Both ArtificeLux and I are intrigued by myths, fairytales, planets, and legends of the gods and goddesses. We love discovering new stories and talking about the more horrifying aspects -- almost always involving some sort of violence toward women -- and reimagining a better ending, where the perpetrators meet a just end. "Wanderers" emerged from this process: a collaborative art project that involved choosing goddesses, assigning them to planets, creating artwork, and (re)telling their stories.
As ancient astronomers catalogued the night sky, they noticed the fixed positions of the majority of stars. Some however, showed up in different places each night. As if roving through the astral heights. The Greeks called these bodies planetes asters, or planetai: “Wandering Stars,” or the simpler “Wanderers.” What else would travel through the heavens than gods and goddesses themselves? And so these planets—these Wanderers—became associated with the pantheon.
This is our version of Aphrodite, Athena, and Persephone.
Aphrodite: Goddess of Love, Beauty, Pleasure, and Passion—Venus
Any mention of planets and goddesses is incomplete without mention of the beautiful Aphrodite. The only goddess to hold a place among the original planets, she is one of the original deities. Technically the daughter of Ouranos and Gaia—Father Sky and Mother Earth—she is equal to any of the Titans, which is interesting, as Cronus, the leader of the Titans and her brother, was instrumental in her birth.
The fact that Aphrodite is the goddess of love is actually kind of strange, given the bizarre sexual violence of her creation. She wasn’t the offspring of any loving embrace, but rather the product of Cronus attempting to overthrow his father Ouranos. During the fight, Cronus hacked off Ouranos’s genitals (why were they flapping about and able to be cut off?) and threw them into the sea, where they frothed as they sank into the depths. (Would this actually happen? Who knows. Also: gross?) Aphrodite was birthed from this frothy—and we imagine, bloody—mess, as evidenced by her name, originating from the word aphros, which means “foam.”
Venus is often called the Morning or Evening Star. Interesting that it’s both, depending on the time of year, and whether it’s leading or trailing the Sun. But it lends a sort of timelessness to the planet. And the design of Aphrodite reflects that—simple, elegant, timeless.
Athena: Goddess of Wisdom, Handicraft, and Warfare—Jupiter
Traditionally, Athena doesn’t have her own planet; only seven planets trace back to antiquity—two of which were the sun and moon—and there are far more gods and goddesses than that. In 1802, once humanity could peer deeper into space, an asteroid was named Pallas, after one of Athena’s many aspects. Which is better than nothing, we suppose. But maybe it should have been otherwise…
Athena’s father, Zeus, had been given a prophecy by good ol’ Gaia and Ouranos that Metis—the woman he had just raped—would bear children wiser than Zeus. Of course, insecure guy like Zeus, in order to prevent being overthrown by this offspring, he ate Metis, thinking it would keep her from giving birth. Seven wives later, Zeus developed such a terrible headache that no amount of Advil—or willow bark, or what have you—could touch it. Finally, in desperation, he asked someone to cleave his head open with an axe to relieve the pressure. Out leapt Athena, the prophesied child, fully grown and armed. The myth says that Athena went on to become the favored child of Zeus, the protector of Athens, the victor over Poseidon in a game of who’s better, and an all-around badass.
We feel there’s a gap in this patriarchal story (just like there was a gap in Zeus’s head) that begs revision. Upon leaping from the prison of living inside Zeus’s skull—a terrible place, by all estimations—she should have taken off Zeus’s head. For herself, for her mother, and for all the other women Zeus raped. And thus, we have given her Zeus’s throne in the sky—Jupiter.
Persephone: Goddess of the Underworld—Moon
Persephone was the daughter of Zeus (uh oh) and Demeter. She had the bad luck of attracting the deadly gaze of Hades, who having decided he wanted her, went to her father to discuss his needs (as you do). Zeus knew Demeter wouldn’t agree to the union, so he suggested that Hades simply abduct Persephone (as you do). Hades didn’t have to be told twice, and just like that, Persephone was gone. Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, was so grief-stricken that the earth went barren. Years of winter and famine went by until Zeus was finally forced by the outcry of the starving people to compel Hades into returning Persephone. Hades did so, but not before tricking Persephone into having to return to the underworld for part of every year. Her absence from this world is called winter.
Persephone was never associated with a planet or asteroid. But some ancient cultures believed that the souls of the dead were held in the atmosphere around the moon, the ruler of the night. Thus we have elevated Persephone to the moon. From there, we’d like to think she’ll be in a better position to both end Hades and watch Athena overthrow Zeus, ridding the Pantheon of the poster children for worst husband and father ever.