Gender-exclusive gods

This post from Aspis of Ares has inspired me into further thought about this topic. Though I have refrained from commenting on the activities of Pantheacon (largely because I was not there and have no relationship to Dianic Wicca), his post did make me think specifically about gender-exclusive worship practices and to what extent they had relevance in Hellenismos and the worship in the ancient world. As a disclaimer I would like to point out that in my youth I did read some on Dianics, and found it lacking on an assumption that there are historic cults which were gender-exclusive…in particular putting emphasis on one goddess from which the tradition takes its name: Diana, the Roman counterpart of the Hellene goddess Artemis. So it seems that the best place to start is in discussing the assumptions about Hellenic goddesses worshiped in this tradition. This should not be interpreted as an attack on Dianic Wiccans, they after all should feel free to practice as they like, but rather as introduction for addressing the problems with assumptions of male-exclusive gods in the worship of Hellas.

From my reading material on Dianics there are three particular Hellenic goddesses to which the femme-centricism is focused as goddesses associated with some kind of “feminine mysteries” which just doesn’t really exist in the way that seems to be assumed, nor holding any supremacy in relation to the masculine gods: Artemis, Demeter and Persephone. The relationship of Demeter and Persephone appears to be emphasized in Dianic Wicca as the sole purpose of the turn of the seasons, which is in contrast to forms of Wiccan in which the shift of seasons are attributed to the relationship of a masculine and feminine divinity. While there were a very small handful of festivals of Demeter and Persephone that were celebrated only by women, this really is more of an exception rather than the norm and took place during the autumn season. All other festivals were celebrated by initiates irregardless of gender or social status, which makes the cult of Demeter perhaps one of the most inclusive ones in Hellas, as the mysteries were equally available to all Hellenes and peoples who spoke the language. Additionally, unlike Dianic practices which move away from the participation of male gods in the mystery of Demeter such as Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, Hermes and Apollon to name a few who were honored at festivals of Demeter such as the Proerosia.

As for Artemis, I can almost understand the confusion about her. With the list of her nymph companions, her association with the legendary Amazons, and her abhorrence of Actaeon seeing her bathing after the hunt, could suggest that the goddess is of the kind which only appreciates the female company and excludes males. However, with the exception of the Brauronia, which was only celebrated by girls, all other coming of age rituals were celebrated for and attended by both boys and girls, and sometimes even exclusively by boys as in the case of the trial at the altar of Artemis Orthia during which the endurance of boys entering adulthood as a soldier was tested by whipping. Likewise Artemis was honored at the birth of girls, and honored by nurses of boys. Aside from the practical cult of Artemis, one also has to take the myth of Hippolytus into consideration: a hunting companion of Artemis who not only was honored via certain cult centers in Greece, but also in the myth of Diana at Nemi, a place to which the revived Hippolytus was believed to have departed and in the local cult was presided over by a priest. This doesn’t sound like a goddess who particularly excludes males and favors women. In fact aside from the process of childbirth, over which she would naturally preside as a goddess of the portal of birth, Artemis has very little to do specifically with women past the age of maturity, and even prior to maturity was equally concerned with the male.That Artemis also took on a slight masculine identity can also be seen in the case in which Artemis, like Aphrodite, has been portrayed as a bearded goddess.

This should be understood as many people like to set up Artemis and her twin Apollon into a dichotomy in which everything feminine is protected by Artemis, and everything masculine by Apollon. Yet with Apollon too we see many many instances in which females take part. The largest distinction seems to be made only shortly after an infants birth (7 days afterward, in which its birth was celebrated after surviving the first week of life) in which garlands of laurel were hung for a boy (or in some case the olive of Athena), and white fillets of wool for Artemis at the birth of a girl, and perhaps at the death of males and females in which we have examples of Apollon slaying males, and Artemis slaying females. But this seems more to be along the lines of gender distinction of the twins themselves, not necessarily of their worshipers, who are otherwise linked with each other, operating in most cases as a whole together, and reflecting each other and working cooperatively. In neither case can we say that either of these exclude the opposite gender, and each possessing very few celebrations or activities which are femme or masculine centric, and not necessarily among the same sex as Apollon had female only gigs like the weaving of his chiton by the women at Chiton for the Hyakinthia (which yes was celebrated by both men and women), and the previously mentioned whipping of boys for Artemis Orthia. Even festivals which seemed to focus on a specific gender weren’t necessarily as exclusive as we think…in which case the Gymnapaidaie of Apollon, while most references focus on the participation of male youths in vigor, athletics and dance, also included dancing girls and is called by as a feast of women.

To a lesser degree there does seem to also be a femme-focus on Dionysos, due largely in part to the presence of the maenads. I have seen them in feminine mystery material compared as part of a feminine mystery that contrasts the Amazons. While it seems to be agreed upon that the first celebrants of Dionysos were female, and that the maenads (the first of which, and the actual original maenads) were his followers, it is also true that in the legendary history of Dionysos that males were not excluded either. For instance, in Euripedes Bacchae shows the king and the seer in full celebration of Bacchus, an activity of which returned their sense of youth, vigor, and general merriness. Likewise men took the part of the satyrs in the Bacchic processions in honor of Dionysos. And certainly the co-mingling of sexes during the Dionysia celebrated at Brauron (yes the same Brauron where the Brauronia was celebrated in honor of Artemis). In point of fact celebrating Dionysos doesn’t particularly work with just one sex in my opinion…it can be done certainly…but it seems to miss some of the features in which Dionysos, who often acts as a bridge between genders, not only as a fairly feminine male god but also in the act of his worship in a society, particularly among the Athenians, in which unmarried women and men spent a large part of their time segregated, is honored. In this manner his worship seems to fall in a similar line with that of Demeter in that it tends to be inclusive by its nature.

In general, I can’t think of a single god or goddess of Hellas whose worship is specifically exclusive. Even Ares, as Pete pointed out, cannot be considered a deity that excludes female worship, with the exception of very particular festivals. In this light I have a difficult time swallowing claims that any of the gods are by their nature gender exclusive…not among the most feminine of goddess nor the most masculine of gods. Therefore those who take up worship of these gods and attempt to modify them into male only or female only cults just isn’t personally agreeable to me, or do I find it particularly healthy. I have seen arguments in which women say that they need male-excluding worship in order to help them heal or to celebrate something particular to their biological function, but the downplay of the male gods (who do have close relationships with the goddesses) and exclusion of males regularly seems to inherently lacking as nature is not focused either way. So this goes the same in my consideration for female-excluding regular worship practices. Of course this is coming from someone who does not consider biological plumbing as something sacred or magical….neither male phalli or female uteri. Such is only sacred as it pertains to gods, and not always actively a part of the worship of every god or goddess either, especially when we consider that many of the Olympian goddess refrained from procreation altogether. In fact I see the honoring of the divine phallus having more to do with the penetration and fertilization of the mortal soul, and the fertilizing of the earth than any trumpeting of the male biological gender specifically. Women who reject “male energy” because of abuses carried out by certain men, as therefore associate the phallus with something negative and domineering, are missing out on something important. In fact there is nothing that can work to healing such abuses than accepting the love of males, especially male gods, that are introduced in a non-sexual manner. And before anyone gets huffy, this is coming from a person who experienced some really unpleasant stuff and found myself fulfilled by Apollon by accepting him during a period of vulnerability. This is perhaps why Dianic Wicca has never appealed to me, that even in my youth as a follower of Artemis.

