A to Z Challenge Folklore

Violent Artemis #folklore #AtoZChallenge

V is for Violent

I’m doing folklore and book review posts to reach and please a larger audience. Previous years have shown select interest in both and to minimise blogging throughout the year, I’m focusing my efforts on April.

If you’d rather check out my book review for today, go here.

Learn more about the challenge here.

I think I first really took notice of Artemis when I read the Percy Jackson novels by Rick Riordan.

Artemis. Image credit


Myths of Greece and Rome by Jane Harrison, [1928]


Homer, in the Odyssey, adds a fourth to the Graces, the Gift-Givers, Artemis. Penelope tells the story of the daughters of Pandareus:”Their father and their mother dear died by the gods’ high doom,
The maidens were left orphans, alone within their home;
Fair Aphrodite gave them curds and honey of the bee
And lovely wine, and Hera made them very fair to see,
And wise beyond all women-folk. And holy Artemis
Made them to wax in stature, and Athena for their bliss
Taught them all glorious handiworks of woman’s artifice.”

The activities of Artemis lie, indeed, as a rule, rather among plants and animals and wild things generally than among human beings. There is, however, one exception. In her aspect of the moon she watches over women in childbirth.

Artemis, undoubtedly, like her brother Apollo, is a Northerner. She was worshipped with the title of Queen in Thrace and in Pæonia, and it is there that her aspect as moon-goddess is most clearly evident. There, too, she has the title of Hekate, the Far-Darter, the feminine of Apollo Hekatos. As Hekate, as moon-goddess, she has her dark and spectral side, and is compact of magic and spells. Of this moon-magic of Artemis-Hekate we have a wondrous picture in the second Idyll of Theocritus. Simætha, slighted by her love and half-crazed with misery, invokes Hekate-Artemis and tries to draw her lover back by the incantation of a wheel, to which an iynx, a wry-neck, is bound. The incantation takes place by moonlight. Simætha sings:

“Lo! now the barley smoulders in the flame,
   Thestylis, wretch! thy wits are woolgathering!
Am I a laughing stock to thee, a Shame?
   Scatter the grain, I say, the while I sing;
   ‘The bones of Delphis I am scattering;
Bird, magic Bird, bring the man back to me.’

Next do I burn this wax, God helping me,
So may the heart of Delphis melted be,
   This brazen wheel I whirl, so as before
   Restless may he be whirled about my door.
‘Bird, magic Bird, bring the man home to me.’

Next will I burn these husks. O Artemis,
   Hast power hell’s adamant to shatter down
And every stubborn thing. Hark! Thestylis,
   Hecate’s hounds are baying up the town,
   The goddess at the crossways. Clash the gong!
   .     .      .      .      .      .      .      .
Lo, now the sea is still. The winds are still.
The ache within my heart is never still.”

The moon has her frightening side, she stares down on man with her cold, pitiless eye, a spectral terror charged with magic.”Setebos, Setebos, and Setebos,
 Thinketh He dwelleth in the cold of the moon.”

But the moon has her gentler and fairer aspect. In the Atalanta in Calydon the chorus sings:”Come with bows bent and with emptying of quivers,
   Maiden most perfect, lady of light,
With a noise of winds and many rivers,
   With a clamour of waters and with might;
Bind on thy sandals, O thou most fleet,
Over the splendour and speed of thy feet;
For the faint east quickens, the wan west shivers,
   Round the feet of the day and the feet of the night.”

And this Artemis, when she comes to slay, slays gently, mercifully. Homer, in the Odyssey, tells of a fair island, a goodly land with oxen:                 “With oxen and with sheep
Well stored, and laden vines and cornfields deep,
And hunger never comes upon the folk,
Nor sore diseases that make mortals weep.
But to the tribes of men, when old they grow
Therein, the Archer of the silver bow,
Apollo, comes with Artemis, and thus
With shafts that hurt not strikes and lays them low.”

Artemis is, of all the divine maidens, the most virginal. Perhaps because she is a Northerner she attains an austerity impossible to the warmer-blooded Southerners. While Athena refuses marriage, she is still, in very human fashion, foster-mother, guardian, and friend to many a hero. The relation of these early and husbandless matriarchal goddesses to the male figures who attend them is one altogether noble and womanly, though, perhaps, it is not what the modern mind regards as feminine. It is a relation that halts somewhere halfway between mother and lover, and has about it a touch of the patron-saint. These goddesses ask of the hero whom they choose to inspire and protect, not that he should love and adore, but that he should do great deeds. Such a relation is that of Hera to Jason, of Athena to Perseus, to Herakles, to Theseus. And, as the glory of the goddesses is in their heroes’ high deeds, so their grace is his guerdon. With the coming of patriarchal conditions this high companionship ends; the women goddesses are sequestered to a servile domesticity, they become abject and amorous. By Artemis alone among the maidens this high companionship with heroes is all but renounced. She dwells apart in lonely mountains and wild, untouched forests. She is most of all the Lady-of-the-Wild-Things.

