A nurturing huntress or hunting nurturer

The idea for this post came to me last night as I was settling in for the evening, but I was just too blasted tired to write it, so I will try to remember as much of the points that I had wanted to make last night. I was thinking last night how the most regularly scene information about Artemis is in regard to her as a huntress goddess (and it is this feature that some folks make as a case for being the goddess of wild animals) or a moon goddess. The latter I think I went on about quite enough in my post about Hekate and Artemis but I will briefly sum up:

Artemis really isn’t a moon goddess exactly. Though it was popular later on to make her a moon goddess (more typically seen in the Roman cultus to Diana if you want artistic examples) during later periods, this inovation seems to be a connection between a goddess of light, a torch bearing goddess who often used the torch by night and was so represented in accounts of Pausanias often bearing a torch and bow in hand, with the lunar light. In my previous post I maintained that her association with the fullmoon specifically seems to have more to do with what the fullmoon represented in her own domain, rather than Artemis being a goddess specifically of the moon. And that is the coming of life from infancy into fruitfulness. Such can likewise be maintained when we see Artemis as companion of maidens and youths. She was the companion of Hippolytus who spent his youth in her company, she was the playmate of Persephone until Persephone was abducted/married (even chased after the departing maiden), and was honored as a goddess who presided over youths and maidens until the point that passed into adulthood and marital age. Therefore it is reasonable for me to see how this connection is made to Artemis at the fullmoon, and for which I honor her at the fullmoon, even as I honor Selene who is the goddess of the moon, or rather the lunar titanide. It is reasonable that her torch, while it can be associated to lunar light, is the light of life, the moving spirit pursued through the forests of life.

She is the torch bearing (or lamp carrying depending on which image you are going with, since at Argos in the templeof Despoina she was depicted bearing a lamp which is far more domestic than the torch) lady of the portal who greets forth the newly born and inspects the perfection of the born that they survive. Hence in her honor garlands adorned the doorways in honor of the birth of girls (and likewise for boys in honor of Apollon who is very much a boundaries deity in his own right and enjoys a certain crossover with his twin that is logical for twins as far as I can see). It is therefore also reasonable that, while it is common to imagine Artemis as the dart-shooting goddess (and certainly there is enough praise of this goddess in this respect both in ancient and modern times), she was equally, and perhaps more importantly a divine nurse and nurturing goddess. Early depictions of her in Thebes and in the Peloponnese depict her winged carrying animals (not dead animals she has slain, but just carrying them) whether that be stags, leopards, lions or rabbits (the rabbit being particularly popular in Thebes). In the colony of Messilia (modern Marseilles in France) there was a large statue of the goddess just outside the city in which she was holding an infant on her lap embraced to her chest. And one of my favorite vase paintings depicts the goddess with her bow and guiver at her back and she holds forth a bowl to give sustenance to a swan.

But art aside there also numerous poems and rituals that pay particular importance to this function of Artemis. In Sparta the nurses of boys held an annual ritual to Artemis, in Athens there was the Kourotrophoia in honor of Artemis Kourotrophos who raised children to adulthood in was honored by the giving of toys and dolls at her altar by those who exited childhood in young adulthood during the month of Metageitnia to name a few. Even her spring time ritual Mounykhia seemed to celebrate the development and passage of girls and was honored with a round cakes and lights. And so I have come to understand and associate the torches of Artemis with this primary focus of Artemis, caring over the young from the moment of birth particularly to the point of maturity (though this doesn’t necessarily mean that she stops all association afterwards but that this period is particular to her domain). From which point she takes on the other part of the nurturing goddess, to play her part as the huntress. To pursue the developing adult, to hunt them and chase them through the sacred woods, to chase them through life.

This act of the hunt I see as an extension of the nurturing domain of the goddess. She does not hunt without purpose. She pursues all living things because it is necessary and part of the divine order for her to do so in her own part of pushing life to evolve and for us to progress both as a species and as individuals. So she hunts all things. The boundary between man and animal is truly thin, and we see Actaeon transformed and slain as a deer. The higher beings hunt the lower beings, and this process aids in the development of the species, and the gods are above us all. So it is natural that while she assists in our own hunts, she is hunting us all alike too. Hence the title for this post, because she is both at the same time whichever way you turn it. You cannot seperate the hunt and the nurse from the persona of Artemis, and really why would you want to? It makes Artemis involved in all parts of mortal life in a very reasonable way that is appropriate for a goddess who prefers the wide expanses of the earth to the company of the other gods. And it is perhaps this close connection with the earth, the energy relationship between the earth and the moon which is important for the development of life, that logically also calls her the daughter of Demeter and Poseidon, Despoina, even as she is the daughter of Leto and Zeus. The connection here has something interesting in it to since in my research I read some JSTOR articles which talked about Ionian cults of Leto in which she was associated with the earth and the underworld (and that the mythical (versus the legendary source of the myth) Hyperborea being equated along similar lines with the islands of the blessed and being the so called birthplace of Leto just makes it all the more interesting to speculate about). Just saying. I believe this all plays into the unique domain of Artemis and her interaction with us all.

