AMAZONS at the Moonspeaker
'Artemis was the image of a woman moving through her life and assuming different roles at different times; she was a veritable encyclopedia of feminine possibility.'
The Goddess Artemis is one of the longest lived of divine beings, with a presence in life and religious thought since the Neolithic. Her portrayal as a rather minor Goddess who was asexual, and not truly a part of the community of deities she supposedly belonged to does not match her true nature. In fact, deeper research soon reveals that what Greek mythographers wrote down did not even match what ordinary Greeks believed of her. This is an example of how differently 'scholarship' can remember the past versus what is often condescendingly referred to as 'folklore.' It helps to remember that most scholars, this one included, have their own beliefs and purposes, which are bound to be expressed when they set down myths and narratives. Folklore is a body of knowledge passed down from generation to generation, often by word of mouth. This knowledge tends to be conservative on one hand, maintaining details and events that may seem foolish or unnecessary to outsiders, yet able to absorb and make sense of new information as it is encountered on the other.
As previously implied, Artemis or her ancestor first appeared in the Neolithic. Already she was Lady of the Beasts and Great Mother, winged and surrounded by animals. Symbols like the whorl and the snake rising to the sky were often placed with her or on her clothing, suggesting the encouragement and creation of the flow of energy. A fish with her or over her groin was also a common image, consistent with her connection to water bodies and marshes. Artists in Archaic Greece portrayed her in this way in the 7th and 6th centuries BCE, thousands of years after the earliest appearance of such images in the Neolithic. She was assisted in her work by sixty ocean nymphs and twenty river nymphs, and was clearly expected to control all types of water wherever she was worshipped. The sixty ocean nymphs may even be an alternate version of the Nereids.
Written mythology still records these associations and areas of concern. Lakes, marshes, and rivers were consistently connected with her, as was the ocean. Like Jesus, who was also strongly associated with the fish, she could walk on water. Despite claims that Artemis had no sexual relations, she was called the Mother of the Muses, and was associated with midwifery. The proper continuance of the cycle of life, often illustrated by her work in the forests with her nymphs (priestesses) was always a priority. She was too busy to spend her time at Mount Olympus, fawning to Zeus, or playing petty games with mortal lives.
The worship of Artemis spanned time, space, and vast differences in culture, as can be expected of a Goddess who had developed into a complex, widespread figure so early in time. Parts of her mythology and ceremonies came from Anatolia, North Africa, and later Krete. Accordingly, she was worshipped at Rhodes, in Sicily, Pontius in Galatia, Ephesus, and North Africa. The Etruscans called her Artini, while the Celts called her Agdestis and Art... the same Art who was mother of Robin, god of witches in medieval times. The Amazons built her shrines at Ephesus in Anatolia and Pyrrhichus in Greece. The Grove of Nemi was sacred to her in Latium, under the name of Latone. It was a place where the sacred king was later sacrificed or killed in a duel by a rival, in order to continue the cycle of the year... a late and bloody change from the original pantomime of planting, reaping, and harvest of the crops embodied symbolically by the Moon god. A version of the pantomime is preserved in tales of King Arthur's (the Bear King's) court. Greece may have had its own Grove of Nemi, although it was probably presided over by Nemesis. Later, when most of the sacred groves had been burnt or cut down by Romans and then fanatical Christians, Artemis' followers replaced them with gardens and the Goddess Herself acquired a magical, enclosed garden. The idea had unexpected resonances with medieval concepts of the Virgin Mary and womanhood, expressed in numerous songs and stories as well as the literal enclosed gardens of the very rich. Although these literal gardens often became prisons for the women they were ostensibly meant to protect, the original sense of the enclosed garden as a woman's own inner creative power and potential persisted.
Memory of Artemis' power and freedom persisted despite attempts to blur and fade it, in her naming as Megale Artemis, the Great Artemis or Megisto Artemis, Greatest Artemis. Myths called her a chaste virgin, unnecessary now, but then to be a virgin meant to belong to oneself, to have no outside restraints. As originally conceived of, a virgin could and did have sex. Her followers were remembered as nymphs and Amazons, roaming free in the forests and mountains. All wild animals seemed tame around her, since they understood that she too was wild, and had no desire to cage them. Artemis' throne was covered with a wolfskin, a possible reference to her ability to take the form of the wolf. She was commonly considered the midwife of her supposed brother Apollo.
In fact, his origins are with a different people, in a different part of the world. It is not without good cause that he is associated with regions far to the north as well as west. The great attempt to remove powerful Goddesses in general from human memory has also gutted folklore of details about gods like him. The gods remain stubbornly sketchy where Goddesses can be fleshed out. He is a stock figure among stock figures, a 'typical god.' He does not relate to a man's entire life cycle, the range of roles and interests a man may have in his lifetime. Artemis and Goddesses like her can do so for women, even after centuries of censorship.
Today, Artemis is still seen, especially in the places she started from, ancient Greece and Anatolia, now divided into modern Greece, Turkey, and the Aegean islands. On Zakynthos she appears as a tall woman, while on Chios and Sopolos she is still called Queen of the Mountains, according to Dr. Marija Gimbutas. She still appears at the caves and mountains of the Aegean and Krete. At times she is even seen swimming in the sea. Women patiently climb to the Eileithyian caves on Krete to pour libations, dance, and leave votive offerings. Present day bits of folklore have trickled from these places to the rest of the world, including the nine lives of the cat, derived from the sacred number of her daughters, the Muses. The cat was sacred to her as a beast that is always wild, even when it is 'kept' as a house pet. It also connected her to the Egyptian Goddess Bast.
Three intertwined areas fell under Artemis' power as an elemental force in nature and the authority that demands obedience to instinct. First was the survival of species, which she controlled by seeing to it that each animal died at its proper time. Like Medusa, when she killed she did so in a sacred manner, maintaining the flow of energy from generation to generation. Those who hunted pregnant or young animals Artemis destroyed, preventing further waste and destruction, as in the case of Orion. According to most ancient authors, she did this with arrows of 'sudden, swift' death, which sounds like a poetic description of lightning. Artemis was also connected with sex, reproduction, and birth, three of the most instinctual experiences humans have.
Second was her aspect as destroying crone connecting her with Hekate. In this role she could be seen wearing Hekate's mask, better known as the Mask of Medusa. Leading the nocturnal hunt for the souls of the dead and dying, she was joined by priestesses wearing masks representing hunting dogs. Shuttle and Redgrove connect Artemis as hunter to menstruation and its possible use as a lure by women when they stalked game72.
Artemis was also similar to Hekate in that she was determinedly associated with the Moon from the Middle Ages into the twentieth century, first by male scholars and later by many women working to develop alternatives to christianity. Accordingly she was described as having three Moon aspects and even described as the lunar opposite to solar Apollo.
Artemis was at once a more natural, constant optimistic law, as opposed to the new patriarchal system. Carrying souls from one world to the next, she also carried the memory of a different basis for society than violence and oppression. This was often expressed in literature as the memory of a Golden Age, and the belief that human life could be better.
Third, she was concerned with water and weather, like her Taoist counterpart, Ma Tau P'o. Sailors still carry tokens and perform rituals that can be traced to her as charms to maintain their safety while at sea. For example, beating the bow of a boat with willow branches before going out to sea for the first time in a season. On land, any city dweller or farmer knew the necessity for rain and water from streams and rivers. People can live for considerable periods without food, but will die within days without water. On a clear night, when the Moon's light is brightest corresponds to conditions of low saturation point in the atmosphere. Water vapour is therefore not held in the air as the temperature falls, causing a large amount of dew to condense before sunrise. This is one possible explanation for the translation of Artemis' name as 'high source of water,' although it may be more accurately be translated as 'daughter of the deep.' Another is the symbolic equivalence of arrows and rain.
Artemis could seem cruel, although not often as a War Goddess for Greek mythographers. They preferred a sanitized Goddess who was arbitrary, frightening, and preferably spiteful. It was said that Aphrodite had no power over her, which reflected only Artemis' refusal to consort with men and determined self-rule. Perhaps it began as a more subtle point, that love cannot prevent death.
Yet Artemis is a War Goddess, although not of war as it is often used. Her warriors fought defensive battles, wars for just cause. By doing so, they could draw on her aspect as fierce mother bear, protector of her cubs. The Laodikeans in particular loved to show her fully armed, shield on one arm, her sacred labrys gripped in her left fist. Their wild dances in her honour were a central feature of her worship in any aspect. Artemis was the inventor of the bow, flute, and lyre, all built by similar methods. Not merely a spectator at the dance, she choreographed and participated herself through one of her priestesses.
Untangling Artemis' mythology is made challenging, if not impossible by more than just censorship. Her titles can be explained in two ways: as a Great Goddess who accrued titles which specify her many roles, or as a result of the cultural imperialism of the Greeks. Since the Greeks are not native to the peninsular country now referred to by their name73, they found many strange Goddesses who were alternate visions of the power Artemis embodies. Political and religious power were synonymous, so giving Artemis the names of competing Goddesses as titles served a dual purpose. Various myths reflect this often violent process of assimilation, suggesting this source of Artemis' titles may be predominant.
Artemis' titles connected to animals, the Sun, and instinct-based behaviors can probably be assigned to the first process with confidence. Still others are clearly connected to 'Goddess absorption,' especially when the process was ultimately unsuccessful. An interesting example is the title 'Limnaea' meaning Lady of the Lake74, which does indeed belong to Artemis. 'Lakone' meant the same thing, and was originally a title of Britomartis. Another example is the Goddess still referred to only by her title, Despoena 'mistress' the daughter of Demeter. A wild young Goddess who was free of any overseers, she was a hunter and expert with the bow. She often wore a stag's skin mantle and was accompanied by hunting dogs. Pictures of her also showed her holding two snakes in one hand and a torch in the other. Greek mythographers claimed this was Artemis as a youth, and that Poseidon was her father, having raped Demeter in horse form. This never caught on, since it assumed implicitly that Artemis would grow out of being a nubile forest dweller, which patriarchal Greeks disliked, and forced a parentage on her that was widely ignored. Needless to say, the worshippers of Despoena probably didn't find it convincing either.
Eileithyia was easier to subsume under Artemis' image, for several reasons. She was also pre-Hellenic, a midwife whose totems were horses and dogs. A mother of creation or the force that made it, her aid in labour was invoked by the sacrifice of a dog, meant to convince her to unclasp her hands and uncross her legs, allowing the baby to be born. These similarities led to her near complete disappearance. Nevertheless, long afterwards women still remembered two of her titles, Mogostokos 'Goddess of the pains of childbirth,' and Phytia 'she who stimulates growth.'
Britomartis, Diktynna, and Kallisto all proved indigestible, and their worshippers successfully maintained their identities and legends. Eventually Greek writers had to do the same, although not without changes.
What evidence is there for the difference between how most ancient Greek writers and most ordinary Greeks and various southern European and Anatolian indigenous peoples thought of Artemis? Can they really be divided from each other at all, as has been done here? The keys to these questions are literacy, and how invaders perceive the peoples they encounter.
Literacy is an obvious requirement for a writer, but it was not a generally held skill in ancient Greek society. Instead it was concentrated among a small number of richer, and therefore more leisured people, who were also often male. Such a class usually consists of the invaders and their descendants, and the few indigenous people who have been assimilated75. The belief system of the people outside of this group, which comes to include the poorer descendants of the invaders, and later those who can't afford to train to be scribes, tends to be conservative in terms of religion and tradition. Ideas don't flow easily under such segregated conditions.
Variance between scholarship and folklore is almost inevitable. Invaders typically perceive the peoples they encounter in new lands as inferior. As such, the cultures of these peoples are looked at in a similar light, considered important only insofar as it interferes with the goals of the invaders. This was very much the attitude of Christian missionaries upon meeting Aboriginal Canadians, for example. Such missionaries also tended to regard nature with horror, as something to be tamed and caged. They fully expected Aboriginals to see the world in the same way, and wrote about how Aboriginals thought and believed as if this were the case. While technology, biology, and sheer numbers were not identical in the case of the invasions on the Greek peninsula, a similar mindset was probably held by the people who participated in them.
Artemis was well loved by the ordinary people; her rituals popular and well-attended. Greek mothers called upon her in labour, and to protect their children, certain that she would care for them as she did for wild animals. They continued to worship her as they always had: as a tree, as an aniconic stone, or a simple wooden pillar. She was called the mother of Eros, desire, who was originally a bisexual being. Spartans called her Korythalia, and worshipped her in orgiastic dances, similar to those of the Amazons. Prior to going to war, they sacrificed to her, perhaps as the fierce mother who protects her children from danger. This is another similarity to the Amazons, who worshipped her in this aspect under the name Astateia, also using dance. Their noisy circle dances using clashing shields and swords and stomping feet garner frequent comment and mention even today. They also worshipped Taurian Artemis and Artemis of Ephesus. Greek commentators complained that the Thrakian and Taurian cults were the most brutal, including the sacrifice of men.
