Venus: Snow White or Wicked Queen?

The Romans called her Venus; to the Greeks she was Aphrodite, goddess of love, beauty and pleasure; to scientists and astrologers she is the second planet from the sun–and the brightest. She is the morning star and the evening star; the only planet in our solar system named for a female.

By any name she stands apart…beautiful, lustful, jealous, spiteful and fickle…more inclined toward adulterous affairs and passionate conquest than sentimental romance…ruthless in her desire. As Aphrodite, her loveless marriage to Hephaestus God of Fire and Forge did little to curtail her passionate affair with Ares God of War. She has been linked to liaisons with the gods Hermes, Poseidon, and Dionysus; and with the mortal youths Adonis, Ankhises, Boutes, and Phaeton.

Two of her symbols — apple and mirror — play through time.

From Greek myth comes the story of The Judgement of Paris; a contest to choose which of three beautiful goddesses would receive the golden apple of discord inscribed: “Kallisti”…For the Fairest.

“For the Fairest”

All the gods, save Eris goddess of strife and discord, were invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. In defiance, Eris cast among the gathered lot a golden apple—for the fairest. The goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite each laid claim to the prize.

Paris of Troy was called on to settle their dispute and listened as each goddess offered him a gift. Hera would make him a king among men, Athena offered him victory in war…but the lovely Aphrodite played to his passion and promised him King Menelaus’s wife, Helen of Sparta (the most beautiful woman in the land), as his own. Paris conceded the apple to Aphrodite, absconded with Helen and set in motion the Trojan War.

Apple was long ago a generic term for many kinds of nuts, fruits and vegetables: tomatoes– “love apples”; cucumbers and potatoes– “earth apples”; melons– “gourd apples”; and oranges– “golden apples”. But “Apple” paired with woman has a curiously powerful historical alliance.

♥ Eve persuaded Adam to eat an apple, the symbolic forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge [of good and evil].  History has left her to bear the blame for their banishment from the Garden of Eden.

♥ The wicked Queen was driven by envy and fueled by words from her mirror (looking glass) to poison Snow White. Her weapon of choice? The apple. Snow White fell into a deep slumber from the poisoning, but was awakened by Prince Charming. As for the wicked Queen who gave her the apple…she met her demise when, at Snow White’s wedding, she “choked with passion, and fell ill and died”.

♥ The Fairy Maiden seduced Connla of the Fiery Hair after he ate nothing for a full month, save the magic apple she had given him. The Fairy Maiden promised Connla a life in paradise: “the Plains of the Ever Living…where there is neither death nor sin…in all our pleasure we have no strife”. Connla was seized by such a longing for this maiden that he leapt into her curraugh — “the crystal, straight-gliding canoe”. They set off “over the bright sea to the settling sun… and were no more seen, nor did any know where they came”.

What’s in a Name?
Aphrodite of Greece lends her name to “aphrodisiac”, arousal of sexual desire. Venus, the temptress offers her name as: “venom”, which long ago meant a love potion; “venerate” (worship); “venal” (bought); “venereal” (sexual infection). And, the Venus flytrap is aptly named; a living creature caught within its clutches falls prey to its desire for nourishment.

Whether you prefer the Disney line:

“Magic Mirror on the Wall, who is the Fairest one of all?”

Or the classic Grimm’s version:

“Tell me, glass, tell me true!
Of all the ladies in the land,
Who is fairest? tell me who?”

In love we are blind. From these storied lessons, take heed: for the apple of your eye may not fall far from the [forbidden] tree.

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End Note:
The Greek proverb: “Weasels don’t wear wedding gowns” (Zenobius 2.93) is based on the following Aesop’s Fable.

 APHRODITE AND THE WEASEL

A weasel once fell in love with a handsome young man and the blessed goddess Aphrodite, the mother of desire, allowed the weasel to change her shape, so that she appeared to be a beautiful woman whom any man would be glad to take as his wife. As soon as the young man laid eyes on her, he also fell in love and wanted to marry her. While the wedding feast was in progress, a mouse ran by. The bride leaped up from her richly decorated couch and began to run after the mouse, thus bringing an end to the wedding. After having played his little joke, Eros* took his leave: Nature had proved stronger than Love.

* Eros, Greek God of Love and son of Aphrodite, is the urge for self-preservation (as in erotic love…a sexual experience). He is compared with the Roman Cupid.

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Story sources:
Little Snow White, Brothers Grimm
Seduced by a Fairy: Connla and the Fairy Maiden, Joseph Jacobs

 

 

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