That is not say that some few celebrations can’t be gender focused, typically set upon social situations of “gender” rather than celebrating biological functions, but the reality is that these were few and far between from what I understand, and not a regular mode of worship. Honoring the gods seems that it is best carried out in regular practice in the spirit of inclusiveness.


(PBP) B is for Boundaries and Birth

Perhaps a significant, and often overlooked, providence of many deities has considerably to do with boundaries. These are differentiated from portals/doorways in that a boundary doesn’t necessarily imply that there is a point of passage, although often there is one for which we can see boundary related gods associated also with gated entrances. Such is certainly true for two well-known boundary gods: Apollon and Hermes whose representations were erected at either side of the courtyard gate. Both of these gods in the domestic worship of the oikos preserve the boundary between the intimate space of the courtyard from the world-at-large. This of course is appropriately paralleled by the providence held by Artemis and Hekate at the portal, the door to enter the house that seems to create two parallel cooperatively functioning boundaries.

In essence the boundaries represent the liminal edges between the worlds, one which all of the above mentioned gods have considerable access to as they pass into (like Hekate and Hermes) or hold position at this edge of the world (like Apollon who is associated with cemeteries in parts of Ionia and Arkadia, and  and Artemis). The mythic relationship between Apollon and Hermes in the Homeric hymns likewise suggests that Apollo may have once been specifically associated with underworld functions that Hermes took over, one in which the sun is believed to have sunk into the underworld (as it sinks into the river of Okeanos which in itself represents this liminal boundary and Apollon’s resting thereon is represented poetically in Hesiod’s Sheild of Herakles by the description of the swans resting on the river Okeanos). By stealing his cattle when the god is conspicuously absent, he is then given in exchange the cadaceus, his serpent entwined wand, and a bullwhip from Apollon in exchange for the musical inventions of Hermes (the kithara and the pipe). Nevertheless Hermes retains his associations with the instrument which he can similarly gift upon others, just as Apollon doesn’t cede his relationship with the boundaries with the netherworld….a relationship which is stressed in his cemetery cult in which he provides and protects the soul for 30 days as it is attached to the grave until which point Hermes escorts it.

Therefore we see Apollon as the god at the boundary (so named Apollon Horios) to which the soul passes from living and death, and Hermes who escorts the soul into the next phase of life. In similar manner we may see that the worship of Apollon and Hermes as the front gates represents the god at the boundary between the road and the home (for which he is called upon as Apollon Agyieus…Apollon of the Roads and turns away evil to preserve the harmony of the house), and Hermes (who as a god of boundaries is generally viewed as a god who protects travelers as travelers frequently cross land boundaries, and in a spiritual sense in which Hermes is associated with the boundaries over which the dead cross) is viewed as the god which draws good things into the home, and likewise averting ill things from entering. Apollon’s association with the demos, cultural norms and practices (both mundane and religious), sacred law (as we particularly see as the guardian of the regulations of the Olympic Games as Apollon Thermios together with Artemis Thermia) etc which crosses from the public sphere into the household. In a more indirect manner it can also be associated with Apollon’s oracular station as well in which the god transmits divine knowledge across the boundaries between the divine and mortal planes of existence.

In contrast Artemis and Hekate at the portal are more strongly associated with the opposite function of passage into life…inclusion into the oikos perhaps, which includes adoption, guest-host relationships, and the more immediate entries via birth for which both goddesses are strongly associated with birth as a portal goddess. If Apollon and Hermes make the exchange of the passage from one existence into a new state via death and destruction, then we adequately see a paralleled reflection represented in the placement of torch bearing goddesses of birth, and in at least one case Artemis (as a lamp and dragon bearing Artemis Hegemone at Arkadia. This Artemis who leads, which in its relation to a cult center of Demeter in Arkadia not unlike that of Artemis at Eleusis, can suggest one who leads into a passage of a new beginning for which the both the torch, with which both she and Hekate are most popularly depicted, bears much the same symbolism as the more domestic light via the lamp.

However this is not suggest a polarity either in which Hermes and Apollon represent one kind of passage, and Artemis and Hekate another, for we understand that Hermes likewise leads Persephone out from the underworld (as is associated with escorting the dead during the Anthesteria) and Apollon is associated with the new birth of the month. So it is not singularly destruction of the negative things that may try to enter the oikos at the gates to provide passage for the good things that benefit the oikos, but also the transformation that occurs (both destructive and genitive) that occurs as the gate door swings both ways as visitors and family members pass to and fro.

Such is also true of Hekate and Artemis that whereas the portal represents birth and the productive life of the oikos, are also associated with the departure from the oikos. This includes the entrance into the unknown/wilderness as members physically depart the home to engage in the world outside of the household, and as the passage of life via death in which the oikos is reduced by the exit of a member. This is natural as Artemis represents the liminal world, the woodlands beyond the city boundary…a huntress and destroying goddess. Meanwhile Hekate passes, like Hermes, into the netherworld and is often associated with the hidden knowledges for this.

Therefore there is no direct polarity between the boundary of Artemis and Hekate at the portal, and that of Apollon and Hermes at the gate, but rather they are fluid and cooperative with each other. There is the fact that we have more protective deities at the outer entrance at the boundary and gate of the oikos courtyard, and goddess associated with nurturing the young as Kourotrophoi at the portal of the oikos and the intimate life of the family…this seems to be the biggest difference for which they are assigned very specific designations of worship in the oikos.What is interesting though is how many rivers are assigned to gods associated with boundaries and the liminal zone. This is particularly true with Artemis and Apollon, both of whom have a significant number of epithets that refer to rivers (which act as natural boundaries both in geography but also as the children of Okeanos and Tethys who as stated above is associated with the liminal boundary between worlds) associated with their worship and mythos (example Apollon Tilphossios, god of the spring Tilphossa, Apollon Ismenios of the river Ismenos, and Artemis Alphiaiai of the river Alpheios). Such a strong symbolic association with boundaries and the liminal zone may have something to do with the strong associations of Leto with motherhood/childbirth and in many places in Ionia, particularly Lycia, with the underworld. I do think it is curious that Leto, who bears such strong associations, is comparable almost with the myth of Asteria (her sister and mother of Hekate) who, upon plummeting into the sea in order to evade Zeus became as an unanchored island which has been described at times as wandering beneath the surface of the sea. Therefore the rising of Delos (the transformed Asteria) in order to provide a place of birth for Apollon and Artemis is provided via the transference of the body from the unknown into the sunlit living world. Her dwelling beneath the waves is quite similar to Hekate’s position at the mouth of caves which are the entrance/doorway into the next world. Therefore it seems that in the case of Apollon, Artemis and Hekate there is a strong hereditary relationship with boundaries and portals.

