In the modern world, we tend to view the gods of the Old World as having little relevance. While they may not “seem” to be part of our modern-day spirituality, perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss their relevance. The ancient gods represented archetypes—universal and timeless patterns of human thought and dreams. Those timeless dreams and struggles that gave rise to those gods are still with us today.
As I sift through my past and explore my dreams in search of deeper understanding, I am increasingly confronted with the presence and powerful influence of archetypes. Knowingly or not, they have influenced my life and assuredly those of others. Our draw to them is instinctual and flows from our soul. The influence of Hestia and Aphrodite, whether we know these names or not, are examples of archetypes that are still very present in the dreams of men and women in the modern world.
Hestia was known to the ancient Greeks as the goddess of the hearth and eternal flame. She is symbolic of family, stability, and nurturing as well the spiritual center of home and public centers of gathering. The Olympic flame was first lit at the altar of Hestia in Greece well over 2000 years ago. Despite being the center of the home and representing family, she is identified as being a virgin which discourages her sexualization. Perhaps you may recognize the phrase “Vestal Virgins”? Vesta was the Roman equivalent of Hestia and Vestal Virgins were priestesses of Vesta.
In contrast, Aphrodite is the goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. Aphrodite is highly sexualized. She is fully expressed female sexuality.
It is the nature of our soul to flow towards the infinite perfection of an archetype. When it comes to Hestia and Aphrodite, this can be a problem for women…and men. When a woman’s primary energy flows towards Hestia OR Aphrodite, she will feel content to the degree she fulfills this archetypal calling. However, if a woman’s energy flows towards both Hestia AND Aphrodite, she experiences cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual holding two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time. A woman cannot be highly sexual and non-sexual. A woman cannot, as a steady state, exist simultaneously as Hestia and Aphrodite. However, there is a potential middle ground. She can flow between these archetypes. At times, she can dial up her Hestia. At other times, she can dial up her Aphrodite.
In order to do this, and feel at peace, a woman must recognize these opposing callings and tend to both energies at different times or tend to what is most important to her. If she recognizes this eternal pull of opposing forces is normal, she can manage them both without feeling stressed that she is in someway failing.
If only life were so simple. A man also has a preference for Hestia or Aphrodite as his ideal woman. A man may dream of and crave Hestia as his anchor and center of his home. He dreams of a wife that is a wonderful homemaker and mother to his children. He may not see is wife in an intimate, passionate way and finds comfort in her not having these desires. She is above such base desires and is placed upon a pedestal of purity. The man finds peace of mind with Hestia and her infinite devotion and fidelity.
I think we can all recognize that most men also dream of and desire Aphrodite, the sexual and eroticized goddess. We want her for reasons that Hestia doesn’t fulfill. However, we face the same challenge women face. Men can’t have both goddesses in their infinite and perfect forms in one woman. Like women, man’s desire for both leads to cognitive dissonance and damaged relationships.
In Seven Forms of Love I explored three elements (passion, commitment, and intimacy) that intermingle to create seven forms of love with consummate love being the highest order.
Aphrodite can give us Infatuation, Romantic Love, or Fantasy Love. Hestia can provide for Friendship Love, Empty Love, or Companionate Love. Neither goddess fulfills the highest love – Consummate Love. What we need is a combination of Hestia and Aphrodite to reach Consummate Love. But, we must recognize that we can only have diluted versions of each.
From a man’s perspective, we need to understand this very clearly. I need Hestia, and I need Aphrodite. But, I can’t expect them to exist simultaneously in their divine, infinite perfection in a woman. They are conflicting states of perfection. I need to be more forgiving when my lover isn’t Aphrodite when I want her to be. I need to support her efforts to fulfill her inner Hestia and acknowledge this as equally important to her. I must recognize her internal struggle for balance is ongoing.
While it may seem that men only want sex, the Hestia archetype calls to us too. Men do appreciate Hestia even if we aren’t aware of it or seemingly take it for granted. When we don’t express our gratitude for Hestia, remind us why it is important to you and the value you receive from fulfilling your inner Hestia. Your nurturing and tending to your family fulfills a goddess in you that isn’t sexual but one that is equally important to your spirituality.
Women are also faced with situations where her lover overvalues Hestia and discourages her Aphrodite. Some men may try to deny their lover’s sexuality and denounce it, in essence, as wild and bestial. We must acknowledge that women are also sexual beings with physical needs and desires. While women honor their inner Hestia, most don’t want to be Vestal Virgins. Part of the challenge for men, as lovers, is to create emotionally safe situations for our lover to release and fulfill her inner Aphrodite. Men need the presence of this erotic goddess and so do women.
There are also situations where a woman may dial up Aphrodite just to get a man and then become asexual or at least significantly dial down that energy. Not a good strategy. Aphrodite is a very powerful force in the male psyche and, one way or another, she will not be denied.
I once had a female friend that was recently separated and heading towards divorce. She said, “Well, I guess I better get back to the gym and get tight again.” I recall feeling somewhat deflated by her comment because I suspect it is something a lot of women might say in her situation. Now that she was getting divorced, she was willing to put in the work to look her best for a man she hasn’t even met. Yet, for the man that had once loved and married her, fathered her child, and helped build a home; feeling and being sexy for him hadn’t been important enough. Why is it so important now that she is getting divorced? Of course, I know the answer. The truth is just disappointing.
While I have focused on Hestia and Aphrodite in this essay, there are a similar archetypal aspirations for men – Apollo vs. Dionysus – which I will explore in the future. I know plenty of guys going through divorce that have said the same thing as they joke and rub their beer belly. Soon, they are dressing better and paying more attention to their grooming and fitness.
We can all do better for each other and ourselves in so many ways and on so many levels as lovers. Awareness of these archetypes is an important first step. Tapping into and balancing the eternal flow of archetypal energy is a lifelong quest and journey worth taking…for yourself and your lover.