Sunday, May 31, 2009

Meet Aphrodite Epistrophia

turn towards
turn your eyes or mind
to a thing,

turn round, turn about,
constantly turning, as if to look behind
turned to gaze on something
a lion retreating

curve, twist, distort
of hair, curl
of a tree, crooked
of fir-needles, bent

turn about, turn round
put an enemy to flight
wheel about
of a wild boar, turn
upon the hunter

go back and forwards
wandering over the earth,
observing, studying
turn to the place
of the sun, revolve

wheeling about
tossing, of a restlessness
renewed assaults of ills unnumbered
wheeling through a right angle
of ships, putting about, tacking
have a relapse

turn from error, correct,
exact, strict, severe,
be converted, return,
conduct oneself,
behave, earnest,
bring into action

flexible, supple,
modulated, varied
of strands, twisting
of a bow, bending
of a river, winding
of a bay, curve
cause to return to the source
of Being,

pay attention

that by which all the revolving
spheres are turned
thus turned about, changed
returned to yourself

This is a found poem. I found its phrases among the examples given in Liddell & Scott, the preeminent dictionary of Ancient Greek, for the family of words that begin with epistroph-, the root for Epistrophia, one of Aphrodite's epithets.

Pausanias* tells us that Aphrodite Epistrophia had a sanctuary at Megara. In Pausanias’ passage about the goddess, epistrophia is translated as “she who turns men to love.” This is a translator’s best guess as to what the epithet means, but the family of words in which we find epistrophia has little to do with love and everything to do with turning. Aphrodite Epistrophia is “she who turns men’s minds,” and because the she who is doing the turning is the goddess of love, love has to be in the equation somewhere. We are, however, left with the question unanswered whether she is turning minds to love or with love.

Epistrophia \eh-'pis-tro-fee-a\ She who turns.

[*Pausanias 1.40.6]


mamiel said...

I loved this post, thanks so much for leaving it!

I am a devotee of Aphrodite and last week I took an interest in the concept of perpetia- which in Greek dramas marked a point in the story in which there is a reversal or turning around of events. So this piece seemed to combine both of those interests.

Anonymous said...

EpistrophĂȘ is also a key concept in Neoplatonism, the third moment in the cycle of causality; hence Proclus' Elements of Theology, prop. 35, states that "Every effect [aitiaton] remains [menei] in its cause, proceeds [proeisin] from it, and reverts [epistrephei] upon it."

Yvonne Rathbone said...

Mamiel: Thanks for the new word! And I needed it to. I've been thinking of stories where a character suddenly sees her situation completely differently.

Henadology: Wow, neoplatonist ideas really give a different take on Aphrodite and the desire to return to the One. Very cool.

mamiel said...

Whoops I spelled it wrong (D'OH!) but here is the wiki link to a definition about it:

suz said...


Anonymous said...

I felt like I was chasing my tail when I read that.