Of course this prooves an issue for modern worshipers since not everyone possesses a front gate. The closest it seems to get is among those families who have an entirely enclosed yard through which one would have to enter the gate in order to reach the front door. Otherwise the boundaries of the oikos are consolidated at the front door for which worshipers may be presented with no other option but to combine the designations of boundary/gate together with that of the portal and worship all of the above gods together in a fashion…though possibly seperated by different shelves if possible. But it also means that it limits the options of where at the door things can be placed since typically as front doors swing inward there is relatively little room to place shrines at either side inside the doorway, and most prefer not to have anything for Apollon and Hermes outside the doorway because of concerns of vandalism or theft. This requires some creativity. This is also the most regular form of worship for the gods in relation to the boundary as, compared to daily comings and goings—for which offerings are given to these gods, births and deaths are less regular occurrences within the oikos and far less worship will involve such direct manifestations of the role of the gods associated with the boundaries, aside from specific festivals that honor such roles.


Of fish, dolphins and frogs

Once again please bear with me since I am still doing this via phone.

Since I have been speaking recently of liminal animals, particularly that of goats, dogs, and wolves in recent posts, I thought I might take a moment to address another that is perhaps often overlooked…and that is the aquatic animals and their relationship to various gods. Poseidon as the god of the sea (and thus also the space in between the extremes) is most notable for being associated with such creatures in everything from fish and dolphins to mythological creatures such as seamonsters and hippocampi (seahorses in the most literal sense). These creatures are as such associated with the boundary between the world of men, and the unknown world as expressed by the unfathomable depths to which men did not (and still to some degree do not) have access. As such we see also dolphins carrying Proserpina in Italian art depicting her return, and we have images of Aphrodite riding upon a dolphin as she emerges in her birth from the sea. And we have Apollon who takes the form of a dolphin as a guide and is honored as Delphinus in respect to his dolphin form that he takes. This similar idea can also be expressed by the fish oracle of Apollon at Patara, Lycia. The presence of the dolphin in the cult of Apollon is fairly well known, and it is unsurprising that a god connected as he is with ports/harbors, mariners etc would not have strong aquatic associations in the means of sacred animals and even oracular forms if the sea is the liminal point between between worlds and Apollon is a god which traverses them both easily and illuminates the unknown. And then we have goddesses we take finned forms themselves such as Aphrodite Syria, and Artemis Eurynome of Arkadia.

Though Pausanias expresses some doubt as to how Artemis Eurynome can actually be Artemis, he does remark that the people of the area are quite firm in their belief that this is Artemis, and thus we can see that the name Eurynome is an epithet of her in this capacity which assigns attributes of the sea goddess specifically to this inland cult of Artemis where two important streams met. Euyrnome is by and large associated with the parallel functions of Artemis at the aquatic level over “pastures” as well as functions as a kind of divine nurse wherein Eurynome literally receives and nurses the infant Hephaistos after he was flung from Olympos. This daughter of Okeanos may compare in some fashion with the version of myths in which Artemis is attributed to parentage of Demeter and Poseidon…which though most strongly attested at Eleusis, is also evident symbolically by the close association with the horse that the goddess enjoys through the Pelponnese and her close association with particular rivers and springs in myth can reflect this alternative parenthood that clearly serves a very strong symbolic purpose. Thus it is of little surprise that she is thus honored at the meeting place of the Lymax (After-Birth…the source of which is the place where the infant Zeus was delivered and Rhea was bathed after his birth) where it falls into the Neda. Though Artemis is considered mythically a daughter of Zeus, we often see Artemis and Apollon, and Athena too in some myths, attributed to pre-Olympian manifestations…thus Apollon as a father of the Korybantes who cared for the infant Zeus it is not difficult imagine Artemis, the divine nurse, associated with the river related to the birth of Zeus. Especially as the Okeanid Neda was specifically one of the nymphs who cared for Zeus, which likely made this spot where the worship of Artemis Eurynome carried related to this connection of receiving and “nursing” the god. Kallimachus specifies how Neda secreted the infant Zeus away  to place him in the care of the Melian nymphs and the Kuretes that would raise him. Overall this place is then associated with two things…the delivering of Zeus after his birth and the purification of the mother by bathing.

Lewis Farnell in his The Cults of the Greek States talks briefly of the cult of Artemis under the Lacodaemons which honored Artemis as the nurse of the hyacinth, for which we may also see a parallel worship with the festival celebrated by the nurses of boys in secrecy in the same land every year…which again connects with a liquid, fluid nature of the goddess which nurtures even as she is the goddess of the wooded pasturelands. Likewise as a goddess of mariners she bringer of all to haven, or port (something which is specifically attributed to Apollon as god of ports) even as she may hunt her prey through her woods…she brings all to their destination. Therefore there is likely some very important association with the destination of these two meeting of springs that is being here honored which is connecting with the fluid nursing character of Artemis. And yet a nodd to her woodland aspect as cypresses planted all about the temple to Artemis Eurynome, the mermaid formed Artemis wrapped in golden chains. Such similar associations between the woodland and the aquatic realm is the device of the net which is used to secure both prey hunted on land, and fish hunted from the depths of the sea for which have other associations of Artemis with epithets of Dictynna and Britomartis.