A questionable criticism, since these rituals were descended from Neolithic roots, which have yielded no evidence of human sacrifice. Since to worship Taurian Artemis was to pay respect to an overtly frightening figure, perhaps this helped discourage further investigation. Only male animals were probably slaughtered as part of a sacred feast, since few are necessary to any herd of domestic animals. Prior to the domestication of cattle, sheep, and goats, female animals would still rarely have been eaten, because killing pregnant or still fecund animals was often forbidden. The meat was distributed to the population of the village or tribe, with what was inedible or otherwise unusable to humans left for the Goddess. It was considered a sin against her to waste any part of the animal's body.
The mysterious hay wrapped relics taken to Delos by several of Artemis' worshippers only became so after a bit of ancient Greek prudishness. The objects were silver labia or labryses, in recognition of Artemis as the embodiment of femaleness and generative power. In other parts of Greece and Anatolia, she was offered tiny figurines of women giving birth, loom weights, and spindle whorls. Like the Fate Goddesses Athena and Aphrodite, Artemis was considered a weaver of Life and Fate. In fact, Aphrodite's love arrows may just as easily be Artemis'... even the expressions used today for their effects suggest this, from being moonstruck to 'mooning over' someone.
The Arkadian city of Klitor was sacred to Artemis, along with Ephesus. Not only was the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus one of the Seven Wonders of the World, but when Alexander of Makedon had it restored, his popularity soared... despite the fact it was restored with images of male heroes by male workers. Sarmatian76 worshippers of Artemis, whom Greeks commentators referred to by the name Alani77 'hunting dogs' (of their Goddess), named their land Parthia 'Virginland.' To be called a 'son of a bitch' was a recognition of the man's faith, perhaps even a great compliment78. The Scots remembered some of this into the Middle Ages, when Alan was an especially popular name.
In Kappadokia, a Goddess much like Artemis named Perasia had priestesses who could walk unharmed through sacred fires... ancient counterparts to present day firewalkers. They were known for their experiences of ecstasy, a word derived from ekstasis 'standing forth naked' which was how all deities were originally worshipped.
Artemis eventually had many followers of numerous genders. Her priestesses frequently refused to live in patriarchal Greek society and were mythologized as Maenads, nymphs, and so on. The Maenads are particularly interesting because they were meant to explain a phenomenon that Greek men simply could not understand.
Artemis controlled all mountains and the forests on them, and thirty cities besides, which suggests the numerous cities founded by Amazons. It was to the mountains that Maenads went for rituals, or to live. Greek commentators claimed that Dionysus had taken them, yet he was not even a presence where the Maenads preferred to be. Semele, the ecstatic Goddess the Greeks were trying to replace with Dionysus, was. (There will be much more to be said of her in Chapter Six.) The only way Greek men could understand the anger and frustrations of women who finally opted out of Greek society was to believe them to be mad. Surely if society was working for them, it must be working for everyone... a common idea within any elite.
Nymphs, Oreads, Dryads, and so on were the priestesses of Artemis who hunted with her in the forests, dancing and 'frolicking' with her. In fact, they often lived in the mountains as Artemis did herself. They would wear masks to impersonate her hounds, or paint their faces with white gypsum to impersonate Artemis as the Sun. The second practice has long been remembered in the tale of Artemis taking a place among her priestesses, painting her face to match theirs, and then challenging potential molesters to interfere with her priestesses while somehow avoiding her. Often these priestesses were the keepers of shrines by sacred springs or pools like the one at Smyrna, and of sacred caves and groves.
Other priestesses kept the hounds, as Prokris kept Artemis' hound Laelaps. Chosen at the age of nine for service to their Goddess, the priestesses may later have undergone initiatory experiences or prophesied using mugwort or wormwood79. These herbs are sacred to Artemis and deadly if taken in high doses, while wormwood is also addictive. Other sacred plants, such as amaranth, were used for medical problems such as menstrual disorders. Artemis' college of priestesses probably provided healers as well as midwives. The Nine Muses may be a folk memory of the circles of priestesses who tended Goddess temples everywhere. The Karyatids were also temple priestesses, as well as the seven pillars carved in the likeness of women to hold up the temple.
Last, but not least are the quintessential followers of Artemis, the Amazons. Not only did they leave patriarchal societies to live as their Goddess did, free, belonging to themselves alone, many of them had never lived in such a society to begin with. They maintained viable alternatives to patriarchal organization, and their impact persists to the present day as city and temple founders. These places still exist, and the Amazons maintain a hold over popular imagination that is unparalleled by any other group.
It is important to note that worship of Artemis by the Amazons is informed by an older and more complete knowledge of Her. They understood that the name 'Artemis' truly refers to an aspect of the Goddess worshipped exclusively by women. Women could join Amazon tribes permanently, or on a short term basis. To leave home to serve Artemis for a time was once a normal, highly respected act, since the bearing of children and the maintenance of society was the work of warriors.
Artemis was connected to many other Goddesses in myth, often through mutual support or cooperation. She fed her horses on trefoil grown on Hera's land, granting them good health and swiftness80. Artemis and Athena were two co-patrons of the Amazons, Athena's focus being the Amazons of North Africa and southern Greece, Artemis' the Amazons of northern Greece and Thrake. The Amazons of Anatolia often worshipped Cybele, another patron Goddess of the Nation. This was not monolithic or strictly segregated. Overlap and worship of other Goddesses with similar powers was common.
Demeter, Artemis, and Athena all wore the Mask of Medusa, the snake haired, terrifying image of their angry or destroying natures. Medusa and Artemis were both often shown as winged women, flanked with dogs or lions, holding geese or cranes. The Golden Fleece was sometimes said to have come from Artemis, sometimes Athena. More often it was remembered that it came from Hera under her title of Nephele. As the force causing change and personal development, Artemis sent the boar that killed Aphrodite's lover Adonis. However, it is important to note that Aphrodite could take boar form in her own right. Artemis herself has been given several lovers, all female. The most well known of them is Britomartis of Krete.
The story making Leto the mother of Artemis is well known, but smacks of heavy revision. Leto is a Great Goddess and Lady of the Beasts herself, occasionally identified with the Goddess of Ephesus. Phoebe, meaning 'bright shiner,' or 'purifier' is a title of Artemis as Prophet and Themis as Prophet of Delphi. Themis is the personification of natural law, instinct. Her name forms part of Artemis'. Artemis is therefore an emanation of Themis who may also be considered her daughter, in the same fashion as Kore, who can be considered daughter of Demeter or Demeter's younger self. Another translation of Artemis' name already mentioned is 'high source of water.' The sacred spring Kastalia flows from the oracular cave at Delphi down to the Kephissus River. The cave itself is in mountainous territory, about 640 kilometres above the Korinthian Gulf.
Artemis is far more than what is written here. She is too complex to completely define, too much the shapeshifter to present an unchanging face, and too busy growing with her worshippers to be frozen in a few pages of text. Each person's experience of her is.
'But heed now this charge I give you. Speak of me to all your sisters who yet know me not. For though I have come first to you, I come also to all your sisters who dwell with men. For all are equal in my sight and all love is equal in my sight. So go now and tell your sisters of me that they might also tell their brothers... that all may know me. For I am all love and all life.'
For all its confused history and eventual greatness, fueled by its position at a crossroads between North and South, East and West, Artemisian Ephesus had humble beginnings. It began as a tree shrine, set on sheepskins laid between the arms of a stream to protect it from earthquakes by travelling Amazons. Turkish scholars say that the Amazon who ultimately named the city was a warrior-priestess who bore the name Ephesus herself. As a tree divinity, Artemis was closely associated with the bird and pole motif, a sort of artificial tree with a bird perched in it... or the thyrsus, a staff tipped with a pine cone stolen by followers of Dionysus. Amazons often hung her image in a specially chosen tree, most famously in the miracle beech discovered by Myrine and her followers on the southwest slope of Mount Ayasoluk. The image they carried may be the same as the wooden statue with meteor crested crown that graced the roofless naos of the Ephesian temple.
Artemis' worship was respected and accepted by the indigenous people of the area, who considered her to be the same as their own Goddess. Her statue still exists and is justly famous, its torso covered in insect eggs81 representing her concerns with abundance and life. The mellisae 'bees' were her priestesses. The first great temple was eventually built there by Anatolian Amazons who worshipped Cybele in 580 BCE, and Greeks later tried to replace her with Leto. This first temple was on Mount Pion, the city's main cemetery. The base of the mountain was carved with reliefs set inside niches portraying Cybele in her role as protector of the dead, a role Artemis also shared. The base of the mountain was further encircled by a road, around which the Goddess' statue (initially Cybele's, in later times Artemis') was drawn in a cart. Hundreds of worshippers followed the cart, invoking the the Goddess' blessings on the dead and the living and retelling the stories represented by the reliefs. This sanctuary remained active until imperial Roman times.
Two sanctuaries persisted at Mount Pion and another at Mount Ayasoluk for centuries. Those at Mount Pion were paved over and replaced with a stone sanctuary by Kroisos (Croesus) in a bid to standardize and control worship there. He was a major force behind attempting to make Ephesus the home of one Goddess who was the leader of a state religion, the tool of those who wish to build empires in every place and time. The original rites ended, moved elsewhere for privacy and closer communion with the free Goddesses. Still, other devotees came to the temple to worship Artemis and Cybele with as much fervour as before. By the time the temple was being rebuilt again in green marble after being burnt to the ground, it was already being defiled. Alexander of Makedon was not allowed to contribute directly to the rebuilding of the temple, but his arrival helped place more power in the hands of the priests who are now believed to have burnt the older temple down themselves. They saw to it that the images of Amazons were replaced with those of men and gods.
A few intriguing features remained, left unchanged for fear of the wrath of the Ephesians. Lions and bulls guarded the doorways, as they had always done at the sanctuaries of Artemis and Cybele in Anatolia. Gorgons flanked an image of Artemis on the temple pediment, with winged female messengers carved as if to fly away, and Persian magi bringing the Goddess gifts. Given these details it is no wonder W. R. Lethaby82 believed the temple was meant to celebrate the birth of Artemis, and later Christians found the iconography rather familiar.
Before Ephesus' harbour became silted in, the temple must have been an impressive sight despite its flaws. It faced out to sea from a swampy patch of land, a harbinger of silt deposits to come, with a ring of mountains behind and above it. The many green pillars that had replaced the original living forest now surrounded the Goddess' statue, which faced the sea as well. Pilgrims may have been told that even as they approached the city by ship and gazed at the temple from the deck that the Goddess herself was watching them. The effect of the original trees surrounding an outdoor statue and altar may have had an even greater impact, as the pilgrims would have seen the Goddess' statue facing toward them, slowly growing ever larger as they approached. The altar was still outside, by a stream that was formerly a river, and eventually became a chasm, emblematic of the changing geological conditions in the area. Many of the visitors would be tattooed before leaving, wearing a permanent mark of their trip to the holy city on their skin.
Ephesia's name means appetite, suggesting her as a Goddess of life, reproduction, death, survival... the power of instinct. This meshed with Artemis' original form, which is more warlike and assertive in the world. Her love for her children and her defense of them is as fierce as a summer storm. The Amazons particularly adored Artemis in this form, as protector, leader, and magician of the night. Ephesia herself may have developed from Cybele of Scythia and Rhea of Anatolia.
Artemis' tree priestesses at Ephesus served her under her title of Opis, meaning silent or inspirer of awe. These dryads, or druids as they are better known, called the eldest of their number by this title. Their main shrine was a grove of trees on previously mentioned Mount Ayasoluk. They may have been wandering Amazons themselves or native to the area. Offerings to Opis were given only by women, usually a lock of hair. Julius Caesar met many such priestesses when he invaded Celtic lands, and continued a policy that may well have begun in Ephesus when men were trying to take complete control of religious rites and buildings there: the felling of trees and fouling of water in order to render the powerful priestesshood and its followers homeless.
Processions were a major part of every festival of Artemis in the ancient world, and those held in Ephesus were no exception. Three main processions ultimately developed, as described in Koester, 1995: the march around Mount Pion, one from the temple to the cavern of Ortygia on the sixth day of Thargelion, and a procession of hunters, dogs, and worshippers to the Artemision led by a woman who represented the Goddess. Originally, this procession was probably led by a high priestess who actually embodied Artemis. By later times the choice of procession leader had effectively become a degrading beauty contest.
At the temple, one of the original Seven Wonders of the World, the Goddess was commonly known as Cybele, Mother of All Creatures, Lady of the Beasts. Her pine cone tipped wand was reputed to represent her motherhood, but its actual meaning remained a secret of her worshippers. Just as she brought all life into the world, She took it back into herself at death. Her statue had no legs because she was synonymous with the Earth, and so present everywhere. The turret crown marked her as protector of Ephesus. The forcible replacement of priestesses with eunuch priests heralded another rebuilding of the temple and final takeover by patriarchal forces. Only vague memories of Meliboea 'of the dark cattle,' whose original name was Automate 'self motivated, self ruled' with her partner Epidiata 'banquet' remained of the original temple priestesses. Yet they were not gone so much as displaced, for Strabo saw six thousand of them wielding their labryses in a grand procession in the first century CE.
A firm belief developed that Artemis and Cybele were the same Goddess, just different understandings of her. A neat and peaceful resolution of much confusion and often misunderstood, by design or mistake. This view of Artemis of Ephesus made her seem quite Aphrodite-like to some commentators, who noted she was worshipped as far afield as Kytherea and Miletus, the latter famed for its disappearance and retrieval festival dedicated to the Goddess.
