On Dusting My Ancestors’ Things

Some folks light candles on an ancestor altar, but I polish my furniture.

I take out the lemon oil and gently clean and nourish the physical presence of those blood relatives that inhabits the furniture, ceramics, books and art that now live in my home after my mother’s death. I am the finish line for most of my family treasures, as I have no cousins and my sister didn’t want any of it.  I have been caring for this collection since I was a young girl. Dusting and polishing was the one chore I always loved to do.  I know the curves of each wooden table, bookshelf and cabinet intimately and every time I prepare to polish and dust is a thanksgiving and meditation for me.

As I attend to these pieces, many of them centuries old, with oils and polish, I think of the stories I know about them, and imagine the stories I don’t. I wonder who made them, how they came into my family, and how they were used and cherished by my ancestors before me.  A few of these pieces may have been so beloved that they made the brutal trip on foot and horse from New England to the Midwest in the early nineteenth century. I imagine my predecessors would be delighted to think that the small family-crested mirror they carried with them would survive to travel to the exotic West Coast of America (surely unknown to them) two centuries on.

I bring shiny life back to the dark wood keyhole dresser, which almost certainly belonged to my many-times-great grandfather who fought in the American Revolution, and I can consider the ways in which that commitment of his shaped the values I now hold. I polish the legacies of the Freemasonic tradition in my family, present on both sides, embodied in a gold tipped cane that now rests in my front hallway and contemplate the impact that seeing my grandfather’s masonic funeral had on many of my life’s preoccupations.  Gently dusting the kooky large, wooden, gold-painted angel, probably purchased by my mother in the early 1960s at a Detroit Goodwill and always known to me as Archangel Ralph, reinforces the fact that I can’t escape quirky, and shouldn’t bother trying.

I have no need for a formal ancestor shrine (even if I were so inclined, and honestly I’m not), because my ancestors inhabit every room in my house, and I get to contemplate daily what of them I embrace–their tastes, predilections and aesthetics, and what I reject. Of course since I didn’t know any of the people personally who originally had these objects, my musings are necessarily refracted through my own sense of self, what my parents knew or believed and what stories I now choose to craft.  But I do know that I am so very fortunate to have this rich physical and material legacy from my family. Now that my parents are both gone, I feel held and comforted by these objects and the spirits they possess, and now that they are with me, I finally feel at home, as we all start a new chapter of our story together.

A short practice for embodying joy

My apology in advance to any of you who were coming here hoping for a stream of erudite and academic treatises on the historical worship of Aphrodite.  While I will occasionally do that, this is a practice blog, and right now my practice is keeping me going, so today, this is what you get.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about how to lead a joyful existence.  The thing is, my mother is dying.  My mother has been dying for quite some time now, and she has lived with chronic, debilitating illness for over two decades.  We have been going up and down in panic anticipating her imminent demise for quite some time, but most intensively in the past 15 months. It has felt like intensive, punctuated shocks to the system, and I am constantly on alert, with no clear end in sight.  It is evident, though, that she is slowly nearing the finish line, so, I’m currently negotiating the final stages of her life, as well as trying to make arrangements for my cognitively disabled sister, which I can tell you, is no picnic.  And now, we find out my father in-law is also suffering from cancer. In fact, it seems that for the past five years we have been lurching from one crisis to another, mostly brought on by other people’s circumstances or just freak luck of the draw, and there is no doubt that has taken a toll on me, and my dear husband.  For quite some time we have imagined that just over this next hill lies the promised land, but a recent discovery shows me that is not a useful way of thinking about or managing one’s life.  The fact is, over the next hill is probably another hill, and that’s OK.  In fact, it has to be.

You see, in the midst of these changes and transitions that do, in fact, need to be managed, there are also some really great things going on in my life.  I’m happy with my career direction, and am involved in some very exciting and satisfying projects. My marriage is excellent, my health is good, I have fine friends, and our home is quite abundant.  In the past, I’ve had a tendency to let the challenges overshadow the triumphs, and I’ve decided that I don’t want to live that way anymore.  Yet there is no doubt that there are a number of things happening in my life which do make me very sad.  And while I am all right with embracing the sadness occasionally, it is not fair to let that dictate my disposition.  Quite simply, I am refusing to have a bad year.  And while I want my friends and colleagues to understand that I currently have some limitations and that I may not be all about the late nights (or weekly blog posts) right now, I do not want my story to revolve around these difficulties.