And that finally brings us to the frogs. Aristophanes has a chorus of frogs, caretakers of the reeds, that praise in their song the following liminal gods: Artemis, Pan, Apollon and Dionysos from where they dwell in the underworld (perhaps another association of frogs inhabiting lower levels of water that may be associated with the underworld). These are the same animals which are renowned in myth in which Leto, in her travel through Lycia, transformed shepherds (or in some version villagers man, woman and child all) into frogs for rejecting her attempts to bathe her children there in their waters. This bathng of Artemis and Apollon by this myth is of particular importance, and we see it too in that Xanthus, in whose water Apollon is bathed is held in high esteem and all of Patara is honored. As Leto also has strong associations with the underworld in Lycia and Asia minor it carries a strong portal symbolism too between life and death, which brings to mind the Egyptian frog goddess Heqet who presided over births. Likewise the symbolism of the bathing carries further in which we see both Artemis and Athena exacting punishment for being spied upon in their baths, for in which case for Artemis is one of her most commonly known myths that it resulted in the death of Actaeon whereas for Athena the blinded violator was given the gift of prophecy. Therefore we see the watery realm symbolism further associated with this idea of foresight (for which we can understand Poseidon’s oracles as well), purification (on the part of the goddesses in myth), and transformation as typically the water is what is used as the vehicle of delivering the punishment. Frogs are very important to this transformative nature of water because it is in the water that this transformation occurs that allows them to go from living solely beneath the water to be able to emerge from it. This naturally brings to mind Plato’s Phaedo I believe it was in which our heavens are described as being like the sea of a higher world (my paraphrase here)…and therefore this transedence can also imply emerging into a higher state too. Which may explain in part the importance of the frog symbolism that it was carved on the doors of Delphi according to Plutarch.

Thus whether it is possessing a fish’s tail, or taking the form of a marine creature, as symbolically related to specific aquatic animals, it delivers a wealth of meaning potential within it.

wolves and goats

I find it quite interesting that gods who have strong associations with wolves, share similar associations with goats in both Hellenismos and Religio Romana. In this there seems to be a natural order taking place symbolically in which the two are intricately tied. Take for instance (in honor of this day of Lupercalia) the Roman gods Mars.

Lupercalia crosses over into three specific areas symbolically in the sacrifice in the Lupercali cave, a sacrifice carried out in honor of the place where Remus and Romulus (the founders of Rome and sons of Mars) were nursed by the she-wolf. First and foremost we must keep in mind in this ritual that its importance is connected to the birth of Rome and the prosperity of the Republic (and later the Empire). It therefore stresses the lineage through Mars. Though Mars shares many similarities to the Hellenic god Ares, there are scholars who cast him in a stronger assocation with Apollon in his more ancient aspects when speaking of relationships of cults than with Ares, from whom he later adopted much of his myths and characteristics. However the indigenous cultus of the god stresses his association to the fields (in which he shares association with Apollon as both gods are those that ward off “rust” which attacks grains) and there protection foremost from which it is believed that his more war-like characteristics developed in extention. Therefore it is natural that the god be associated with creatures of the feild, unlike his Hellenic counterpart Ares who shares less associations. Mars, for instance, is directly associated with wolves, and the wolf of the Lupercali cave was one that was sent by him to nurse his sons until a shepherd found them so that they would not freeze from exposure or starve. In that cave a cast of boys (all from noble families) were chosen to play the part of the Lupercii (as Lupus is latin for wolf we can infer that they are playing the part of wolves). The sacrifice carried out in the cave is one of goats and dogs (the latter being a traditional sacrifice to both Ares and Mars…in the case of Mars it was red dogs). Previously in a post on goats and deer I spoke of how the female goat is associated with nursing, as a goat was a nurse of Zeus, and the male is associated with fertility, it can be inferred that this ritual sacrifice is intended on two parts. One, it honors the nurse of the two heroes but the sacrifice of an animal associated with nursing. The second we see directly in the purpose that is carried out…the strapping of women with the strips of goatskin to promote fertility. This would appropriately honor both Mars, the father of Rome, and Faunus, the rustic god of Italy indirectly in one ritual. I say indirectly only because the description of the ritual itself does not directly mention Faunus (nor does it directly mention Lupercus) but I cede the point that in accordance to the lore of Italy that he may very well have been present indirectly and symbolically in association with the sacrifices carried out in the cave and the legendary roots of the sheperds being the original lupercii, that in ritual were actually the youths of patrician (noble) families in Rome specifically connected to the sphere of the children of Mars. It can be said that in mythology the origins of the Lupercalia lay with Faunus and his shepherds (from Romulus and Remus took part and upon being engaged in the festivities, according to Livy, were captured by Numitor’s people) but that these origins lay in the mythic history of the festival and the primary portion of the festival is in honor of the she-wolf of Mars. However, regardless of whether we are speaking of Mars or Faunus, the sacrifice of the goats (and dogs) at the cave of the wolf is very important symbolism. Therefore the wolf which destroys and protects is part of the cycle of the fertile and nursing goat, an idea which we see carried out in the cults of very closely related Hellenic gods Zeus, Apollon, and Pan, and slightly with Artemis via her epithets Lykeia (wolfish) and Kourotrophos (nurse), the latter of which I had discussed in my previous post on goats and deer.

Lupercalia, according to Roman legend, is said to have sprung from the Lykaia of Arkadia, upon the mountain of which on three hills there were three temples. The temple of Zeus Lykaia in the middle surrounded by the temples of Pan and Apollon to either side. Despite the emphasis given by later Italian recorders to the prominence of Pan on Lykaion, it is indisputable that Zeus Lykaia was the prominent figure in the Arkadian cult…one which was echoed in Kyrene, in Libya, where there was a second mountain called Lykaion were Zeus Lykaia was honored following the Arkadian aspect. According to myth Zeus assumed the form of a wolf for nine years and on the 10th year (one divine year) was restored, a pattern that was followed by Demaenetus when he tasted of the sacrifice to Zeus. This form of Zeus supposedly may have been related to the myth in which Arkadians took the form of wolves for nine years after swimming across a pond, after which, if they hadn’t consumed human flesh, would regain their state. All of which must be tied to the king Lykaon, coincidentally the father of Callisto who became a bear. He was the first to be transformed into a wolf by Zeus for the punishment of offering Zeus (in human disguise) human flesh, that of a child, to feast upon. Zeus’ tasting of human flesh may be related to this form of Zeus, as Lykaon is credited with having sacrificed a child to Zeus which was what transformed Zeus into a wolf for nine years. Though there is no direction mention of Pan in the myth, it is wide known that Pan was an important deity among the Arkadians and the fact that both Pan and Apollon had temples joining that of Zeus Lykaia is an important feature in which we see three wolfish gods honored together, and of whom have important features as gods associated with shepherds, the fertility of feilds (to which bees can be connected) and livestock, and oracles. And all three of whom are represented in association with goats, as both Apollon and Pan are called Tragoidos, and as bearing goat, or ram, horns in Peloponnese and its associated colonies…such as that in Libya in which Apollon-Ammon (called Karneios in Peloponnese) and his wife Kyrene are ram-horned, and Zeus-Ammon is likewise horned at his oracle near the Egyptian border.

