This morning, I opened new incense blend called Cosmos Flower and lit it for Aphrodite and Eros. I didn’t have a lot of time, so instead of reading Aphrodite’s Orphic Hymn, I read one of the ones written by Proclus.
But Goddess — for you are far-hearingThe end of Proclus’ Hymn 2: To Aphrodite
no matter where you are, whether you embrace the great heaven
where they say that you are the divine soul of the everlasting
cosmos, or whether you dwell in the upper air beyond
the rims of the seven orbits, pouring your unconquerable
strength into your lineage — hear me! Straighten the painful
course of my life, O mistress, with your just shafts,
putting an end to the icy thrust of my unholy desires.
What struck me about this serendipitous moment was how the closing of Proclus’ hymn echoes the short Orphic Hymn to Eros that I read immediately afterward.
O blessed one, come to the initiatesOrphic Hymn to Eros, trans. Athanassakis
with pure thought,
banish from them vile impulses.
Both petition the deity to assist with inappropriate desires — and, as Gods, there is what can be described as (for lack of a better term in a brief blog post note) a “doubling” of their spheres of major concern into both the pain and the cure. We also see this with Gods like Apollon related to plague and healing, or the Erinyes with respect to retribution and reparative acts. We all have damaging desires and emotions that we react to, consciously or not, on a spiritual path. A big part of developing as a person is learning how to actively listen to these maladaptive reactions and treat them as we would any sickness requiring medicine, regimen, and prayers for good things.
The Gods who preside over the unbridled aspects of desire are also to be propitiated in the proper establishment of limit, especially since, due to single or double ignorance, we frequently misidentify what is actually wrong. Instead of addressing the issue and making our statues more beautiful, we become tyrants of these desires and warp the image we are chiseling ourselves into. As a gay woman, I often see passages like this, especially in Platonic spaces, used by parasocial strangers to justify homophobia. To me, what comes up in my heart when I offer these prayers is very different: We must all ensure that we are not using desire (sexual or otherwise; the desire to overcome shame or loneliness or helplessness or challenges to our sense of safety — and the ways we twist that within ourselves — can be just as powerful, warping everything from how we conceptualize our responsibility to our bodies to our political positions) in an unhealthy way to cope with pain and suffering, which will only ever tie us deeper to the very things we attempt to escape. The Gods are good, and they will help us if we come to them with an open heart.
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