Artemis of the Bulls
Artemis and Goddesses similar to her were also closely connected to the bull and cow, sacred from Neolithic times. The head and horns of a cow or bull resembled the uterus and ovaries of a woman, and the cow produced milk for people as well as her young. Both could provide meat, leather for clothing and footwear, horns for musical instruments, and so on. These connections had persisted on Krete more than elsewhere in southern Greece, where they were given to Britomartis instead.
The cow's head was therefore connected to rebirth and new life, and the butterfly was one of the symbolic carriers of human souls in the cycle of rebirth. Hence the association between the cow's head, butterfly, labia, and double ax. The cow, bull, and double ax became especially connected to Artemis. The ceremony of blood baptism was used in her worship, later taken as a sacrament by the worshippers of Mithras.
The ceremony used by those worshippers may not have been identical to that of Tauropolos, however. Worshippers of Mithras stood beneath a grating, and were drenched with a bull's blood as its throat was cut above it. According to Greek writers, priestesses of Tauropolos were the only ones able to drink bull's blood and survive, implying a strong taboo due to its sacred nature. They were also known to occasionally use gelded horses in their rituals83.
Baptism does not need more than a few drops of a liquid for sprinkling, as can be seen in present day christian ceremonies. The religion around Mithras was created for professional soldiers, men who faced bloody death each day, an entirely different life pattern from most worshippers of Tauropolos84. Bronze Age Krete, the Goddess of the Sun was the one to whom bulls were sacred. The bull game of Krete was called the taurokathapsia, 'purifying bull dance.' This was not a bullfight, but a test of bravery and skill in which young women and men ran at the bull, grasped its horns, and somersaulted over its back. While Tauropolos does mean bullslayer, this refers to the inevitable death of the sacred king symbolized by the bull which may have been killed and eaten in a feast afterwards, not the process of infuriating and tormenting the bull prior to killing it through loss of blood and repeated sword thrusts.
Slaughtering the bull often involved beheading it and leaving its head in the temple, where the skull was used in sacred decoration. The meat was returned to the family who provided the bull, or if a community sacrifice, was shared in a feast. No evidence exists of a human sacrifice in the Neolithic, the time these ceremonies derive from, or any such sacrifices later in this context.
The story of the island of Taurus, with its homicidal priestess of Artemis Iphigeneia is probably a demonization of other religious practices. Bull heads were mounted on the walls of many temples, from Çatal Hüyük to Krete. The practice of embalming and displaying the heads of honoured ancestors may also be the source of these later tales. The practice was meant to allow the ancestors to be part of the family, still remembered and respected, who in turn contributed wisdom and protection from their source, the Great Mother's womb below the surface of the Earth. So Iphigeneia, whose name is also a title of Artemis, was probably a mortuary priestess like Kirke and Kalypso.
Men in Attica could dedicate themselves to Artemis Tauropolos by undergoing a mock beheading ceremony in which a few drops of blood were drawn from the neck with a labrys. Its descendent is the English ceremony of knighting. Meanwhile the women of Attica sat up in all night vigils and sang and danced in the Goddess' honour in the Tauropolium85. The Greeks picked up the ceremony from Amphipolis, where Artemis was the Goddess of the bulls par excellence, and sometimes carried a snake in each hand like Athena or Hera.
Artemis and the Bear86
Another spectacularly popular avatar of Artemis was as Great Bear, Ursa Major. Worshipped all over Greece, but especially in Arkadia where she and Kallisto vied for followers, her worship extended across Europe to Britain. Helvetians sometimes called her Artio, and worshipped her near Berne, a place named 'she-bear.' Even today its coat of arms includes a bear image. Celts, especially of Britain, called her Art and their bear king Arthur her son. Each Celtic hunter paid a small fee for each animal taken into a communal fund used to purchase a sacrifice to Artemis each year. Later, even the Christian church could not ignore her and canonized her as Saint Ursula, from the Saxon name Ursel, and as Saint Artemidos. The Irish name Art originally meant 'Bear Goddess,' not god. Artemis even had a cave on Krete called Arkoudia 'cave of the she bear.'
A number of ideas, some quite sophisticated, supported the widespread worship of the Bear Goddess by many Old European and Indo-European groups.
Artemis as bear ruled the constellation Ursa Major87, which pointed to the North Pole Star, the axis mundi. As such, she guarded and protected the very hub of the world, the pole star contained in the constellation Ursa Minor. The Kynikoi 'doglike ones' or 'watchdogs of the Goddess' such as Diogenes believed that Ursa Minor was actually a dog, and Artemis its keeper, possibly even a bear that held the dog at bay. She would release the dog, and allow it to destroy the world hub when there were no honest people left in the world. Some peoples considered Ursa Major the patron constellation of smiths.
The seven stars of Ursa Major may have been the original Seven Sisters or Seven Pillars. Indian tradition refers to these stars as the Seven Sages 'Rishis.' The Sanskrit root of Rishi means 'bear.' The Pleiades are in the constellation Taurus, connecting them to Artemis Tauropolos, so all of the Pleiades were followers of Artemis, not just Taygete. But more practically speaking, these stars were important to navigation and determining the seasons. Given these connections in particular, it is easier to understand the importance of such a dim group of stars as the Pleiades, or the belief movement of the Pole Star meant the end of the world.
The month and season can be worked out in the Northern hemisphere by noting where Ursa Major is in the sky at nightfall. When Ursa Major's tail points East, spring has arrived; South, summer; West, autumn; and finally, the tail pointing North heralds winter. Perhaps this direction of movement gives us 'clockwise,' since it is easier to learn about how the appearance of the sky relates to the seasons when the stars are visible to the naked eye. Later reinterpretation of Ursa Major as the transformed Kallisto and Ursa Minor as her son are forced and not consistently repeated by scholars or folklore. Ursa Major and the pole star were always feminine in European mythology, even after attempts to masculinize them both. For instance, the axis mundi was a tree of life, with weirdly feminine abilities, the story explaining how it was a female tree that bore all living things as fruit forgotten. Sometimes Ursa Major was divorced from its bear symbolism altogether and made the throne of the Sky Goddess, Hera or Artemis Astrateia.
Other reasons for worshipping Artemis as bear come from that animal's qualities. The mother bear is one of the most formidable animals in the forest for her size, strength, agility, and fierce defense of her young. Today the mother bear is still regarded as a fearsome beast for these reasons. Bears know how to find herbs and roots to heal injuries and illnesses they suffer, and they incubate their young during hibernation, protecting vulnerable cubs from the cold. This period of rest in a cave could also be symbolic of the weak winter Sun, renewing itself for the spring. The hind print of many species of bears is similar to that of a human foot, hence the propensity of Bear Goddesses to run barefoot in the forest, and perhaps a clue to the source of some of the Sasquatch stories of North America.
People used to place their children under the protection of this great force to protect and heal. To this end, infants were placed on bearskins soon after birth to invoke that power, a practice likely continued from the Neolithic. The berserkers, 'wearers of bearshirts' worshipped Artio, and wished to channel this same fierce, protecting power in battle.
Artemis and her followers could take the form of bears at will, an idea integral to the worship of Artemis Brauronia. In Attica the statue of the Goddess had an obsidian knife in her crown, used in animal sacrifice by her priestesses. Young girls were brought to the Brauronian temple for confirmation ceremonies during the festival of Munychia. They danced as bears in Artemis' honour, originally becoming her companions in freedom and self rule, and only later leaving behind childhood in preparation for becoming an obedient wife. Wearing yellow tunics coloured with saffron and leaf crowns, carrying twigs or torches, they also gave thanks for the animals of the forest.
Excavations of Brauron and Ephesus have shown both places were originally manufacturing centres of concave lenses, which magnify images. Considering the detailed astronomical knowledge involved with worship of Artemis as Bear Goddess, the lenses may well have been used to observe the sky88.
Agrotera 'wild strength,' or 'berserker' was a Goddess of battle sacrificed to before campaigns by the Spartans. She was popularly considered an avatar of Artemis, and her untamed, wild nature suggests the bear when provoked. Kallisto, a native Arkadian Bear Goddess is interesting for herself, as well as for the aspects of Artemis she shares. Kallisto's name means 'the fairest' yet Kalli (Kali) was not always used for descriptions of what was conventionally beautiful. It could also be used for things that actually seemed ugly or frightening. Yet Kallisto was a well loved and popular Goddess in Arkadia. Another avatar of the force of instinct, when in human form she was an athlete and hunter of great strength. She traversed her forests and mountains in, of course, bare feet. The sacred island of Thera 'she beast' was originally hers and called by her name, although later it was rededicated to Artemis.
Other authors have noted that she is related to Kali, the 'Death Goddess' of India. While embodying all that is frightening and gruesome, Kali is deeply loved by her worshippers, inspiring some of the most beautiful, powerful poetry ever written. Kali forces her worshippers to face their fear of death, and in the process eliminate it. She moves the idea of reincarnation from a logical construct to a belief. 'Death Goddess' is a vast oversimplification of her role, which includes not only destruction and death bringing but soul guiding and the giving of wisdom that overcomes fear. Artemis is also characterized by these aspects, in ancient times especially when she was associated with Ephesus.
Besides being worshipped as hunter, destroyer, crone, and in many other aspects, Artemis was seen as a Tree Goddess. Trees in general as well as the world tree were hers, the latter being the source of unborn souls. The Vikings called this tree Ygdrassil, and it would produce the first person of the next world, the woman Lif. The fruit of the Tree of Life could give, depending on how it was obtained or when it was eaten, eternal life, great wisdom, or help during labour. Eternal life did not necessarily mean immortality in the usual modern sense, but rebirth, the continuing survival of the soul. A spring at Ygdrassil's root consisted of a fluid called aurr, which also gave life and was the Goddess' menstrual blood.
In Arkadia Artemis was especially associated with any tree that produced edible nuts, as well as the cedar. In Lakonia her trees were the laurel and the myrtle (which is perhaps better described as a bush)89.
Dryads, better known as druids90 were oak nymphs, oracular priestesses of the oak groves. So fierce were they in defense of their forests, and so taboo was cutting the trees that Greeks came to believe that the druids kept their souls in the trees, and suffered death or injury when the trees did. Among their myths persisted tales of grim curses against those who did damage to sacred groves, like the Greek king who was afflicted with unappeasable hunger by Demeter for just such a desecration. The Greeks believed some druids could become serpents, and referred to them as hamadryads. The greatest shrine of the Galatians of Asia Minor was called Druremeton, 'Grove of the Moon Druids.'
Real or artificial trees were used in her temples and those of Goddesses Artemis absorbed, like Aria of the Oaks. Trees outside were treated in the same way, hung with masks or doll images of Artemis at the points of the compass. In this way her benign gaze could bring prosperity and protection in all directions. This may be the reason for hanging sacrifices to Artemis at Hierapolis on the forerunners of 'christmas' trees. Another shrine of Hanged Artemis was in Kordyleia.
The same principle may have led to the development of scarecrows. These once common denizens of corn and grain fields never frightened away a crow, their avowed purpose. They were the means by which the Goddess' presence and benign influence was called down to the crop.
Arrhippe, a hunter and attendant of Artemis also maintained a temple of Hanged Artemis (that is Artemis as the Goddess who suffers immolation each year as part of her cycle of birth, life, death, renewal). While her legend has been garbled by Greek commentators, she seems to have presided over sexual rites in order to bring prosperity to the land.
Artemis and the Deer
The deer is associated with the Sun and with water, as Artemis is. The word deer has been translated as 'bright fire' which connects it with the Sun, and Artemis was sometimes a Sun Goddess, particularly to the Scythians and Thrakians. The Kerynean Hind91 could run incredibly fast, had antlers of gold and hooves of bronze, and was dedicated to Artemis by the Pleiade Taygete. The hind could be pursued for a year without capturing it, suggesting that it was a Zodiacal figure if not the Sun itself. It could also represent any quality or thing such as love or wisdom, which cannot be gotten by nefarious means.
The hunter Arge, a priestess of Artemis of the Red Deer, performed the pantomime of the death of Aktaeon, the sacred deer king on Artemis' mountain with her sister priestesses. No matter how fast he ran, Aktaeon was always caught, a metaphor for the inexorable pursuit of death. This sacred drama was performed until very late, as evidenced by a list of the hounds of Artemis, mistakenly called Aktaeon's: Arethusa 'the hunter,' Argo 'the swift,' Aura 'wind,' Chediatros 'of the crops,' Kullo 'crooked one,' Dinomache 'powerful warrior,' Dioxippe 'divine mare,' Echione 'without snow clouds,' Gorgo 'grim one,' Harpeia 'falcon,' Lakaena 'of the lake,' Lynkeste 'fellow citizen of the wolves,' Melanchaetes 'black haired,' Okydrome 'swift flying,' Okypete 'swift wing,' Oresitrophos 'mountain bred,' Orias 'of the mountain,' Oxyrrhoe 'swift flowing,' Sagnos 'she who hunts with,' Theridamas 'tamer of wild animals,' Theriope 'face of the she beast,' Theriphone 'destructive she beast,' Uolatos 'ululation or howl,' and Urania 'heavenly one.' Their sacred number was supposed to be twelve or fifty, their base Mount Leukus on Krete.
