Who is Artemis?

What we know from myth, history, and inspiration


She is a paradoxical goddess: a virgin who aids women in childbirth, a fierce huntress who fosters wild beasts, and a bloodthirsty deity who both nurtures the young and demands their sacrifice. Standing at the borders, both conceptual and physical, between savage and civilized life, Artemis oversees the transition of girls into adult status, but is also a patron of warriors. The young, regarded as untamed and akin to the unruly natural world, are her special concern.
Jennifer Larson, (2007).  Ancient Greek Cults: A Guide. New York: Routledge.

Artemis is the ancient Greek Goddess of hunting, wilderness, wild animals, independence, transition, and survival. She roams the forests, hunting with Her bow and arrows.  Sometimes She hunts in solitude; other times She hunts in the company of Her hunting dogs, Her nymph companions, or Her twin brother, Apollon. Artemis protects women and children, and aids women during childbirth. As torchbearer She brings subtle light into dark places, and at least one of Her ancient festivals took place on or near the full moon. Artemis is a parthenos, a word which is most often translated as “virgin”, but more accurately refers to a pure state of being.

Artemis leads Her company of nymphs in joyous song and dance, and women would often dance and sing in Her honor. Wild meadows, forest streams, freshwater springs, marshes, boundaries, borders, and liminal areas were all sacred places to Artemis. As Lady of Beasts She presides over all wild creatures, but also protects domestic animals, and can cure them when they are ill. Together with Apollon, She would slay mortals who had earned the wrath of Zeus: He would kill the men, and She the women. The ancient Greeks would petition  Artemis for salvation when they had made every effort to save themselves, and there was nothing left to do but pray. When losing a battle would mean utter destruction, Artemis Soteira could ensure survival. The Spartans in particular would not do battle without Her blessing.

Today Artemis can help us hunt down what we want and need for our own lives. She teaches us the archer's balance of exertion and relaxation, tension and peace, focus and calm, as we set our aim on our goal. Artemis helps us find to our true selves, to know our own nature. She aids us as we navigate life's many transitions, and grants us strength to survive life's most difficult challenges. Artemis provokes us to seek and sustain our independence, to understand and embrace our personal strength.

Artwork by Mel Miller.