow Aspects of the Lover
Guilt and judgment erect obstacles to enjoying lovemaking or artmaking by making them frivolous or sinful. Making time, slowing down, and creating opportunity for Aphrodite to come out is essential.
The shadow side of Aphrodite can replace the enchanting beauty and smiling charm that enraptures the senses, to that of a bitter, sterile, plastic, sexless model of cool detachment — unmovable and untouchable. Another aspect of the shadow Lover is using sex as a weapon or to manipulate others.
The Sacred Prostitute
The Sacred Prostitute presents a paradox to our logical minds as, in this culture, we are disinclined to associate that which is sexual with that which is consecrated to the gods. The significance of this temple priestess may escape us and we may remain disconnected from an image that represents the vital, full-bodied nature of the Feminine. The Sacred Prostitute embodies a rekindling of the divine spark of life, a full and complete sense of well-being, where the flesh and spirit are united, each supporting the other. Nancy Qualls-Corbett (1988), a Jungian analyst and author of The Sacred Prostitute, offers a detailed portrayal of an encounter with this powerful aspect of the Feminine, the Priestess of the temple of Venus, the goddess of love, the Sacred Prostitute:
As the sacred prostitute moves through the open temple doors she begins to dance . . . Her gestures, her facial expressions and the movements of her supple body speak to the welcoming of passion. There is no false modesty regarding her body, and as she dances the contours of her feminine form are revealed under an almost transparent saffron robe . . . She is full of love, and as she dances her passion grows. In her ecstasy she forgets all restraint and gives herself to the deity and to the stranger . . . The ritual, due to the presence of the divine, is transforming. (pp. 22-23)
Writings from one of the earliest poets, Enheduanna, circa 2300 B.C. brings light to the rituals and experiences of deep devotion of an individual human woman, a priestess, to the love goddess. It is an experience of honoring her beauty and sensuality as gifts bestowed by the goddess. This was a time of the matriarchy where nature and fertility were at the core of existence and people lived close to nature. Inherent in human nature was erotic passion. Desire and sexual response were experienced as regenerative powers and inseparable from religious attitudes. The Sacred Prostitute’s sensuality and beauty were not used in order to gain security, power, or possessions. She did not make love in order to obtain admiration or devotion from the man who came to her. She did not require a man to give her a sense of her own identity for this was rooted in her own womanliness. As the embodiment of the goddess in the mystical union of the sacred marriage, she aroused the male and was the receptacle for his passion. Her human emotions and creative, bodily energies were united with the suprapersonal.