Thursday, May 28, 2015

Hera: Goddess of the Sacred Marriage

Hera: Queen of Heaven





Let us sing now of Hera, the women's goddess,
she who rules from her throne of gold.
Let us sing now of the queen of gods.
Let us sing now of the most beautiful goddess.
There is no one more beloved than you,
womanly Hera, no one we honor more.
-Homeric hymn


Patriarchy has rewritten most of the stories of the ancient goddesses, but the Great Goddess they maligned the most was Hera and her gift of partnership. Known to us from Greek mythology as the vengeful and jealous wife of their supreme god Zeus, Hera, the Queen of the Gods, is the Goddess of Marriage, women, childbirth and family. Hera was also worshiped as the Roman goddess Juno, and the month of June (the most popular month for weddings) is named in her honor.

Hera was the Queen of Heaven, a powerful goddess in her own right long before her marriage to Aryan Zeus, the mighty king of the Olympian gods.  Hera ruled over the heavens and the Earth, responsible for every aspect of life. Hera's power was enormous. She knew all, and she was absolutely just. All seeing, all pervasive, she ruled the stars and the winds. This included control of the seasons and the weather, indicating her more cosmic attributes, since it is the movements of the Earth, Sun, Moon and planets that create the seasons and cosmic weather. 
Hera’s all seeing eyes are symbolized by her sacred bird, the peacock. Peacocks symbolize wise vision or watchfulness, integrity, nobility, guidance and protection. In the myth, the giant Argus was Hera’s watchman. He had 100 eyes so he never fully went to sleep. Argus was called lord of the herd and means lord of the land. (Hera was also a cow goddess like her Egyptian sister goddess Hathor). Argus was Hera’s steward. When she set him to guard Io, the great heifer whom Zeus desired, he was killed by Hermes, who enchanted his eyes to sleep so he could kill him. In tribute to her loyal servant, Hera put his eyes into the tail of her totem, the peacock.

Hera’s orchards were the resting placed of the exalted dead. It’s interesting that the peacock is also associated with the Phoenix, the bird of resurrection and rebirth. The Garden of the Hesperides was given to Hera by Mother Gaia as a wedding gift when Hera accepted Zeus as her husband. Hera’s sacred garden or orchard provided the Olympian Gods with the golden apples of immortality. According to ancient Greek mythology eating one of the golden apples could made a mortal human immortal. As the Great Goddess, Hera presided over all births—so this aspect of rebirth is also hers, for if our souls do get reborn over and over again, we are truly immortal.
Honoring her deep capacity for nurturing the world, her name translates as the Great Lady, referring not only to the power of Mother Earth but also of the Moon and the heavens. Our word galaxy comes from the Greek word gala meaning mother's milk. Legend has it that the Milky Way was formed from the milk spurting from the breasts of Hera, Queen of Heaven, as she feed her hero-son. 
 
Hera Teleia, the Universal Mother and Creatrix sat in the heavens with the Earth at her feet nursing her infant son Heracles. As she sat in contentment watching her son, her milk let down in her breast. She watched as Heracles suckled eagerly at this new abundance and she began to laugh. Heracles let go and watching her, began to giggle. As they both laughed together her exposed breast sprayed milk across the heavens and formed what we call the Milky Way.
While Greek myths tell us of Hera’s hatred of the hero Hercules (his Roman name, while his original Greek name was Heracles, the ‘glory of Hera’), perhaps the real story is that he was originally Hera’s son and the 12 labors that she set for him were his initiations into higher consciousness, as represented by the 12 signs of the zodiac. As a matriarchal goddess, it would be Hera’s responsibility to bring men to higher consciousness and individuation. 
 
In Greek myth, Heracles’ mother is Alcmene and she is described by the writer Hesiod as, “the tallest, most beautiful woman, with wisdom surpassed by no person born of mortal parents. It is said that her face and dark eyes were as charming as Aphrodite’s, and that she honored her husband like no woman before her.” That could very well be a description of Hera herself, especially the honoring of her mate part, since she’s the Goddess of Partnership. 


 
Hera is portrayed as a stunningly beautiful, regal woman, even topping the beauty of Aphrodite. Hera took great pride in her looks. Her sandals, chariot, and throne were all of pure gold. She wore a high, cylindrical crown, the polis, which was an axis or pole, which would make her the World Tree or center for her people.