Accordingly the local cults of Artemis are not untainted by primitive savagery. At Messene Pausanias was witness of a horrid ritual in honour of Artemis Laphria. He tells us of “a hall of the Kuretes, where they sacrifice without distinction all animals, beginning with oxen and goats and ending with birds; they throw them all into the fire.” The Kuretes, we know, are ministrants of the Great Mother, to whom Artemis was near akin. Pausanias again tells us, in detail, of the ritual of this Great Mother at Hierapolis: “In the court of the sanctuary,” he says, “were kept all manner of beasts and birds, consecrated oxen, horses, eagles, bears, and lions who never hurt anybody, but are holy and tame to handle.” But these tame, holy beasts were kept for a horrid holocaust, which Lucian thus describes: “Of all the festivals the greatest that I know of they hold at the beginning of the spring. At this festival they do as follows. They cut down great trees and set them up in the courtyard. Then they bring sheep and goats and other live beasts and hang them upon the trees. They also bring birds and clothes and vessels of gold and silver. When they have made all ready, they carry the victims round the trees and set fire to them, and straightway they are all burned.”

Just such a holocaust was held in honour of Artemis at Patræ. After describing the altar, surrounded by a circle of green logs of wood and approached by an inclined plane made of earth, he tells of the procession of the virgin priestess in a car drawn by deer. Of the sacrifice itself, he says it was not merely a State affair, but popular among private persons. “For they bring and cast upon the altar living things of all sorts, both edible birds and all manner of victims, also wild boars and deer and fawns, and some even bring the cubs of wolves and bears, and others full-grown beasts. I saw, indeed, a bear and other beasts struggling to get out of the first force of the flames and escaping by sheer strength. But those who threw them in dragged them up again on to the fire; I never heard of anyone being wounded by the wild beasts.”

Most horrible of all, among the Tauri, the local Artemis demanded human blood. In later days the conscience of Greece revolted, and Euripides makes Iphigeneia, doomed to sacrifice her brother, cry out against Artemis:”Herself doth drink the blood of slaughtered men?
 Could ever Leto, she of the great King
 Beloved, be mother of so gross a thing?
 These tales be false, false as those feastlings wild
 Of Tantalus and gods that love a child.
 This land of murderers to its god hath given
 Its own lust: evil dwelleth not in heaven.”

It is a relief to turn from these savage ceremonials to a gentler aspect of Artemis. On the Acropolis at Athens there was a precinct sacred to Artemis of Brauron. This precinct must have seen strange sights. In it was enacted the arkteia or bear-service. In one of the comedies of Aristophanes the chorus of women tell how they were reared at the expense of the State. The State wisely took them in hand early. “As soon as I was seven years old I became an Errephoros, when I was ten I was grinder to our Sovereign Lady, then, wearing the saffron robe, I was a bear in the Brauronian festival.” That Artemis herself in Arcadia was a bear does not, perhaps, much surprise us, and Pausanias tells us that one of her worshippers was turned into a bear. No doubt in rude Arcadia the bear was a much-dreaded creature, whom it was wise to propitiate. But to find, in the Christian era, at civilized Athens, a hear-cult is not a little astounding, and shows strikingly how tenacious is ancient tradition. We do not know the precise nature of the ritual, though we do know that no well-born Athenian man dare marry a maiden unless she had been consecrated as a bear to Artemis. Probably these little Athenian girls, wrapped in yellow bearskins, would dance and crouch bear-fashion before the goddess Artemis, and the little girls were safe from marriage for the ensuing year.

It would seem that after a time the Athenians got a little ashamed of the rude ritual; a saffron robe was substituted for the bearskin, and from the time of Aristophanes we hear more of the dedication of raiment than of the dancing of bears. One maiden, we learn from an inscription in the British Museum, offers a cloak of carded wool, another her saffron robe, a third her mirror with an ivory handle. The list is a long one, and the goddess, if she wore all the dedicated raiment, must have had enough to put on. She was very gracious, and disdained nothing; here and there some cloak or shawl is noted down as a “rag.”

