Venus Barbata ('Bearded Venus') was an epithet of the goddess Venus among the Romans. Macrobius also mentions a statue of Venus in Cyprus, representing the goddess with a beard, in female attire, but resembling in her whole figure that of a man (see also Aphroditus). The idea of Venus thus being a mixture of the male and female nature seems to belong to a very late period of antiquity. In certain forms Venus was depicted as physically androgynous:
On her native Cyprus, Aphrodite was worshipped as the Venus Barbata, the Bearded Venus... . Elsewhere as Venus Calva or Bald Venus, Aphrodite was shown with a man's bald head, just like the priests of Isis. Aristophanes calls her Aphroditos, a Cypriot male name. Aphrodite appeared in battle armor in Sparta... [and] Venus Armata or Armed Venus became a Renaissance convention.
The idea of Venus having a double-sexed nature has the same double meaning, in the mythological sense, that there is not only a Luna, but also a Lunus. The name Venus in itself, is masculine in its termination, and it was perceived that the goddess becomes the god and the god the goddess sometimes.
Often her male followers are emasculated: in her incarnation as Aphrodite Urania, she destroys a king who mates with her upon a mountain top, 'as a queen-bee destroys the drone: by tearing out his sexual organs' and as Cybele, 'the Phrygian Aphrodite of Mount Ida' she is worshipped as a 'queen-bee' – her priests mutilating themselves via acts of 'ecstatic self-castration'.
Because astrology is the main mythology of Venus, the reason for this duality of her masculine sides were in astrological texts and has less to do with her priests and more to do with her priestesses. In antiquity astrology, both the seventh and the eighth houses were ruled by the planet Venus (Libra) and her representations in both houses were considered as one. The masculine and feminine principles of Venus had a powerful dark goddess (adult woman) attribute of the warrior and at the same time a powerful light maiden (youth). Once Mars controlled the eighth house in late antiquity, Venus role shifted. In modern times Pluto is ruler of the eighth house now and Venus is barely remembered as a powerful warrior, and contained only in her seventh house of personal relationship, love and beauty status. To understand the past, we cannot separate astrology from mythology and fill in the missing pieces with theology or philosophy because they do not fit. The origins of Venus and Aphrodite expresses and always has, both her masculine principles of action and protection equally to the loving, abundant, beauty aspects of Venus.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Smith, William, ed. (1870). "Barbata". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
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