Updated: Aug 27
"Goddess of Love" by Unicia R. Buster
The story of this painting is a simple one. A gentlemen who had taken an interest in me, on one particular occasion, called me the Goddess of Love. I laughed at him thinking he was trying to play me for a fool. He claimed to be serious. After parting ways, I gave it some thought and looked up various goddess. Being a Christian, I was not aware of most of them and those I had heard of was only because of famous art. The stories were fascinating and I began to feel that I indeed embodied their personas - but so do most women. Still I decided to do a self-portrait as a combination of a few of them as they had very similar qualities and oddly devastating stories. What was more strange was that I could relate to them. This painting is acrylic on canvas, sized 30" x 40". Below is a little bit about a few goddess of love from different mythologies.
Many stories are told of Hetheru, the Kemet goddess of love, cheerfulness, music, and dance. One of the best known, most popular, and most important deities of ancient Egypt, Hetheru was the daughter of Ra and, in some stories, wife of Horus the Elder. A very ancient goddess, she was sent by Ra as Sekhmet to destroy humanity for their sins. Sekhmet was a leonine deity usually depicted as a woman with the head of a lion whose name means "Powerful." The other gods implored Ra to stop her destruction before no humans were left to benefit from the lesson. Ra then had a vat of beer dyed red, to resemble blood, and placed at Dendera which Hathor (her Greek name), in her blood lust, drank. She fell asleep and woke as the benevolent goddess who was a friend to all. She was the patron goddess of joy, inspiration, celebration, love, women, women's health, childbirth, and drunkenness. Often depicted as a cow or a woman with cow horns with a solar disc between them, she is shown holding the symbols of eroticism and fertility; lotus blossoms in her right hand and snakes or papyrus stems in her left. Other symbols include the ankh, lion, sycamore tree, and vulture. She was widely venerated throughout Egypt, but particularly seven major cities in which one was named Aphroditopolis (the city of Aphrodite).
Hetheru has been associated with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and passion. Like Hetheru, she has variations of her story. She was born out of the foam of Uranus' (god of the sky) genitals after they were severed by his son Cronus. Therefore, she is often depicted arising nude from the sea. Aphrodite, in one telling, was quickly married to Hephaestus to prevent the other gods from fighting over her because she was so beautiful. However, she was not faithful to her husband and was caught having sex with Ares, the god of war. Another love affair with Adonis, a mortal, ended with Ares in a jealous rage sending a wild boar to kill Adonis. In another story, she indirectly causes the Trojan War by bribing Paris with a promise of marriage to the most beautiful woman if he chose Aphrodite to receive the golden apple which represented the fairest of all. Unfortunately the most beautiful woman, Helen, was already married. And the other two choices for the apple, Athena and Hera, sided with Greece in the war. Aphrodite frequently appears with doves, a goose, conch shell, dolphins, myrtles, roses, pomegranates, and the apple. Aphrodite was also the patron goddess of prostitution and her cult may have involved ritual prostitution. She was worshiped across Greece but particularly in Cythera, Cyprus, Corinth and Athens.
Qadshu (Qadesh), the Syrian goddess of love, sexual pleasure, sacred ecstasy, and beauty also was associated with Hetheru when her worship spread to Egypt. She is associated with prostitution becuase women of her temple gave themselves to visitors as part of a sacred act. They were called the qadashah which means holy ones or pure ones. She is depicted nude standing on a lion facing forward (much like Inanna-Ishtar), and (much like Hetheru) holding a lotus flower, papyrus and/or snakes. In Egypt, she was part of a triad with Reshep (husband) and Min (son) to form a god of fertility.
Known as the Queen of Heaven, Inanna is the Sumerian goddess of love, beauty, sex, war, justice, and political power who was also worshiped as Ishtar by the Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians. There are many stories of Inanna-Ishtar's conquests and adventures. Inanna-Ishtar was known to crave power and constantly sought the domains of other gods. In one hymn, Inanna stole the mes, sacred powers over all aspects of human life, from Enki, the god of water and human culture. She does this by getting Enki drunk and persuading him to give her the mes. In another tale, Inanna wanted to learn of sex. She was taken to Kur, the Sumerian underworld by her twin brother Utu, the god of sun and justice, to taste the fruit of a tree there so that it may reveal to her all the secrets of sex. In the story of her birth, the god Kumarbi bites off his father's (Anu) genitals and swallows them at which point Anu becomes pregnant with his offspring. Inanna-Ishtar is associated with the planet Venus and often depicted with an eight-pointed star which later is eclipsed by a rosette. In many myths, Inanna-Ishtar's movements correspond with the planet's movements in the sky. To represent her power, she is primarily associated with a lion or as a lion. Doves, a solar disk, and the crescent moon are also associated with Inanna-Ishtar.
The Welsh goddess of love and beauty, Branwen features in the story of how war broke out between Wales and Ireland. She was given to be married by her brother Bendigeidfran, the King of Wales, to the King of Ireland, Matholwch, who sought an alliance between the two kingdoms. Matholwch knew Branwen was the most beautiful in the land. Another of Branwen's brothers became enraged after not being consulted on the marriage and maimed Matholwch's horses. Matholwch later retaliated by mistreating Branwen by making her a scullery maid. Before then, she conceived a child, Gwern. When Bendigeidfran found out from a letter Branwen attach to a bird, he waged war on Ireland. In the end, only seven Welsh warriors and five pregnant Irish woman survived. Branwen's son was killed by her enraged brother and all of her brothers died; so she then died of heartbreak. Her name means white raven and she is depicted as a beautiful young woman of the sea. As a goddess, she releases mistreated wives from bondage and blesses them with new beginnings. She is associated with Aphrodite and Venus.
Venus is the Roman goddess of love, sex, beauty, fertility, victory and even prostitution and erotic desire. Her name means love and she was revered in Rome for ensuring its victories and being the ancestor of Romulus, the founder of Rome. She is known by many of her personas like Venus of the Heavens and Venus of the Myrtle. Like Aphrodite, Venus was born when Uranus' son Saturn cut off his father's genitals and cast them into the sea. There the penis and testicles mixed with the sea foam to produce Venus. Venus was married to Vulcan but had many lovers both god and mortal, including male and female. Most notable is her lover Mars with whom she had many children including the cupids. With Mercury, she birthed Hermaphroditos born with both male and female genitals. Therefore she is depicted arising from the sea on a clam or mollusk. Venus and Aphrodite's stories are the same mostly because the Romans adapted the Greek goddess. In some cases names were changed. Mars takes the place of Ares and her human love who is killed by a wild boar is is still named Adonis.