Hera’s real power was very different from the picture we have of her from Homer and other male writers. For one thing, Hera’s temples were some of the earliest built in Greece, dating back to 800BCE. The greatest and earliest enclosed, free-standing temple to Hera was the Heraion of Samos, while on the Greek mainland Hera was worshipped as Argive Hera at her sanctuary that stood between the city-states of Argos and Mycenae. At Hera’s temple at Olympia, Hera's seated statue was older than the warrior figure of Zeus that accompanied it. Hera was the Great Goddess before Zeus and his Olympians arrived on the scene.

In ancient times Hera was revered as the only Greek goddess who accompanied a woman through every step of her life. Hera blessed and protected a woman's marriage, bringing her fertility, protecting her children, and helping her find financial security. Because no matter what the Aryan invaders believed about marriage and the role of women, Greek women still had an example of feminine power and leadership in Hera.

These aspects of a woman’s life would certainly be the values around which a matriarchal society that honored the feminine would evolve. Unfortunately, patriarchy would not let Hera retain her power as the leader of the community or the marriage, giving her lip service as Queen of the Gods, but making Zeus the real power.

Relationships and partnerships are all sourced in Hera’s archetypal energy. And when these energies are out of balance, bad things happen. This has been the source of most of our marital issues—the domination of the masculine and subjugation of the feminine—the imbalance of power between men and women. We are discovering that in a matriarchal society, women and men were seen as equals. Women did not dominate men in the same way that patriarchy encourages men to dominate and violate women.



In almost every story about Hera, we see a goddess jealous of Zeus’ lovers and children, determined to destroy both lover and mother. We hear that Hera curses the pregnant Leto so that she can’t give birth on the mainland or any island, and prevents the midwife coming to her to stop the births of Artemis and Apollo. We hear how she tricks Zeus’ lover Semele into demanding to see Zeus in all his godly glory, ending her life although Zeus saves her son Dionysus. Hera supposedly turned another lover, Lamia, Queen of Libya, into a monster and murdered their children.

And yet, Hera is the goddess not only of marriage but also of childbirth and family. It seems to me that there’s some double-speak going on here. The very magic of Hera is withheld from the women Zeus desires and the children they conceive? That is not the way of the Great Mother. That is the way of patriarchy.

Perhaps these stories are a reflection of the fact that since Hera was a great goddess of the matriarchal society in Greece before the Aryan’s gods were forced upon her, her jealousy and hatred was directed at the patriarchal form of marriage—including ownership of the children—these Aryans brought with them. Perhaps Hera’s jealousy was really rage at what this patriarchal culture was doing to her sister priestesses, goddesses and women.

Perhaps Hera’s continuing rage is her unwillingness to give in to this unbalanced form of relationship. If so, she’s my HERA!

Hera, Great Mother Goddess of the Sacred Marriage


 

Hera was the Goddess of the Moon, revered as the Virgin, her daughter/self Hebe, as the Mother/partner Teleia, and as the Crone Hekate. She was honored by her people with festivals and games similar to those of the Olympics and her mysteries were honored by women, for her true concern was women. Although most of Hera’s stories portray her as the Matron, the queenly figure of power and authority, Hera exemplified the different aspects of partnership as the Maiden, the Wife and the Widow or Divorced One. So we see that Hera is concerned with all aspects of partnership, especially the sacred marriage.

Hera most especially embodied the energy of the Full Moon, and she was called ‘the Perfect One’. As her partner, Zeus was called ‘the Perfector’, the energy that is supposed to bring to perfection the awareness of the Full Moon. The Full Moon brings us awareness of the issues in our lives. When the goddess’ partner does not fulfill his function, there is trouble. The Greek stories of Hera’s jealousy and rage give us a picture of a troubled marriage, which arises from the basic inequality between men and women under patriarchy. And of course, this inequality still persists today. 

 

Partnership entails issues of where the appropriate boundaries are with another person, i.e., how much sharing is appropriate versus holding back. When partners refuse to ‘perfect’ each other, there are always issues of bitterness and jealousy, or projected authority and control onto the other person, and this lack always affects our intimacy needs. Women today are feeling this lack of true intimacy with their partners, which so often leads to divorce. Patriarchy has not helped men to be ‘the Perfector’ of their woman’s needs and insights. 

The way to heal this outer inequality is to first heal it within ourselves. The sacred marriage between the Divine Feminine and Masculine, between right-brain feminine consciousness and left-brain masculine consciousness cannot take place if our rational intellect does not listen to and complete/perfect what the feminine imagination brings up to consciousness. We have to make sure that feminine, right-brain consciousness is the foundation while masculine, left-brain consciousness serves to manifest what is needed.

