(Approximate reading time: 6 minutes)
We say it like “her-maph-ro-dite” like night.
But actually, there is a strange obscurance when we say it this way -because it alters the name of the very feminine deity whose name is in part the central focus of the word, Aphrodite, which we say in a way ending with a sound like tee.
Thus, the real way to say this word is perhaps Herm-Aphrodite’.
Either way, the myth of the hermaphrodite is supposedly one in which:
HERMAPHRODI′TUS (Hermaphroditos). According to a tradition in Ovid (Met. iv. 285, &c.), he was a son of Hermes and Aphrodite, and consequently a great-grandson of Atlas, whence he is called Atlantiades or Atlantius. (Ov. Met. iv. 368; Hygin. Fab. 271.) He had inherited the beauty of both his parents, and was brought up by the nymphs of Mount Ida. In his fifteenth year he went to Caria; in the neighborhood of Halicarnassus he laid down by the well Salmacis. The nymph of the well fell in love with him, and tried to win his affections, but in vain. Once when he was bathing in the well, she embraced him (against his will), and prayed to the gods that they might permit her to remain united with him for ever. The gods granted the request, and the bodies of the youth and the nymph became united in (a horrible way) with such a manner that the two together could not be called either a man or a woman, but were both.
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
It is a fearsome story of male terror, being forcibly subjugated to a feminine will – and inextricably physically altered with a loss of masculine identity.
Vulgar and hideous the tale in many versions is said to serve as display as a cautionary tale of premarital/juvenile sex. Most of the versions of the story seem full of foreboding and warning, and apathy to the loss of masculine power/identity; and not at all the embracement of male and female in harmonious unity – that can often be found in the more prevalent depictions of the ancient world’s Hermaphroditus, some that even include wings! And thus, hint at an origin of our depiction of divine angels.
And so, considering the very name, Hermaphrodite is a union of Hermes and Aphrodite together, and the charm and power of each parent as a deity was likewise imbued in unison; I think the real origin of the tale of Herm-Aphrodite’ has been stolen or lost, or destroyed; or even purposely suppressed and misrepresented and grossly altered – and so we are only left with the above-distorted tale that supports a patriarchal forefather’s fear for his sons.
Yet, there must be a wiser, more beautiful tale to be told!
A tale perhaps in which Hermes sought the love of the beautiful deity Aphrodite; but because of her forsaking him, for she did not believe his love was anything more than a gross lust, he forged a terrible sword! A sword to prove his love was true – and to prove it was not lust – he castrated himself!
Aphrodite was so moved by his act, for no man, nor God had ever done such! That in her compassion for Hermes, she sacrificed something of her great beauty to save his life; and where his sundered flesh and blood mingled with the sacrifice of her divine beauty; a new being was brought forth! An offspring forged of shared divinity; a handsome and radiant beauty made borne. Flowers bloomed from the blood and from the mingle of the god and goddess – a radiant being was born in the form of the mesmerizing Herm-Aphrodite’ who was both handsome and lovely in every way!
Full of talent and grace, and power! A beautiful offspring of fantasy unified sex – like two lovers made one – and so had both genders and even two pairs of arms, to hold his/her many adorers, many lovers, and many admirers.
Herm-Aphrodite’ would hold the flower born of father Hermes blood and the sword forged by him as well, and no doubt Herm-Aphrodite’ was also given a handheld mirror from lovely mother, Aphrodite. The mirror was given by Aphrodite, who had the becoming offspring promise always to honor his/her beauty in the mirror so that s/he might know s/he was always to be beautiful; and for each of his/her many arms s/he was given bracelets forged by his/her father Hermes, and oh, the bracelets tinkled like dancing bells!
And when the enchanting Herm-Aphrodite’ moved it was with such grace and power! And, the many bells set ringing! Even just walking – seemed more like a sensual dance; and as Herm-Aphrodite’ danced s/he waved father Herme’s sword on high and clasped the flower within his/her handsome lips and when s/he truly danced – it was as if s/he was in the midst of an ecstatic sexual orgy celebrating love and life!
Men and women could not help but be aroused by the libidinous sensuality and so came to Herm-Aphrodite’s dance; and as they too began to dance and share in the joy of sexuality and proclaim affirmations for love, life and kindness; they found themselves within his/her sensual embrace!
And true to the promise made to mother Aphrodite, Herm-Aphrodite’ appreciated the gifts of unique beauty every day in the mirror; but was never so vain to be so self-absorbed. And so s/he was able to turn the mirror away from his /her own reflection and let other people also see their true reflections – also held beauty – of both their mothers and their fathers and so it seemed all people were not so different from Herm-Aphrodite’!
And more over Herm-Aphrodite was more than gorgeous, s/he was also brave and courageous; and yet peace-loving and kind. Herm-Aphrodite’ was a being of great compassion and would use father Hermes gifted sword to dance as well as to defend – but never to kill.
Herm-Aphrodite’ was a brave and gorgeous hero – a true Heroine!
S/he was a defender of love, a healer who pierced the veil of ignorance with the sword, and healed whoever s/he touched or kissed. And so wise and knowing of both the ways of men and women; many people came to seek Herm-Aphrodite’s wise and compassionate counsel.
And through the epics:
Herm-Aphrodite’ would have closed her eyes and charmed Medusa with a kiss! Tickled Bellerophon with one of Pegasus’s feathers! And for all such creatures that were feared for being more than one thing, be they Griffins or Minotaurs or worse, still, the brave and beautiful Herm-Aphrodite’ would never be afraid; and all such creatures would be sacred for s/he knew what it was like to be more than one thing! And again, Herm-Aphrodite’s ways of compassion and understanding would prevail!
And to many s/he would be called:Herm-Aphrodite’ or
Herm-Aphrodite’ or Aphrodite’-Hermes.
The Hermaphrodite’ Deity.