I admit, this has required an attitude shift.  I think women in particular carry the physical and emotional burdens of familial obligation, and to not do so can potentially induce guilt and anxiety. What I have decided to do in response is work to try to make joy more of a default state.  I don’t have to be happy all the time, that isn’t realistic, that expectation, too, is yet another societal imposition upon women, (“you’d be so much prettier if you were smiling”) but I have learned that I can take some steps to embody joy more frequently so that I can have it on tap as I need it.

I was quite inspired by Phil Hine’s writing about experiencing The Glittering. It was so resonant. So right now, whenever I see something really beautiful, or if something makes me smile, I pause, take a moment, fall into it, and lock in the way it makes me feel.  Then I try to infuse my entire body with that sensation and let it flow outside of me and beyond as far as I can extend it.  I just see myself glowing with joy. And then I remember to be thankful for having allowed myself to have that experience, and for making that choice at that precise moment, and then I continue on. These moments can be incredibly brief, just a breath’s worth, but they encourage me to be more mindful of my surroundings, the sights, tastes and smells of the world, to bring these good things into my awareness, and also to simply…pause.  I try to take note of simple sensory features, a shadow hitting just right, someone’s creative tattoo, a perfectly hot cup of coffee, a cupcake in a window.  I am hoping that with this practice I will start seeing life in a more even way. And when I need a bit of happiness, I can just reach up and pluck it out of the air, like a ripe apple off of a tree.

My empowerment is about the choices I make, and if I don’t choose really well right at this moment, that’s ok.  There is another moment right around the corner.  I don’t need to be in a perfect state of bliss all the time, but in the moments when I can choose it and feel it, no matter how fleeting it may seem, and know it is there for me, the more of it I can get on auto pilot, and share in it with the universe.

Aphrodite at Sacramento Pagan Pride

It’s an Aphrodite weekend, as all of them should be.  I wanted to give a shout out to my dear friends Steve and Emily who are representing Our Lady of the Sea and Sky at the Sacramento Pagan Pride event this weekend.  Here is the description they gave me:

“On this upcoming Sunday the 14th at 10am Emily and Steve will be leading a ritual entitled “Honoring Aphrodite:  an ADF style Ritual”.  ADF (Ár nDraíocht Féin) is a pan-Indo-European religion, historically based on the Druidic religion of the Celts and expanded to encompass many polytheistic traditions.

This Sunday we will be adapting the ADF-style worship structure to the Hellenic tradition and specifically honoring Aphrodite, a very ancient and primeval deity born directly from the union of Gaia and Uranus, Earth and Sky.  We will show Aphrodite’s important role in the evolution of the Cosmos, honoring the beauty, symmetry and sensuality that She embodies.  In the birth of Aphrodite, Cosmic perfection is achieved for the first time.

Come worship with us at this outdoor event at the Sacramento Pagan Pride festival September 13 and 14 located on the grounds of the Fair Oaks VFW, 8990 Kruitof Way, Fair Oaks, CA 95628.  Admission and parking are free, there will be plenty of vendors and rituals.  For more information and schedule of events visit http://sacpaganpride.org.”

I think this sounds like a very nifty hybrid ritual.  I’d love for them to do a write up to share with people here afterwards.  If you are going to Sac Pagan Pride, please check it out!

May all of you have a joyous, love-filled weekend.


Some Friday Aphrodite tidbits

Life here has been swirling with tasty transition, so much so that finding a dedicated time to write a sustained..well, anything, has been a challenge. So today I will just plunk down a few jottings and thinkings…

Awhile back I wrote about a practice where I sit quietly when I am in public and acknowledge the beauty and the deity in everyone I see for a time period. I think we magickal folks who place a lot of emphasis on self-improvement (which is not a bad thing) tend to focus more on what we will attain, instead of acknowledging that deity and enlightened state already within us.  Part of the trick is to also extend that to others.  When I get frustrated by others it will serve me well to also remember that they, too, are a deity right at this very moment.

Aphrodite is a Goddess of joy and laughter, but I, frankly, tend to hang around with an overly serious and earnest lot. But if we don’t cultivate levity, what the hell are we fighting for?  This week my dear husband introduced me to this wonderful piece in the Village Voice from Andrew W.K. on the importance of Partying. I believe this essay has the Aphrodite seal of approval, and also that of several other deities.  I urge you to read it and party.