Hera’s partnership gifts to us are diplomacy, tact, cooperation, and mutual trust. When we own our freedom and confidently believe in our own equality, her gifts draw true partners into our lives. In owning ourselves, we can accept another’s truth or opinion without having to control the outcome, and we can honor and support others in their choices and decisions.

Hera teaches us to be our own authority, to own our womanly instincts and to hope for that partner who will perfect us!



Prayers to Hera

Mother of showers and winds,
from thee alone, producing all things, mortal life is known:
all natures share thy temperament divine, and
universal sway alone is thine,
with sounding blasts of wind, the swelling sea
and rolling rivers roar when shook by thee.
Come, blessed Goddess,
famed almighty queen, with aspect kind, rejoicing and serene.
-Orphic Hymn 16 to Hera


I praise you, great Hera
Fair bride of mighty Zeus,
Mother of stout Ares
And skillful Hephaistos
Beautiful queen who walks
Olympos’ golden halls.
Magnificent temples are yours,
Glorious Goddess;
With libations and festivals
Are you honored,
Hera, with your fathomless eyes,
Your even gaze,
Your measured step, your poise
And grace beyond compare.
To each wedding day you bring joy,
Most honored one;
By your will do lovers join
In lawful marriage,
As partners form a household,
Begin a family.
Brilliant and strong-willed
Defender of marriage,
Great Hera, I honor you
And ask your blessing.



Stately Hera, glorious queen
Of fair Olympos,
Comely you are,
Your shining beauty unsurpassed.
Great daughter of Kronos,
Defender of cities,
Deep-eyed goddess,
Chosen bride of thundering Zeus,
Mighty guardian
Of the marriage oath and bond,
Graceful one, vital one,
I praise and honor you.
Sublime Hera, swift of thought,
Certain of action,
I pray to you. Grant me
Strength of will, o goddess,
Help me to know my worth,
To act with confidence
And passion, to risk wisely,
To freely speak my mind.
Bless my marriage bed,
My vows, my devotion.
Peerless Hera, watchful one,
I ask your favor.



Glorious Hera, fair one, noble one,
Beautiful Hera with eyes as deep and full
As any well, as bright as distant stars,
As clear as the cloudless sky, I praise you.
Peerless Hera, queen of high Olympos,
Chosen bride of thundering Zeus, only you
Could match his might, his wit, his every step.
Dear Hera, guardian of marriage, of love
Between partners, of constancy, of faith
And of faithfulness, your blessings you give
To those who hold together against the world;
Who build together a family, a haven,
A life; who grow together into a fond
Old age, ever ardent, ever devoted.
Shining Hera, sublime goddess, I honor you.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Gaia: The Ancient Earth Mother




       

In celebration of this 45th Earth Day, I would like to acknowledge the ancient Greek Goddess of the Earth, Gaia.
The Greeks saw her this way:

The Mother of us all
the oldest of all
hard,
splendid as rock

Whatever there is that is of
the land
it is she
who nourishes it,

It is the Earth
that I sing.

Hesiod's Theogony is an ancient story about the creation of the world by the Greek Earth Mother, Gaia.   First there was Chaos, and then appeared "broad-bosomed" Earth, who bore, first of all and as her equal, the starry Sky, Ouranos.  Then She bore the great mountains, valleys, plains and the Sea, and after that She mated with Ouranos and bore many children, among whom were the Titans and Titanesses, the ancestors of the Olympian divinities, who represented the 'titanic' forces of the earth.  Yet, although Ouranos came every night to mate with his wife, Gaia, from the very beginning he hated the children whom Gaia bore him.  As soon as they were born, he hid them and would not let them come out into the light.  He hid them in the inward hollows of the Earth, and it is said that he took pleasure in this wicked deed.
            The goddess Gaia groaned under this affliction, and felt herself oppressed by her inner burden.  Therefore she devised a stratagem.  She brought forth gray iron and made a mighty sickle with sharp teeth.  Then she took counsel with her sons and daughters, asking who would avenge her for this wicked deed.  Only Kronos (Saturn) took courage and agreed to act on her behalf.  So Gaia rejoiced, and hid Kronos in the place appointed for the ambush, giving him the sickle and telling him her plan.  And when Ouranos came at nightfall, inflamed with love and covering all the Earth, his son thrust out his left hand and seized his father.  With his right hand he took the huge sickle, quickly cutting off his father's manhood, and cast it behind his back into the sea.
            Gaia received in her womb the blood shed by her spouse, and gave birth to the Erinyes - the strong ones - and to other creatures.  The father's genitals fell into the sea, and it mixed with the foam and gave birth to Aphrodite.  Since that time, the sky has no longer approached the earth for nightly mating.
           