May she caretake our young, all the young of the earth from the seedling to the fawn to the babe snuggled in his mothers arms. May she hunt us through the unknown that we strive to become better. And may at the end of our days, her arrows pierce us tenderly.

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13 thoughts on “A nurturing huntress or hunting nurturer

  1. Interesting post… Could you give me the references to this articles you mention? SO I can download them and read them myself when I have time 🙂

    • remind me when I get my portable harddrive up and running again (I still haven’t able to get it fixed or at least the data rescued! which is why I haven’t worked any more on my book for Artemis). When I am able to access the files I will send them to you directly if you like. It has just been nearly a year since I looked at them so I couldn’t tell you the titles or who wrote them unfortunately. That damned thing had alllll my research on it when it decided to take a nose dive off the desk *sigh*

      • Sorry to hear about your technological problems… Perhaps sacrifices to Hēphaístos are in order to make sure nothing happens to the data 😉

        Sending the files directly probably won’t be necessary, I can access JSTOR via my university 🙂 So the refences will be enough I think. If I can’t find the articles I’ll still take you up on your offer to send the files directly 😉

      • Oh definently been praying like mad and offering to Hephaistos and Hermes! I think the article in questions was one of two. The second I can’t remember the title at all, but the other was Artemis-Leto and Apollo- (something or another it may have started with a P or an E).
        I really miss having JSTOR access. I took advantage of my senior year in college to download articles in abundance (most of which I didn’t get around to reading until at least a year after graduation lol), but I hate not being able to get what I want…and JSTOR doesn’t have individual subscription options!

      • yeah I was pretty disappointed. I had checked into it last year I believe because I figured even a 100 dollar a year subscription fee for private use of it would be worth having access. Their website said that they didn’t offer it and advised private individuals to get subscriptions to the individual magazines (and there are a couple of magazines I may very well subscribe too eventually).

      • This means I better make the best out of the time I have left at my university, downloading as many articles as I can! Luckily I have a program called Papers to organize them easily and to find papers and articles with 🙂

  2. This was such a fantastic blog post and it showed me the various sides of Artemis I have never thought of. I think the viewpoints you’ve put forward offer up the kind of balance necessary when is attempting to consider the “whys” or “whats” of any deity- let alone one that has been placed into a box based off one attribute alone.

    I think the modern mindset, heavily influenced by the dichotomies of our Western Christian culture, may have a hard time reconciling that a goddess can be bother nurturer and destroyer; hunter and healer. The goddesses are not bound by our preconceived notions.

    • Right on Nicole! And Artemis definently is a healing goddess. From temple ruins in which have been unearthed devotion gifts of body parts that are typical gifts of those who have sought healing or had been healed, to literary display in the writing of Homer when in the Iliad Leto and Artemis healed the wounds of Hector and renewed his fighting spirit at one critical part of the poem. I consider this healing activity an offshoot of her nuturing capacity which soothes compassionately that we may be renewed and whole again. This is something I have stressed over and over again (especially in my book readers probably got tired of hearing it lol) is that the gods cannot be pigeon-holed into a pretty little box of seemingly unconnected ideas (or worse ignoring ones that seem unrelated to what is preferred because it doesn’t seem relevant) because these are in the end all tied very intricately together.
      I would love to get my research off my broken harddrive so I can get back to work on my Artemis book! *le sigh*

    • And this is not only so for Artemis alone… All the Gods can give and take, they are considered two sides of the same coin. Apóllōn can heal the sick, but spreads plagues as well, Aphrodítē can help you find love, but can just as easily take it away, Hekátē can protect against witchcraft but can just as well curse you herself,…

  3. Pingback: What I’ve Been Reading… « Writ, Ritual, and Revelation

  4. Wow this was a great post. I have been working for Artemis for about three years now (I have always felt an affinity to her but went through a phase of convincing myself that I wasn’t worthy to devote myself to her, she set me straight when it became apparent that I was stuck in that mindset). I have found that she makes herself known to me at the full moon then at other times in the moon-cycle which makes complete sense, I suppose.

    • I can’t stress enough how important is to distance ourselves from the common modern pagan conception of Artemis. It has become now a heavy assumption of any association with lunar light *has* to be the waxing crescent because of this. And a great many other notions as well. I am glad you have worked through the issues that had been preventing you from devoting yourself to her.

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