Barbarian Germany was the site of the ritual bath of the Deer Goddess until late, which only doomed men could see. Such men were called sacred kings, men who ruled for half a great year, then were killed and replaced by a co-king, often called their tannist. This was regarded as highly important, since if a king ruled too long, he could become impotent in office, bringing famine to the land. In the first century CE, priestesses of Artemis still performed the sacred drama in their Goddess' mountains... the 'king' actually killed was a deer. Later, Artemis' groves became places where her followers merely feasted on venison, and were renamed 'deer gardens.' The head of the carcass was paraded into her temple on a pole, a practice that persisted well into christian times. Since records consistently refer to a 'pantomime' or 'drama' and the ritual continued until late, it is hard to believe that a man who played or was the outgoing king was necessarily killed. He only needed to be removed from office, and probably left willingly, until patriarchy began to take hold, and old kings began to hold the throne beyond their term, forcing more extreme methods of removal.
Greek mythographers may or may not have known that Aktaeon was such a sacred king, but Greek vase painters did. Aktaeon was portrayed not as a stag, but wearing a deer skin and antlers. Strabo described Artemis Apaturos as a Goddess who killed her lover after intercourse, another common fate of sacred kings. Apaturos means 'guardian of secrets,' in this case sacred mysteries revealed to the sacred king just before his death.
Deer pelts weren't exclusively worn by men. Artemis was occasionally shown wearing one herself, as did the Goddess Despoena in her Arkadian temple. A deerhide and antlers could serve as priestess' vestments, and they were the original performers of 'stag dances.'
In her book 'O Mother Sun: A New View of the Cosmic Feminine' Patricia Monaghan explained that the labyrinth is no mere spiral motif. It charts the movements of the Sun in the sky at far Northern latitudes, where at times it doesn't set, and the apparent path of the Moon in the sky as it waxes and wanes. The priestesses of Artemis as Deerhunter had a tradition of their own which seems to point to the far North. At Patrai they rode in wagons drawn by deer, a strange practice considering horses capable of drawing wagons had been in southern Europe long before the coming of Indo-European nomads. The explanation may lie with the Mykenaeans, who had traded with the Germans for Baltic amber and may have learned about the apparent behaviour of the Sun there from them92.
This aspect of Artemis was worshipped mainly in southern Greece, especially Lakonia, where her worship was always fervent and constant. The founding of Sparta actually derived in part from the shared worship of Artemis among the villages of Pitane, Limnae, Mesoa, and Kynosura. The great Spartan temple of Artemis was built on the bank of the Eurotas river at the site referred to as the Limnaeum, and nearby was once a sanctuary of Eileithyia (or Leto). Artemis' temple also served as the common meeting place for the people of Sparta. The area was considered so sacred that later sanctuaries were built on top of these initial, ancient structures for hundreds of years, into late Roman times. The earliest site, and the one of most interest here, dates from prior to 600 BCE when the shrines of Artemis Oritheia and Eileithyia may well have coexisted. Originally the site may have been marshy, considering the drainage ditch dug all around Artemis' sanctuary in a winding, serpentine course that deeply puzzled the excavators.
The ditch reflected the snake symbolism that was a major part of early Goddess worship, and was sometimes synonymous with the feminine tree of life that birthed all humanity as fruit. Votive figures of her showed Artemis with snakes gripped in her hands like the Snake Goddesses of Krete. The snake was not originally a phallic symbol at all, but a disembodied vagina, giver of rebirth, and consumer of male potency. A snake was often shown coiled about the tree of life, or rearing upwards with rays around its head93. Hence Artemis Oritheia 'the upright one' or 'the rigid one' ruled all types of rigidity like Helen Rhigidenes: the stiffness of erection, death, or the stiffness accompanying various types of intense sensation, from orgasm to religious ecstasy. In this guise, Artemis was still predominantly a woman's Goddess. It is an often overlooked fact that women do experience erections of their own, although they are much less visible. 'Uprightness' could also refer to a quick recovery from childbirth, and in this case a midwife would sacrifice a waterbird to Artemis on behalf of the new mother94. As a result, Artemis was often portrayed carrying dead water birds in her hands, presumably after collecting them from the midwives.
The Spartan temple itself was long and narrow like Hera's Samian sanctuary95. At its widest, it was only three metres across. The earliest temples were generally built this way to mimic the Goddess's birth canal, making each trip inside to visit the altar a symbolic return to and subsequent rebirth from the Goddess. The roof was held up by a series of wooden pillars down the centre of the enclosure, referring again to the divine tree or pillar that embodied the Goddess. No Mykenaean type offerings were found inside this early sanctuary, and it was richest in offerings relative to the newer structures eventually built on top of it. The altar was actually outside of the building, a necessity because rituals involving an altar are customarily communally attended.
Early offerings to Artemis Oritheia included pottery and small bronze objects decorated with designs and patterns reminiscent of Neolithic art. Other objects found were pendant labryses and anchors, the latter with animal heads at the ends of the prongs, beads, combs, and figure eight shields. There were also figurines and masks, suggesting the priestesses may have handled snakes and danced wearing masks during the rituals in the Goddess' honour. It is not entirely coincidental that the two major temples of Artemis Korythaleia 'festive maiden' or 'dancing maiden' were in Sparta and Taurus, the latter a region famous for its population of Amazons. Sparta had strong trade connections with Cyrene and was itself named for an Amazonian Goddess.
Around 600 BCE, the temple of Artemis Oritheia changed hands. The elder sanctuary was levelled and covered over, and the variety and artistic quality of the offerings fell significantly. A new rectangular altar was built across from the position of the old. Still, the temple remained predominantly a women's place of worship, evidenced by the numerous offerings of female figurines made of clay and lead. Artemis was now shown wearing a cylindrical crown and an animal skin, often enthroned and surrounded by obedient animals. Her image shifted from the dynamic Goddess of the trees and dance to a more static, monumental figure like that of Cybele. Her warlike nature also became more emphasized as Sparta shifted into a more highly structured, militaristic organization.
Gradually the ceremonies changed from what were probably once ecstatic dances and sexual rituals to demonstrations of the aggression of older males against the perceived strength and virility of younger rivals. The sacred scythes formerly given to young women as a badge of their coming of age were now given to young men who could suffer the worst beating and react to it with a combination of pain and sexual arousal.
This Kretan Goddess is far more than a mortal lover of Artemis whom she eventually deified. Gortyna is named for 'gortys' the Kretan word for cow, an animal sacred to the Great Goddess Rhea, of whom Britomartis was one aspect.
A youthful hunter whose name means 'good maiden,' Britomartis was shown with or holding snakes, suckling babes, and arrows. She was also a chthonic figure, which led her to sometimes being associated with Hekate. A guardian of the dead who sometimes appeared as a mermaid, sailors occasionally saw her. Like Hera, she was associated with the lily or lotus, and the labrys. She was associated with the anchor because it symbolized rebirth from the sea womb, and it reiterated the bi-lobed shape of the labrys.
Diktynna was the second member of the trinity, not merely the inventor of nets for fishing and hunting but also the eponymous Goddess of Mount Dikte96. The Goddess of Mount Ida was then Rhea, who was also called Carme, Charmel, or Carmenta, all referring to kindness, charms (spells), and her role as inventor of the alphabet and language. When she oversaw the fate of a birthing mother, the Romans referred to the three Goddesses together as the Carmentes97; they gave the midwife the charms and music she used to help the pregnant woman marshal her energies. Hence, the original meaning of charm was 'birth incantation.' The Karyatids were sometimes called Rhea's priestesses, and her major concerns included prophecy, particularly augury, which she invented.
Carme may have been Phoenician prior to being absorbed by Rhea, which explains confusion over Britomartis' origins, a state further contributed to by the Syrians, who called her Derceto or Derke, their mermaid Goddess. The Phoenicians identified her with their Sun Goddess, who was Carme's daughter, and the Greeks interpreted this to mean she was Phoenician. Due to Britomartis' great age she probably did 'travel' to Phoenicia, with Kretan traders who also took her to Argos. There her priestesses were Byze 'cow,' Melita 'red coloured,' and Moira 'fate.'
Each year, Britomartis spent nine months in the underworld, where she cared for the souls of the dead. Then she switched places with Ariadne, whose consort Minos led the dead to the underworld. Each time Ariadne returned, Britomartis would leap into the sea, and swim to the underwater entrance to the underworld to take her place.
Men in bull masks and women wielding the tools of Ariadne were the personnel who helped guide people through the religious rituals of Krete. The island itself represented the Great Trinity of Diktynna of the East, Ida (Rhea) in the centre, and Britomartis in the West. Britomartis was also worshipped on Aegina and in Sparta under her titles, Aphaea 'vanisher' and Laphria 'despoiling.' The Spartans adored both her and Artemis as Ladies of the Lake.
Diktynna the Lawgiver
Diktynna is the aspect of the Kretan Great Trinity sexual and social maturity in women. She was often portrayed as a naked woman riding a goat with a net in one hand, and an apple in the other, accompanied by a hare and a raven. The net connects her to lifegiving water, the apple to wisdom and sexual mysteries. Diktynna may have had warlike interests and her cave temples called dikteria were originally places where people slept with the sacred priestesses of the Goddess as part of her mysteries.
Mount Dikte may once have been a volcano, considering the geology of the area, and a bit of curious herb lore. Diktannon, now called dittany aromatic was sacred to Diktynna, as its older name suggests. Holding a flame near its stem and below the flower can produce a flash because the plant produces small amounts of flammable gas.
Her name means 'nut tree,' or 'of the walnut,' and is a cognate to Kore, Kar, and possibly Q're if it was brought to Greece by Semitic language speakers. This Goddess of the wilds, healing, and inspiration was worshipped in Southern Lakonia, and Karia was named for her. She, like her counterpart Helen, was believed to be embodied in trees. Helen survived as a deity in Sparta, the later capital of Lakonia, but Karya almost completely disappeared soon after the arrival of the Dorian Greeks, along with her sisters Orphe 'of the river bank' and Lyko 'wolf.' All three were remembered as mortal prophets, because they were oracular Goddesses who gave omens from the movements of the branches and leaves of the oaks.
The 'impassable or unswaying one' was worshipped first in Arkadia and later in Boeotia. Wild, unbribable, and inescapable, this Death Goddess hunted souls like Artemis. A warrior and great athlete, her totem was the bear, and a spring near the ruins of Kyphanta in Lakonia was sacred to her. Atalanta's priestesses were great athletes and hunters like their Goddess, and commonly took in the unwanted little girls left outside to die by Greek invaders98. Such children were 'suckled by she-bears.'
One such little girl, daughter of Klymene 'famous strength, famous Moon' or Themisto 'oracular, daughter of Themis' survived in this way. Called by the name of her Goddess, she was picked up from the Parthenian Hill and suckled by a female bear. Usually the bear is identified as Artemis, but was probably Atalanta originally. The girl grew into an unmatched warrior and athlete, who won the footraces and wrestling matches of the funeral games of Pelias.
Among her first deeds was winning the Heraeon99 in her own age class, and then outrunning all the men who scornfully challenged her. During her travels, Atalanta found herself in a forest during a drought with her companions. Calling on her Goddess, she struck a rock with her spear. A spring promptly began to flow from the rock, a feat so impressive, various male heroes were later said to have done it.
Later Atalanta sailed with the Argonauts100, and participated in the Kalydonian boar hunt, drawing first blood. The hunt was instigated by a king desperate to destroy a boar sent by Artemis in punishment for breaking her laws. During the hunt Atalanta was forced to kill two attempted rapists. The infamous footrace marking her final scene on the mythological stage is a misunderstanding of an icon depicting a man attempting to steal the Goddess' golden apples. However, these apples gave eternal afterlife, not a means of preventing death.
The Arkadian great Bear Goddess, the great mother of Kallidon 'land of Kalli,101' An ancient town of Aetolia that later became the site of a temple of Artemis Laphria, was originally dedicated to Kallisto. Her titles, Phake 'holder of the torch' and Parrahasios 'of Arkadia' was remembered even after she had otherwise been almost completely forgotten.
Kallisto was worshipped by many Arkadian Amazon and non-Amazon tribes. Later the Greeks destroyed any of her worshippers they could find as they attempted to root out various Goddesses. The centaur city of Kallipolis, now Gallipoli was a former major city of the Amazon Nation. Among the Amazons, Kallisto was considered a companion of Artemis who eventually married her, having won the Goddess over with her athletic and hunting prowess. Like Atalanta, Kallisto roamed the forests and mountains barefoot. Her other names were Megisto 'great one' and Themisto 'oracular one.'
This Goddess' name means 'plentiful offspring' or 'early born.' Her great purification festival was absorbed into Anthesteria102, an event dedicated to Hera. On the third day of Anthesteria, Erigone was commemorated as a Hanging Goddess by children playing on swings and hanging masks from trees. Swinging was a common means of purification because it temporarily suspended the swinger between Heaven and Earth, where sins could be left behind. Accordingly, Erigone's concerns were with justice and the proper treatment of criminals. Like Libra, she finally left the Earth to live in the constellation Virgo, a group of stars that collected so many Goddesses it seems like an Amazon village transposed to the sky.