As with any story, let this one work on your heart and your imagination.  The world is recreated in each moment.  That’s amazing.  So it stands to reason that we too go through times when our whole world is created anew.  That’s when Gaia can be our guide. This is a perfect time to understand how creation works, because with the strong astrological aspects going on for the past few years, we are ready for a new story.   We are all in the process of creating a new life for ourselves.

So with Gaia’s help, let’s look at what she has to teach us about the process of creation.  Just as the Earth gives birth to the whole world, our experience of the Earth and our personal relationship with nature gives birth to our own world-view.  Gaia’s myth says that first there is chaos, or nothingness, and then there is Earth, or form.   This implies that within chaos there are inherent forms.  Each moment of chaos has shapes within it.  
            Admittedly, it is very hard for most of us to imagine living within the chaos, for we are troubled by any confusion in our lives. But this image also warns us that there is a need to allow some chaos, for there is always the danger that we will try to get rid of the confusion too quickly, thereby losing whatever new forms are about to emerge from it.  The very nature of creativity entails chaos and times of daydreaming, as any artist will tell you.  Joseph Campbell said that "Until you are willing to be confused about what you already know, what you know will never grow bigger, better, or more useful."
            There are fallow periods in our lives and in our days when nothing much seems to happen.  (Oh, how hard that is on our masculine, left-brain consciousness!)  What do we do with the fact that the very nature of our being is chaotic?  We create ourselves and our reality each moment!  Those moments do contain the chaos of imminent creation, because each moment asks us to make choices out of our free will.


 Ouranos, Gaia’s lover and father of her children, symbolizes the Divine Plan before manifestation, the cosmic laws that order the Universe, the urge for perfection, the ideal vision of life.  It’s very hard for the Ideal to manifest in all its perfection.  Therefore, like Ouranos, that first masculine consciousness who takes pleasure in the feminine but rejects the fruits of their union, we may too quickly impose a form, an agenda on our chaos; the 'shoulds' and 'oughts' of our lives are imposed too readily onto our inner and outer chaos and children.  Perhaps this myth explains why our modern masculine consciousness has such a hard time giving over power to feminine consciousness: the masculine likes order and control and loses itself too readily in the chaotic processes of creation, which is the work of right-brain feminine consciousness.
            There is always a tension and antagonism between the creative idea and its manifestation.   Overwhelmed by the power of our ideal vision, our own creativity (which is of the Earth) rebels and might retaliate – because of time constraints, day to day pressures or just plain giving up under the pressure (Saturn/Kronos as worldly authority and time and constriction) – by cutting off the source of inspiration, our creative imagination.  


            There is also the new life that grows spontaneously from within our inner chaos.  This is the mystery of continuous creation we need to open ourselves to.  This is the mystery of Spring, of new life that comes out of seeming death.  Our directed, goal-oriented, reasonable ego-consciousness hates mystery, and is afraid of the creativity of feminine consciousness because it is wild and passionate, unpredictable and chaotic, and often demands the death of old, worn-out ego ideals before it can create something new.  Perhaps this is why Ouranos feared to let his children out, for then he would have had to change and adapt, and not live in absolutes.   We all need to face our fears as well as our creativity and our desires.  Can we let the forms and the images that are inherent within us come into the light of day?  Can we allow them a place in our lives so we can be co-creators of our lives?  There is so much potential within each one of us if we can only allow it to gestate in the chaos.
            To begin to do this, let’s re-learn how to mother ourselves, which is essentially to give birth to ourselves.  If we can accept the instinct to mother as a grounding and nurturing instinct, we need to also accept that sometimes the instinct will be to jump into the dark abyss of Chaos.  If we can do this, we might discover a more fulfilling and creative way to live life.
            Here is a dream of the Goddess as Mother, a dream that asks the dreamer to accept deep love and mothering from her inner dark Goddess.  When she accepts this nurturing, she is restored.  She is a beautiful woman and the whole universe is hers!

