Artemis is Calling: Women, Respond! Part 2: Born to Be Wild and Divine
This is the second post of a series, Artemis is Calling: Women Respond! The series introduces the goddess and the archetype, Artemis, and explains why she’s important for us now.
In Part 1: Are You Hearing the Call? – She Wants Us to Protect the Girls – Where Did All the Goddesses Go? Artemis in Our Collective Unconscious -The Disenthronement and Dismemberment of the Great Goddess
Here in Part 2: Born to Be Wild and Divine – Divine Genealogy and the Power of the Goddess Archetypes – Hestia: What Happens When We Demote the Deity? – Artemis: Born to Be Wild and Divine – Never Mess with an Angry Goddess – Working with Archetypes: Befriending the Shadow, Embracing the Light
A quick review from Part 1: In the beginning there was Chaos, from which came Gaea (Earth), Tarturus (the Underworld) and Eros (Love). Mother Earth Gaea gave birth to Uranus (Heaven) and then mated with him. Their offspring were the Titans. The Titans gave birth to the Olympians. And after, or from, the Olympians came Christianity…
Part 2: Born to Be Wild and Divine
Gods and Goddesses are not like us. Their genealogy is complicated, their relationships are incestuous and their actions can be brutal. But because they are representations of our inherent drives and core values, we have a lot to learn from them. And because we’re largely unconscious as to how they are motivating our behaviour, it’s useful to recognise their power.
Not all archetypes are active in our psyche. They rise to dominance and retreat into dormancy according to our character, our hormones and our stage of life. Each archetype has both positive and negative qualities. When a goddess is dominant we need to be careful as her force can override rationality. Arcehtypes aren’t interested in the realities of our lives. Activating the positive aspects of a goddess can be empowering, but allowing the shadow side to run wild can do much harm.
Interestingly, the power that a goddess has in our psyche is directly related to her proximity to the original Great Goddess.
Of the seven Greek goddesses who represent major, common archetypal patterns in women, Aphrodite, Demeter and Hera have the most power to dictate behaviour. These three are more closely related to the Great Goddess than are the other four. Aphrodite is a lesser version of the Great Goddess in her function as the Goddess of Fertility. Demeter is a lesser version of the Great Goddess in her function as the Great Mother. Hera is a lesser version of the Great Goddess as Queen of Heaven. However, while each is ``lesser`` than the Great Goddess, they represent instinctual forces in the psyche that can be compelling when they ``demand their due``...
Jean Shinoda Bolen, Goddesses in Everywoman
Divine Genealogy and the Power of the Goddess Archetypes
Uranus, the first patriarch, was overthrown by his son Cronos who sliced off his father’s genitals and threw them into the sea. Thus Cronos became the second patriarch. With Rhea, he fathered the first generation Olympians: six gods and six goddess. The gods were Hades, Poseidon and Zeus, the goddesses Hestia, Demeter and Hera. Aphrodite, according to Hesiod, was also of the first generation. When Uranus’s genitals were thrown into the sea, semen mixed with sea foam and Aphrodite took form. Demeter, Hera and Aphrodite, being just two steps away from Gaea, are extremely powerful forces. Hestia is less powerful, simply because she never sought power of any sort. Her lack of power raises a couple of interesting questions and I’ve dedicated a paragraph to her below.
- Hestia is the goddess of the hearth and temple and governs our desire to create a home and a sacred space.
- Hera is the goddess of marriage and governs our desire to be in union with a mate.
- Demeter is the goddess of maternity and governs our desire to raise children.
- Aphrodite is the goddess of love and governs our desire for sex, sensuality, beauty and creativity.
These impulses may manifest in unconventional ways. A woman may prefer a gypsy caravan rather than a house and partnership as opposed to marriage. She may enjoy being mother to other people’s children or to pets. And she may prefer painting to sex… but the impulses for home, union, maternity and sensuality are deeply inherent in most of us and are felt in varying degrees through different stages of our life.
We most likely will also experience the shadow sides. If not contained, Hestia may lead to emotional withdrawal, Hera to jealousy, Demeter to unwanted pregnancy and Aphrodite to a lack of regard for the consequences of her actions. All the deities need to be kept in check, and fortunately, through awareness, we can do so.
Hestia: What Happens When We Demote the Deity?
