Aphrodite, Gilda, and the Violets

Rita Hayworth as Gilda

Love is the purest form of a soul at peace. 🕊

The birth flower for February is the violet. The month of February is also characterized by love as Valentine’s Day is also in February. The Greek Goddess Aphrodite is connected to such symbols as the rose, the violet, the dove, the swan, and the scallop shell to name a few.

There is an interesting intersection of meaning for the violet though. The meaning behind violets is the following: Violets symbolize modesty. According to Greek mythology, violets were created when one of Artemis’ nymphs, who had all sworn to stay maidens, was being pursued by her twin brother, Apollo. To protect her nymph, Artemis transformed her into a violet, which in turn led the violet to become a symbol of modesty. The violet also has roots in Christianity and represents the modesty of the Virgin Mary. The violet also represents spiritual wisdom, faithfulness and humility which are meanings that can be seen depicted in religious works of art.

Because the violet has an intersecting identity of modesty and has a connection to the spirit of love represented by Aphrodite, there is significant overlap between the qualities of purity by the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) and the more hedonistic identity of Aphrodite. The establishment of the violet in February allows us to consider how these intersecting meanings all lead into one concept: the power of love.

There are continued images of Aphrodite and violets in popular culture as well. For example, the actress Rita Hayworth was nicknamed “The Love Goddess,” at the peak of her career; her pinup image was also the most widely seen of WWII. As a mythological figure, Rita Hayworth certainly represents a more modern day image of Aphrodite. Directors like Martin Scorsese have also provided extensive input on how her acting set a bar that had not yet been achieved especially in her iconic role as Gilda.

Furthermore, it’s widely known that Rita unfortunately suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease for more than 20 years which may have been brought out earlier in her life due to some of the traumatic experiences she endured. Rita became the first public face of Alzheimer’s. Due to her high profile, there has been a dramatic increase in Alzheimer’s research funding and every year in her honor, the Alzheimer’s Association holds a gala in her honor. In 2019, the gala raised $1 million for Alzheimer’s research.

The gala continues to raise awareness and honors the life of Rita Hayworth in tandem. The official designated color for Alzheimer’s awareness is purple (violet), which is no surprise to me because of how violets are connected to meaning of love. However, this color was designated for political reasons: red + blue = purple, because this disease should never be politicized as it affects anyone regardless of their political affiliation.

In so many ways, the connections between Rita’s pinup role as America’s “Love Goddess” in WWII and her experience suffering from Alzheimer’s, Rita was a great unifier. Lack of unity and agreement… isn’t this all part of the great paradox of the political issues that we all face and let ego disavow us from shared agreement? The real answer is peace and love, regardless of which side you think you are on.

“She had an unusual combination of an innocence and an experience… a power and a vulnerability.” – Martin Scorsese

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