I am an infant, lying alone in the grass.   A great Being picks me up.  She is huge and black skinned.  She has a beautiful face and large soft breasts.  She has the kindest smile I have ever seen.  She holds me and sits down on the great stone steps of an alabaster temple.  She nurses me with the milk of human kindness.  I grow into a woman.  We are dressed in the most beautiful garments.  I have on a rose madder color robe and she has on an ultramarine robe with small silver stars on it.  It is the entire universe. 

The Great Goddess Gaia will nurture us if we honor her every day.  This is the most important thing we can do this Earth Day.
Most ancient cultures that lived close to the Earth - the Celts, the Aborigines, the Native Americans, and Western culture itself until the sixteenth century - revered Earth as the Mother.  They knew they were made from the dust of this Earth, that they shared this Earth with the other animals, the trees, the rivers and seas.  They knew that they were part of the Great Round of Nature, one with all the other works of the Mother.  They knew that just as the animals gave up their lives to feed and nourish human beings, so too, human beings gave back their lives to the Great Mother when death took us.  They understood the wisdom and necessity of the cyclic processes of Her mysteries, and they lived within that cycle of gestation, birth, death and regeneration as in the protective circle of a mother's arms.  For them, the Earth was animate and divine; She set the rhythms of life for all Her children.  She was the Divine Nourisher and Sustainer, giving humans beautiful children and plentiful harvests; She was also the Divine Destroyer, taking back Her own.  She was, and is, the bedrock and foundation of all that draw their life from Her.
We modern people need to honor our Mother Earth.  We need to consciously live in tune with her cycles and in connection with all her children.  We need to come back into resonance with her pulse.  And then we will be willing to listen to her wisdom.
The Native Americans treasured the wisdom of the Earth.  Luther Standing Bear, a Lakota (Sioux) medicine man, wrote:

           The Lakota was a true Naturist - a Lover of Nature.  He loved the earth and all things of the earth, the attachment growing with age.  The old people came literally to love the soil and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power.  It was good for the skin to touch the earth and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with bare feet on the sacred earth.  Their tipis were built upon the earth and their altars were made of earth.  The birds that flew in the air came to rest upon the earth and it was the final abiding place of all things that lived and grew.  The soil was soothing, strengthening, cleansing and healing.
            That is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its life-giving forces.  For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly; he can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him. . . .
            Kinship with all creatures of the earth, sky and water was a real and active principle.  For the animal and bird world there existed a brotherly feeling that kept the Lakota safe among them and so close did some of the Lakotas come to their feathered and furred friends that in true brotherhood they spoke a common tongue.
            The old Lakota was wise.  He knew that man's heart away from nature becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too.  So he kept his youth close to its softening influence.

Blessed Be!
Cathy

Friday, March 13, 2015

Artemis: Ancient Mother and Lady of the Wilderness


Homeric Hymn to Artemis


I sing of bright Artemis with her golden arrows;
The sacred maiden, deer-huntress, showering arrows
I bless you, holy Virgin, great sister of Apollo
He with his golden sword.
In the mountain of shadow and peaks of wind
She delights in the chase, she arches her bow of solid gold
She lets fly arrows that moan
The peaks of lofty mountains tremble,
the forest of darkness screams
with the terrible howling of wild beasts
Fleeing in terror. 
The whole earth shakes;
Even the teeming seas,
In and out she darts, her heart undaunted
Killing, killing, killing—
Animals of every kind.
Then, when her great appetite is satisfied,
Her love of the chase appeased,
She sets aside, unstrung, her mighty bow.
Now she seeks the grassy slopes of Delphi,
Her brother, dear Apollo’s splendid hall
And there calls up the Graces and the Muses:
Her bow unstrung, her arrows put aside,
She dons a lovely dress,
And now she leads a sacred dance
With songs to Leto of the fair ankles—
Leto, who bore such children
As the world has never seen!
Supreme in act, supreme in wisdom.
Eminent of gods.

Homeric Hymn to Artemis
(Jennifer and Roger Woolger, Trans)


While the Greeks have given us a picture of Artemis as a lithe young woman, master archer and hunter, ever young and virginal, leading the dance of the Muses, her origins go back to before the founding of Greece.

Artemis seems to be the embodiment of a form of the goddess from Paleolithic times, the cultural Stone Age period (the earliest chipped stone tools) stretching from 2.4 million years ago to around 15,000 to 11,500 years ago in western Asia and southern Europe.

This means she is a very ancient goddess indeed!  She probably originated as a hunting goddess before there were agricultural centers in Asia Minor. 

