For Beltaine, I had to write a short response to love and fertility deities and mythologies. In particular, I was supposed to contrast them with the Adonis myth. I was kind of surprised by what I came up with.
Youth, lust, possession, lack of consent, immaturity, impatience… all things that seem to function in most Western myths related to deities who are considered to be love and fertility deities. Doing the light research for this assignment, that was the first thing I thought (and this may well be related to my own age and position in life vs. watching my newly-minted adult daughter navigate her own relationship waters). The question I had? Why is it always about possession and jealousy and sex? Does sex have to be about possession and jealousy?
As an experienced adult, I think the answer is no. Does sex = love? Nope, that doesn’t follow either. In fact, what I see in a lot of these myths are the strains of heterosexual monogamous relationship models where being in a relationship implies some kind of ownership of one’s partner. What I’m interested in knowing is whether this is because we’re retelling them through the society of today, or whether these things have been related since time immemorial. Most people would say that the latter is true, but I’d be interested in some data to back that up.
When I was young, I might have believed these myths were great models for relationships. Now I feel like perhaps they could be great models for what NOT to do in a relationship, whether it be romantic or not. Where’s the love/fertility deity who models great communication skills, compassion, patience, boundaries and consent? Do those things have to be separate from love and fertility? I sure hope not.
If I take a different perspective on fertility – if I take it into the realm of other ways of creating, like writing, art, visioning and one’s own work – that shifts things to some extent, but still… these stories still bring up questions for me around obsession and balance, communication and true devotion and love. How do we act on passion without destroying boundaries? And how do we sustain relationships past the point of conception?
I’m not sure I’m providing much in the ways of answers here, but these have been the questions I’m sitting with as I think about how in mythology, one must dig deeper to find narratives about love and fertility that aren’t deeply entwined with jealousy and “taking” a person (in many ways perpetuating rape culture – yeah, I said it. I went there). Some of them could stand a good re-telling.
Tell me… what love/fertility myths are the exception to this? Why the conflation of love and lust? Do you think they’re the same?