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Understanding the Spectrum of Faces of Aphrodite/Venus

Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty (or Venus in Roman mythology), is a complex and multifaceted figure embodying both power and vulnerability. Her presence in mythology, art, and psychology illustrates diverse power dynamics, ranging from submission to domination. This exploration examines how Aphrodite, often seen as a dominant figure, can also embody aspects of submission and the psychological implications of these dualities.

Aphrodite in Art and Mythology

Jacqueline Lamba (1910-1993) La Femme blonde, 1930 Huile sur bois Collection Guy Ladrière – Ancienne Collection Charles Ratton - © Ancienne Collection Charles Ratton

The origins of Aphrodite are rooted in myth. According to Hesiod's Theogony, she was born from the sea foam produced by the severed genitals of Uranus, symbolizing a birth from chaos and violence to beauty and harmony. This mythological origin is vividly captured in Sandro Botticelli's masterpiece, The Birth of Venus (circa 1486). Venus, the Roman equivalent of Aphrodite, is depicted emerging from the sea on a shell, an image that encapsulates the emergence of beauty and love from the depths of the unconscious.

La Vénus de Milo réalisées par l'artiste Laurent Perbos. Les six Vénus de Milo reprennent les couleurs de l’anneau olympique. (©Assemblée nationale / X)

Another major work representing Aphrodite is the Venus de Milo (circa 150-125 BC), an ancient Greek statue believed to represent Aphrodite. The missing arms of the statue evoke a sense of incompleteness, inviting viewers to contemplate the fragmented nature of beauty and desire. These artworks are not mere representations but portals to the deeper layers of the human psyche, inviting contemplation and connection with the Aphrodite archetype.

Psychological and Spiritual Interpretations

Carl Jung and Archetypes

Carl Jung, a pioneer of analytical psychology, regarded archetypes as universal symbols residing in the collective unconscious, shaping human experiences across cultures. Aphrodite, as an archetype, represents the anima, the feminine aspect within the male psyche, and the ideal of beauty and love within the female psyche. Jung believed that engagement with these archetypes through art and myth could lead to individuation, the process of becoming whole.

Aphrodite's myths are rich in psychological insights. Her union with Ares, the god of war, symbolizes the interaction between love and conflict. This union reflects the duality of relationships, where love and struggle coexist, prompting individuals to embrace both aspects in their own lives. Aphrodite's numerous liaisons and children also illustrate the fertility and creativity inherent in the archetype, suggesting a need to nurture and express these qualities within oneself.

Filippo Carcano, 'Nata dal mare', 1911 Olio su tela, cm 138x195

Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, is often perceived as a dominant figure due to her immense seductive power and influence over gods and mortals. However, in some myths and psychological interpretations, Aphrodite can also be seen in situations of submission, illustrating the complexity of power dynamics in erotic relationships.

Myths Illustrating the Submission of Ahprodite:

Aphrodite and Ares

Context: Their relationship is often described as one of mutual passion, but some accounts show Ares, the god of war, dominating Aphrodite.

Psychological Interpretation: This myth can be seen as an illustration of the dynamic between Eros (love) and Thanatos (death). Ares represents brute force and violence, while Aphrodite symbolizes beauty and love. Their relationship suggests that even beauty and love can be subordinated to force, reflecting an internal struggle between opposing desires.

Italie, Naples, Musée de Naples, provenant de Pompéi, Maison de l'Amour Puni (VII, 2, 23), Mars et Vénus

Mars and Venus, the Lovers of Pompei

The fresco of Mars and Venus, discovered in the House of Punished Love in Pompeii, offers a fascinating glimpse into ancient Roman life and their perceptions of love, beauty, and passion. Dating from the 1st century AD, this artwork captures an intimate moment between Mars, the god of war, and Venus, the goddess of love. Their embrace is a powerful symbol of the union of opposites—war and love—and speaks to the complexity of human emotions and relationships.