Hunting cultures are very in tune with the cycles of Nature and of the animals they follow.  They have to know the animals’ habits and migration patterns. They live in Nature’s rhythms.  Ancient hunters achieved a state of consciousness called participation mystique in which they had a mystical connection to nature and the animals they hunted.  This connection helped them in their hunting.

The Huntress

Just as the hunters knew themselves to be part of the great round of nature, they believed that they also participated in the death of those they hunted.  In those times, killing an animal was a disruption of the primal unity of nature and the sacred bond had to be restored so the people could continue to live in harmony with Nature and with their own being. 

This helps us understand how Artemis can be Mistress of Animals and yet also take great delight in hunting and killing them.  She is both life and death, and ancient hunters knew that they participated in this play of hunter and hunted, that they could also find their death on the hunt.  In living so close to the natural world, they felt the unity of life and death, and were always respectful toward the animals they hunted and were sustained by. 

In many stories, Artemis seeks vengeance against people who have transgressed her natural order.  It reminds us that she is a deity of both light and darkness.  Not to be trifled with!

Artemis as Bear Mother

Artemis is especially associated with the bear; the root of her name is ‘art’ which is the Indo-European root word for bear.  In the very earliest Greek stories about Artemis, she is a she-bear with her cubs.  Bears are known for their fierce protection of their cubs as well as their tenderness for them.  At some point, Bear became a very ancient form of the Great Mother.


In Greece, Artemis was worshipped as the Bear Mother in her sanctuary at Brauron.  Young Athenian girls below the age of 9 were dedicated to Artemis and called her bear-cubs.   As children, they went to live in the wilderness, dressed in bearskins and danced in the goddess’ temple.  This was probably a time when the girls were given their freedom to follow their own wild nature as well as to learn about the blood mysteries of hunting associated with death, sacrifice and renewal. By this time, hunting and gathering had given way to an agricultural society and a civilization that in many ways had lost touch with Artemis’ wildness and her wilderness.

As with any image of the Great Mother, we look first to her loving and sheltering embrace, often forgetting that this ancient Mother also embodied the dark aspects of the Divine Feminine as well. Her rules were Earth’s laws.  Sacrifice and death were preludes to new life.  Even though Homer and later Greeks tried to make her a passive young girl who obeyed her daddy and played with her bow, the truth is that Artemis was the most popular Greek goddess, more so than Aphrodite, Demeter or Athena.  Patriarchy always puts down power harshly as we see in our politics today.  But the women remembered who Artemis really was and went to re-connect with her energies. 

“Artemis was the most popular goddess in Greece, but the Artemis of popular belief was quite a different person from the proud virgin of mythology, Apollo’s sister.  Artemis is the goddess of wild Nature; she haunts the woods, the groves, the luscious meadows.  There the ‘rushing Artemis’ hunts and dances with her attendant nymphs.  She protects and fosters the young of animals and growing human children.  In her cult occur orgiastic dances and the sacred bough. … A favorite subject of archaic art is the figure … called the ‘Mistress of Animals’ a woman holding in her hands four-footed animals or birds of different kinds.” (A History of Greek Religion, p. 28.)  

Artemis of Ephesus
We still see remnants of this more ancient powerful Mother Goddess in the statue of Artemis at Ephesus in Turkey.  There is a huge statue of her with many breasts as well as images of animals on her skirt.  This was the Great Goddess of the New, Full and Waning Moons: Maiden, Mother and Crone.

So what should we make of the Greek version of Artemis?  I’ve found that many myths retold from a patriarchal point of view still provide us with an understanding of the energies being invoked.  So let’s take a look.

The Virgin Huntress

When patriarchal thinking broke up the many aspects of the Great Goddess into separate goddesses, the Greek Artemis became the slender, maidenly Moon goddess, with her hunting dogs and her great bow. While she no longer symbolized the entire lunar cycle, Artemis came to represent the New Moon, the beautiful crescent of light than hangs in the western sky.  The other two phases of this Triple Goddess became Selene as Full Moon and Hekate as waning Moon. 

Artemis/Diana

One of only three ‘virginal’ goddesses (Hestia and Athena), Artemis is seen here in relationship to her twin brother, Apollo, god of Light and the Sun. So even though Artemis is still a Virgin (which really means belonging to yourself/self-aware), she is continually connected with her twin brother. 

As the Moon, she gets her light from the Sun, connecting both to the monthly lunar cycle.  They make a strong pair, both sure of themselves, both attuned to their own realms while still connected.  Artemis’ consciousness is our wild right-brain knowing while Apollo definitely represents left-brain functioning. Two lights in the sky—two types of consciousness to process life with. 