Karyatids: Priestesses of the Walnut
The history of these priestesses is complicated by the fact that their name passed from a specific title to a general term. Initially they were the Moon priestesses of the Goddess Karya. Later, the title was given to priestesses of Artemis. Long after the effort to assimilate Karya to Artemis succeeded, a region of Greece was still called Karyai, as was a festival held in honour of the Goddess Kartha. Kartha may have begun as a separate Goddess, but eventually she too was assimilated, to Rhea. By this time 'Karyatid' was becoming a general word for Moon priestesses, tree priestesses103 or hunter nymphs, all known for using dance in their devotions.
The architectural term is usually explained as coming from the poses the priestesses took during their dances, which lent themselves to pillar carving. However, they were originally only used on religious buildings, indicating they are part of a long tradition of such pillars. Often there were seven, representing the seven high priestesses of the temple. These were the traditional seven pillars of wisdom, seen as far back as 3 000 BCE when seven stones were used during construction of the Moabite Goddess temple. The seven stone 'Mothers' could be aniconic, and to refer to them was to refer to the temple's strength.
Adrasteia - inescapable one
Dike - justice
Heimarmene - alotted fate
Ichnaios - the tracker
Opis - silent, watchful
Rhamnusia - of the buckthorn
Zdike - the way, justice
Her name is usually translated 'retribution,' 'due enactment,' or 'dive wrath' but her name contains the syllable 'Neme' which refers to groves of trees in many Indo-European languages. Indeed, the earliest sites of worship for many people living in Europe and much of western Asia were distinctive groups of trees. Besides being a Tree and War Goddess, she has many connections to the Amazons. She was worshipped at Smyrna, founded by a member of the Myrine Dynasty, and was named as the mother of Helen, who either shared her name with a famous Amazon or was one104, and was herself reputed to be a Tree Goddess in her own right.
All of Nemesis' titles suggest she alternately mixed the elements and gave birth to all gods, then destroyed them and broke them into component elements again. The bane of all tyrants, Zeus was neither her pursuer, nor her captor. In fact, she pursued him, taking many forms until she caught and executed him, striking him down with a club cut from her sacred ash tree, which was one source of the rain. An Amazon herself, Nemesis neither slept with nor married any men. Occasionally she was also titled Opis 'watcher,' 'inspirer of awe' and received the hair offerings of Amazons who had just come of age at Ephesus. They knew well she was a ruler of Fate, for their offerings were wound about wooden or stone spindles. She was not originally considered a cruel Goddess, as she was celebrated in the festival of Nemesia, an honouring of the peacefully resting dead, the protecting ancestors. Nemesis was even considered a pastoral deity at times.
At Rhamnus she was also called Dike or Tyche, daughter of Nyx, and a huge statue of her was kept in her temple there. Themis was worshipped there as well, clearly indicating that Nemesis was a force of justice, not revenge. Her companions were typically Poine 'vengeance' whom she often held in check, and the Erinyes, representatives of the ever-wakeful conscience. Nemesis was always beautiful, sometimes white robed with a scourge hooked on her belt... or it may have been a harmless leather thong with which women were lightly struck to make them fertile. As ruler of inexorable fate Goddess she carried a wheel in one hand and an apple branch in the other, wearing a silver crown decorated with stags. Like Themis and Artemis, she was a hunter and tracker. Smyrna was famous for worshipping her in two aspects, either for the waxing and waning Sun or for justice in the world of the living and the world of the dead. Sometimes she was shown carrying a staff and bridle there, at others with a whip and measuring cord.
Aganippides - priestesses of the mare who kills mercifully or of the mare who overwhelms, from the fountain of Aganippe at the foot of Mount Helikon
Aonides - always singing; from Aonia in Boetia, the district Mont Helikon is found in
Ardalides - of the water pots; used at Troezen
Eulyras - skilled with the lyre
Helikonides - Willow Goddesses
Hippokrenides - of the horse fountain
Hymnopoios - creators of hymns
Ilsides - ones that force back; of the Ilissus river
Kastaliae - of the water or mineral spring, from the Kastalian spring near Delphi
Krokopeplos - wearing yellow robes
Liberthrides - the pleasing ones; at Mount Liberthrus in Thrake where they had a sacred cave
Maeonides - of Maeonia, may mean 'glistening ones'
Mneiae - remembrances
Mnemonides - daughters or priestesses of Memory
Musae - Mountain Goddesses
Olympiades - divine ones; specifically divine ones of Mount Olympus
Oureades - of the mountains
Parnassides - givers of inspiration
Pegasides - of the wells
Pimplaea - the Goddesses who fill (may mean Goddesses who ease thirst); used in Pieria
Pierides - rich in juice (wine?)
Techtonarchos - leader in composing poetry; chief creator of the universe
Thespiades - the divine sounding ones
These self-sufficient Goddesses of the arts and sciences were associated with the Amazons until Classical times, when the Athenians had significantly diminished them. The Muses, 'Mountain Goddesses' are the ninefold Moon and Swan Goddess, served by colleges of nine priestesses who kept plots of land in the mountains of Northern Greece and Southern Thrake, as well as on the island of Lesbos. They maintained flocks of sheep, tended beehives, practiced viniculture and medicine, and often served as oracles. Through the Goddess Kritheis 'ruler' of Kyme and Smyrna they had connections to Asia Minor. They and they alone were allowed to sing the song of the creation of the world105.
The divine Muses and their priestesses were considered daughters of Mnemosyne 'memory,' Artemis, Plusia 'wealthy,' or even Maea 'grandmother' or 'magician' for this Goddess was famed as a maker of beautiful illusions. As a rule they were persuasive, skilled speakers, talented mathematicians, astronomers, and historians, as well as fine musicians. The Delphic Muses were the inventors of the alphabet, and were sometimes called aspects of the Moirae or Graea. Eventually they were triplicated and associated with the nine star constellation Delphinus. Based on this association, the ancient Greeks believed dolphins liked music or perhaps because of the chirps and whistles they communicated with each other by. The Muses of Lesbos invented the seven toned musical scale based on Ephesian sacred compositions. Today the scale is rendered do, re, mi, fa, so, la, te, but originally it followed the seven vowel sounds later used in ancient Greek106. When they were ninefold, the Muses created works of art and blended potions of inspiration in their mixing cauldrons. They always presided over the three segments of education: music, writing, and sports; later reading, writing, and arithmetic. They were said to paint the lips of their favoured poets with honey. The Romans believed that the Goddess Moneta, who would eventually be absorbed by Juno, was the mother of the Muses. Sometimes they referred to one Muse instead, Camera or Cameira whose name means Muse, poem, or poetry.
Magpies were also among their totems. Considered prophetic birds, they were messengers of the Scytho-Sarmatian Amazon Goddess Magog before being associated with the Muses.
The Muses could be invoked with willow wands cut from their sacred trees or by making art. The Helikon 'willow stream' flows around Mount Helikon, one of their holdings. The Goddess Helike was a composite of all of the Muses, lover of 'all' at once understood and misunderstood as the god Pan, representative of all life that is born and ultimately dies. Other peaks sacred to them were Mount Sikyon, Mount Parnassus 'house of the Goddess' with its spring of 'joyful creation,' the Kastalia, and the Akrokorinth, site of the spring of Pirene. Two sacred horse fountains were also on Mount Helikon, the Aganippe 'horse that overwhelms' and the Pegasus107 'the springs.' The inspiring, prophetic priestesses of this spring were known as the Pegae, and their Egyptian counterparts of the Pegae spring in Abydos were famous for their oracles as well. At Thespia 'the divine sounding' colleges of oracular Muse-priestesses were famed for their quadrennial Great Festival, consisting of numerous art contests and reminiscent of the Panathenaea.
This quadrennial festival was participated in by everyone who could attend. All art was once an expression of devotion and love for the Goddess, beginning with the first art, that of dance. Pictures of circle dances come from as far back as the Palaeolithic. Dance rhythms dictated the rhythm of any words spoken or sung by the dancers, leading to the various poetic meters (iambic, pentameter, hexameter). Early Greek playwrights were actually called dancers, suggesting that at first there were no words for 'playwright' or 'poet.' Latin 'histor' meant a dancer before it began to refer to storytelling and history composition. In fact, the root of both ministry and minstrel is 'mene' meaning referring to measurement, particularly of time which could be done by observations of the Moon, itself referred to by words based on the same root in Indo-European languages. Mystery, a word derived from 'ministerium' first meant what was taught, not what was hidden.
The circle dances were lengthy, ecstatic affairs, metaphors for the endless cycles of life. Those of the greatest power were shamanic and danced only by women... the same women later called Maenads. Men forced their way into these dances, stealing the women's costumes and chants in hopes of seizing their power. Their behaviour, frequently including acts of extraordinary violence towards other men who dared to follow their example, built up a body of negative propaganda and beliefs about the Goddess, priestesses, and women, particularly when they danced. The sacred chant and dance called the 'orante' in Latin was suppressed, its name shrinking into 'rant' a term usually applied to a woman speaking loudly and rapidly with both voice and hands. The old places of action, 'ob-skene' in Greek gave the basis of the word 'obscene,' later a term for pagan religious practices.
Every Goddess danced, and every Goddess was considered the creator of all living and inanimate things, including the arts. Curiously, while great pains were taken to attribute the creation of the four elements (earth, air, fire, and water) and all animals, plants, and people to a god in many patriarchal cultures, none of these gods invented poetry, writing, painting, and so on. Sometimes one of them was picked out as the inventor of the alphabet, but otherwise every one of them stole or received these skills from a Goddess.
The Nine Athenian Muses:
Kalliope - 'beautiful voiced' or 'fair faced'
eldest of the Muses, sometimes called mother of the Sirens, she was associated with epic poetry in Athens and lyric poetry in Alexandria; she usually carried a scroll and stylus or tablet and pencil; her daughter Hymen 'veil' was a poet; when assigned a musical instrument, Kalliope usually played the trumpet
Kleio - 'famegiver' or 'proclaimer'
Muse of history and the trumpet of fame, hence the expression 'don't blow your own horn'; she held an open scroll or chest of books
Polyhymnia - 'many hymns'
Muse of mime and hymns, inventor of the lyre and sometimes agriculture; she was also associated with dance, geometry, and history; she played the lute
Euterpe - 'joygiver,' 'whirlwind of joy'
Muse of music, carried a flute or double pipe
Terpsichore - 'spinning dancer' or 'lover of the dance'
Muse of light verse, carried a lyre or harp, also called a mother of the Sirens
Erato - 'awakener of desire'
Muse of lyric choral poetry and erotic poetry, she was often shown carrying a lyre; originally a prophetic Arkadian Tree Goddess, she had two daughters, Kleomene 'famous strength' or 'famous Moon,' and Kleophema 'great repute'
Melpomene - 'the singer'
Muse of tragedy, she wore its mask and a wreath of vine leaves; she too was named as a mother of the Sirens, and played the horn
Thaleia - 'festive' or 'dancer'
Sometimes considered leader of the Muses instead of Kalliope, she was the Muse of comedy, and wore its mask with a wreath of ivy leaves; she was later said to play the viol
Urania - 'heavenly'
The globe holding Muse of astronomy, sometimes she was titled Anaximolpos 'queen of song,' and beat time on a drum or gong; she became connected to the concept of 'heavenly love' between two males as opposed to debased, 'earthly' love via Plato's Symposium. As a result today Urania is often considered the patron Muse of gaymen
The Athenians also spoke of a nurse of the Muses, called Eupheme 'holy words.' As an imperative, eûpheme means 'speak only holy words!' and so was used idiomatically to call for silence during rituals.
The Thrakian Muses:
Mnemosyne - memory; She Who Remembers
Melpomene - singer; She Who Sings
Poietes - music and poetry; Sho Who Compses Music and Poetry
Early Muses of Piera:
• Daughters of Pierene, whose name means 'of the willows,' sometimes their mother was called Antiope 'opposing Moon'
Kolymbas - shrub
Iynx - spell, charm
Cenchrias - spotted serpent
Kissa - jay
Chloris - green
Akalanthis - goldfinch
Nessa - having come down (from heaven)
Pipo - woodpecker
Drakonitis - a type of bird
• sometimes replaced by Achelois - she who drives away grief
The Seven Muses of Lesbos:
Neilo - of the Nile; may be another imported version of Neith
Tritone - third queen, eldest
Asopo - clever in all things
Heptapora - with seven paths
Achelois - she who drives away grief; wore a wreath of willow branches
Tipoplo - bird's cry (tentative)
Rhodia - rosy
The Triad of Mount Helikon in Boeotia:
Melete - practicing; may be related to the Goddess Mylitta; see Chapter Ten: Aphrodite
Mneme - remembering
Aoide - singing
Daughters of Plusia:
Thelxinoe - charming the heart; one of the earliest Muses
Aoide - singing
Arche - beginning
Melete - practicing
Triad of Sikyon:
Polymatheia - learned in many things and two others, names currently unknown
Possible names of these two lost Muses:
• Polynoe - richness of mind and reason
• Polyhymnia - rich in hymns
Delphic Triad of Muses:
Nete - middle note; originally Neith of Egypt
Mese - third note
Hypate/Hypatia - highest note
Kephisso - type of sparrow
Apollonis - destroyer, she who reckons, she who counts the time
Borysthenis - Northern Goddess
• The first trio were named for the strings on a type of lyre.