One girl, nameless, alas! but richer and more pious than the rest, offered to the goddess an image of herself, a small stone bear. A fragment of this image I had the good fortune to find when I first visited Athens as I was turning over a heap of stone lumber. One furry paw was stuck out and caught my eye. The small bear is crouching comfortably on her hind paws. She must at one time have been set up in the Brauronian precinct.

Among the Apaches to-day, we are told, “only ill-bred Americans or Europeans would think of speaking of the Bear without employing the reverential prefix Ostin, meaning Old One, the equivalent of ‘Senator.'” Long after they were full-grown and married, these well-born, well-bred little Athenians must have thought reverently of the Great She-Bear.

The virginity of Artemis in her tenderest aspect makes her specially gentle to the very young maiden. An epigram of the Anthology shows this in very charming fashion. A young girl, Timaretê, dedicates to her local Artemis, as Lady of the Lake, her clothes and her childish toys before her marriage:

“Maid of the Mere, Timaretê here brings,
   Before she weds, her cymbals, her dear ball;
 To Thee, a Maid, her maiden offerings,
   Her snood, her maiden dolls, their clothes and all.
 Hold, Leto’s child, above Timaretê
 Thine hand and keep her virginal like thee.”

Clearly here the maidenhood of the worshipper is mirrored in the goddess. The play of words cannot be reproduced in English, as korê is Greek for both maiden and doll.

The derivation of the name Artemis is not so clear as that of Hera or Athena. It seems probable, however, though not quite certain, that the goddess took her name from a healing herb much in use in antiquity, the artemisia or mugwort, known also as the Mother of Herbs and as Tutsan ( = tout saint) or All Heal. The mugwort has fallen out of the modern pharmacopoeia. In Parkinson’s Herbal we are told that the mugwort or wormwood possessed the power of dispelling demons; it was used in the Midsummer ceremonials of St. John’s Eve for making girdles, and was called St. John’s herb. The herb doctor, Culpepper, says that a hot decoction of the herb was used to promote delivery and to remove tumours. In a word, it was essentially a woman’s medicine, and was sometimes called parthenium. Another herbalist, Gerarde, notes from Pliny that the mugwort “doth properly cure women’s diseases.” It is specially noted that the mugwort grew in great profusion on Mount Taygetos in Arcadia, the favourite hunting-ground of Artemis. A manuscript of the eleventh century shows Artemis in the act of giving the mugwort to the centaur Cheiron, the ancient physician who dwelt on Mount Pelion in Thessaly. The reputation of the mugwort lasted on till modern days. In the last century it was reported that a girl in Galloway was near dying of consumption, and all had despaired of her recovery, when a mermaid, who often gave people good counsel, sang:”Wad ye let the bonnie May die i’ your hand,
 And the mugwort growing in the land?”

They immediately plucked the herb, gave her the juice of it, and she was restored to health.

Whether, as Dr. Rendel Harris has supposed, Artemis actually got her name from the artemisia, one thing is clear, the healing herb was closely associated with her cult. This brings us to an interesting aspect of her nature that has hitherto been too much neglected. Artemis, like her twin-brother Apollo, was a healer. Apollo, Sophocles tells us, had in the North an “ancient garden,” and this garden, no doubt, was not of flowers, but of healing herbs. Hekate, who was, as we have seen, but the magical moon aspect of Artemis, had a similar garden, which Medea the sorceress visited, and of which we have an account in the Orphic Argonautica. It was shady with leaf-bearing trees, and in it grew many a magic herb, black poppy, smilax, mandragora, aconite, and other “baneful plants.” In the Hippolytus of Euripides Artemis, all huntress, is worshipped by the huntsman Hippolytus. In an ancient treatise on hunting we are told that hunters must pay homage to Artemis Agrotera, She-of-the-Wild. They must pour libation, sing hymns, and offer firstfruits of the game taken, and they must crown the goddess. It is pleasant to learn also that the hunters must crown their dogs, and that dogs and huntsmen must feast together. But when Hippolytus comes to pay this service to Artemis, to our surprise he finds her not as Agrotera on the mountain or in the wilds of the forest, but in a garden enclosed, a holy magical place. He thus invokes his goddess:  “Mine own, my own desire,
             Virgin most fair 
        Of all the virgin choir,
       Hail! O most pure, most perfect, loveliest one,
         Lo! in my hand I bear,
       Woven for the circling of thy long, gold hair,
       Culled leaves and flowers from places which the sun
          In spring long shines upon.
  Where never shepherd hath driven flocks to graze,
       Nor any grass is mown;
But there sound through all the sunny sweet warm days,
       Mid the green place,
       The wild bees’ wing alone.
  And maiden reverence tends the fair things there,
  And watereth all of them with sprinkled showers,
      Whoso is chaste of spirit utterly
  May gather there the leaves and fruit and flowers,–
      The unchaste never.
But thou, O goddess, and dearest love of mine,
      Take and about thine hair
      This anadem entwine
      Take and for my sake wear.”