Yesterday, my dearest mentor and adviser left her post to move onto even greater things. I am filled with joy for her and so grateful to be able to watch her walk in the world.  I have been so privileged to watch this woman lead.  One thing my colleagues and I agreed upon yesterday while issuing our toasts to her future is that one quality that makes her so great is that she has built a wonderful team around her by genuinely empowering people. This is true strength of character. She recognizes talent and then lifts up her staff into positions of responsibility that allow them to shine and achieve, and she will take our counsel well and graciously. We are all peers in that group. I have never seen someone as genuinely loved in a professional environment as this woman is.   I am out in the workplace as a Pagan, and I work closely with my Christian colleagues. We are even collaborating on some pretty cool projects that I think will put a new spin on “interfaith” activities. Yesterday, at her going away party my mentor commented on the beautiful relationship and partnership we have.  She noted that on the surface given our different backgrounds, perspectives and different approaches to spirituality that it might seem like a strange pairing.  I told her “Not really.  You and I, and everyone on this team, we are all openly and directly in the service of Love.  It doesn’t matter what we call it.”  She said “Yeah, that’s it!”  When someone is in the true service of Love, you just know it.


Beyonce as Aphrodite? You know it!

In this week’s Huffington Post, Laurie Lovekraft writes about Beyonce as a reflection of Aphrodite, and focuses on the way in which she unashamedly promotes fierce, confident beauty and sexuality. I admit unashamedly to loving the Bey, and I think that there is a lot to her that routinely goes unexamined, partially because she is a pop artist and because she is a woman of color. Yes, she is beautiful, self-possessed, sexy and despite the controversies about her feminism, Beyonce provides a message of female self reliance to many young women who need it, in a form they can hear. As in all things Aphrodite the image is beguiling, but don’t miss the deeper message.

Laurie is organizing a workshop this weekend September 13-14 at The Green Man in the LA area called Aphrodite Awakening. Laurie is fabulous and talented and if you are in the area, I encourage you to check it out. I am hoping she writes up some of her notes and thoughts for me to post here.

A Hermes Practice? Building a Network Altar

As I said not long ago to a dear friend of mine, I’m not a Hermes priestess, I just do his work.  In many ways Hermes is a primary patron of our house, and he is well honored here.  One of my many strange sidelines out in the world is that I lead employment workshops where I coach people about, frankly, thinking about employability, creating the conditions for income generation and keeping the idea of career in perspective. Too many people focus their energies merely on getting a job that will let them do what they love.  I’m seriously not convinced that is the best strategy for having a whole and balanced life, but this is an Aphrodite blog with a Hermes practice in it, so I won’t get too far afield with that sort of philosophic musing—at least not today. What I will say, though, is that I really want to see more people out there feeling stable and abundant. It struck me as I was assembling practices for my workshops that I could adapt some of them in a way that might work well for Pagans, and so I will just put those here. Hopefully no one will mind.

Envisioning your life holistically is about the best thing you can do to help you make good decisions about employment, and this is a very magickal act. What do you want to have time for?  What are your priorities? What do you need funds for?  What do you need free time for? And, importantly, who do you want to have around you?

One thing we know about getting employment is that it’s frequently about who you know, and I’m not sure a lot of us think that way, or want to think that way, about getting a job. There’s this idealized cultural story we all tell that getting a good job is about how good we are and what’s on our resume, or even how we present ourselves, but functionally that’s just not the case, and so a lot of us put a great deal of energy into job seeking activities that may not yield the best results. Your circle of friends and your network is a very important resource, perhaps your most important, and not just because well-connected friends can open doors.  Your friends should also inspire you and support you, stoke your creativity and your intellect, and make you want to genuinely strive.  Having a good, solid network is a source of stability and also intellectual and physical well being.

Many Pagans have ancestor altars which help them connect to lineage (genetic or cultural) and these frequently serve as sources of inspiration. I am going to suggest that perhaps if you are looking at a life shift and need a bit of direction that you consider doing a Network Altar to help guide you, and that you make it aspirational.  For extra Hermes points, you can create this on Pintrest. Think about the network you would like to have in addition to the one you already have. Which friends do you have who inspire you the most?  Who would you like to hang out with or work with?  Do you want to drink beer with high end geeks or have cocktails with novelists? Don’t just put your friends on there, put other cool people you don’t know on there!  Make a sacred space that in some way expresses the social and professional milieu in which you envision yourself. Think about what features of this network you like and admire and contemplate how well you feel you connect to them.   Are there qualities they have that you feel you don’t?  How can you best cultivate these qualities?