The goat/ram appears to have a direct relationship in imagery to an idea to a sovereign divinity who brings prosperity by interacting with and fertilizing the world. Such imagery in relationship to sovereignity can also be recalled by a certain myth related to Atreus in which a golden lamb was to confer kingship upon whomever possessed it. Likewise the flying golden-fleeced ram, the son of Poseidon who rescued Phrixus and Helle, the children of king Cretheus, from being sacrificed (the latter whom fell into the sea…that place being called Hellespont after her) and upon carrying Phrixus across the Black Sea to king Aeetes in Colchis, was sacrificed to Zeus (or in some versions to Ares) and his fleece hidden in the holy grove of Ares, was the object of the heroic quest of Jason and the Argonauts for the pleasure of King Pelias. The associations with fertility are of course significant because this ram became the constellation Ares which signifies the time of year when grain is sown according to Psuedo-Hyginus in his Astronomica. This certainly aligns too with imagery of Apollon and Pan together greeting the rising of Semele which would be likewise associated with ideas of sowing and the return of vegetation. Thereby we see the the goat associated with fertile masculine deities of some regard as a divine king, yet of the Lykaion trinity of Zeus, Pan and Apollon we see three levels at work. First we have the high king Zeus, ruler of the world and aether, from whom all things issues. Second we have Apollon, the bright king, the king of light, the king who walks across all the earth. And we have Pan who is the rustic king (recognizably set apart by his distinctive half animal characteristics who opperates in cooperation with Apollon and revels with Dionysos)…and yet all the Orphic hymns to all three seem in some manner to refer to each other. There are, of course, numerous other deities associated with goats/rams such as Dionysos and the aforementioned Ares, but in this post I am concentrating on the divine association of wolves and goats which are expressed in only a few deities.

Thus within Pan, Zeus and Apollon we are presented gods that are connected with destruction via their assocation with wolves, but are also bringers of prosperity and abundance as we can see with their goat associations. They are the wolves that cull of the weaker members of the flock, they are the destroyer of wolves that may prey excessively upon the flock…in such they are both wolfish and protector/shepherd gods who oversee the welfare of the flocks and their healthy increase. Since both slaughter/destruction/sacrifice and fertility are necessary for the welfare of the flock, it is necessary for gods associated with some kingly title and duty to be associated directly with both functions as destroyers and saviors (the savior aspect of Zeus often partaken by Athena who possesses the skin of Almathaea…the aegis).

As far as I can see, regardless of which deity it is for, such festivals as the ongoing Lupercalia, which celebrate both the protective/destructive nature of the wolf (for the wolf is also protective as it is a social animal that cares for its young within a solid family group) and the fertility and nursing attributes associated with the goat are highly appropriate at each turn of the season…and likely accounts for their celebrations at different parts of the calendar through the Hellenic and Roman world. Generally speaking my focus when it comes to a shepherd’s festival in which goats/rams are sacrificed tends to be at the Karneia for Apollon Karneios prior to the start of autumn, but I can see the relevance at the beginning of spring in relation to this.


As a person who grew up in Alaska I have a keen respect for bears…everything from the “small” black bears to the large Kodiak Grizzlies, Brown Bears, and the even larger Polar Bears (which thankfully live much further north than where I lived. Growing up you are taught to be aware when you were outside. In town during the winter and spring you needed to be aware of moose (especially in the spring when the mammas were out with the calves), and in the summer you had black bears that would venture into backyards (with every dog on the block barking its fool head off). But being an outdoorsy family meant that outdoor activities such as fishing, camping and berrypicking on the mountain presented its own potential danger of meeting up with a big bear. In a way, bears are attached to the imagination in a big way. They are very large, and rather tempermental, omnivores that can kill a man with little effort on their part. This is part of what gives bears a strong fearsome presence in the minds of men. The bear is perhaps one of the most, if not the most, largest and impressive of all land predators…it really is no wonder that bears have found their way into world mythologies. As a small child I admired the Tlingit totem carvings of the bear, in his human-like stance upon his hind legs. As I grew older I appreciated the role that the bear took in relation to the goddess Artemis, and even made a necklace of a bearclaw that I had found in my bedroom one year that I wore about my neck for many years in her honor before giving it to a friend. The bear makes a strong presence in myth.

However, in myth we don’t really see any direct link between Artemis and the bear…but something more indirect via the myth of Callisto. So we have Callisto who was seduced by Zeus (some say in the form of Artemis, and Apollodoros in his Library presents an alternate version that others say it was in the form of her twin Apollon…which certainly alludes to an interesting relationship between the twins if Callisto wasn’t objecting to Apollon), and remained among the hunting company of Artemis until her pregnancy began to show itself, after which she was expelled. However, at this point there seems to be some discrepancy. I have heard that Artemis transformed her into a bear, but I have also heard that she wasn’t transformed into a bear until after she gave birth to her son Arcas..and that the transformation was done by Zeus to protect her from Hera in one telling, and Ovid says in another that Hera turned her into a bear out of revenge.

So we have that Callisto, having birthed her son, became a bear to wander about Argos. At which point we come to a branching of the myth. In one version her son having reached maturity, pursued her as a hunter and so Zeus placed them both in the heavens in the form of bears, but Hera forbad them to over to enjoy a respite to bathe in Okeanos for which they never sink below the horizon. The two bears are referred to it seems by Euripedes Ion on a tapestry from Delphi which mentions the bear constellation that can’t sink into Okeanos.The other was that Hera spoke to Artemis and had Artemis slay Callisto with her arrow (after which Callisto was immortalized in the heavens). The poem The Phainomena however doesn’t speak of two bears but rather about Arcas who turns about the polar star (as so by whom sailors navigate), and the trail of light (which appears to refer to ursa major). Thus we are presented with an interesting image of a trail (a path through the forest/wilderness) at the end of which there is a bear who circumnavigates the polar star, the seat of Koios–the axis of the heavens.

That the bear is forbidden to hide herself in Okeanos is quite interesting because this is contrary to the nature of bears and so seems to have a very specific mythic presence. Bears are animals that bear a strong earth association as creatures which have dens beneath the ground, but also spend a significant amount of time of year beneath the earth hibernating. While I am not too certain how this works in Hellas, bear hibernation is a very strong character of bears and so is also a good reason to actively avoid them during the spring when they are hungry and cranky.Thus we are presented with an animal who resides for a period under the earth, during which period the female gives birth to her cubs (ones that she will be rearing for the next several years) beneath the earth, who emerges in the spring, consumes nearly everything (plant and animal food sources), and are a symbol of strength. This puts bears in a position for a perfect symbolic relationship with Artemis, a portal presiding deity strongly associated with the earth the bear has a good symbolic presence as animal of transition which would explain its strong feature in the cult of Artemis in Attica at Brauronia in which the girls were identified as arktoi (little bears) before reaching the age of maturity/marriage.