The setting of the fresco, within a house famously associated with the trials and tribulations of love, adds a deeper layer of interpretation. The juxtaposition of punishment and love in the same domestic space suggests a nuanced understanding of the dual nature of relationships—joy and pain, harmony and discord.

Aphrodite and Adonis

Context: Aphrodite falls deeply in love with Adonis, a handsome young man. When he is mortally wounded, she is devastated and unable to save him.

Psychological Interpretation: Aphrodite's pain and helplessness in the face of Adonis's death symbolize submission to the forces of fate and mortality. This myth illustrates the inherent vulnerability in deep love, where desire and attachment can lead to suffering.

Jean-Baptiste Regnault, Vénus et Adonis, ca. 1787-1790 | Collection privée

Carl Jung and Anima

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944), The Dove, No. 4, 1915. Oil on canvas, 152 x 115.5 cm.

  • Anima : In Jungian psychology, the anima represents the feminine element in the male psyche. Aphrodite, as an anima archetype, can embody both dominant and submissive aspects, reflecting the contradictions and complexities of the human soul.

  • The submission of Anima : The submission of the anima can be interpreted as the acceptance of vulnerability and receptivity, qualities traditionally associated with the feminine. Aphrodite, in being submissive, shows that even supreme beauty and love must sometimes yield to external or internal forces.

Dark and Destructive Aspects of Aphrodite/Venus

La Vénus aux Fourrures (Venus in Furs), 1969

Aphrodite (or Venus in Roman mythology) is often celebrated as the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. However, like any powerful archetype, she also possesses dark and destructive aspects. These lesser-known facets of the goddess are crucial for understanding the complexity of her character and her impact on the human psyche. Here is an exploration of these shadowy aspects:

Mythes Illustrating the dark Aspects of Aphrodite

Vengeance and Jealousy

The Judgment of Paris:

Myth: During the famous beauty contest between Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite, Paris, prince of Troy, must choose the most beautiful. Aphrodite promises him the love of Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, if he chooses her. Paris accepts, and this decision leads to the Trojan War.

Interpretation: This myth shows the destructive influence of Aphrodite, whose promise of love triggers a major conflict. Her ability to manipulate and influence to get what she wants highlights her dark aspects of jealousy and vengeance.

The Myth of Psyche and Eros:

Myth: Aphrodite is jealous of Psyche's beauty and sends her son Eros to make her fall in love with the vilest man. However, Eros falls in love with Psyche. Aphrodite then subjects Psyche to a series of cruel trials.

Interpretation: Here, Aphrodite's jealousy of Psyche's beauty drives her to acts of cruelty. This myth highlights the goddess's destructive aspect when she feels threatened or challenged.

Betrayal and Deception

Aphrodite's Multiple Lovers

La Belle des belles (titre original : La donna più bella del mondo) est un film italo-français réalisé par le réalisateur américain Robert Z. Leonard en 1955 et sorti en 1956 en France.

It is worth noting that according to mythology, Aphrodite, the Greek equivalent of Venus, had several lovers besides her husband Hephaestus. These include:

  • Arès, the god of war, with whom she shared a passionate and illicit relationship.

  • Adonis, the handsome mortal whose tragic death brought immense grief to Aphrodite.

  • Anchise, the Trojan prince with whom she had a son, Aeneas, the legendary founder of Rome.

  • Hermès, the messenger god, with whom she bore Hermaphroditus, known for his androgynous form.

  • Dionysos, the god of wine, who fathered Priapus, a fertility deity.

Aphrodite and Hephaestus:

Myth: Married to Hephaestus, the god of the forge, Aphrodite cheats on him with Ares, the god of war. Hephaestus discovers the adultery and traps the lovers in an invisible net, exposing them to the ridicule of the other gods.

Interpretation: This myth illustrates Aphrodite's betrayal and deception, highlighting her less noble aspects. Her relationship with Ares, the god of war, adds a dimension of conflict and violence to her character.

