The Greek Goddess
Goddess of Light
And Protector of the Vulnerable
In Greek mythology Artemis (also
known as the Roman goddess Diana) was the daughter of Zeus, the mighty ruler
of the Olympian gods. Artemis' mother, Leto, gave birth to Artemis after a short and painless labor. But then Leto's labor continued, with her
contractions growing weak and painful. Moved
to compassion, the infant goddess Artemis, born only a few minutes earlier, became her
mother's midwife and delivered her twin brother Apollo. You could say that, of all the Greek goddesses, the goddess Artemis was
literally born to serve as a nurturer and protector!
The Greek goddess Artemis was frequently called upon to
nurture her needy and somewhat ineffectual mother. All
too often she felt compelled to come to her rescue even though Artemis received little
from her mother in return. As a result of her
having caused her mother no pain in childbirth, and her successful role as midwife in her
brother's birth, Artemis naturally became the patron saint of childbirth, the protector of
children, and the goddess who especially heard the appeals of women.
The goddess Artemis was always responsive to the needs of
the vulnerable and the suffering. She was
quick to defend the powerless from unjust treatment at the hands of the Olympian
patriarchy; it is not surprising that in current times Artemis is seen as the
Even as a small child the Greek goddess Artemis was
When Zeus asked Artemis what
presents she wanted for her third birthday she responded without hesitation that she
wanted six things:
to be allowed to live without having to be distracted by love and
~ a bow and arrow just like her brother's,
~ a hunting costume and freedom from
having to dress up like a lady,
~ the job of bringing light into the world,
nymphs to be her companions and to help care for her hunting dogs, and
~all the mountains
on the earth to live on.
Zeus was amused by
her precociousness and happily granted the little goddess Artemis her wishes. Even at this tender age it was clear that Artemis
was going to be the most independent of the goddesses, one who thrived on challenges!
Artemis' association with the natural world, the
wilderness, symbolizes her own untamed spirit. The
most independent of the goddesses, she roamed the forests in her role as huntress.
The Greek goddess Artemis was famous for her
hunting skills, for the sharp focus of her attention and her unerring aim. She was known as a fearless and responsible
hunter, willing and able to bring down the most terrifying beasts.
But Artemis was especially fierce in her protection of
the gentle animals that were usually preyed upon. As
the protector of animals and the young, the goddess Artemis was angered because a
group of Greek sailors had slaughtered a hare and its young. She delayed them from sailing to join the Battle
Artemis was not the least interested
in cultivating the land or in harnessing the forces of nature to benefit mankind (she left
those responsibilities to Demeter and Athena, respectfully). Artemis could easily be
described as an early environmentalist.
Artemis seemed to be more comfortable with the companionship of women
friends. Often depicted by artists while
hunting or bathing with her band of nymphs, the goddess Artemis valued her freedom and
personal space and protected them with ferociousness.
Indeed, those who restricted her freedom, those who tried to thwart
her commitment to reaching her goals, or simply invaded her privacy, paid dearly. When the hunter Actaeon accidentally came upon
Artemis while she was bathing, she turned him into a stag, whereupon his own hunting dogs
attacked and tore him to pieces.
Artemis could be both vengeful and impulsive. When she discovered that Callisto, one of the
nymphs in her band of companions, had violated her vows of chastity and become pregnant as
a result of an affair with Zeus, Artemis, without a moment's hesitation, Artemis changed
her into a bear. Had Zeus not intervened to
place her in the stars as the constellation Callisto (The Bear), the young nymph would
have died quickly as the victim of a hunt.
With the exception of her brother Apollo, who was a frequent ally and
companion, Artemis was not known to have had very satisfying relationships with men. Her one great love affair, with the handsome and
respected mortal Orion, ended very badly.
Upset that his sister's time and attentions had been diverted away from
him, the jealous Apollo tricked Artemis into killing Orion.
Knowing that Orion was swimming in the ocean, Apollo bet Artemis that
she could not hit "that distant object on the horizon" with an arrow.
Filled with confidence in her skills as an archer, Artemis accepted the
challenge. Successful as always, Artemis
discovered that her competitiveness and unerring aim had killed the only man she had ever
In her abject grief, the goddess Artemis turned her dead lover into stars
and shot him into the night sky where he remains as the constellation Orion. Never again did she allow herself to become
vulnerable to romantic love.
The Greek goddess Artemis was often associated with the moon, especially
the crescent or "new" moon. Phoebe
was one of the many names she was called. The
name Phoebe means the "light one" or "bright one".
Artemis "Goddess of Light" had the divine duty
of illuminating the darkness. Artemis was
often depicted carrying a candle or torch, lighting the way for others, leading them
through territories yet uncharted.
In Greek mythology Artemis, despite her
"wildness" (her refusal to conform to conventional ways or tradition) and her
fierce independence, was depicted as one of the compassionate, healing goddesses. Of all the Greek goddesses, she was the most
self-sufficient, living life on her own terms, comfortable both in solitude and in
holding the reins of leadership.
The Greek goddess Artemis gives us courage. Like her
counterpart, the Roman goddess Diana, she illuminates those places that terrify us and
lends us her strength to bring us safely through our fears.
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symbols of the Greek Goddess Artemis
abbreviated version of her