However, associations of the strength of the bear can be seen in the myth of Agrius and Oreius who were giants that were half bear from Thrake. However, like Arcas, it begins with a follower of Artemis named Polyphonte who, like Hippolytus, spurned Aphrodite which caused the angry goddess to make Polyphonte fall in love with a bear and mate with it. In response Artemis turned all beasts against her and Polphonte fled to her father’s house where she gave birth to her sons where were of remarkable size and strength. These did not honor the gods and ate the flesh of strangers. This cannibalist behavior is one that is particular to the human species at a very base instinctual level, whether it follows with the idea of some tribes that to consume one’s enemy allowed one to draw in their strength or just a basic survival mechanism that gives no thought to anything beyond consuming and surviving. This bear becomes part of the symbolism of the physical mortal being at its most primary level from which everyone must evolve (and so would explain why Arcas sought to slay Callisto when she, in the form of a wild bear, entered into Zeus’ sacred precinct, as well as explain the retaliation of Artemis for the death of a tamed bear which is of a nature different to a wild bear which the goddess herself would hunt) towards the other end of the spectrum towards the symbolism of the heavenly bear of Callisto’s myth.

The bear constellations are indeed set in such a manner in the heavens that the bears are “not permitted” to sink beneath the horizon…i.e. the bears do not retire into the earth. Though the myth has a flavor of punishment in this design it is very telling in some ways because going down and returning is distinctive of death and rebirth analogies. It is a direct opposite symbolism to the typical symbolism we can infer from the nature of the bear which is so strongly associated with the strength, seasonal cycles, and fertility of the earth. Yet the ursa major constellation does have an interesting relationship to the turn of the seasons in which the cup of the constellation is either facing upwards, or facing downwards (typically in the sping and fall) as if pouring out on the earth, as it follows its course around the north star. When I first discovered this as a teenager (from watching an astronomy program) what had come to my mind was the receiving of heavenly blessings (the upward cup), which is followed by the outpouring of seasonal blessings (the downward cup)…which likewise is usually accompanied by rains associated with such seasons. If we combine this with the Trail of Light idea we can see the trail of light is a road that follows to a divine height (the axis of the heavens which in turn can metaphorically indicate Olympos as the height of all heights for us) which the bear (that which is connected to the cycle of mortality) may procede to the height and thus make a distinctive division from the mortal cycle as the bear of the heavens is distinct in its designation in the heavens from the bear of the earth. Thus we have Arcas (whose name indicates that he represented the people of Arcadia) who was born from a mother bear, and through his path on the trail in his pursuit he became as a great bear and set amid the heavens to be favorable towards men (particular favorable towards seamen who navigated by his turnings). Such would be a good example why this constellation was described with very few other favorable constellations by Euripedes on describing the tapestry from Delphi.

Boars and pigs

It seems like it would be appropriate at this moment, having concluded with deer and goats, and considering the dawning of the spring season….to address the subject of boars and pigs. Pigs are animals that have something of a bad rap that have become almost synonymous with poor health. I have my husband on one hand saying that people shouldn’t eat swine because it is unclean, and on the other hand there is another group counting how much fat content pork has….gods save you if you like bacon, ham or ribs! Or sausage for that matter (which seems to be a big part of much Italian and Greek cousine from what I can see). The word pig is even given as insult if you have a bit more girth about you. The pig has become synonymous with being fat, ugly, unhealthy, dirty (because obviously the fact that the animal is smart enough to protect its skin from sunburn by applying mud is just too ewwww for modern tastes), and altogether destructive to local ecology (as we understand from importations of pigs into environments where they are not native and the destructive of native habitats and wildlife in places such as Australia and in the southeastern United States where wild boars roam). In short, any noble or redeeming character the animal has once possessed has all but disappeared in this era. There have been some attempts to save the image of pigs by indication of their intelligence…often through popular children’s tales…but these have barely made a dint. Granted this is from an American perspective, and it may be that the reputation of pigs is not quite so dismal in other parts of the world, but it is in this kind of environment (at least in the USA) that people are discovering the beauty of Hellenismos….in which the pig/boar does have important significance.

Now I classify pigs and wild boars together because it seems the biggest distinction between them is that pigs are nothing more than domesticated boars (of which there are various types). Here is a good description of them from a website called Hog Stoppers:

“The difference between the wild and domestic animals is largely a matter of perception; both are usually described as Sus scrofa, and domestic pigs quite readily become feral. The characterization of populations as wild, feral or domestic and pig or boar is usually decided by where the animals are encountered and what is known of their history. In New Zealand for example, wild pigs are known as “Captain Cookers” from their supposed descent from liberations and gifts to Māori by explorer Captain James Cook in the 1770s.
The term boar is used to denote an adult male of certain species, including, confusingly, domestic pigs. In the case of wild pigs only, it is correct to say “female boar” or “infant wild boar”, since boar or wild boar refers to the species itself
One characteristic by which domestic breed and wild animals are differentiated is coats. Wild animals almost always have thick, short bristly coats ranging in colour from brown through grey to black. A prominent ridge of hair matching the spine is also common, giving rise to the name razorback in the southern United States. The tail is usually short and straight. Wild animals tend also to have longer legs than domestic breeds and a longer and narrower head and snout. European adult males can be up to 200 kg (sometimes up to 300 kg in certain areas, particularly Eastern Europe) and have both upper and lower tusks; females do not have tusks and are around a third smaller on average.

So apparently it doesn’t take very long to go from pig back to boar. Differences appear to more or less superficial. Likewise in myth they do same to take different roles, in which the pig is connected agricultural goddesses such as Demeter and Persephone, and the boar has links to Ares, Apollon and Artemis who harness its more aggressive features. However, despite the form of these roles, there is no difference between them. So it is appropriate to consider them more or less together.

In Hellenismos the pig is identified specifically with the cult of Demeter and Persephone. This takes into consideration that the pig is appropriately representative of the earth and its procreative nature. This may relate in some degree to the girth of the pig, but perhaps has more to do with the nature of the pig itself. Among domesticated pigs, as described above, there is a tendency to wallow in mud in order to protect their sensitive skin. Domesticated pigs, for whatever reason, have lost their tougher bristly coats, and therefore submerge themselves within the earth. Of course wild pigs are mostly nocturnal animals by habit anyway, and are, suprisingly, a borrowing species of animal.

“The animals are usually nocturnal, foraging from dusk until dawn but with resting periods during both night and day. They eat almost anything they come across, including nuts, berries, carrion, roots, tubers, refuse, insects, small reptiles–even young deer and lambs.
Boars are the only hoofed animals known to dig burrows, a habit which can be explained by the fact that they are the only known mammals lacking brown adipose tissue. Therefore, they need to find other ways to protect themselves from the cold. For the same reason, piglets often shiver to produce heat themselves.”