Then, consider concrete ways that you might start actually building that network.  Are there linkedin profiles or FB public profiles that you can connect to?  Meetups that might help you learn new skills and meet new people?  Also, this might be time to consider what isn’t working about your network.  Are there people holding you back in some way? People you perhaps shouldn’t be investing in quite as much?  It is time to make a subtle shift in direction? Remember, real magick is about breaking a sweat. Envision your network and see yourself firmly as a vibrant person embedded within it, and then go find these people!

Who you want to be isn’t just about the work that you do.  There’s a much wider picture.  You are part of a system, and we can all be empowered to make some choices about who else is there with us in this life.   And in terms of employment strategies, we know that professional networks are important, and so are your friends.  Friends are important in all things.


Contemplating the Aphrodite Web: Part One

Within the past couple of weeks I have had some interesting conversations with other Pagans about the  origin of Aphrodite, her “nature” and the history of her worship.  The fact is, there is no one definitive story, no starting point and no single correct path.  There are many ways of working with and understanding a deity and the choices we make in doing so, as with any relationship, will affect our outcomes. In the next couple of posts I will discuss how it is that I conceive of what I am calling the Aphrodite web, which encompasses the ideas, epithets, aesthetics, theories and practices which have been associated with her through history, and which to me seem most coherent. I am fully aware that this way of working will not appeal to many, and that’s fine.

Initially I had called it the Aphrodite “current”, as do many people when discussing the deities they work with, but in chatting with a friend about this, he suggested that current might not be the most useful term, and I agreed with him.  As he noted, current is a rather antiquated electrical metaphor in the spiritual world, and it suggests a rather essentialized, linear, expression of deity.  “Current” also has, for many, connotation of the transmission of initiatory wisdom, and that is not what I am talking about here either.  When I envision all of the varying aspects that make up Aphrodite as I see her, they look like a web; seemingly disparate concepts through space and time which are held together by filaments of interpretation, revelation, context and understanding.   It’s really about spiritual expressions of a semantic space.

BUT, having said all that, I still have standards.  There is material that I think fits in the web, and material that I feel does not.  And while I don’t think it is useful to be slavish to literary depictions and cult material, I will tend to look somewhat askance at interpretations that are just not historically correct.  If they work for people, that’s just fine, but don’t confuse UPG with history, and don’t pass it on as fact.  For me, to make my Aphrodite work viable, I want to approach my deity activities with a very great deal of clarity about my perceptions of all of the varying interconnected notions that Aphrodite represents.  While I do not believe in one “authentic” or essential Aphrodite (there certainly wasn’t to her devotees across space and time) there is also a huge category of “not Aphrodite”.

Let’s take for example the question of Aphrodite’s origins. Many people focus on the idea that Aphrodite developed out of the Inanna/Ishtar/Astarte Near Eastern/Semitic complex, and I believe this is both helpful in understanding her, and also potentially unhelpful.  Obviously we can see Astarte and Ishtar as precursors to Aphrodite, but as Aphrodite develops, her character and cult becomes very different than that of the other Goddesses.  They all held sway over the same domains, sex, fertility and war, but Aphrodite’s relationship to these attributions shifts, especially her relationship to fertility and war.  Aphrodite retains a fertility element because of her relationship to sex and love but she is not a maternal figure and as previously noted, her relationship to war is most likely not martial, but related to arousing passion and the meeting of bodies. Also, Aphrodite is elementally closely linked to water and the horizon, whereas Inanna, Ishtar and Astarte have a much more distinctively chthonic character which I feel is key to their own stories.  What we do see as a leftover characteristic from her possibly previous incarnation is that exoticism seems to be part of her character.  She emerges from over the water fully grown, and her status as the beauty from abroad gives her a certain power.  Although it was most likely well understood by Aphrodite’s earliest cult followers that she was an imported Goddess related to these others, she changed, and her relationship to the people changed accordingly.  There are other deities that do make it into the web for me, though, especially if I feel that they develop an idea or area where I want to work a bit more intensely.  This does not mean that I seem them as the same, just usefully connected.

Within Paganism many people try to follow some sort of train of origin to get back to “the original Goddess” so that they can somehow understand her better.  However, this need for embracing Aphrodite’s “authentic” beginnings distracts from the truly dynamic, multifaceted and multi sited way in which Aphrodite, or frankly any very old deity works.  And a quest for origins ultimately colors the interpretative lens that we use when looking at the various ways in which a deity resonates with people throughout history.