Famous Priestesses and Followers of the Muses108:
Korinna 'virgin' of Boeotia, a famous poet, musician, compser, and instructor who instructed Pindar and preferred to sing of Goddesses and heroines.
Megalostrata 'greatest of the soldiers,' a lyric poet, singer, dancer, composer, and choir leader of Sparta.
Phantasia 'imagination, she who imagines,' a famous poet from Memphis, Egypt who was considered one of the inventors of hexameter verse.
Praxilla 'dextrous one' of Sikyon, compser of drinking songs, dithyrambs, and epic poety.
Themis 'she who ordains the law,' another famous poet considered a co-onventor of hexameter verse.
Dike 'justice, the way or path' also called Tyche 'fate' and later Eurydike 'universal justice'
Agathe - good, worthy
Automatia - luck (for good or ill)
Ikseutria - she who snares
Soteira - saviour; she who sows
While her sister Artemis typically embodies the law of nature, Dike is the embodiment of justice in artificial settings. However, Dike was not cold and remote. In fact she was a stormy Goddess, lover of Athena. Periodically her image was drawn around the places she was worshipped in a cart, symbolically creating an island of fairness. She not only punished evil, but also rewarded those who acted justly or administered justice. Contrary to some portrayals, she was neither vindictive nor cruel, rather, like Artemis, she stood for balance. Like Themis, she was accompanied by a Great Serpent and worshipped in a womb oracle where she could be invoked from its omphalos, this one at Trophonius at Lebadeia. At times she rather than Artemis was considered Themis' younger self.
The dice rolled to choose a sacrificial victim were hers109, in part because they were typically made from the knucklebones of sheep and so were relatively symmetrical and easy to cut in half. As a result they were often cut in half and shared between friends as a token of goodwill. In time the sacred dice even appeared at the foot of the christian cross.
The Cosmic Wheel also belonged to Dike, usually called the Karmic Wheel. This Wheel was later diabolized as an instrument of torture, but could still be seen being set aflame and rolled downhill to liken it to the Sun. Each temple omphalos was meant to embody the hub of the Wheel, since it is by being born that a person enters the flow of Fate. The Romans conflated Dike with Fortuna (Fors Fortuna) who began as the agricultural Goddess Vortumna of the Etruscans, who took care that the wheel of the seasons kept turning. Famous oracles at Palaestrena and Antium were dedicated to her.
The infinity sign was originally Dike's symbol of karmic balance. It is telling that now it is used to indicate a number large beyond imagining. According to the Greeks Dike once lived on Earth, but eventually she retreated by stages from an increasingly violent world that seemed oblivious to her laws. While this reflects the actions of a wide variety of persecuted groups, Dike herself has never truly left the world, for her words are still remembered:
'To do harm to another person is to harm yourself.'
Her name means 'laurel,' 'bloody one,' 'bloody earth,' or 'bloody corn.'
Horse-headed avatar of Themis, she was worshipped exclusively by women, as exemplified by the Amazon tribe of the Hippoprosopai 'horse faced.' Daphne ruled menstrual rituals and mysteries, and women's fertility. So it is no surprise she was concerned with the fertility of the Earth. Like her counterparts Horse-Headed Demeter and Kretan Leukippe, she ruled death and preparation for rebirth.
The city of Tempe was hers, where her followers were known as Maenads. They chewed cherry laurel leaves and went into ecstatic trances. The 'Da' syllable of her name, which can mean Earth or corn suggests two other rituals which were later persecuted so hysterically that entire tribes were annihilated. In the first, menstruating women took to the forest in order to escape the trappings of male society. There they built sacred huts and sweat lodges with only the swept Earth as a floor. Sitting in these huts, they returned their wise blood directly to the Earth as an act of thanksgiving and to encourage its fertility110.
The second ritual involved mixing the seed corn with menstrual blood before planting it. The treatment was expected to encourage a healthy, bountiful crop, a far cry from later beliefs, which included that it would produce famine and a field of snakes, which is curiously evocative of the warriors sprouted from planted dragon's teeth.
Like her Amazon followers, Daphne was a skilled hunter and warrior. She played the syrinx, and may have been among the many figures that culminated in the Pied Piper. Her haunting music called the souls of the dead into the Earth to await rebirth, or sent out the souls of the newly born. Connections to the Kretan Sun Goddess Pasiphae suggest that Daphne may have ruled the setting and rising Sun, when it appears bloated and red.
'Of the black poplar,' she was an Italian Goddess who may have been a form of Diana, since they shared the Grove of Nemi. Represented by a stream in the grove rather than a statue, she ruled wisdom and foresight. Her colleges of priestesses provided advisors and women who administered the laws Egeria handed down to pre-patriarchal Rome. She was also a midwife and Fate Goddess, who predicted the fate of each child as she brought them into the world. Besides her peaceful functions, she was also a War Goddess who fought in defense of her worshippers. In their legends of Rome's early kings, the Romans said that king Numa in particular consulted Egeria for advice... but only at night.
Aventina - of the Aventine hill in Rome
Casta - immaculate one
Daeus Coeli - glory of heaven
Diktynna - lawgiver
Diviana - Goddess Anna
Feronia - mother of wolves
Genitalis - she who fertilizes
Iaculatrix - javelin thrower, hunter
Innupta - virgin
Jana - gatekeeper
Lucifera - light bringing
Lucina - of celestial light
Luna/Lunata - Moon
Lupa - she-wolf
Nemorensis - of the Moon grove
Noctiluca - one who shines by night
Nocturna - Goddess of the night
Opifera - one who brings aid
Polumura - of the sheep
Proserpina - of the underworld
Sospita - the preserver
Tergemina - same meaning as Trivia
Thermaea - healing fever
Titania - of the Titans (giants)
Trevi - having three aspects
Trivia - of the three ways
Venatrix - hunter
Virgo - virgin
A Roman Goddess remarkably similar to Artemis, she may be descended from Dia 'light' or 'Goddess' of the Sabines and be related to the solar deity of the Scythians. She was certainly foreign to Rome, as her shrine was placed outside of the pomerenium, the city's sacred boundary within which only its native deities could have temples. Dia had a grove of laurel and oak on the banks of the Tiber, tended by a college of priestesses. Each fallen trunk or branch was marked by the sacrifice of a lamb or sow. Her name may also be related to the Greek word for intelligence, 'Diania.' Eventually Diana became the patron deity of the Latin League and part of a trinity with Lucina and Hekate.
Diana's name111, which may mean 'the Goddess,' 'Goddess Anna,' or even 'Goddess Mother' is mainly associated with the Grove of Nemi, although she had others in Capua and at the Aventine Hill. At Capua she was titled Trifatina, while at Nemi she was titled Nemorensis. Horses were not allowed in any of these sanctuaries, nor were any men, except for the doomed sacred king of the old year and his replacement. They were remembered as Hippolytus and Virbius, and the drama of the exchange of kings was enacted each year.
Partnered by the Goddess Egeria, Diana ruled the sky, Sun, and Moon. She presided over conception and sovereignty, and her maiden image was similar to youthful portrayals of Artemis: armed with a bow, roaming the forest, lightly dressed, accompanied by Amazonian followers, and owner of an immortal, uncapturable hind which was particularly sacred in Capua. It was once common for some women to choose to live together apart from men serving their Goddess, so not all of this image is necessarily a graft from Greek culture.
Also titled Trevi 'having three aspects,' Diana was a maiden-mother-crone trinity. The maiden is best remembered as Little Red Riding Hood, her hooded cloak and basket both seen in images of Diana and Artemis. Originally she was a red clad hunter, accompanied by her sacred wolf who killed the male hunter, another version of the sacred king.
Artemis and Diana also shared the August Full Moon feast day, a festival of torches when all of her groves were lit. In Latium women walked to Aricia, the site of the Grove of Nemi to give thanks for Diana's help and honour her parthenogenetic daughter Aradia 'Goddess of the Altar112,' who brought that help as the female savior. In time Diana's priestess-witches began to fall victim to patriarchal moves to eliminate priestesses and ultimately their Goddesses. 'Respectable' women marched to the Aventine Hill instead, performing birthing rites and ceremonial hair washing. This ceremony actually comes from the worship of Luna, who was believed to be particularly in charge of the seasons. The first day of the waning Moon belonged to her before Hekate came to Rome, and her festival was on the last day of March (Lunalia). The Aventine sanctuary was extremely old and belonged to her.
Sometimes called a ruler of the Southern lands of Libyan Amazonia, she was in fact a Lydian Goddess who ruled the wheel of Karma, Time, and Fate. The capital of her country was called Omphalion. Her name means literally 'little phallus of the belly113,' the clitoris. Prior to the introduction of patriarchal mores, men and women alike considered the source of their sexual pleasure to be divine, a direct gift from the Goddess herself. Accordingly, ancient Greek women spoke of what was 'divine and Goddesslike' the literal meaning of clitoris. This also explains the many terms for penises that mean simply 'virile membrane' or some term referring to erectness and rigidity, rather than 'godlike,' for the Goddess who gifted humans with sexual pleasure was perennially titled 'the rigid' or 'the straight.'
The power of women's sexuality and genitals was deeply embedded in ancient Greek myth, and even now figures in powerful folk beliefs in Greece and Anatolia. The Lykian women drove off Belleropheron by marching on him with exposed vulvae, and the Xanthian women defended their homes successfully from Poseidon in the same way. Symbols of the vulva are worn today in parts of Greece and Anatolia to fend off the evil eye.
'Omphaios' meant oracular in ancient Greek, and the omphalos shrines were always the source of oracles, exemplified by Delphi. Suppression of the omphalos' true meaning reflected the suppression of women's sexuality, and led to glosses such as 'beehive' or 'navel' when a meaning for the word was called for. Just looking at an omphalos stone and seeing it actually didn't look like either of these things changed nothing, as far as the later authors were concerned. The 'jewel in the lotus' metaphor refers just as accurately to the clitoris as it does to male and female genitals joined in perpetual intercourse. Frequently the omphalos was shown flanked by doves, ancient vulva symbols.
The Goddess Omphale personified the turning point of the universe, paralleling Helike of the Axle. It was said that she had owned Herakles as a slave, but in fact this is a late gloss to explain why the priests of Herakles wore women's clothing. The true explanation was that if the priests didn't wear women's clothes, they were considered powerless. Herakles was the Sun god in this guise, and had no choice but to travel around the zodiacal wheel, and end as a sacrifice to the Goddess.
Finally, every place that had an omphalos stone referred to itself as the centre of the world, and by extension, the universe. This reflects a natural human tendency to place their own home in the centre of a map they draw from memory. The ultimate source of the centre imagery is again, not the navel but the clitoris, often called in modern parlance 'a woman's centre.'
A primordial Goddess whose children were the Sun and Moon. She may have laid them while in the form of a swan, likening her to Great Hathor, the goose who laid the golden egg; while in this form she was often titled Ortygometra 'mother of the birds.' Herodotus referred to Leto as an ancient queen of Lower Egypt. Like Artemis, she was known by many names over many lands. Lat the fertility Goddess of the Etruscans, Swan Goddess Leda of pre-Hellenic Greece whom Goodrich says was earlier called Arachne. Whether her name was rendered Lada, Leda, Leto, Lat, or Lado, it meant 'Goddess' or 'woman.' Sometimes she was called Latona, 'Queen Lat,' especially by the Thrakians who worshipped her under this name. Like the Amazons, she was strongly associated with the river Danube.
Her name also refers to milk, 'latte, lait' connecting her to the divine cow whose milk made up the stars. As such she ruled Latium, and was occasionally called the Moon herself, in which case she had two sisters, Asteria 'of the stars' and Ortygia 'quail island'... or Klytia 'invoked, the voice' and Melanippe 'black or nightmare', or Althaea 'Goddess who heals all' and Hypermnestra 'one who woos from on high.' In other words, Leto was a Triple Goddess of Moon, Sun, and Sky. She ruled Lykia as well, and there she could take wolf form and turn men into frogs, which actually meant to give them rebirth, because frogs were symbolically equivalent to fetuses. On Krete she was called Phytia 'the creator,' protector of children.
Her great temple was the Letöon on the west end of the Pataian beach in Anatolia. According to legend, wolves helped Leto wash her newborns and drink clean water from the river Xanthos not far from this site. These 'wolves' seem to be synonymous with the Termilae whom Leto renamed Lykiae, Lykians. At first the sanctuary was ignored by invaders, but gradually persecutions of the worshippers increased, culminating with the eventual destruction of its three buildings. The foremost of these was Leto's sanctuary which was built over a spring, flanked by lesser ones dedicated to the Sun and Moon. The high priestess of the three was high priestess of all Lykia, until the women were forcibly replaced by men.
