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Venus, Pan and Eros

Venus, Pan and Eros (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


In mythology Venus is the Roman parallel to the Greek Aphrodite. But Venus is somewhat more subdued than Aphrodite.

Venus is a goddess of seduction and, in one set of rites and myths, she is associated with Roman wine fesitvals (Vinalia). In this festival she’s seen as a mediator between Jupiter and the Roman people.

She is also the mother of Aeneas, who according to the poet Vergil, is the founder of Rome. In a sense, then, Venus was regarded as the mother of Rome.

But she was no chaste mother. Her name literally means sex, and she was the lover of Mars, who with the mortal Rhea Silva begat the twin brothers Romulus and Remus.

Since Rome was named after Romulus, who after disposing of Remus became the first ruler of Rome, Venus plays a kind of dual role in the founding of Rome. As such, she was given a sacred solemnity among the Romans that Aphrodite never enjoyed among the Greeks.

Mars and Venus have a romantic rendezvous. Fresco from the “House of Sallust” at Pompeii, now in the National Archaeological Museum, Naples. – Image via Tumblr

Venus’ first known temple was built shortly after 295 BCE. And despite New Age and Jungian attempts to treat her as some kind of pristine archetype, and others’ attempts to link her to the Vedic term for desire, her historical roots remain obscure.

However, her character did develop, as most mythic entities do, in step with the sociopolitical changes in Rome. The influential aristocrat Sulla called her his “Protectress” and, by the time of the Roman Empire, Venus was incorporated into the official pantheon.

English: Venus orbits the Sun at an average di...

Venus orbits the Sun at an average distance of about 108 million kilometers (about 0.7 AU), and completes an orbit every 224.65 days. Venus is the second planet from the Sun and it revolves round the Sun approximately 1.6 times (yellow trail) in Earth’s 365 days (blue trail) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


In astronomy Venus is the second planet from our sun. Due to its brightness, Venus looks like a star and is called the “morning star” or “evening star.” Venus is also the hottest planet in the solar system. It’s not the closest but its composition contributes to its high heat.

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Ancient Roman bust (so-called "Bust of Ve...

Ancient Roman bust (so-called “Bust of Vergil”) from the Tomb of Vergil in Naples, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vergil (or Virgil, properly, Publius Vergilius Maro, 70-19 BCE) was a Roman poet who studied philosophy in Rome before gaining status as a court poet.

His unfinished Aeneid was commissioned by the emperor Augustus to honor Rome’s origins.

Vergil’s grave was treated as a sacred site for centuries. And from the Middle Ages to recent times his Latin works were standard fare for educational institutions throughout Europe.

The poet Dante called Vergil il nostro maggior poeta (“our greatest poet”).¹ In his Divine Comedy, Dante characterized Vergil as a guide, leading him through several layers of Hell and, then, up to Purgatory.

J. B. Trapp notes

In the third canto of Purgatorio, Dante’s great mentor reproaches him for his faint trust:

Non credi tu me teco e ch’io ti guidi?²

Profile of Dante Alighieri, one of the most re...

Profile of Dante Alighieri, one of the most renowned Italian poets, painted by his contemporary Giotto di Bondone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After seeing purgatory, Beatrice replaces Vergil as Dante’s guide. She then leads Dante through the gates at the entrance of Paradise. From Dante’s perspective, Vergil could not continue upward because of his unconverted pagan roots.

According to legend the apostle Paul wept over Vergil’s grave because the poet was so close to gaining the opportunity of becoming a Christian.

In pop culture, the names Vergil, Dante and Beatrice appear in video games, rock bands, novels—the list goes on.

¹M. C. Howatson, ed. The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, Second Edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989, p. 595.

² Google Translate: Dost thou not think me with thee, and that I guide thee? Source: J. B. Trapp, “The Grave of Vergil,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol. 47, (1984: 1-31), p. 1.