The choices we make about the frameworks we use when discussing the nature of deity will ultimately affect the trajectory of our own development.  Although that seems really simplistic, a lot of folks don’t take their own willed action into account when discussing deity work.  It’s a conversation, remember? The bottom line is, if a paradigm of deity work is going to push me further away from my union with that deity, I won’t choose it.  I don’t think the ancients were more authentically spiritual or more close to the source of the divine than we moderns are. They might have developed some cool techniques and thought things out well, given that they had more time on their hands, fewer diversions, and religious activity was frequently at the center of their culture, but they were inherently no closer to the Gods than we are.  When we privilege their experience over ours, we are essentially aspiring to their spiritual grasping.

The thing is, most of what many interested parties today know of “the ancients” is through heavy, heavy mediation. We aren’t seeing the past through the eyes of the people who lived it, we are seeing it through the people who wrote about it, translated it, and in many (most) cases imposed their own worldview, bias, and ethics.  So in general I am skeptical about ideas of ritual and interpretive “authenticity” when dealing with deity, and mostly that has to do with the motivations that make people want to try to get back to some sort of mythic golden age of closer to the Gods, somewhere not where we are right now.  I’m just not in favor of anything that keeps us at arm’s length from being our most awesome empowered selves, and I believe a lot of those authenticity projects serve us badly.

Next time I will start to tackle the ideas, figures, and historical periods I find most interesting and useful in my own work contemplating Aphrodite.

Aphrodite Pandemos: We Are All One

A couple of weeks ago I was honored to have been asked to lead a Solar Cross devotional. It was a really lovely event and I so enjoyed all the people I met.  What a fine group of cool people! If you get the chance to attend any of the devotionals, you should.  Given the mission of Solar Cross to engage in social justice, I thought I might lead a bit of an exploration to Aphrodite Pandemos—Aphrodite of All the People, one of my favorite forms of her.

Aphrodite Pandemos is frequently set in distinction to Aphrodite Urania, Heavenly Aphrodite.  Platonically derived material, particularly the type we have already explored that emphasized transcendence over embodiment and placed a moral good on escaping materiality, set the two forms against each other, Pandemos representing the coarser sexual instincts of humanity, while Urania represented a higher, more evolved sense of love.  Meh.  Plato is why we can’t have nice things. But anyway… in ancient cult practice, which is frequently distinct from the literary tradition, Pandemos represented the civic body, the union of all the people. Do we perhaps see echoes of her here?

“We the People in order to form a more perfect union…”

Because most people think of Aphrodite predominantly as the Goddess of Sexy Fun Times, her civic role may seem a bit strange.  But Pandemos really shows off wonderful glimpses of the nature of Aphrodite and she is lusciously rich. Most famously, we see Pandemos in Athens representing the ideal of the polis, of the body of people coming together which is key to the coherence of any society.  In a previous essay I wrote of Aphrodite as a Goddess embodying ideas of mixis, or the mingling of bodies, and in my view her civic role displays this characteristic as well.

Pandemos is also related to Peitho, Goddess of Persuasion. Sometimes Peitho was a Goddess on her own, sometimes an epithet of Aphrodite. While we certainly can apply persuasion to the art of seduction (and the possibility of sexy fun times), persuasion is also something that lawyers and judges need to command (Aphrodite was beloved of judges), and while we frequently attribute that skill to, say Hermes, Pandemos and Peitho suggest that there may be more to the art than just mastering verbal acuity. And why would this skill be important? Because persuasion and rhetoric, when deftly applied, can set the foundation for a healthy civil body, one that comes together, in love, for the good of all people.  These are, perhaps, the root of democracy.

Pandemos also welcomes all-comers, even when they do not constitute a traditional civic body as one would have found in Athens. Andrew Scholtz suggests that the cult of Aphrodite Pandemos at the Egyptian port town at Naukratis reflected the need for diverse peoples traveling through an area to feel welcome and supported, and that hers was a space where all could worship, as opposed to temples which may have imposed restrictions on who can worship based on place of origin.  Scholtz notes that here Pandemos played a cosmopolitan role for merchants, seafarers, travelers and prostitutes, serving multiple populations in a locality, constantly shifting, strangers coming and going.