The Myth of Adonis:

Myth: Aphrodite falls in love with Adonis, a handsome young man. Ares, jealous of Aphrodite's love for Adonis, sends a boar to kill him. Adonis dies in Aphrodite's arms, and she is inconsolable.

Interpretation: Adonis's death, indirectly caused by jealousy and romantic rivalry, highlights the destructive potential of the passions Aphrodite inspires.

Many people, when they think of Greek mythology, judge its figures for their polyamorous relationships. They take all these stories too literally. The fact that Aphrodite had multiple lovers does not mean she necessarily teaches us to have affairs as a necessary part of our lives. While this may be acceptable for some, everyone decides for themselves. However, according to many interpretations, the main message lies rather in the multitude of ways and styles by which love can be expressed and embodied.


Salvador Dalí, Vénus en fourrure : Femme avec fouet, 1969

Beyond her traditional associations with eroticism and sensuality, Venus has also found a significant place in BDSM culture (Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism, Masochism). This connection is rooted in the psychological depth and power dynamics inherent in the Venus archetype, embodying both domination and submission.

In literature, such as in Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's famous novel Venus in Furs, and in contemporary BDSM practices, Venus symbolizes the exploration of the boundaries of desire, where pain and pleasure intertwine to create intense and transformative experiences. This link between Venus and BDSM reveals a complex facet of the human psyche, where power, vulnerability, and eroticism meet and reconfigure in a consensual and deeply intimate role-play.

Venus in Furs

Vénus à la Fourrure est un roman écrit par Leopold von Sacher-Masoch en 1870. Ce livre est l'une des œuvres les plus célèbres de l'auteur autrichien et est largement reconnu pour sa contribution au terme "masochisme", dérivé de son nom.


L'histoire de Vénus à la Fourrure tourne autour de Séverin von Kusiemski, un homme aristocratique qui développe une obsession pour Wanda von Dunajew, une femme séduisante et dominante. Séverin persuade Wanda de le traiter en esclave et de le soumettre à diverses formes d'humiliation et de souffrance, tout en revêtant des fourrures. Le roman explore les thèmes de la domination, de la soumission, et des dynamiques de pouvoir dans les relations amoureuses.

Interprétations Psychologiques et Culturelles: Archétype de Vénus

Dans Vénus à la Fourrure, Sacher-Masoch utilise l'archétype de Vénus (ou Aphrodite) pour examiner les aspects complexes de l'amour et du désir humain. Vénus, en tant que déesse de l'amour, est ici symbolisée par Wanda, qui incarne la beauté, la puissance et la cruauté érotique. La fourrure devient un symbole de ce pouvoir et de cette sensualité, évoquant à la fois la chaleur et le danger.


Le concept de masochisme, tiré du nom de Sacher-Masoch, est central au livre. Il décrit une dynamique où le plaisir est dérivé de la douleur et de la soumission. Cette notion est explorée à travers les désirs de Séverin, qui trouve un érotisme intense dans son abaissement et son asservissement à Wanda. Cette dynamique permet une exploration profonde des frontières entre douleur et plaisir, et entre pouvoir et vulnérabilité.

Réflexions de Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, studied the works of Sacher-Masoch and the phenomenon of masochism within the framework of his theories on human sexuality. Freud regarded masochism as a form of sexual perversion, where aggressive impulses are directed inward. He also saw in these dynamics a means of managing internal conflicts and unconscious impulses.


Film by Roman Polanski (2013)

Title: La Vénus à la fourrure

Description: This film adaptation features an actress (played by Emmanuelle Seigner) auditioning for the lead role in a theatrical adaptation of the novel. The film explores themes of power and desire within a theatrical mise en abyme.

Theatrical Adaptation by David Ives (2010)

Title: Venus in Fur

Description: This play, a Broadway hit, employs a structure similar to Polanski's film, where the boundaries between reality and fiction become blurred.