Artemis’ mother was the Titan, Leto, meaning she was an ancient goddess before the Greek pantheon took over.  So Zeus was from a newer generation of gods, and he wanted Leto’s power, so he pursued her (some say raped her) and got her pregnant.   Leto means "the obscure" or "concealed," meaning not a physical power but a quiescent and invisible divinity, from whom issued the visible divinity with all its’ splendor and brilliancy.  ‘Leto’s whole legend seems to indicate nothing else but the issuing from darkness to light, and a return from the latter to the former.’ (www.theoi.com)  

She had some power that Zeus wanted.  In a general way, Leto sounds like the description of the quantum field, the field of possibilities that gives rise to form—the realm of the archetypes or natural laws of life.  Which once again shows how deep-seated an archetypal presence Artemis is for humanity.  She symbolizes our wild nature and our deep connection to Earth and her cycles. 

As our deep connection to Nature, Artemis embodies the energies of the wild and remote, lonely places of Earth: the solitude of the forests and mountains, the tumbling stream weaving its way down a mountain, the secret meadow blooming with a thousand colors, rough bare land and rocks which harbor deep caves.  She knows ecstasy and death, delight in her body and hardship, quiet and movement.

As an ancient feminine archetype, Artemis is the archetypal energy of Nature’s flowing rhythms.  As the Crescent Moon, she is the energy that sets us hunting for the new impulse of life growing within us, that gives us joy in the pursuit of our goals, and who is there at the end of the hunt as we give birth to our new life, for she is also the Midwife.

As the Divine Huntress, Artemis can help us direct (her arrows) our energies to the new possibilities arising around us; she can kill off those animal instincts that won’t serve us at this stage.  She protects those animals and instincts that are needed to sustain this new life.

As she protects the new life in us, she is also around when we’re ready to birth it into the world.  Artemis is also the Goddess of Childbirth.  The birth is never certain, and women died.  But others lived and thrived.  

In the ancient story of her birth, her birth is painless and then she assists her mother in delivering her brother Apollo after 9 days of hard labor.  Leto, the unseen and unformed, gave shape to a new masculine energy.   We know that 9 is the number of completion, of the end of a task or cycle; so this goddess’ labor brought forth not only Artemis, Nature’s perfect child but after 9 days of cooking and shaping and spelling, these two goddesses were equally responsible for the transformation of the masculine energies into a new form—Apollo, god of the Sun, of the rational, of Delphi’s oracle.  The best form they could create to carry on life at that time.  A more rational consciousness began to take shape in Greece over time.  Perhaps birthed by these Goddesses?

Artemis is goddess of the Hunt, of childbirth, of Wild Places, of the Moon; she is the goddess who leads the dance, whether out in wild nature, where she roamed with her nymphs and danced through the forests and meadows or at her brother Apollo’s prophetic Temple of Delphi.  She dances the rhythms of Nature that she learned out in the wilds.  She brings another rhythm to the music of her brother.  She doesn’t let women forget our wildness, our huntress, our caretaker—she holds the space for our wild knowing.

Artemis is certainly the goddess who calls us to protect our national parks and wild places.  May she come to our aid as we stop the energy companies from ruining our pristine wilderness.  So Mote It Be!



Here is a summery of Artemis’ story.   If you like her, please spend some time with her, studying her stories and embodying her energy. 