For the Solar Cross devotional I wanted to focus on how each of us is an embodiment of Aphrodite Pandemos, and how when we make love the center and primary driver of our action, the body of the people becomes strong and beautiful.  I took for the basis of this devotional the idea that sustained relationship or encounter with deity is a contract. We get, but we must give in return.  And as we are each instances of Pandemos, I first asked everyone to look in the mirror and to offer to ourselves as Aphrodite Pandemos, in that way reminding us that we are already Goddess,  knowing that we are her individually and that together we are One.  Breathing as one, feeling each other as one body, knowing that all we do touches some other being, all other beings, I invited us to explore what would happen if, when we acted, we were always aware of our interconnectedness, or unity? I then asked everyone to consider one concrete thing they could do in the next 30 days to give back to their community, and then we charged it up. This act to me is an offering to the Goddess, to her as the people and to ourselves.  We are all one and the same.

I pledged to donate to a domestic violence charity, so I gave some funds to A Safe Place, Inc. What will you do in divine service for the good of all?


Andrew Scholtz “Aphrodite Pandemos as Naukratis” in Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 43 (2002/3) pp. 231-242.






Considering Aphrodite on my Altar

Empedocles believed that sight was created by the fires of Aphrodite being lit in your eye. While the sentiment is poetic enough, it just shows the degree to which Aphrodite has always been associated with image, sight, viewing and the gaze.  For about 25 years my Aphrodite statue has been the central focus of my primary household altar.  Of course it makes sense to have a stylistic representation of her as the centerpiece of a sacred space.  Statues and iconic representations of deities have historically served several purposes.  Theurgically statues and icons hold the deity.  The statue was the deity made manifest and thus became the place where the dedicant would place their offerings, petitions and devotions.  Today, most people use sacred icons in the same way.  They are not only a focus for ritual activity, but for me images of Aphrodite have always served as a reminder of her presence in my life and also to try to live her work. My altar to her normally holds things I am concentrating on magically, things I find beautiful or meaningful, and some relics from her temple in Paphos.  In the past my altar has been elementally themed with watery colors and seashells, but in the past few years I have shifted to a more planetary asthetic to reflect a Luciferian current as well (more about that in a future post).  Sometimes for particular workings I have switched it out completely.  Once I did a really super black Aphrodite altar with black roses and a veil.  I was in a bad mood.

But over the past six months or so I have been thinking a lot about the form of Aphrodite and what it means to work with images of her.  I want to address this in a number of contexts eventually, but let’s just start with the altar since it is ubiquitous for many people who have some sort of deity practice. Aphrodite’s earliest temple on Paphos didn’t have any sort of statue that looked like her.  The centerpiece was a large, black almost pyramidal stone.

Conical Stone of Aphrodite in Paphos

Conical Stone of Aphrodite in Paphos


The stone has remained in Paphos for visitors to see, but you can also see images of the stone on Roman coins.

Roman coin with image of Aphrodite stone

Roman coin with image of Aphrodite stone in the temple at Paphos

This stone was old and revered, and may represent one of the longest continual sites of worship in the ancient world.  No doubt it held her power for people.  While in many ways I find the transcendence of the Neoplatonists a bit annoying, they did have some interesting things to say about the pitfalls of embracing the icons of beauty too closely, for if we do so, we only have the image of love, not love itself.   If I see Aphrodite on my altar every day, does that in some way inhibit me from seeing her in myself?   Where do I put the locus of agency? Perhaps a stone is not a bad approach.

And another tricky thing about Aphrodite is that, let’s face it, most images of her by necessity represent very normative standards of beauty.  Does the statue help me to see that beauty in myself, or do I transfer the ideal to her, or someone not me? Can having such a central reputation of idealized beauty as the visual focus of my sacred space inhibit the potential for me to see beauty in all things, even if only a little bit? Now, these questions get us into some really interesting territory about the sacrality of objects, the locus of power in a deity relationship, and what the purpose of representative deity iconography is for devotion and practice.  If you are a hard polytheist, you will have very different answers to these questions, and that is ok by me.  I think that regardless of your answer, these questions are well worth considering so that your practice is in alignment with your spiritual goals.  For me, the goals of deity relationship are to artfully empower myself to embody a set of ethics and values that I think are good and useful in the world.  So, it is prudent for me to revisit parts of my practice, such as having a statue on my altar, to consider the ways in which they may or may not be serving me.  It may also be that when I started the Aphrodite project so many years ago, that the role of the statue played a very different part in my understanding of deity and of my own Pagan identity.  I know I have certainly changed and developed, and I think these things need to be retheorized from time to time in accordance with our own changing understandings.

So I think I do want to redo my altar.  Not sure how yet. Watch this space.