Artemis and Athena
In the Dog days of summer we can look at two warrior Goddesses for inspiration and by comparison, a different view of women. In the June story, we examined the lives of Juno and Hera. Both were wives of powerful men. Where one was vilified in her search for equality with a faithless and unfaithful spouse, the other was elevated beyond her husband’s power to become the last true Queen of Women before the Patriarchal era became entrenched in history. Although Roman Juno was transmuted to become Mary, Mother of God, Hera continued to decline and remains, unfairly, a rather pitiful figure in some writings of Greek history.
In this comparison we will look at two Greek Goddesses, Artemis and Athena. Artemis (Diana – Roman) was the woodland wanderer, the huntress, the animal lover, protector of women in labour and children. There are numerous stories about her legendary life. She lived alone in the lovely forest but was surrounded constantly by nymphs and animals. In Greece, she was seen as the Many Breasted Goddess providing symbolic nurturing for babies. Probably Artemis (Diana) is known best for her skill with the Bow and Arrow. She is said to have cut off her left breast so that she could shoot her arrows without hindrance.
She has a large following in Wicca and many other cults around the world today. She is symbolized by the crescent moon, the bow and various small creatures. She is often acknowledged as the maiden aspect of the triple Goddess.
Artemis is one of the children of Zeus (unfaithful husband of Hera) and Leto. She had a twin brother named Apollo. It was her wish to remain a virgin Goddess and so retreated to the mountains and forests that were to be her permanent home. It seems strange that so fierce a Goddess should be so revered but, in a time when death may have been preferable to suffering in life, prayers to Artemis provided a swift passing. What may have made Artemis so popular was her independent spirit, kindliness to those less fortunate and support to women in their birthing process.
Athena (Minerva- Roman) was also a child of Zeus, reportedly born out of his brow. Zeus was fiercely competitive even with his wife Hera. While she gave birth to Heracles independently, so too Zeus had a need to show that he could give birth without a woman. In truth, Athena’s mother Metis, was Goddess of wisdom who Zeus, in his self protective way, swallowed. He had been warned about and feared being usurped by one of his children from this particular woman. Swallowing his pregnant wife seemed like a good idea. Athena’s mother gave birth inside Zeus. When his head was split open, Athena appeared fully armoured from her father’s brow.
Athena was very male/masculine oriented. She was known for many things but her fierce competitiveness and warrior-like attitude showed her to be a leader. In addition to her skills in warfare, she was knowledgeable, studious, and practical. In her name stands Athens as a tribute to her skills in politics and government.
She was much more than a warrior princess. Her mental skills gave her dominion over wisdom, learning, crafts and intelligence. She was quite accomplished. She too did many acts of kindness and bravery but she was her Father’s daughter in all respects and she, according to legend, was his favourite.
Although they have much in common Artemis and Athena were quite different. Their lives/myths were lived in different millieux. Their actions were motivated by issues on different levels. It is interesting to look at the behaviours of these mythical women of the past and see whether you manifest the archetype of the solitary, fiercely independent nature of Artemis or Athena.
At Hestia’s Hearth www.hestiashearth.org, we talk with women who are out there holding their own strengths. We see professional, working, women, in the boardrooms, leading their small business practice, solitary by choice and learning constantly about what makes the world tick. They are on top of issues that affect daily life. They also care about what happens to this planet, whether it is through eco-feminism, spirituality, or causes that defend the oppressed. They lead us by nature and by example.
We contrast this urban warrior with the rural life. Here too women are working the land, being creative, forming support groups and showing leadership skills in many areas of country living. The role of the midwife is regaining its rightful place in the childbearing community and women are returning to breastfeeding as the natural way to nurture their children.
Look carefully at your life and see if you fall in with the archetypes of any of these powerful Goddesses. There is a wealth of information about their mythical lives on any search engine. Take some time to read the stories of our heroes in the Goddess Profiles in Courage page.