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Alternative translations of the myth present the initial cause of Aphrodite as Myrrha’s mother, Queen Cenchreis. Others translate the father as being King Theias of Assyria or King Thias of Phoenicia.
The Adonia festival is a midsummer event celebrated every year by the women of Greece, during which “gardens of Adonis” are planted. These small pots contain fast-growing plants and are placed on top of their homes, in the hot sun, making the plants sprout and then quickly wither and die. Following the dying of the “garden,” the women would tear their clothes and beat their breasts in a public display of grief to mourn the death of Adonis.
Remnants of Adonis worship are still present in this day and age among some nations of the Levant, Mesopotamia, and even Persia/Iran. There it is manifested as part of spring folklore celebrations, such as The Feast of Nauroz.
Adonis: in Greek mythology, a handsome young man loved by Aphrodite. A mortal born from the Myrrha tree, he was killed by a wild boar, and believed to spend part of the year in the underworld and part on earth, thus symbolizing seasonal change.
The myth of Adonis and his lover the goddess Aphrodite is a legendary love story that originally dates back to the ancient civilizations of the Near East and combines tragedy, death, and resurrection. A popular tale among the Canaanites, Mesopotamians, and Egyptians, the figures were given different names in each civilization – but the main plot remained consistent. The legend tells of a young man who overcame death and came back to life for the sake of his beloved Aphrodite.
The myth inspired many poets, artists, and historians. In Canaan, Adon was one of the most important gods – a deity of beauty, fertility, and permanent renewal. The name itself meant “The Lord” in their culture. In Egypt, he was known as Osiris, the god of resurrection.
The story of Adonis goes hand in hand with Astarte (Aphrodite), the goddess of love and beauty (i.e., Venus to the Romans). However, the myth is most popularly known as that of Adonis and Aphrodite, rather than Adon and Astarte.
According to the myth, King Cinyras of Cyprus had a daughter named Myrrha, who was very beautiful. In his pride, he claimed she was more beautiful than the goddess of love and beauty herself. When Aphrodite heard of this, she became angry and had her son Eros make Myrrha fall in love with her own father in retaliation. Overcome by desire, she tricked her father into sleeping with her over the span of nine nights in complete darkness.
When Cinyras discovered the trick, he drove her out of his home with a drawn blade, intent on killing her. Myrrha escaped from her father, and realizing she was pregnant, pleaded to the gods to protect her. In their sympathy, they transformed the girl into a Myrrh tree – but nine months later, the Myrrh tree split off and Adonis was born.
When Aphrodite found the boy, she gave him to Persephone to raise. Persephone helped him grow into a man, but she also fell in love with him, as Adonis was even more beautiful than that of his mother. This led to a feud between Aphrodite and Persephone over Adonis that became so problematic that Zeus intervened and ruled that Adonis to spend four months of the year with Persephone in Hades, then four months with Aphrodite, and the remaining four months however he wished.
Adonis came to cherish his time with Aphrodite, and chose to spend the additional time with her. The young man was also an excellent hunter and it was on one of his hunts that he was attacked by a wild boar. As he lay dying in the hands of Aphrodite, the goddess’s tears mingled with his blood, creating the anemone flower. In her grief, Aphrodite declared the Adonia festival to commemorate him.