Themis, Mother of Artemis
Alosydne - seaborne
Boulaios - of the council
Hersechthonia - speaking from under the Earth
Ichnaios - tracker
Phoebe - bright Moon, purifier
Polyboteira - rich in nourishment; often carried the cornucopia along with her scales in this aspect
Temaanurvda - the mother sea; Scythian name
Prior to the arrival of Hellenic peoples on the Greek peninsula, the great Triad of Earth, Sea, and Sky was worshipped under many names. Among them was the triad of Gaea 'Earth,' Themis 'divine order,' and Anaetis 'of the planet Venus' perhaps originally 'of the lights of the sky.'
Themis, whose name is probably cognate to Chaldean Thamte 'sea,' Babylonian Tiamat114, and Temu of Egypt, was herself titled Alosydne 'the sea born.' Her name is more usually translated 'cosmic order' referring back to the Kosmos, which is the body of her mother, the Earth, the Sea on its surface, and the Sky above. However, it also meant 'steadfast one,' 'the doomed, fixed, or settled.' Anaetis, Themis' own daughter, ruled the sky and all its lights. Eventually the Greeks forgot this, and believed that only the Moon was hers, and called her by her matrilineal name, Artemis.
The Earth, Sea, and Sky were all interconnected, so that whatever was done by mortals was seen by Themis the Lawgiver. The Furies were the enforcers of her most sacred laws, those of kinship and respect. Sometimes she was called the Inescapable One, whose virgin aspect Artemis hunted down evildoers with her hounds by moonlight.
Themis was the mother of the abyssal elements, water, darkness, night, and eternity, hence the second Triad she was part of with Nyx 'night' and Tyche 'fortune' (Dike 'justice.'115) At times she could be seen travelling the oceans she controlled in the form of a giant fish, whale, or dolphin. In fact, her cauldron was the ocean basin, the first Deep from which she dealt out the cycles of creation and destruction. Themis wrote the Tablets of Destiny, and invented agriculture, building, weaving, pottery, writing, poetry, graphic arts, music, calendars, and mathematics116. Ruler of prophecy because she understood human nature and had created justice and the social contract, she, Gaea, and Artemis were the original deities of Delphi, and she had many other oracles, most famously at Pitane. Themis' other children were the Horae 'hours or seasons,' Moirae 'Fates, or strong ones,' Tyche (Dike), and sometimes Astraea 'starry one' and the Hesperides 'Sunset Goddesses.'
As Goddesses of Delphi, she and Artemis shared the title Phoebe 'bright shiner' or 'purifier.' Delphi itself was founded by her priestesses, called Themistes 'oracles.' One of the priestesses would enter a trance state in the cave, holding a sprig of laurel in one hand. While she repeated Themis' stream of consciousness, a second priestess interpreted. Ceremonies at Delphi included group dancing and the dedication of tripods won during hymn contests in the festival of Thargelia. The first temples everywhere in Greece and Ionia were built in Themis' honour, including a shrine on the Kephissos river. Sometimes she was also associated with Dodona.
Delphi was not the only temple of Themis situated over cracks in the Earth. Another was at Troezen, where she was the Great Goddess of the district, made up of three allied towns. Artemis was considered her maiden self and worshipped in the same temple. Themis' three priestesses, named Antheia 'flowery,' Hyperea 'being overhead,' and Pitthea 'Pine Goddess' wore white robes and sat in special thrones to render judgments and were known as the Themides. The thrones may originally have been tripods placed by the chasm or set of cracks in the temple floor.
Each temple contained a veil hiding its most sacred artifacts. The word 'revelation' comes from Latin for 'to draw back the veil.' To do so was to cease being mortal, so each dying person was taken behind the veil, to greet the Goddess as they passed over, and be blessed by the sight of her most holy relics.
Themis' worshippers, like those of many gylanic deities (male or female) maintained a tradition of sacred tattoos. The Thrakians were particularly well known for this, as were the smith-tribe of the Kyklops, and the Amazons. The tattoos could be nets, representing water as seen in pictures of Thrakian slaves, spirals representing the cycle of life and death, or designs using triangles and lozenges.
When portraying Themis on pottery or in stone, she was usually shown sitting on a tripod in a cave, or by a mountain cliff or slope. Sometimes she held a pair of scales and a cornucopia, or a phial of sacred water. The blindfold was a much later addition, introduced to excuse the failures of the patriarchal justice system.
Like Cybele, Themis was worshipped in the form of an aniconic black stone, probably meteoric. The Black Sea Amazons had such a stone on their sacred island of Aretias, and at Themiskyra, the city of 'Divine Themis.' The Roman forum contained another black stone engraved with her laws. So powerful a symbol is Themis that even the Olympian gods dared not usurp her right to call meetings or drink before her, and modern day patriarchs attempt to blind her but fear to remove her.
The knowledge and traditions she gave to the world are found among her priestesses, the Amazons and witches. They include archery, sports and sportsmanship, games, weaving, and witchcraft. From her came the concept of conscience and the deity within. After the devastating flood caused by the spiteful Zeus, she helped Pyrrha 'fiery, red' and Deucalion to repopulate the Earth by throwing stones, 'the bones of their mother' over their shoulders. The stones they threw became the original Spartans, 'sown people.'
Anesidora - sending up gifts
Bathysternos - deep breasted one
Caecilia - invisible one; originally a title of the Latin deity Tanaquil
Euonyme - wide ruling
Eurokolpos - wide breasted
Eurysternos - broad chested
Ida - of the mountains
Kurotrophos - nurse of youth; used in Athens
Ma - mother; used in Lydia
Pandora - all giver
Pangaea - universal Gaea, all of the Earth
Panorma - universal mountain mother
Pelope - serpent
Polyphorbos - feeding many
Siderometer - mother of iron
Titaea - of the Titans (giants); originally separate Goddess
The Earth personified, mother of Themis, Greatest of All Prophets, called Ghe in the Near East. The most sacred and binding oaths were sworn in her name and that of the Styx, even by Olympian deities. Olympus itself was actually one of her great shrines under her title of Olympia. Gaea was also worshipped as Panorma and Ida, connecting her to Rhea and Cybele. The Thrakians adored her as Pangaea 'Universal Gaea.'
Since she was the source of all that is necessary for life, Gaea was also titled Pandora and Anesidora, 'the all giver' and 'rich in gifts.' Her great pithos was symbolic of both womb and tomb. The Mykenaeans used pithoi for burial as well as food storage, embalming bodies in honey. The manufacture of pottery was first done only by women, so many early Minoan-Mykenaean containers were probably turned and painted by them. Their portrayals of Gaea showed her as a giant woman being released from underground by small people with what are usually called hammers, but are probably mattocks. Her creation myth may run something like this:
In the beginning, there was Chaos, the formless substance of Gaea's menstrual blood. Eventually she gave birth to Themis, 'order,' and the fluid of her birthing became the Sea, which Themis in turn ruled. Then Gaea herself took form as the Earth, and Themis produced her own daughter Anaetis, who is best known by her matrilineal name, Ar-Themis. With Anaetis came the lights of the Sky, Sun, Moon, and Stars, the Sun to mark day versus night, and the Moon and stars to mark the smaller and greater passing of Time, one of Gaea's greatest inventions. Rich with power and imagination, Gaea began to produce creatures beyond number to populate the new world. Among these were the first people, who left barley and honeycakes at the sacred caves and clefts in her surface, and sowed and hunted with care. They understood that what is taken out of the Earth must be replenished, and adored her as Bathysternos 'the Deep Breasted One,' or Eurokolpos 'the broad bosomed one' who would take them back into Herself after death.
The August-September festival of Genesia 'birth' or Nekesia 'death' honoured Gaea in this aspect, its very name acknowledging the cyclic nature of life and death. Libations were poured, offerings of milk, honey, and flowers left in her temples, and invocations sung to her, referring to her as the Agatha Daimon 'kind spirit.'
People with this sense of connection to the land spawned the prophetic priestesshood of Gaea-Themis. They drank bull's blood and entered caves to give oracles, worshipping Gaea as Pelope 'serpent,' and naming the Peloponnesus for her. Gaea was remembered in this form until Classical times, when cakes were offered to her even before Athena at the Panathenaea. Aegina in Achaea was another of her oracles and almost as old as Delphi.
Klitor, the Arkadian city sacred to Artemis was actually dedicated to Gaea. From its yoni shrine rose the river Alpha, the river of life in which people bathed to be born again Pliny reported either a competing tradition, a second nearby spring, or the difficulties of telling the Styx and the Alpha apart. He referred to an Arkadian spring called the Styx which had fatally cold waters. The connection between the two streams was widely agreed on, however: below ground the river Alpha was itself called the Styx 'the sacred or petrifying' which passed through the underworld in seven great loops and had five tributaries. Its waters were Gaea's menstrual blood (as evidenced by the later belief that if a man touched it he would be turned to stone), and Olympian gods swore by it, subtly admitting she was their mother. It's stream was of course, shallow and warm, and so easy to ford on foot, belying tales of Charon's ferry. The royal 'purple117,' colour of menstrual blood was worn because it was deemed necessary to have the mana of the woman who can both bleed without dying and bring new life into the world to rule. Meteorites, common centrepieces of Gaea's temples, and discoveries of iron ore gave her another of her titles, Siderometer 'mother of iron.'
Any person who could survive drinking the waters of the Styx, first by facing the queen of Gaea's birthgate, Nonakris 'nine peaks' the Mountain Goddess, then by making a cup from a horse's hoof to drink it from, became invulnerable. These were new conditions made necessary after the story of Achilles became widely known. He only had to be dipped in the Styx for the same effect, which was inconsistent with their original powers of rebirth and the assured immortality of the soul. Gaea bore four children as this underworld river Goddess: Zelo 'zeal,' Nike 'victory,' Krete 'strength,' and Bia 'force.'
Initially, guinea fowl were not really connected with Artemis. But when the Greeks came to the island of Linos, they found the Goddess Iokallis 'beauty of the Moon.' She was similar to Artemis, and the guinea fowl was her totem. Her priestesses were called guinea fowl as well, except for two, Gorge 'terrible, grim' and Deianeira 'she who strings together spoils,' who may have been transplanted priestesses of Artemis or Athena.
The names of Iokallis' priestesses that are recorded include: Eurymede 'rich in wisdom,' Melanippe 'dark horse,' Phoebe 'Moon,' Eurydike 'wide judging,' Menesto 'one who haggles,' Erato 'awakener of desire,' Antiope 'opposing face,' and Hippodameia 'horsetamer.'
These nine daughters of the Kretan Sea Goddess Thalassa were driven from their home island to Asia Minor, where they made their final escape from invading Greeks. Renowned smiths and witches, they could control the weather and created the first images of deities. Greek gods, jealous of their power, talent, and wealth, attempted to destroy them, but were foiled by Artemis, who helped them escape. They continued the tradition of using menstrual blood as a fertility charm and dog masks in ritual.
Despite the hysterical persecution of the Telchines and their followers, the names of five of them together with a possible sixth are recorded. Halia 'woman of the sea,' or 'salty element,' worshipped on Rhodes and commemorated in a Sun festival on the winter solstice long after the names of most her sisters had been forgotten; Dexithea 'Goddess of the right hand,' Makello 'joyful one,' Simone 'flat nosed,' Myla 'of the corn' considered the inventor of the corn mill to whom a mountain was dedicated on Rhodes; and possibly the Ocean Goddess Kaphina.
These giant smiths were usually considered exclusively male. However, they seem instead to have been a tribe of smiths from Asia Minor. Robert Graves118 suggests that 'Kyklops' should be translated 'ring eyed' and that they had concentric circles on their foreheads in honour of the Sun. The marks were more probably spirals, an ancient and vital piece of religious symbolism. They represented the movement of life from formlessness outward to manifestation, and back inward to formlessness, a process undergone by every metalwork. The paths of the Moon and Sun in the sky also describe spirals, congruent with the strong association between the Kyklops and the sky.
The three Kyklops named Argeia, Bronte, and Sterope ('brightness,' 'thunder,' and 'lightning') the daughters of Amphithea 'Goddess who is everywhere' forged weapons and armour for Artemis. As famous for their work in stone as metal, they built numerous temples to their Great Goddess, whose name is never given, and were themselves deified. Later they were partially demoted like the Titans, into perverse, human-eating giants.
Iphigeneia 'mother of strong daughters'
The ancient Greeks claimed she was merely a high priestess of Artemis Tauropolos in the area of the present day Crimea, but she was in fact the Brauronian's local Goddess119 and appropriately titled after the city, 'Brauronia.' She also absorbed one of Artemis' titles, Ortheia. In light of the rituals associated with 'Brauronian Artemis,' Iphigeneia was evidently a Bear Goddess.
One of this Goddess' high priestesses found herself in conflict with the Greek king Agamemnon during the Trojan war. In an attempt to subdue the area, supply his fleet and prevent the Taurians from sending help to Troy, he sent an ultimatum. Hand over the high priestess Iphigeneia as a sacrifice to his god, or he would land his army and raze the area. The restlessness and violent impatience of the Greek army was carefully emphasized, but the threats made no difference. The Taurians flatly refused, and grimly prepared to fight.
Agamemnon promptly settled in to beat the Taurians into submission only to suffer a humiliating rout. It was made even worse for him by Hera, who becalmed his fleet, allowing it to be further battered by the furious Taurians. His actions made him powerful enemies in two Goddesses who according to the Illiad caused him considerable difficulties.
