So I looked just out of my kitchen window to see a beady little eye belonging to (what I believe to be) a mourning dove (not 100% on my bird species identification, but I found lots of reference pictures) staring back at me from a flimsy looking nest wedged on top of my balcony partition. It being the end of August, I thought it a bit strange to see a bird nesting so late in the season. A quick search of the internet let me know that mourning doves have up to six broods during breeding season, so this must be one of the last ones for this mated pair. I couldn’t help but want to see the message inherent in the type of bird that chose to call my balcony home. This is my second year living in my apartment, but this is the first time any bird has decided to nest on my third floor apartment balcony.
Doves in all forms are sacred to Aphrodite, and being that She and I have a complicated relationship (well, it’s only complicated on my end) I immediately thought of Her. I have thought of Her more and where our relationship would lead to. I’m still not at the stage where I’m doing weekly devotional services and offerings to Her as I’d like to. Perhaps it seems cheap, but I’d really just like to open a bottle of white (or a sweeter red) wine and have a glass with her once a week. I’m sure as a busy grad student, this devotional time will also help me relax a bit as well. In an insomniac fit of research this past summer, I discovered an aspect of Aphrodite that I was not previously familiar with: Aphrodite Epitymbia, or Aphrodite of the Tombs or She Upon the Tombs depending on your translation source. Once I stumbled across this information at oh-dark-thirty in the morning, the proverbial light bulb went off in my head: THIS. THIS IS IMPORTANT. As I continued to research, I found references to doves and cemeteries in the Roman practice of calling their receptacles of cremated human ashes, columbaria, or “dovecoates”. Hence the correspondence of Venus Columba with a death aspect. **Not that I’m conflating Aphrodite and Venus…but, as my friend Tamilia once said on the difference between Mercury and Hermes: “they’re like identical twins…similar in appearances, but definitely not to be considered the same person” (I’m paraphrasing of course, apologies to her if I somehow completely mangled the quote). So began my delighted exploration of Aphrodite in her role as a Death Goddess. Not sure why I decided to capitalize that…
I’m still trying to figure Her different aspects and which ones I will be able to work with most successfully. So far, Epitymbia, Ourania, and Praxis have really caught my eye…three aspects…three is a good number, an especially magical number, but that still leaves out her marine aspect which I like as well. I’m sure I will settle on what to do soon. Gods know, I’ve been terribly awkward and slow about which approach to take with Her. Seeing the dove outside my balcony has given me an extra nudge to start this process with increased energy. Also, I found it very reassuring that She hadn’t completely given up on me, as I have been in a really grumpy mood lately about my job and the stresses of the upcoming school semester.
**Nerd alert: having found several different spellings of “Epitymbia” throughout my research, I wanted to make sure I found the grammatically correct version according to Ancient Greek linguistic rules. Thanks to the help of my boyfriend, and former Classics major, we found the entry we were looking for on the Perseus database provided by Tufts. In Ancient Greek, She is known as “Ἀφροδίτη ἐπιτυμβία”, where the -bidia ending is also considered an acceptable variant of the word. Any cases where you see “Epitymbria” floating around on the internet is most likely incorrect. Not being a well-versed enough in Ancient Greek, I couldn’t say that with too much conviction, but I think it’s a safe bet. For any of you reading that want a random bit of trivia, Aphrodite Epitymbia is linked to Venus Libitina! There is also a pretty keen epithet of Aphrodite, Tymborykhos, or Grave Robber, which alludes to Her necromantic powers.