Surely this holy place, this garden enclosed, was the herb-garden of Artemis the Healer.

Artemis. Image credit

The Werewolf Book: The Encyclopedia of Shape-Shifting Beings by Brad Steiger

From ancient times (to the Greeks, she was Artemis), Diana was the Queen of Heaven, the Mother of Creatures, the Huntress, the Destroyer. Diana, with her pack of hunting dogs, her stature as the Mother of Animals, the Lady of Wild Creatures, was the patron goddess of those who chose the life of the outlaw werewolf and all others who defied conventional society. She has remained the goddess of the wild woodlands and hunting throughout most of the Western world.

*More can be read in the book.

Artemis. Image credit

The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

Diana (Artemis) Classical goddess of the Moon and the hunt and one of the most important aspects of the Goddess in Wicca. Diana (counterpart to the Greek Artemis) personifies the positive attributes of the moon, which is the source of Witches’ magical power, as well as independence, self-esteem and fierce aggressiveness. A virgin goddess and maiden warrior, she is the eternal feminist, owned by no man, beholden to none. As a moon goddess, Diana shares the lunar trinity with Selene and Hecate and serves as patron goddess of witches. In the trinity, she represents power over the earth. Diana’s origins as Artemis comprise a rich mythology. Her cult flourished throughout the Mediterranean region during the Bronze Age. The Amazons build a beehiveshaped temple to her at Ephesus circa 900 b.c.e., and it is considered the Seventh Wonder of the ancient world. The temple contained a statue of Black Diana, on which was implanted a magical stone. Emperor Theodosius closed the temple in 380, allegedly because he despised the religion of women.

According to myth, Artemis was born of Zeus and Leto, a nature deity and the twin sister of Apollo, who became the god of oracles and of the Sun. As soon as she was born, Artemis was thrust into the role of protector and helper of women. Though Artemis was born without pain, Apollo caused Leto great suffering. Artemis served as midwife. As a result, women have traditionally prayed to her to ease childbirth.

As a youth, Artemis exhibited a boyish taste for adventure and independence. At her request, Zeus granted her a bow and a quiver of arrows, a band of nymph maidens to follow her, a pack of hounds, a short tunic suitable for running and eternal chastity, so that she could run forever through the wilderness. She was quick to protect wildlife and animals, as well as humans who appealed to her for help, especially women who were raped and victimized by men.

She was equally quick to punish offending men. Actaeon, a hunter who spied Artemis and her nymphs bathing nude in a pool, was turned into a stag and torn to pieces by his own hounds. She killed Orion, whom she loved, with an arrow shot to the head. In one version, she was tricked into killing Orion by Apollo, who did not like Orion; in another version, she killed him out of jealousy over his feelings for Dawn. She sent a boar to ravage the countryside of Calydon as punishment to King Oeneus, because he forgot to include her in the sacrifice of the first fruits of harvest. (None of the bravest male warriors of Greece could slay the boar. It took another woman, Atalanta, to do it.)

*More can be read in the book.

Artemis. Image credit

The Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper

Diana (Artemis)

In Roman mythology she is the goddess of the hunt, the moon, and birth, and is associated with wild animals, the wilderness, and the forest. She was said to dwell in the Forest of Nemi with the nymph Egeria. In Greek mythology she became identified with the goddess Artemis.

Diana is also a key figure in witchcraft, particularly the Italian witchcraft tradition Stregheria. Aradia: Gospel of the Witches (1899) described Diana as the great spirit of the stars who made all men, giants, and dwarves, and relates how one night a poor orphan boy saw a thousand little white figures dancing under the full moon. When he asked them who they were, they replied:

“We are moon-rays, the children of Diana. We are children of the moon. We are born of shining light. When the moon shoots forth a ray, then it takes a fairy’s form.”

*More can be read in the book.

Artemis. Image credit

Further Reading:

Artemis. Image credit

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

Artemis is the Greek goddess of the hunt, wild animals, the moon, vegetation, chastity and childbirth. Her parents are the Olympian god Zeus and Titaness Leto, and Apollo is her twin brother. She is the favourite goddess of rural people. To the Romans, she was Diana. Though she was sometimes called Phoebe by both Greeks and Romans, it didn’t stick – probably because this chaste goddess didn’t like the whole “Phoebe-freebie” association.