As mentioned, before moving on to Artemis, I just want to spend a moment with Hestia. At some point in history, the balance between the six gods and the six goddesses of Mt Olympia was lost. Hestia, goddess of the hearth and temple, was replace by Dionysis, the god of wine. And I wonder to what extent this shift in our collective unconscious has impacted upon our culture? By giving wine and alcohol a higher status than the sacred fire of home and temple, and by disrupting the balance between the masculine and the feminine on Mt Olympus, how many homes and families and people have suffered as a consequence, and in how many ways?
I’ll leave that there, maybe for a mythologist or sociologist to explore. Because it’s time to meet Artemis.
Artemis: Born to Be Wild and Divine
Artemis was a second Generation Olympian. As such, she was less powerful than her aunts, Hestia, Demeter and Hera. But her very particular power lives on and is the motivating archetypal force behind our desire to protect Mother Earth, women and young girls. She was born to be both wild and divine.
Her father, Zeus, was the 3rd patriarch. Zeus overthrew his father, Uranus, and then the brothers drew lots for rule over the dominions. Zeus received heaven and claimed Mt Olympus, Poseidon recieved the sea and Hades the underworld. The sisters, in alignment with the patriarchal culture, had no property rights.
Zeus was married to Hera but had many affairs. Hera suffered tremendously for his disloyalty. She responded with jealousy and rage towards the other women. To escape her wrath, Leto, one of Zeus’s lovers, sought refuge on a deserted island when she was due to give birth to twins.
The first born was Artemis, goddess of the Moon. But then the struggles for Leto began. For nine days and nights she laboured in terrible pain. Artemis became her mother’s midwife. She stayed by her mother’s side and assisted until her twin brother, Apollo, god of the Sun, was born.
This was the first time that Artemis stepped in to protect a woman. Because of this myth, she was prayed to as the goddess of childbirth.
The Greek goddesses are images of women that have lived in the human imagination for over three thousand years. The goddesses are patterns or representations of what women are like - with more power and diversity of behaviour than women have historically been allowed to exercise. They are beautiful and strong. They are motivated by what matters to them, and - as I maintain in this book - they represent inherent patterns or archetypes that can shape the course of a woman's life.
Jean Shinoda Bolen, Goddesses in Everywoman
When she was three years old, Leto took Artemis to Mt Olympus to meet her father. Zeus was besotted with his daughter, and promised her whatever she wished. Artemis asked for a mini dress so that she could run. She asked for the wilderness to be her special place, and for a band of nymphs (lesser deities) for friends and sisters. She asked for hounds and a bow and arrow for hunting. And she asked for autonomy through chastity; like her maiden aunt, Hestia, she felt no desire for marriage, children or a male mate.
Zeus granted her everything, along with the right to choose, all of these things herself.
Through choosing Nature, Atemis became the goddess-protector of the wilderness and all wild things. With her hounds and bow and arrow, she became the goddess of the hunt. As big sister and guide to her band of nymphs she became the goddess-protector of young girls. And she continued to protect her mother, Leto.
Woe to anyone who threatened or disrespected her chosen protègèes.
Never Mess with an Angry Goddess
- When Tityus tried to rape Leto, Artemis arrived, took aim and slew him.
- When Leto was insulted by Niobe, Artemis and Apollo together killed all of her children before turning Niobe into stone.
- When Arethusa, a nymph, was pursued by the god of a river, Artemis rescued her by transforming her into a spring.
- And when she discovered that the hunter, Actaeon, was perving as she and her nymphs were bathing, she turned him into a stag whereby he was torn to pieces by his own dogs.
As mentioned earlier, all of the archetypes have their shadow sides and Artemis, when pushed to extremes, would react with ruthlessness and rage. Another dark aspect of Artemis, who loved to set and reach her goals, was over-competitiveness. When Apollo challenged her to hit a dark shape in the sea, she couldn’t resist the dare. She took aim and fired, not realising that it was a trick. The dark shape was the head of her beloved friend, Orion, and she killed him. In grief, she set him amongst the stars with Sirius, one of her best dogs.
Working with Archetypes: Befriending the Shadow, Embracing the Light
Understanding both positive and negative aspects of the archetypes is essential for knowing how to work with them. In the next post we’ll look at the importance of Artemis for our future. We’ll see how, by activating this archetype in the collective consciousness of our communities, we’ll receive strength and guidance. We’ll understand how her shadow side, in just the right dose, can be positively motivating. And we’ll learn how, by embodying her core values of protecting the wilderness, women and girls, we can contribute with confidence to the greater good.
COMING UP: Part 3: Activating Artemis for the Greater Good
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