Related Posts » Aeneas, Blessed Isles, Furies, Sibyl

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Vestal Virgins

Vestal Virgin by Morin 1791 Terracotta by mharrsch via Flickr

The Vestal Virgins were a priesthood of virgin women in ancient Rome, probably of patrician class.

The Vestals apparently were instituted by the Roman King Numa and were thought to be the symbolic or perhaps spiritual daughters of the earliest Roman Kings. Wikipedia nicely sums up their crucial role to the well-being of ancient Rome.

In ancient Roman religion, the Vestals or Vestal Virgins (Vestales, singular Vestalis), were priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the hearth. The College of the Vestals and its well-being was regarded as fundamental to the continuance and security of Rome. They cultivated the sacred fire that was not allowed to go out. The Vestals were freed of the usual social obligations to marry and bear children, and took a vow of chastity in order to devote themselves to the study and correct observance of state rituals that were off-limits to the male colleges of priests.¹

Statues in the House of the Vestal Virgins, Fo...

Statues in the House of the Vestal Virgins, Forum, Rome (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Vestals served for a minimum of 30 years, with a maximum of lifetime service. They answered to the head priest (pontifex maximus) and lived in a building near the Forum called the Atrium Vestae.

Ancient Rome had no separation of church and state, so the Vestals were maintained at public expense. They were pretty and pure looking, in keeping with ancient Roman aesthetic and moral ideals. Chosen by lots among eligible girls aged 6-10 years, the Vestals guarded the sacred flame at the temple of Vesta, near the Forum.

Constantin Hölscher Im Tempel der Vesta

Constantin Hölscher Im Tempel der Vesta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Their ongoing purity was essential. If found unchaste, a priestess could be buried alive as punishment. In 83 CE, for instance, Domitian executed three Vestal Virgins on charges of immorality. In 90 CE the chief Vestal, Cornelia, was buried alive.

It’s hard to know if these charges had any truth to them, or whether they were simply trumped up by the PTB, for whatever warped reasons.

The concept of the Vestal Virgin has inspired artists through the ages.


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The Blessed Virgin Mary

Madonna by Raphael, an example of Marian art

Madonna by Raphael, an example of Marian art (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the New Testament, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of Jesus Christ, wife of St. Joseph.

According to Catholic teaching, Mary was conceived immaculately, meaning that she was born without the taint of original sin. This idea is often confused with the idea of the Virgin Birth. Wikipedia clarifies:

The doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary concerns her own conception in her mother’s womb, not the virgin birth of Jesus

Catholics also believe that Mary always was and will be a virgin. That is, Mary and her elderly husband Joseph remained perfectly chaste throughout their lives.

The Virgin Birth refers to Mary’s conceiving Jesus after she freely chose to accept God’s miraculous intervention, through which she would become pregnant. This event took place before her marriage to Joseph. The angel Gabriel came to her and proposed the choice she had to make. After she accepted God’s will for her, Mary probably suffered from the misunderstanding of Joseph and others who initially saw only scandal.

The Greek Orthodox Church accepts devotion through Mary but not the idea of her immaculate conception.

From reading the New Testament and Apocrypha, many believe that Joseph and Mary had sex and four other boys and two girls after Jesus.

Sandro Botticelli, Magnificat, 1480-81, temper...

Sandro Botticelli, Magnificat, 1480-81, tempera on panel, Uffizi Gallery, Florence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But the Catechism of the Catholic Church declares that Mary bore only Jesus. For believing Catholics, the “other Mary” mentioned in the New Testament bore James and Joseph, the so-called “brothers” of Jesus. And Catholics say the term “brother” (Greek: adelphos) is in keeping with a common Old Testament usage, meaning “close relation” (kith and kin). So “brother” in this sense means spiritual instead of physical brotherhood.

Unlike some feminists and New Age enthusiasts, Catholics believe that Mary is a mediator between Christ and mankind, not a goddess. The idea that Mary is a mediator between mankind and God has been traced to the 3rd century CE.

