Friday, April 02, 2010

REVIEW: Aphrodite's Magic

Aphrodite’s Magic: Celebrate and Heal Your Sexuality by Jane Meredith (O Books, 2010), trade paperback, 174 pp.

The blurb from Annie Sprinkle on this book’s cover says, "far above and beyond a regular sex manual." In fact, Aphrodite’s Magic is not only "beyond" a sex manual, it is not what most people would consider a sex manual. It doesn’t suggest fancy positions, practices or genital techniques to improve your sex life. What it does do, and do well, is provide ways for women to remove blockages and overcome obstacles to feeling physical pleasure. These obstacles may have been foisted on us by society, some religions, our families, or result from abuse including rape. The method explained in this book is meant to replace this negativity with self-esteem and love—particularly love of your body and your self. The book’s aim, as Australian Jane Meredith writes in her introduction, "Invitation to the Magic," is to help you "discover your inherent beauty and your enormous potential to change and heal" and to celebrate your sexuality. Meredith structures this discovery and presents this celebration so that it is available to women of all sexual orientations, all ages, and whether or not you have children. Nor do you have to be in a relationship with another person to experience it. This celebration is based on self-knowledge fostered through interaction with the divine, personified in this book as Aphrodite. The path to this celebration is a magical journey Meredith first presented at the 2001 Glastonbury Goddess Conference and has shared in many workshops since.

Throughout the book, Meredith quotes women who have taken part in these workshops. For instance, at the end of the introduction Meredith quotes Miriam, who says:

I realized that I’ve always regarded myself only as whole, sexual, feminine, beautiful when I was with a man, never on my own... that I have to reclaim my being ‘whole until myself’ in order to love myself. This was a real awakening that came to me gradually.
The magic—and 7-session "journey"—with Aphrodite, centers on 7 "threads" (probably better described literally as cords because of their circumference). In each session you add and work with another cord; at the end you plait or weave them together into a girdle reminiscent of Aphrodite’s (and other goddesses'). Meredith specifies the colors of two of the threads, you choose the rest, as well as their fabric(s). This girdle should not be confused with the torturous undergarment worn by many women in the 1940s and ‘50s that began at or slightly above the waist, ended at the thighs and squished everything it covered (updated versions are marketed today as control panties, etc.) Rather, Goddess girdles are similar to belly dance costume girdles (also called belts), which begin under the navel (often just above the pubic area), and cover the lower hips. One such garment is shown on the cover of the book. Here is part of how Meredith describes Aphrodite’s Girdle:

Woven from precious metals, it conferred sexual attraction on the wearer. Occasionally Aphrodite lent this Girdle out to others....Her Girdle – with its middle-Eastern associations of belly dancing, sensuality, and seduction – is a symbol that continues to resonate with us. Her proud ownership of her sensuality inspires women to make their own choices, respect their bodies, and honor the deep feminine.
Before beginning instructions for the journey itself, Meredith offers "Practical Guidelines" that include how to do magic, creating and maintaining ritual space, gathering materials that you will need (the cords, sewing things and decorations, journals and pens), dancing and music, and timelines. She gives 4 different timelines, depending on whether you want to complete the journey in a weekend, a week, a moon cycle, or 7 months.

Each of the "strands," or "processes" (each trip of the journey?), contains similar elements, including working with a chakra, beginning with the crown chakra. Each often includes a lesson or learning exercise; some sort of magic and ritual; working with an Aphrodite altar; journaling; selecting a cord; a guided "journey" (aka meditation or visualization); and dancing. The chapters of the book share the names of the strands: The Goddess, Eye of Beauty, Voice of Truth, In the Heart, Dancing the Body, Red Womb, and Inner Mysteries.

"The Goddess" chapter includes instructions on how to cast a circle and raise energy and how to make a Aphrodite altar. In "Eye of Beauty," you discover your own beauty and the beauty of other women. In "Voice of Truth," you explore why it is hard to speak the truth, especially about sex, and you are prompted to speak, chant, sing, and write your truth. "In the Heart," you examine love in its various forms and the relationship between love and fear. "Dancing the Body," explores embodiment and how you understand and feel in your body, and includes Sacred Body Bathing, The Painted Body, and, "for the adventurous," "The Edible Body ." "Red Womb" explores women’s fertility issues. "Inner Mysteries" is about women’s relationship with our genitals, including words used to describe them, products sold to mask them (or their odors), and art and literature portraying them, both in contemporary and in ancient Goddess times. In the last chapter, "Weaving Aphrodite’s Magic," Meredith gives magical and practical instructions on how to weave or plait the cords together. The book ends with the author's Afterword.

Aphrodite's Magic is both a practical and magical guide, written clearly and with emotional depth. By putting her workshop material in book form, Meredith bestows upon many women a healing and enriching gift.

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Judith Laura

More blogs about /goddess/feminist theology/spiritual feminism/pagan/feminist spirituality/.