Artemis, lover of woods and the wild chase over the mountains. Artemis, Virgin Huntress, beloved of wild animals and restrained by no man, mortal or God. Artemis, Moon Goddess, bearer of light, bringer of the Crescent Moon. Artemis, leader of Nymphs and protector of young Maidens.
Bow down to our Mistress.
|Also known as
|Diana (Roman), Phoebe, Cynthia
|The Mountains and Hills, the Hunt, Forests and Woodlands, Wildlife, Archery, Fertility, Childbirth and the Young, Chastity, Moon light.
|Zeus, God of the Sky and Thunder (Father)
Leto, Goddess of Motherhood (Mother)
Apollo, God of the light of the Sun (Twin brother)
|Deer, dogs, bears
|Bow & arrow, quiver, hunting knives, crescent moon
Homer described her as ARTEMIS AGROTERA, POTNIA THERON: "Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals.”
You may have heard of her identified with the Roman Goddess Diana - her name is akin to the Latin words dium (“sky”) and dius (“daylight”).
You will commonly see her depicted with (much like her Moon-sister Selene) a crescent moon diadem upon her head. But you can tell her apart by her bow and arrow, her quiver, her animals (usually dogs and deer), and she is also seen amongst her band of loyal Nymphs.
Mistress of the Wild
Upon her third birthday, she requested a Bow & Arrow like her brother Apollo's - one was crafted for her in Gold by the Cyclopes. Artemis’ arrows are known to bring sudden death and disease to women and girls who displease or offend her.
To Artemis, the Hunt is a sacred ritual; a ceremony to honour the animal kingdom that she so adores. Especially sacred is the Stag, so much so that she proudly captured four Stags with antlers of Gold to pull her Golden chariot. Artemis is most at home among the flora and fauna of Mount Olympus, rarely leaving for civilisation.
A Great Huntress she may be, but her fierce protection of wild beasts should not be underestimated. Legend tells us that Artemis tamed a wild Bear, and introduced it to the people of Athens. When a young boy killed the Bear, Artemis furiously dispatched a plague in revenge. Kings are not immune to her ire either. When Agamemnon killed one of her sacred Stags, she demanded the sacrifice of his daughter, Iphigenia, in payment (a subplot that you may recognise from the book, The Song of Achilles).
The Virgin Huntress
But Artemis made a vow, and swore the gods’ great oath: “By your head, I will remain a virgin always hunting upon the peaks of lonely mountains.” -Sappho
Her chastity is a virtue that Artemis ruthlessly guards; for it is her power; a symbol of her self-rule. She remains unshackled by man, mortal or God, willing to punish any who may seek to steal freedom from her.
Merely gazing upon her naked will earn you her wrath. Both Actaeon and Bouphagos learned this lesson the hard way. When Artemis catches Actaeon gazing upon her as she bathed in the woods, she transformed him into a stag, and his hounds, not recognising their master, gave chase and tore him to shreds. And when Bouphagos, son of Iapetus, sees Artemis and dreams of stealing her purity cross his mind, she reads his sinful thoughts and strikes him down at Mount Pholoe.
The Huntress requires the same chastity from her faithful Nymph companions, acting with little remorse when the sacred vow is broken. Upon discovering that her companion Callisto was pregnant with Zeus’ child, Artemis cast her from her coven and transformed her into a Great Bear. Callisto remains among the stars as the constellation Ursa Major, “She-Bear”.
But it should be understood that 'virginity' in the context of Artemis and the culture of the Ancient Greeks refers more to marriage rather than sex. By fiercely guarding her virginity and remaining unmarried, Artemis' own personal manifesto is very clear with no ambiguity - she will not be impeded by any man.
Protectress of the Young
Perhaps surprisingly, Artemis is also an icon of Fertility, and because she assisted her mother during the birth of her twin Apollo, she is a Midwifery Goddess. The only time she leaves her sanctuary amongst the mountains is when called upon by labouring parents.
With her twin brother Apollo as the God of the Light of the Sun, it is only natural that Artemis should be a Goddess of the light of the Moon. So when you find yourself gazing upon the crescent moon, remember that it is Artemis, bringer of Light, illuminating the night sky with her Bow and Arrow. With her Moon sisters Selene and Hecate, the three are the DIVA TRIFORMIS, or the ‘three-formed Goddess’. Embodying the phases of the Moon, they rule the night sky, the movement of time, ebbs and tides, and menstrual cycles. In Art, you can distinguish depictions of Artemis by the Crescent Moon crown atop her brow, the Bow in her hand, and often, stags and hunting dogs by her side.
Additional Sources & Reading:
Images from Pinterest and Wikimedia commons. Artemis Jewellery designs are exclusive property of Dixi and should not be reproduced, copied and/or redistributed.
Artemis Greek Goddess of the Hunt and the Moon
Mythology, Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton (1942)
The Greek Myths (Complete Edition) by Robert Graves (1992)
Great Goddesses: Life lessons from myths and monsters by Nikita Gill (2019) Warriors, Witches, Women: Mythology's Fiercest Females by Katie Hodges (2020)