When praying to Mary through the Holy Rosary, Catholics do not worship her but, rather, request that she intercedes for them—as in the Hail Mary Prayer, “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”

Some Protestants and Fundamentalists believe that Catholics have got it wrong because, so they assert, Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and Man. But, quite ironically, many of these very same people freely ask their friends and associates to “pray for them,” which clearly is a request for intercession.

Catholics often reply to this Protestant and Fundamentalist charge by asking: If we can ask souls on Earth to pray for us, why not souls in heaven?

In the New Testament Mary instructs Jesus to perform his first miracle at a wedding ceremony at Cana (John 2: 1-11). Jesus hesitates – “it is not my time.” But at Mary’s insistence he ends up performing the miracle (turning the water into wine).

The Theotokos of Vladimir, one of the most ven...

The Theotokos of Vladimir, one of the most venerated of Orthodox Christian icons of the Virgin Mary. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 431 the Council of Ephesus defined Mary as Theotokos, a Greek term meaning “The Mother of God.” Mary became widely venerated throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. Devotion during this period was so enthusiastic that sometimes monks and religious were taken as mad persons. And maybe some were.

The doctrine of Mary’s bodily assumption (her rising at death) into heaven was formed around the 6th century CE by orthodox theologians. It became sanctioned by the Catholic Church in 1950 by Pope Pius XII.

The idea of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s immaculate conception was hotly disputed in the Middle Ages but generally accepted by the 16th century. The doctrine was defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854, stipulating that Mary was born free from “all stain of original sin.”

Many lay and religious persons around the world claim to have witnessed apparitions of the Virgin Mary, the most publicized being those at Fatima, Lourdes and Medjugorge.²

Some religious scholars and lay people, alike, equate Mary with the Egyptian Isis, the Roman Demeter, the Hindu Kali or the Chinese Kwan Yin, among a host of other goddesses. Likewise, C. G. Jung and Joseph Campbell equate Mary with various goddesses, envisioning all as archetypal images of an underlying and (some say) sexist “feminine principle.” But even a casual study of these various female deities reveals striking differences. And to equate them as if they were all the same, as some New Age enthusiasts and depth psychologists do, seems facile.

Medal of the Immaculate Conception (aka Miracu...

Medal of the Immaculate Conception (aka Miraculous Medal), a medal created by Saint Catherine Labouré in response to a request from the Blessed Virgin Mary who allegedly appeared rue du Bac, Paris, in 1830. The message on the recto reads: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you — 1830″. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mary is depicted musically in Stabat Mater, the “standing mother” (at the foot of the cross of her crucified son). The composers Palestrina, Pergolesi, Rossini, Haydn, Verdi and Dvorak have written unique works, each called Stabat Mater. While Pergolesi’s work is the most popular, all compositions are based on the same New Testament account of Mary’s grief while witnessing Jesus’ execution at the hands of the occupying Romans.³ Since 1727, the devotional poem Stabat Mater Dolorosa (“A mother standing, grief-stricken”) has been set to a plainchant melody in the Catholic Mass.

¹ and

² For more, see

³ Over the centuries there has been much heated debate over who actually killed Jesus. See

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Virgo, the virgin or maiden

Virgo, the virgin or maiden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Virgo ( August 22-September 22) is the sixth sign of the zodiac. A summer sign, Virgo is symbolized by the idea of the Virgin and associated with the planetary ruler of Mercury. Its element is Earth.

The Latin term virgo means “maid,” “maiden,” “virgin,” or “girl,” and also refers to the constellation called Virgo as well as an aqueduct near Rome.

Astrologers and other believers in astrology claim that Virgos are not stereotypically prudish virgins. Instead, they say that Virgos can be highly refined, unmarried sensual beings who enjoy privacy and solitude.

From Mercury, Virgo is said to obtain a thirst for knowledge. Prominent Virgos are Sean Connery, Michael Jackson, Stephen King and the pop star, Pink.