This presents us with an image of a borrowing animal which is sensitive to the elements/environment, takes some refuge within the earth, that takes all things with into itself without distinction, that is a female-community social animal (living in female groups called sounders, during which males only enter for breeding season after which they leave), and produces multiple offspring (like many other animals connected with fertility such as rabbits, dogs, etc).

Therefore, one level we have an animal of which the female members represent and are closely linked to earth and agricultural goddesses (agriculture also being the seeds of civilization and community). If the soul is also considered one symbolic level to be feminine (via the mythic representation of Psykhe) it may infer something in regards the initiation process in which the individual offers a sacrifice of a piglet  in order to enter into the mysteries. I would hazzard to suggest that this piglet is representative of the human soul. I have talked before about associations that can be made with young animals and the immature youthful identity of the human soul in which humanity can be referred to in association with young animals (which nursed and cared for by the gods) and the adult animals are generally directly associated with the gods. So the initiates make a symbolic sacrifice of themself, a kind of mock death which they perform right beside the temple of Artemis Prothyrea (of the portal) as a symbol of passing the first gate of Eleusis before they can enter deeper within sacred citadel which possesses a second smaller gate into the Telesterion where the initiation rites were carried out.

It should not surprise us to see Artemis associated at all with the area in which the piglets were sacrificed. Though we more often see boars directly associated with her in myth, she is a femme-centric deity through which we can appreciate her association not only with lionesses (an animal which she can be seen holding in images characterized as Potnia Theron type images that seemed to have remained fairly common representations of her in the Peloponnese) but also with wild pigs that also connect her with her earthly domain. Thus the dangerous wild male boar becomes a natural tool of destruction rendered by her. We can see three cases which are connected with Artemis.

One of which I will mention first because it is the most indirect association, and that is the boar which slew Adonis. Now there are two distinct versions that we see here, and they are dinstinguished by the male god participating. One one version, that is perhaps the most commonly recognized, it was Ares who either took the form, or sent, the boar spurred by his own jealousy of Aphrodite’s lover. In the other version, which is elluded to in Euripedes’ play Hippolytus (and by that reference we can assume that it was a pretty well known version) was that Apollon sent/took the form of the boar to slay Aphrodite’s lover on the part of his twin Artemis, as well for his own reasons which are stated more explicitly below. For at the end of the play we see Artemis address Hippolytus that in return for Aphrodite’s offense she too will slay the one whom Aphrodite loves. Of course in the end it turns out that both Hippolytus and Adonis become deified from this exchange, but it does pose an interesting medium in which again we are presented with an image of the boar symbolizing death and a kind of blessed rebirth. This is not to say of course that the two versions of the myth are incompatible either…it could be Ares and Apollon both got in on it and featured a duel representation of the destructive component of the myth as they are referred together also in war (which I have spoken of at length before in regards to Apollon’s association with war and his relationship with Ares). This earthly end/destruction that rises to a new birth can also be viewed in the context in which I was informed that it is common for offerings of pig to be given to Apollon Noumenios, who is honored at the Noumenia as the new month manifests. Similarly we can see offerings of pig to Apollon (and Zeus..probably in his Cthonic character) in autumnal festivals of Demeter such as the Proerosia.

The boar naturally then has become a subject of specific heroic feats. Perhaps one of the better known examples wold be the Erymanthian Boar (which may very well have been the same boar which slew Adonis, since the version of the tale in which Apollon sent the boar it is said to for his part to have been for the purpose because Aphrodite blinded his son Erymanthius…from whom logically the boar would have taken the name as it would from the place in which the boar roamed. It hardly seems as coincidence in any case, and the mountain itself may be associated with the myth of Apollon’s son who was blinded for seeing Aphrodite bathing…a common punishment for mortal men who transgress in this manner). It is perhaps then on the sacred mountain of Artemis, Erymanthos, in which these whole drama is contrived that appropriately sets up the setting for the fourth labor of Herakles (following up from the labor in which the hero has persued her hind that may further establish a link between Artemis and the hero). From the myth of this labor we learn that the mountain is the home of the centaur Chiron, whom Herakles is visiting and ends up poisoning with one of his arrows (which leads in later as a reason why Chiron agreed to give up his immortality…and so end the pain of the poison arrow… in exchange for Prometheus’ freedom whether that be figuratively by giving Herakles his strength or making a more literal bargain with Zeus that aids Herakles’ when he frees the Titan). So we see this grounds to be a focal point as a kind doorway between death and life, which is quite appropriate given the nature of Artemis. And likewise appropriate to whatever links it has with Ares and Apollon who are also connected to death and destruction. For whatever reason Eurystheus wanted it, and Herakles captured it by driving it into the snow via the advice of Chiron, but the king was so terrified of it when it was brought to him that by his wish Herakles disposed of it. In Cumae there was displayed a set of boars tusks in the temple of Apollon that were said to have been from this animal, on the belief that Herakles threw it into the sea and the boar swam to Italy where it later died and was there perserved.

Therefore if we take the labors of Herakles as a totality of parts in his deification (rather like the “toys” of Zagreus that Clement of Alexandria spoke of from the last post) we can see an important idea of each labor myth, as far as I see it anyway. So whereas he chased down the horned hind that I spoke of before, he is now confronting an animal directly associated with the seemingly very strong and near unbreakable cycle of death and rebirth of which he gains mastery of. Sounds like an important component in any case of being deified if we consider that his labors are the processes of his deification as per the instructions of Apollon that only once he has committed these labors would he be a god, all of which incurs as the result of his madness-inspired sacrifice of the self symbolized by the death of his two sons from the influence of Hera. It is interesting that Artemis figures in some manner in several of these labors, which insinuates her role in propelling foreward her “prey.” She is closely connected with the Amazons in myth from whom Herakles takes the girdle (which has its own symbolism), there is the hind of which we already spoke, and the boar.