In myth, she is surrounded by her various followers – nymphs and humans alike – and shouldn’t be crossed. Killing a young animal will set you in her crosshairs. So too, would seeing her bathing – Actaeon was turned into a deer and devoured by his own hunting dogs after doing so. Her wrath is compared to the hostility of nature towards humans.

Artemis drew the attention of many gods and mortal men, but only her hunting companion Orion ever held her attention. There are different variations of the Artemis-Orion tale – including her killing him to protect her nymphs from his unwanted advances – but I like the one where Apollo feared her falling in love with the hunter to the detriment of her chastity vow, and then challenging her to an archery competition to hit a speck in the lake (which was Orion out for a swim). She wins, Orion dies, and she beseeches Zeus to turn her companion into a constellation.

In ancient art, she is depicted as a girl or young maiden dressed in a short hunting tunic, with a bow and quiver of arrows, sometimes with her hunting dogs – which Pan gave her plenty of – or with a deer, her sacred animal.

Artemis, just like her twin, has the power to bring disease to the world and to take it away.

Best to not anger this violent goddess.

Artemis. Image credit

Artemis in Modern Culture

Romance Novel

Goddess of Light by P.C. Cast

Ancient gods Artemis and Apollo get caught up in a game of love with a mortal woman in this Goddess Summoning novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author P. C. Cast…

Tired of dating egomaniacs, interior designer Pamela Gray has nearly given up. She wants to be treated like a goddess—preferably by a god. As she whispers her wish, she unwittingly invokes the goddess Artemis, who has some tricks up her celestial sleeve…

Twins Artemis and Apollo have been sent to the kingdom of Las Vegas to test their mettle. Their first assignment: make Pamela’s wish come true. So Artemis volunteers her golden brother. After all, who better than the handsome God of Light to bring love to this lonely woman?

It might be a first, but here in Sin City, where life is a gamble, both god and mortal are about to bet on a high-stakes game of love…

Check it out on Goodreads.

Disney’s Hercules

Artemis Orthia (known in Roman as Diana) is the wereclam goddess of the number seven, the moon, the hunt, the run, the wild and the animals and queen of fairies. Her powers and abilities are magic, transformation and immortality and sister of Apollo and daughter of Zeus and Leto.

Learn more here
Artemis. Image credit

Percy Jackson book series by Rick Riordan

Artemis is the Greek virgin goddess of the hunt, archery, wilderness, animals, forests, the Moon, radiance, maidenhood, and childbirth. She and her twin brother Apollo are known as the “Twin Archers.” Artemis drives the moon chariot across the sky at night, a role she received when Selene, the original moon deity, faded. Her Roman counterpart is Diana.

The Titan’s Curse

Along with the Hunters of Artemis, Artemis helps Percy Jackson and his friends when they face the manticore, Dr. Thorn, at Westover Hall. She then goes on a mission west to hunt the Ophiotaurus, promising Percy that she will look for Annabeth Chase, who had been taken by the manticore.

Learn more here
Artemis. Image credit

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys TV series

Artemis was Goddess  of the Hunt and Wildlife, the Moon and Patron Goddess of the Amazons, and the daughter of Zeus. (YH: “Inn Trouble“)

She was the patron goddess of Syros. (HTLJ: “The Apple“)

She is also considered “one of the Greatest of all Olympians“.

As the Goddess of the hunt, Artemis possessed a bow that released magic arrows that could turn any mortal (or even other Gods) into wild animals.(HTLJ: “Porkules“)

She is also an expert archer. Artemis possessed the typical Powers and Abilities of the Olympian Gods including the ability to teleport, become invisible or even bestow mortals with special gifts such as her devotee The Huntress, a character in Young Hercules.

Learn more here
Artemis. Image credit

Artemis in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Artemis

Artemis is the Greek goddess of the hunt, wild animals, and wild places. Nymphs of all kinds adore and follow her, but she prefers the company of the Oreads who are able to keep up with her when she hunts in the mountains. She only ever loved one man – Orion – and has vowed to never love another after his untimely demise. She adores her dogs and always adopts new ones whenever one needs her most. She is a firm believer in “Adopt, Don’t Shop”. Though she is proficient with many weapons, the bow and arrow stays her favourite. She is still revered among rural people.

See her in action:

Origin of Irascible Immortals (Origin of the Fae #7)

What do you think of Artemis? Where did you hear about Artemis for the first time? Any folklore about Artemis you’d like to share? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

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No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.

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