PBP: K is for Kourotrophos/Kourotrophoi

It seems logical, in my recent thoughts on my blog about Hekate and Artemis that Dedicate in their honor the K post for the Pagan Blog Project. Therefore K is quite appropriate for an epithet that is an important one for both goddesses as goddess who nurse, or rear, the young among animals and men.

Hesiod calls Hekate a goddess who is Kourotrophos above all other things over she holds dominion. Even Artemis, according to the Cretans was said to have originally, beore all other things, to have been a nurse goddess. Pausanias, I believe it was, a detail of the Cretan myth in which both Artemis and Eleithyia (the latter being the older sister) were daughters of Hera. Eleithyia loosened the wombs and assisted the birth, and Artemis was her handmaiden who after the birth cared for the infants who arrived in the world. This image of course can be found in example of the Ephesian Artemis as well as the enthroned nursing Artemis of Massilia (modern Marseilles in France). Thus, altogether between the two goddesses, expressing the importance of the role of the Kourotrophos as a goddess who secures the wellbeing not only of beasts, but also the children of the world, especially the sons.

I say especially the sons as boys were often regarded as the most favorable of offspring to have. They carried on the family, they could work on behalf of their fathers, go to war to protect their homes, among other responsibilities. Girls, while they might be cherished and delight their hearts of their fathers who could be jealously protective of them, were more of a burden on the home and family. Yet children in general were of great value, and the seventh day after the birth of the baby was celebrated as he or she survived the most dangerous days where death was a high risk and very plausible. For which the baby was celebrated and certain gods appropriately honored: typically Apollon in the case of boys, and Artemis in the case of girls as the doorway was garlanded. Yet, in Sparta we hear of a celebration carried out by the women who were nurses of sons in honor of Artemis as Kourotrophos for the wellbeing of the boys they cared for.

And then there is the annual festival of Kourotrophos that occurs in August around the time of the fullmoon (the 15th or 16th of Metagetinion) in honor of the Kourotrophos goddesses, quite plausibly including Gaia. This festival is going to be particularly special in my household this year because my daughter is twelve now, and it is at that age that the children donated toys of their childhood to the altar of Artemis as they prepared to pass out of childhood. She has gotten rid of most of her toys, but I have held onto something so that she will have something meaningful to give the goddess. That the child whom the goddess has nurtured and sustained through their most fragile years is honored with the mementos of those years that have passed and join the adults as youths and maidens.


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