Wednesday 28 September 2011

A day with Aphrodite

Aphrodite is quite possibly the most famous goddess of ancient times. She is the Greek goddess of love, beauty and sexuality - as well as being the goddess of gardens - and she was the subject of a day-long workshop in London earlier this month, run by pagan author and teacher Jane Meredith.

Called Aphrodite’s Healing, the day was part of a weekend of goddess workshops run by Jane in London. The second event was on the myth of Demeter and Persephone. They were both wonderful events, and at the time I promised Jane I would post full write-ups about them on A Bad Witch’s Blog.

I've been a bit slow doing that, but the reason I’ve taken my time isn’t that I’d forgotten, it is quite the opposite – I felt I needed to mull over all that I’d learnt. They were both powerful workshops and affected me greatly – in very different ways. They were, of course, on very different themes.

This review is of the first day’s workshop, Aphrodite’s Healing. It was organised by Alternatives, an organisation that arranges events on mind, body and spirit-related subjects, and took place in a light and airy function room at London's Wellington Hotel for a large group of women from varied backgrounds and of different ages.

I signed up for it because I had really enjoyed Jane’s bookAphrodite's Magic,and so jumped at the first chance I got to do her workshop on the subject – the celebration and healing of female sexuality.

After the workshop, Jane asked me “How did you find the day?”

“I really enjoyed it,” I replied, perhaps too glibly.

“Really?” she asked, raising a quizzical eyebrow. “Personal development workshops aren’t meant to be enjoyable.”

She had a point – it was hard work in places. For me, the bit where we all had to team up with a partner and talk about what we liked and didn’t like about our bodies was particularly difficult.

Being middle aged, I find my physical self far less lovely than I did when I was 20. It is hard to find beauty in crows’ feet, saggy bits and the various other effects of age on the body. Even though I do dye my tresses a chestnut colour that I love and which gets me compliments, I know my hair is really a tired looking shade commonly called "salt and pepper".

Sure, it is possible to look into the mirror of truth and find beauty in an ageing face if you look hard enough, but “hard” is the operative word. And that was exactly what we were all expected to do at the workshop.

Another difficult part of the workshop had the aim of seeing the goddess within other women and finding her within ourselves. But although this wasn't an easy thing to do, the meditation that Jane guided us through as part of the exercise was beautiful.

And, despite the hard work, there definitely were parts of the workshop that I really did enjoy.

For a start, it was lovely to work in an all-female group of different ages and from various ethnic, social and spiritual backgrounds, and to be able to openly share our thoughts and feelings about love, beauty and sex.

I always enjoy a chance to sing in a group, too, and I learnt some new chants. Here are the words to one of them:
Goddess of Love, come to me;
Take my body and set me free.
Goddess of Love, fill my soul;
Goddess of Love, make me whole.
The last part of the workshop was creating a personal ritual to help each of us bring about what we wanted to achieve and take away with us from the Aphrodite workshop.

We each designed our own personal altar using drawing and painting materials and coloured paper, placed a small offering on it – such as a flower, a crystal or a piece of jewellery – and then lit a candle to the Goddess Aphrodite. The purpose was to help us make the necessary changes inside ourselves to bring about a written intent, with the help of the Goddess Aphrodite.

After each woman had lit her candle, we all joined hands in a circle around our altars and sang a song that was a celebration of womanhood, and this close to the day was really beautiful:
Woman am I;
Spirit am I;
I am the infinite within myself.
I can find no beginning
And there is no end.
All this I am.
I came away from the workshop feeling that I had faced a few personal challenges, and at times had been taken out of my comfort zone, but nevertheless I would still say that I enjoyed it.

I'll be posting my review of the Demeter/Persephone workshop in the near future.

Jane Meredith’s website gives details of her workshops, which she runs all over the world. You can buy her book Aphrodite’s Magic either from her website or through Amazon.Jane has also produced a CD of guided visualisations called Aphrodite’s Temple that you can order from her website.


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