This Goddess whose totem was a red and white species of daisy (the day's eye) divided her time between the underworld and the land of the living in a manner clearly corresponding to the behaviour of the Sun. Associated with snakes and other wild animals, the Greeks tried to assimilate her to Artemis and force marriage upon her high priestess. At the banquet and sacrifices before the marriage, the Greek king Pelias made a great show of killing the sacrificial goat on the altar of Artemis. Then he dedicated a boar and a lion killed for the occasion to her as well. Here Artemis acted, returning the slaughtered animals to life, leading to the flight of the 'wedding' guests as the animals headed for the outdoors.
The high priestess found herself under attack by the Greek who had expected to take possession of her at the end of the night. Calling upon her Goddess, she became a mass of wriggling snakes and escaped.
Komaetho 'she of the beautiful hair' was a high priestess of Artemis who ended a plague and brought fertility to the land by performing the sacred marriage rite. She represented the continuing older rituals, which were maintained for fear of the loss of the harvest.
Clues that Artemis' worship included sexual rituals and sacred kings in non-Amazon villages are also in tales like those of Leukippe 'white mare' and Priene 'fiery queen.' Leukippe's son offended Artemis so deeply that she sent him to the underworld. Leukippe's courage and determination helped her to reclaim him and release him from the underworld. This resembles many myths where a god dies and in order to be reborn needs the assistance of the Goddess, or is sent to the underworld for the sin of hubris and is only released on 'good behavior,' and the mercy of the Goddess. Priene's son was killed 'accidentally' by Artemis, placing him in the category of dying God who remains in the underworld to tend to the dead.
The Grove of Nemi and its associated lake were sacred to Artemis, and it was where Hypsipyle 'she of the high gate,' a council member from Lemnos who had been kidnapped by Thrakian pirates found herself after escaping. She arrived at the town of Nemea as it was sweltering under the blazing Sun, its inhabitants increasingly frantic as drought threatened the crops. When they learned that Hypsipyle was a priestess of Artemis, they begged her to ask the Goddess to send rain. When Hypsipyle finished her invocation, the Nemeans waited impatiently.
Three long days passed. On the fourth, a child who had been brought to the Grove of Nemi to receive the Goddess' blessing was found with snakes carefully licking her ears. This granted her the power of prophecy and understanding of the speech of animals. Even as the Nemeans wondered at the miracle, it began to rain.
And so began the Nemean games, a great festival in thanksgiving for the kindness of Artemis, presided over by the daughters of Amphithea 'Goddess who is everywhere': Antiklaea 'false key,' Aegiale 'bright one,' Argeia 'beaming,' Deapyle 'Goddess on high,' and Polymede 'she who is rich in wisdom.'
Hailing from the Indian subcontinent, Uma is another Goddess very similar to Artemis. She appears to be one of the particularly archaic Goddesses of the Amazons, worshipped by some of the earliest all-women tribes who were forced out of their homelands by invaders.
Her name may be translated as 'Moon,' 'woman,' 'warrior,' or 'knowledge,' a complex of meanings clearly indicating how multifaceted feminine lives were once seen to be. Uma was called the embodiment of wisdom because she controlled the Moon, which was of such help when counting shorter periods within the year, and could mete out death at will. The power of granting life or death could only be wielded properly by the wise. She lived apart from men in the forests and mountains as Lady of the Beasts, distinctive in a red skirt, later hallmark of priestesses, Goddesses, and queens. Sometimes the skirt was replaced or emphasized by a red cloak. Like Artemis, she was a psychopompe and moved at will between the worlds. Probably she was a shapeshifter, since a frequent means of passing from one world to the next was to take a different form.
Uma is the sister of Ganga, the great beloved Goddess embodied by the Ganges. They are both daughters of the Mountain Goddesses generally referred to as the Himalayas, and at first they lived in heaven... that is in the home of their mothers, the Himalayas. The German word for heaven, 'himmel' derives from these same mountains.
In time however, the sisters decided to leave home and live among mortals on Earth. Ganga came to the Earth to grant health, happiness, and release from punishment, bearing all the rivers of the world as she came, and the river of stars in the sky. But Uma soon found simply seeing to the many wild animals and plants and teaching humans to treat them with respect was not enough. So she became a psychopompe, and began to teach mortals to understand the divine. In gratitude, mortals also refer to her as Parvati 'the highest speaker' and Gauri 'the golden one.' The latter may refer to the Sun, or to the yellow appearance of the Moon not long before it sets.
But Uma is not a purely pleasant being. She is part of a trinity of Battle Goddesses with Kali 'the beautiful' and Durga 'the unapproachable' and was once titled Vama 'left handed' the monicker of a female warrior, and Kaisiki 'the sheathed one.' Like Kali and Greek Hekate, black goats were sacrificed to her as a divinity of the underworld. Uma was originally a powerful preserver of order through the Moon and Sun, measurers of time and the rules structuring how plants and animals were used by humans. She was more powerful than any god, unapproachable and unstoppable.
Unsurprisingly, between her independence and Amazon associations, under patriarchal rule almost no other information about Uma remains, and she has been diminished into a shadowy figure.
Another of the probable Goddesses of the archaic Indian Amazons, Durga is particularly associated with the dark skinned, aboriginal peoples of the subcontinent. A warrior skilled in the use of the chakram120 who rode to battle on a lion, she never fought alongside men. She could cause earthquakes, symbolic of her power to make and unmake creation. If her worshippers lived in a city or village, they would go to the forests and all but inaccessible mountains to eat meat and drink blood and liquor in her honour. There was no gainsaying her power or beauty, and they may well have participated in similar ceremonies as later followers of Artemis. Ultimately, Durga may be most famed for creating Kali and the seven Matrikas 'mothers,' fierce defenders of all life against demons who had increased their powers through practising extreme aesceticism. The early Indian peoples seem to have been the first to note that such practices don't make the bad good, instead merely amplifying whatever nature the practitioner already has.
The Irish had (and have) their own Artemis-like Goddess, Flidais, a member of the Tuatha de Danaan, and owner of a cow whose milk could supply thirty people per night. She is also associated with deer via the Old English word 'deor' which originally meant any wild animal and so indirectly records her rulership of all wild animals. Flidais' chariot may have been drawn by supernatural deer. The connection via deor is especially interesting, because in Celtic languages 'deor' (perhaps with different accentuation) meant 'brave.'
Flidais had one daughter, Fland, although several others were attributed to her by some authors: Argoen, Be Chuille, Dinand, and Be Theite. Rather more detail is still recorded of Flad, while her sisters are at best named as 'witches.' Flad was a contradictory Goddess whose nature seems at once kindly and threatening. On one hand, she was a trusted keeper of sacred objects and a kindly psychopompe who led the dead into the otherworld. On the other, her favoured home was a mysterious lake into which she was rumoured to pull hapless passersby and drown them.
The Agraeans considered themselves the first Greeks to encounter Artemis after her birth on the island of Delos. In fact, Delos had an ancient temple of Artemis-Astarte where women dedicated silver labiae and labryses (symbolically they are the same thing) to the Goddess, and the spiraling crane dance was first performed there. After presiding over a festival there, Artemis took up her bow and headed to the mainland, probably intending to go to Arkadia. Her swift footed, mysterious appearance as she dashed easily through the forests and across rugged terrain made quite an impression on the Agraeans.
Passing on through Ambrakia, she found the land was in the grip of the tyrant Phalaexis. His mercenaries beat and robbed the inhabitants at will, and he starved the land with grinding taxes. Exchanging her bow for sword and shield, the latter emblazoned with the head of a lioness, Artemis faced down the mercenaries and worked her way into Phalaexis' own palace. To the tyrant, Goddess or no, she was still a woman. But this was no consolation when Artemis ended his reign with a swing of her sword.
But these are but tame, carefully edited tales culled from the very latest of anthologies of myth. They give almost no hint of the true character of the aspect of Artemis they referred to. Agrotera means 'hunter' a being who is at home in the wild. During the day, the Goddess hunted rather pedestrian fare, for a being of her powers: the deer, the wild boar. At night Artemis hunted a far different quarry, the souls of those mortals whose fate it is to die that night. Most of those souls travel to the underworld for a sojourn with Persephone, and a very few to join the Goddess on her nocturnal trips. In Europe's older forests, people still occasionally see Artemis running swiftly through the trees, her baying hounds bounding about her feet, a hunting horn or bow ready in one hand, eerily dark and without detail under even the Full Moon's light.
Artemis the Savior
During the time of the Persian War, an enemy force set out for Megaera. The fearful Megaerans prayed to Artemis for help, knowing themselves to be outnumbered and out armoured. That day, a mysterious woman appeared on the road to Megaera, and was soon captured by the Persians. Easy to catch though she had been, she was quick witted with an even quicker tongue. Offering guidance through the forested hills during the night so the Persians could mount a surprise attack, she successfully bargained for her life.
Deep in the woods, paths leading in all directions, the woman disappeared. Infuriated but stuck, the Persians pushed on. Artemis was unsurprised, watching them make slow progress through the forest to a point a full day's march from Megaera. She sent her animals to meet them, panicking the Persians into expending useless arrows at animals that could see far better at night than they. Finally arriving at Megaera, the army was exhausted and the archery corps all but ammunitionless. The Megaerans routed them handily, and in gratitude to Artemis built a huge temple in her honour, constructing it over a great cleft in the Earth.
Artemis and the Giants
Otus and Ephialtes were the giant sons of Poseidon, named for the waves ('he who pushes back' and 'he who leaps upon'). These giants were arrogant, and cared only for each other and getting what they wanted. Selfish and wasteful, they existed for instant gratification. One day, they decided to take over Mount Olympus. Astonishingly, they nearly succeeded, forcing Zeus to throw them back to the Earth with a thunderbolt. He was going to kill these violent rivals in order to secure his position, but Poseidon convinced him to let them go.
Thwarted in one foolish desire, Otus and Ephialtes came up with another. Each decided to rape a Goddess, one choosing Hera, the other Artemis. However, Hera was unreachable, and Artemis was chief defender of all Goddesses. She allowed the two giants to pursue her, leading them into the sea. They were sons of a sea god, and ran across it as easily as if it were on land. No one notes if they were surprised that Artemis could also perform this feat.
Artemis led Otus and Ephialtes to the island of Naxos and allowed them to approach her so closely they nearly touched her, and felt the movement of air when she disappeared. Some distance away, at the edge of the forest, there appeared a white hind with silver hooves, which dashed away as soon as the brothers noticed it. True to their attention spans, the brothers grabbed their spears and chased it instead. Eventually they each arrived at opposite sides of a glade. Able to see only the hind at its centre, they threw their spears and impaled one another.
The Greeks believed 'Leukophryne' referred to the marble whiteness of Artemis' statues, or perhaps the gypsum painted faces of her priestesses. The title actually goes back much further, to the founding of one of her great temples in Magnesia. The townspeople had been arguing amongst themselves whether to build a wall around their city, or spend the time and effort on other things. In the midst of their fighting, a white toad appeared between them. It's weird appearance and colour stopped the action immediately. Then the strange creature led the townspeople from their agora to a clearing nearby. Blurring into her true form, Artemis bade them build a temple and leave off constructing walls, for she would protect the city herself.
Artemis of the Red Cloak
The Greeks often carved images of Artemis into their marble pediments showing her in this guise, that of the red cloaked Hunter and ruler of the Wilds. Her cloak was roughly calf length, and unlike many deities who wore sandals, she wore half length boots, sturdy footwear with the toes turned up. Such boots were a necessity in the rocky places where otherwise she would spend all her time stubbing her toes. Her long bow, it's shape recurved, was made of horn and carefully chosen wood was as tall as herself. Often her hood half hid her flashing eyes, though she might stop to throw it and her cloak back, revealing the wolfskin belted about her waist and slung from one shoulder. During her rounds abroad, she was accompanied by two great wolf bitches.
Each night she chased away poachers and the ruffians who like to rob hapless travellers when they are forced to push on despite the lateness of the hour. Innocent men were best advised to be camped and peacefully asleep or not out in the forest at all, for even these she would shoot in the buttocks with her bow. In the morning they would wake, unharmed but for a buttock they could not sit on for a few days. Men who were not so innocent she chased through the forest with her wolves, striking them down sunrise. This treatment she reserved especially for those who killed female animals who were pregnant or caring for young, and those who wantonly cut down her trees.
As the Moon slipped below the horizon, Artemis made for one of the entrances to the underworld to visit her grandmother, the great Gaea. Always she brought with her the offerings of pious people, who left out barley and honey cakes, and skins of rich red wine for the Earth Goddess. For the remaining hours of the night Artemis would listen to the stories and lessons of the elder Goddess who had built the foundations of the world, birthed all living things, then arranged the intricate dance of life. And at the first light of morning, Artemis returned to the upper world, travelling to the sea where she would bring news from Gaea to her mother the Sea Goddess Themis before going on to tend to her followers, the red of her cloak throwing rosy streaks across the lightening sky.
'She climbs the mountains of the Moon
'O Artemis of Delos and lovely Ortygia,