‘Give me to keep my maidenhood, Father, forever: and give me to be of many names, that Phoibos [Apollon] may not vie with me. And give me arrows and a bow–stay, Father, I ask thee not for quiver or for mighty bow: for me the Kyklopes will straightway fashion arrows and fashion for me a well-bent bow. But give me to be Phaesphoria (Bringer of Light) and give me to gird me in a tunic with embroidered border reaching to the knee, that I may slay wild beasts.’ – Artemis to her sire Zeus, Callimachus, Hymn 3 to Artemis 1 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.)
Who is the Goddess Artemis and what is Her purpose in Modern Paganism? In order to look to the future interpretations of Gods and Goddesses, we must look to the past to better understand the tradition that gave Her divine birth. Artemis (also known as Phoebe in some circles) is the wild huntress Goddess of child birth, protector of animals, archery, the moon, and virginity. She is the twin sister to the Lord of the Sun, Apollon and daughter of Leto and Zeus. She bears the golden bow and arrow and is accompanied by the stag; an animal intimately tied to this sacred feminine figure. Are these facts stagnant and lost to time or can this ambitious Goddess be alive and relevant in today’s view of modern Paganism?
What we know of Artemis is that She was a child that was not welcomed into this world. Artemis and Her brother Apollo had to fight for Their place in Mount Olympus. The Goddess Hera (one of my favorite Goddesses) was volcanic in Her anger at the betrayal of Her husband Zeus when He seduced the beautiful Leto. If you’re like me, this Goddess instantly becomes very relatable because many of us come from very broken families who should not have become parents. Much like Hera transferring Her great anger to the love children of Zeus (Artemis, Herakles, and others) we can sometimes be born to parents who have their own issues with transferring their anger onto innocent children.
Artemis’ necessity in our society extends beyond unwanted children. She is a dedicated and focused hunter who speaks to those of us who are reaching for something better in our lives. Artemis dedicates Her entire existence to a Great Hunt which mirrors the struggle of mentally ill individuals rising up from the circumstances of their birth. Even those individuals who come from very nurturing homes can turn to Artemis as a role model for anyone who seeks self-realization by hunting down their limitations. Her prey? Artemis aims Her mighty arrow at an objective and moves sleekly through whatever challenges are ahead of Her to reach the target.
This beautiful Huntress will at times separates Herself from the dramas on Mount Olympus and delves into the natural world for sanctuary which helps us understand the need to disconnect from our daily theatrics and pulls us into the reality of interacting with reality. We can distract ourselves with petty online arguments, we can binge watch entire series on Netflix, or we can pick something better for ourselves and slip out for a moment to take stock of what exists within our lives and what we truly crave. We can find nourishment at attaining our goals by mirroring Artemis’ efforts to work through whatever is necessary to maintain balance.
I had to meditate on this Goddess to make this connection in my own life. Part of my struggle was dealing with excessive anger, indecision, impulsiveness, and also an overwhelming urge to be right all of the time. Like Artemis, I rose from the ashes of my childhood and accepted that my parents made lots of mistakes. They weren’t in a good mental or physical space to be parents and the rest of my relatives was wrapped up in some pretty ignorant beliefs about children and their role in family life. Thinking about the tales of this Goddess and researching what I could about Her during the day as I watched my own children opened up new avenues of self-discovery.
I could readily see how these challenges in my life were keeping me from my ultimate target. I realized that I am not the mistakes of my parents, I am not the young girl who was angry at the world and took it out on everyone around her, and I am also not at the end of my rope. This swift departure from fantasy into reality helped me understand that I needed to be as tireless as Artemis in my pursuit of being spiritual and mentally healthy. Artemis also had one more lesson to teach me through Her experiences.
If you study this Goddess, you’ll know that She keeps Her word and acts quickly on it. There is no indecision when it comes to what Artemis wants and that was the eternal struggle I was facing inside my mind. I was caught between the fear of my failure and also the fear of my success. To get rid of these demons that were consuming me, I had to disassociate from the failure and the overwhelming sense of responsibility that comes with success. I believe these are common themes in humanity as I have seen many examples of it in my own life and I have had the honor to know many Pagans who had the potential yet still struggled with their own eternal conflict. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just a stumbling block in the road ahead.
Artemis helped me aim my own weapon at my objective and assisted me in moving forward through meditation and maintaining a relationship with Her through my writing. It is my belief that these ancient Gods and Goddesses all have relevant roles in modern society because They, like us, are capable of massive evolutionary progress. We are the dreamers that have our hands at the wheel of Paganism and Her course. If you’re struggling in much the same way that I am, please reach out and let some one know, do some research and take pride in the Path that changes everything. You can accomplish whatever your passion is through diligence and a better understanding of a larger family outside the one of your inheritance.
Prayer to Artemis
Lady Artemis, Protector of lost children and Queen of the Moon,
Please illuminate for us our goal in our darkest moments.
In Your presence, we are free of the distractions and limitations of the world,
and immerse ourselves in the patient hunt.
Together we will string the bow of understanding and acceptance,
Help me take aim of my life by abandoning old habits.
Artemis of sorrowed birth and new beginnings,
assist me in recognizing my own self worth and accomplishments.
Lady Artemis, hail to thee, let us walk the dark of night together and discover what lies behind the shadowed face of the self.