The Lady of Wild Things is here
In honor of Women's month, I chosen to honor one of mythology's greatest feminists. Artemis is the daughter of Zeus and Leto. She is the elder twin of her brother, Apollo. She is Goddess of the Hunt, Childbirth and Moonlight. Artemis was born one day ahead of Apollo on the isle of Ortygia. Artemis' mother, Leto, gave birth to Artemis after a short and painless labor. But then Leto's labor for Apollo continued, with her contractions growing weak and painful. She then aided her mother to Delos. Moved to compassion, the infant goddess Artemis, born only a few minutes earlier, became her mother's midwife and delivered her twin brother Apollo with the help of the Goddess Eileithyia. You could say that, of all the Greek goddesses, the goddess Artemis was literally born to serve as a nurturer and protector!
The Goddess Artemis is always responsive to the needs of the vulnerable and the suffering. She is quick to defend the powerless from unjust treatment at the hands of the Olympian patriarchy; it is not surprising that in current times Artemis is seen as the "feminist" goddess.
Even as a small child the Great Goddess Artemis was decisive.
When Zeus asked Artemis what presents she wanted for her third birthday she responded without hesitation that she wanted six things:
- to be allowed to live without having to be distracted by love and marriage (Eternal Chastity)
- a bow and arrow just like her brother's
- a hunting costume and freedom from having to dress up like a lady
- the job of bringing light into the world
- sixty young nymphs to be her companions and to help care for her hunting dogs, and
- all the mountains on the earth to live on
Zeus was amused by her intelligent and happily granted the little goddess Artemis her wishes. Even at this tender age it was clear that Artemis was going to be the most independent of the goddesses, one who thrived on challenges!
Even though Artemis had sweet and loving beginnings, and indeed, she could love most intensely, she could also be very cold and unforgiving. This is a very god-like trait that every god and goddess (with the exclude of Lady Hestia) has, at some point, displayed. One well-known story of her chilly personality has to do with the hunter Actaeon. The shorter version is Artemis had just had a long day of hunting, and was sweaty and gross, and ready for a nice bath. This was deep in the woods in a sacred pool, and it was well hidden and wasn't very likely that anyone would come upon her. But people of Actaeon's family had a history of bad luck, and he did just that. Now, every man knows that if you see a naked goddess (unless it is Aphrodite, or she invites you to see her naked) you run away, and PRAY that she doesn't notice. But either Actaeon wasn't very bright or he was so enraptured by her beauty that he didn't move. What he did was stare. Bad idea Artemis heard him, turned around, and in fury threw water at him. As the three droplets hit him, he was transformed into a stag. At that, Artemis whistled for his hounds, and they ripped their unfortunate master apart.
In Greek mythology Artemis, despite her "wildness" (her refusal to conform to conventional ways or tradition) and her fierce independence, was depicted as one of the compassionate, healing goddesses. Of all the Greek goddesses, she was the most self-sufficient, living life on her own terms, comfortable both in solitude and in holding the reins of leadership.
Meet the hunters