Anaïs Nin et les Thèmes Érotiques et Psychologiques

Anaïs Nin, renowned for her diaries and erotic fiction, wrote several books that explore themes similar to those in Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's Venus in Fur. Although she did not write a book directly comparable to Venus in Fur, her exploration of power dynamics, desire, and human sexuality presents intriguing parallels. Here are some of her most notable works touching on these themes.

Delta of Venus


Delta of Venus is a collection of erotic short stories written by Anaïs Nin in the 1940s for a private collector. First published in 1977, this book explores diverse and often taboo aspects of human sexuality through a series of sensual tales.


Exploration of Desire: Like Venus in Fur, Delta of Venus examines the nuances of desire and eroticism, often exploring characters' fantasies and obsessions.

Power Dynamics: Several stories in the collection feature relationships where power and submission dynamics are central, albeit often with a more complex and psychological perspective than Sacher-Masoch's.

Psychological Eroticism: Nin focuses on the psychological aspect of eroticism, delving into characters' thoughts and emotions to reveal the deep motivations behind their actions.

Psychological Interpretations

Psychological Interpretations

Carl Jung and The Shadow

Carl Jung, the famous psychologist, introduced the concept of the shadow, representing repressed and often negative aspects of personality. The archetype of Aphrodite also contains a shadow, composed of her destructive qualities such as jealousy, manipulation, and vengeance. Ignoring these aspects can lead to psychological imbalance.

Projection of the Shadow: Aphrodite's dark qualities can be projected onto human relationships, leading to destructive behaviors such as possessiveness, betrayal, and rivalry. Recognizing and integrating these shadow aspects is crucial for individuation and psychological balance.

Illustration par  Marjorie Cameron

Erich Neumann and Devastating Feminine

Erich Neumann, in his work "The Great Mother," explores the dark aspects of the feminine. He describes the devastating feminine as a force that can be destructive when unleashed or poorly balanced. Aphrodite, with her powers of seduction and destruction, embodies this duality.

Devastating Feminine: Aphrodite can be perceived as an incarnation of the devastating feminine, whose beauty and desire can lead to destructive consequences. This underscores the importance of recognizing and channeling these energies constructively.

Importance of the Reintegration

Returning to a holistic understanding of Aphrodite, including her dark and destructive aspects, is essential for personal and collective balance. This allows for a complete integration of the archetype, facilitating a healthier and more mature approach to love and relationships.

For Women: Recognizing Aphrodite's shadowy aspects helps embrace their full power and sensuality, while being aware of the potential dangers of jealousy and manipulation.

For Men: Integrating the anima, or the feminine aspect of the psyche, requires understanding not only the beauty and love associated with Aphrodite but also her destructive capabilities. This allows for a more balanced relationship with internal and external feminine energies.

Reconnecting with Aphrodite's Energy

Today, Aphrodite's energy is often overshadowed by a focus on productivity and rationality, neglecting the importance of beauty, love, and sensuality. Reconnecting with Aphrodite's energy can foster a deeper appreciation of these qualities, promoting emotional and spiritual well-being. For women, this means embracing their inner beauty and creative power, transcending societal pressures to conform to external standards. For men, this involves integrating the anima, fostering emotional depth and sensitivity.

The renowned psychologist Erich Neumann, in his work "The Great Mother," explored the significance of the feminine archetype and its manifestations. He emphasized the importance of the feminine for achieving psychological balance, noting that repression of these energies leads to neurosis and societal imbalance. Reconnecting with Aphrodite's energy is therefore not only a personal endeavor but a collective necessity for healing and harmony.


Aphrodite, as an archetype, embodies complex dynamics of power, beauty, love, and creativity. Her myths and artistic representations offer profound insights into human nature and relationships. By exploring and integrating these facets, individuals can better understand power dynamics and emotions in their own lives, while awakening the divine feminine within each of us. By reaffirming the importance of beauty, love, and creativity, we can find balance and fulfillment in our quest for individuation and wholeness.


Hesiod, Theogony

Jung, Carl. Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. 1959.

Neumann, Erich. The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype. 1955.


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