But the most well known boar connection with Artemis is the myth of the Calydonian Boar (which was sent by Artemis in anger for being forgotten during the harvest sacrifices)..but Apollon again is not far away as we are told that Meleager’s spear was later dedicated to Apollon’s temple. This presents us another interrelated image of the boar in association with the relationship between Apollon and Artemis. What is remarkable about this tell, however, is that brings together an entire cast of heroes (a cast which we see much of in the tale of the Argonautika in pursuit of the golden fleece…and like the quest for the fleece ends up being minus Herakles which sets apart the journey of the son of Zeus from that of the other Heroes). The implications seem to be similar in the arrangement of the myth of the Calydonian Boar and the Erymanthian Boar in which we have a dangerous creature, a bringer of destruction, of which each hero is participating for the distinction of wishing to kill the animal. In myth it is the spear of Atalanta who delivers the fatal wound to the animal, which is finished off by the spear of Meleager. In recognition of this fact Meleager awards the remains of the boar to her, which causes a huge uprising that ultimately ends in Meleager’s death in that the firebrand (the fragile symbol of human life) that had been in safe keeping of his mother is snuffed out in retaliation for the consequential death of her brothers (which insidentally also led to her and Meleager’s wife to hang themselves). And yet the spear of the hero was perserved in the temple of Apollon which speaks of certain greatness of the hero. Therefore we see a richness in death symbolism here directly related to the hunt of the boar. That the hide of the boar was believed to have preserved in the temple of Athena seems to attribute not the boar to her, but rather the process in which the hero (who is usually attended by her) has become victorious over that which the boar represents. Or so it seems.

In any case, whether we have the pigs of Demeter and Persephone, or the boars associated with Artemis, Apollon and Ares, we have an animal that is deeply connected with the mortal state and its connection directly with the earth. The earth brings us into being, in an environment against which we have little protection, and in which offers certain death to us in our mortal forms of flesh and blood, but is also receives us kindly and by the mysteries of nature we progress and are reborn….with the hope that eventually we will take the boar by the tusks and be reborn into a greater blessed state.

The Ceryneian Hind

I didn’t spend much time speaking of the Ceryneian Hind in my last post about deer and goats because I felt it was better to address seperately as it is, within itself, almost its own topic. That said I think the fundamental information from the post yesterday will make it easier to get across my interpretations of the Ceryneian Hind.

First it is necessary to address what is the Ceryneian Hind. Specifically, according to myth this deer originated from a herd of does with golden antlers and bronze hooves. All of these Artemis took to drive her chariot except one which became the Ceryneian hind. These are particular because, though we are familiar with species of deer-like animals (like reindeer and caribou) in which the female is also antlered, generally speaking does do not have antlers. This is also represented in vase paintings were often times the does were represented without antlers, but the Ceryneian hind that still roamed the earth is represented antlered and therefore resembles (but is not) a very large stag.

Some seem to believe that this may point to the link between Hyperborea (the far northern regions where Herakles was said to have chased the hind in his persuit of her) and therefore attempt to associate with hind with reindeer of the north. However I think that this attempt to logically associate a the hind with a living animal is rather like trying to associate the gryphon with a living animal. I don’t think it works. The mythic hind is intentionally set apart from does, and how best to do that…why by making her look like a stag of course! And not like that she is bigger than all stags, so she is quite exceptional.

I would therefore suggest that most images of Artemis with a stag-like animal (as seldom as they occur) are actually representations of the Ceryeian Hind. It certainly seems logical to me that this animal as one which is sacred to her and not hunted by her would be represented in instances where the goddess is portrayed with a stag in a non-hunting sequence. This seems to be especially the case in the most common classical reproduction of Artemis, is not in front of Artemis being hunted, but is rather at her side, and just slightly behind her, leaping foreward. This can be contrasted by the mythic vision of the transformation of Actaeon whom Artemis is represented as hunting in his stag form as his dogs tear him to peices. So I see two very different images…the sacred horned doe which is related to spirituality through mythic symbolism, and the stag of Actaeon which I view through a lense of mortal maturation.

What do I mean by mortal maturation? It is that point of transformation in which a mortal passes into a transition into a new phase of life. It is the difference by and large between Hippolytus, a chaste hunter who rejected the adult maturation (and the adult relationships that it brings) in order to remain in a youthful phase as a hunter devotee of the goddess), and Actaeon, the hunter who upon maturing into the next phase of life desires Artemis (depending on which version you read for ther is the common version in which Actaeon just stumbles unawares on the goddess in her bath, and then there is the one that Apollodoros mentions in his Library that prior to this event the young hunter desired to marry Artemis. In such respect the transformation into the stag represents an exiting of the old stage of life (or the previous spiritual state of the soul) and this transformation, as an animal which is now naturally horned, becomes the prey of the goddess which she hunts into the next stage of life (or next spiritual stage). This idea is complimentary to the idea of the golden hinds for an important reason…a doe is indifferent in a large part from a fawn visually and as a soul is expressed through the feminine Psyche it could be argued that a mortal soul contains a feminine expression. However a divine feminine soul is horned equally as the male (which we also see in representations of Kyrene in which the deified princess is represented with horns in the same style of Apollon Karneios.

This then gives us an interesting interpretation on the hunt of the Ceryeian Hind. Herakles is chasing the doe in order to capture her and so to “horn himself” (as the process of his labors is undertaken as per the oracle of Delphi in order to become deified). There Herakles himself can upon capturing the hind be considered himself to be as a stag. Such can also be implied by the fact that he chased the hind all over the earth until he finally was able to capture her in Hyperborea which alternately is suggested to have been inspired by a northern people but also represents a blessed place as it is beyond the farthest northern reaches according to myth. It was from this place that Herakles also brought the olive trees to plant at  Olympia where he established the sacred games which brought humanity closer to the gods. Of course it cannot be said that he became deified upon capturing the hind because it was only his third labor, but rather that capturing the hind marked a point which plausibly propelled him foreward. It is also appropriate that it would have ocurred as the third since the number three has associations with Artemis (and Hekate too) in which it would be appropriate as the goddess would be actively influencing him at this point in which he comes into contact with her domain via the hunt for the hind. In such respect we can see the corelationship between the hind which represents the deified soul, and the stag which represents the mortal soul preparing for its evolution. And the stag naturally desires the doe.

And so the scene regarding the confrontation over the Ceryneian hind is one that is often artistically portrayed in which Herakles is confronted by Artemis and Apollon (or in the case of the scene from Veii we have Herakles confronted by Apollon specifically) who initially are there to remove the hind from the keeping of Herakles until he promised to return it…which I interpret that Herakles is capturing the hind for his spiritual evolution but isn’t going to deliver into the keeping of the unworthy king. So when Eurystheus desires to receive the hind Herakles states that the king must take it from him by his own hands so that when Herakles releases his hold on it the hind escapes and he is able to counter the anger of the king by stating that he was not fast enough to keep hold of it. From this I can interpret that Herakles may aid us but it is up to us to be at the point in our own journey to which we can grasp hold ourselves too. We cannot become as the stag until we are able to reach that point in our own spiritual evolution. And Herakles continues some relationship with Artemis too as Herakles and Apollon are both cited as gods who receive that which is hunted by the goddess.

In closing I feel that the symbolism of the stag, and the Ceryneian hind are very specific in Hellenismos.