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Virtual Reality

The Cave Automatic Virtual Environment at EVL,...

The Cave Automatic Virtual Environment at EVL, University of Illinois at Chicago. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Virtual Reality (VR) is the use of computer hardware and software to create an artificial (virtual) environment.

The user normally enters the virtual environment by wearing a headset that blocks normal vision. The environment is manipulated with an electronic glove – or a similar device – connecting the user to the computer.

VR is usually understood visually. But Wikidpedia tells us

Virtual reality can recreate sensory experiences, including virtual taste, sight, smell, sound, touch, etc.¹

The idea has been traced back to the French playwrite Antonin Artaud. Artaud believed that the internal world of fantasy and the imagination was just as real as the outside world.

This view parallels to some degree C. G. Jung’s beliefs about alchemy, where human relationships with matter and with other people are compared to chemical interactions. And the Jungian theories of transference, counter-transference and especially syntonic counter-transference point in a similar direction.

Artaud’s understanding of virtual reality also touches on John Donne’s idea that no man is an island—that is, neither distance nor death entirely separates one person from another.

No man is an island, entire of itself
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main

Virtual reality uses multimedia content. Appli...

Virtual reality uses multimedia content. Applications and delivery platforms of multimedia are virtually limitless. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Virtual reality has impacted business, medicine and the entertainment industry, where virtual users enjoy, relax or express violent or sexual impulses in socially acceptable ways.

But not everyone sees it this way. Some say that violent virtual reality games should be reexamined in case they promote instead of prevent real violence. This is a relatively familiar debate stemming back to the pre-home computer era. Before the PC, the effects of violent TV shows on kids were ardently studied by researchers and public health officials.

Scientific and consumer watchdogs for public safety, however, haven’t stopped the rise of virtual reality. There’s always money to be made through the commodification of sex and violence. And unless definite regulatory laws are passed, things usually get wildly out of hand.

The idea of virtual reality also appears in science fiction television (Star Trek‘s holodeck) and movies like Tron (1982), Total Recall (1990) and The Matrix (1999), where users enter virtual realities sometimes indistinguishable from daily life.

Interior view of a small village in a virtual ...

Interior view of a small village in a virtual environment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Given today’s microchip implant technologies and advances in neuropsychology, these scenarios seem probable in the not-too-distant future. Some traditionalists, however, will always be wary of these kind of changes. As our very sense of community is changing with technology, some become more emphatic about the importance of a traditional understanding of community.²


² See for instance, Pope Francis’ Evangelii Guadium p. 87-92 and this amusing debate between Yehudi Menuhin (pro-community) and Glenn Gould (pro-technology) — made possible for all of us to share on YouTube, I might add.. :-)

Related Posts » William S. Burrows, Glenn Gould, Marshall Herbert McLuhan

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Vishnu as the incarnation Kalki

Vishnu as the incarnation Kalki (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vishnu (Skt. to “settle” or “pervade”)

In Hinduism, Vishnu is the second deity of the Hindu Trimurti (triad) of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva.

He rides the great eagle Garuda with his loyal consort, the goddess of prosperity and good fortune, Lakshmi, at his side.

Hindus believe that the universe passes through endless cycles of creation and destruction. Brahma is seen as the creator of the universe. Vishnu is the benevolent preserver. And one of Siva’s important roles is that of cosmic destroyer.

Vishnu is believed to have had 9 incarnations (avatars) on Earth, including Krishna. The tenth avatar, Kalki, is yet to come. It’s said that Kalki will ride a white horse when he appears.

Kalki will apparently reestablish dharma in our age of (alleged) moral decline, the Kali-yuga. Whether or not humanity really has declined morally is a highly debatable point. But these kinds of issues are often overlooked by religious people of all persuasions who make sense of their experience by, or possibly take comfort in, ancient stories, myths and legends instead of doing the hard work of sober-minded thinking.

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