Two other children of Zeus rose to take their place among the greatest of Olympians. These were the children of Leto, the beautiful daughter of the original Titans Coeus and Phoebe. Hera was tormented with jealousy of Leto. So the Queen of the Gods sent a serpent after Leto to vex her and to prevent her from finding a place to deliver her babies.
Leto frantically went from place to place, but found no welcome anywhere, since everyone feared incurring the wrath of Hera. She finally found refuge on Ortygia, the island of her sister Asteria.
Ortygia means “quail island.” Asteria, Leto's sister and the mother of the goddess Hecate, had escaped the lecherous pursuit of Zeus by turning herself into a quail and diving into the sea. The island of Ortygia appeared on the spot. After the births of Artemis and Apollo, the island's name changed to Delos, which can mean “famous.” It was renowned as one of the holiest places in ancient Greece.
 This is where she gave birth to Artemis, with no pain or trouble.  Immediately after her own birth, the newborn Artemis helped her mother through nine days of hard labor before she delivered her brother Apollo. Themis, Leto's aunt, took care of the young gods and nourished them on ambrosia and nectar—the food and drink of the gods.
Artemis and Apollo cherished their mother, who had gone through such an ordeal to bring them into the world. Not long after their birth, the giant Tityus attempted to rape Leto in a sacred grove near Delphi. Leto called out the names of her children, who quickly rescued her by showering arrows upon the giant, killing him instantly. For Tityus's offense, Zeus consigned the giant (who was his own son) to eternal torment in the Underworld.
Artemis and Apollo also defended their mother's honor (and perhaps their own pride) when Niobe, the daughter of Tantalus, boasted of having more and better children than Leto. The two killed most (or all) of Niobe's children, leaving Niobe to weep eternally.
Artemis and Apollo remained close to each other forever. Both siblings would become associated with the skill of archery, and they enjoyed hunting together. In addition, both had the power to send plagues upon mortals.
Wild Queendom: Artemis
Artemis grew to become the virgin goddess of the hunt, of wild animals, and of childbirth (due to her participation in the birth of her brother). She and her brother also became the protectors of young children.
When she was just three, Artemis was asked by her father, Zeus, to name any gifts she wanted. Among many others, she named:
1.     A bow and arrows (just like her brother's)
2.    All the world's mountains (as her home and playground)
3.    Just one city (for she preferred to live in the mountains)
4.    Eternal virginity

Zeus gladly provided her with everything she wanted and more. He ordered the Cyclopes to forge a silver bow and fill a quiver with arrows for her. He promised her eternal virginity. Zeus gave her all the mountains as her domain. And he presented her with 30 cities—and named her as guardian of the world's roads and harbors.
Artemis, constantly attended by nymphs, could almost always be found in the mountains she loved. Though she was the guardian of wild animals, Artemis enjoyed nothing more than hunting. Orion, a giant hunter, joined both Artemis and her mother on many of their hunts.
Like most of the Olympians, Artemis reacted strongly whenever she did not receive the honors due her as a goddess. After Apollo had helped Admetus win Alcestis as his bride, for instance, the groom neglected to sacrifice to Artemis at his wedding. Imagine his horror that night when he found his bridal bedchamber teeming with snakes! Admetus quickly followed Apollo's advice and made the necessary sacrifices to the god's sister.
The hunter Orion greatly offended Gaia by boasting that his hunting skill was so great he could kill all of the animals on Earth. Gaia decided to protect her domain by sending a giant scorpion after the hunter. After the scorpion stung and killed Orion, Artemis and Leto prevailed upon Zeus to immortalize him as a constellation—but with the scorpion similarly honored.
King Oeneus of Calydon similarly offended Artemis by forgetting to dedicate the first fruits of the harvest to her one season. Artemis sent a monstrous boar to ravage and terrorize his kingdom. To rid the kingdom of this vicious beast, Oeneus was forced to call on some of the greatest heroes of the age to participate in the hunt.
Actaeon, the son of Autonoe and grandson of Cadmus, offended the goddess by stumbling across her once while she was bathing in the woods. Furious that a mortal had seen her naked, Artemis transformed the hunter into a stag. His own hounds then ripped Actaeon to pieces.
The biggest penalty paid for offending the goddess was that of King Agamemnon of Mycenae, who foolishly boasted that his hunting prowess outstripped even hers. On the eve of the Trojan War, Artemis stranded the Greek fleet with ill winds. To appease her, Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia—though, according to some accounts, the goddess showed mercy at the last minute and substituted a deer on the altar.
Having won the right to eternal virginity from her father, Artemis sometimes found it necessary to fiercely defend it. Buphagus, son of the Titan Iapetus, once tried to rape her, but she shot and killed him. The twin sons of Poseidon, Otus and Ephialtes, also met their doom trying to violate the goddess—and Hera as well. Otus chased after Artemis while Ephialtes pursued Hera. But suddenly a deer—either Artemis herself after a transformation or a real deer sent by her brother Apollo—darted between the two brothers. Distracted, the brothers quickly hurled their spears at it, but it sped away. Otus's spear pierced Ephialtes and Ephialtes' hit Otus—and both giants died instantly.
Artemis required the nymphs who attended her to remain virgins, just as she did. But her father once raped Callisto, a favorite of Artemis's. Hoping to help her escape Hera's notice, Zeus then transformed her into a bear. But Hera—not fooled at all—tricked Artemis into shooting and killing the bear.