Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Blueprint of a Goddess...Artemis

So now we have come to the best known new testament goddess, that is Artemis. Artemis is a many faceted goddess whom I have not totally figured out. Some say she was a fertility goddess other say she was goddess of the hunt. Most seem to say that she was the goddess of both. So in that respect she will fit in quite nicely with the other goddess we have been discussing. Her most famous temple was in Ephesus on the west coast of Asia Minor but she also had temples in Sparta and Brauron.

In the Roman world she was assimilated with the goddess Diana. However when you look at the sculptures of Diana and Artemis side by side you see two very different looking goddesses. Where Diana looks very refined; Artemis has a more bohemian feel. {see pics} One theory is that the Artemis of Ephesus was an incarnation of the goddess Cybele because of the close geographically proximity and the similar look. For the sake of this post we will discuss the general consensus that Artemis and Diana are one in the same.

Artemis was known as a virgin goddess much like the others we have discussed. However with Artemis the term 'virgin' didn't mean 'single and having sex' as it did with the others. From what I can tell she was truly chaste. In fact I haven't found any evidence of ritual sex associated with Artemis or her temple. Which was a big surprise to me too! It is for this reason that Artemis became the patron goddess of young unmarried woman.

She was a kind of female Peter Pan of sorts. Armed with bow and arrow she would frolic through the forests, hunt wild beasts, and play with the nymphs of the trees, streams and groves. Young girls in the ward of her temple at Brauron would dress up as 'little bear cubs' or arktia and do all sorts of 'tomboy' things in her honor while exploring the freedom of innocence. The female priestesses acted as the 'den mothers' of sorts, standing in on behalf of Artemis. These same little 'bear cub' girls would return to her temple the day before their weddings offering childhood toys and accoutrement's as sacrifice as they moved into marriage and womanhood. Furthermore when the time came they would cry out to Artemis 'The Great Mother' while in the pain of labor and giving birth.

For all intents and purposes Artemis doesn't seem like that bad of a character. She simply seems like a strong, independent woman who enjoys the freedom of the wilds. But at what cost? Let us not forget that the goddesses of the moon, for which Artemis is one, always has a dark side. The moon waxes and wains, it is bright then it is dark. For Artemis a chaste, adventurous spirit wasn't a celebration of maidenhood it was the placation of a bitter goddess. She despised anyone who 'gave into love'. It is my understanding that the young girls were required to spend the year at Artemis' temple. No maiden could marry unless she did. Those who decided to marry after the given time were shunned by Artemis. The sacrifice to Artemis before the wedding was the cutting off of any ties; not by choice of the maidens but of Artemis. In childbirth they were crying out in mercy to Artemis to ease the pain and spare the child. Thinking that the pains were a curse from Artemis because they had made the decision to no longer stay a virgin. Here are some more specific quotes of her dark side.

"Hecate is often identified with Artemis as her dark aspect, the under-worldly being she might become if she were offended and withdrew her light." The Myth of the Goddess, Baring & Cashford.

Hecate was the goddess of witchcraft, magic and the night moon. Both Hecate and Artemis sometimes had the surname Phosphorus meaning 'light-bearer'; likewise Diana was called Diana Lucifera meaning the same.

"Artemis, of all the Greek goddesses, was the one who received the bloodiest sacrifices...all kinds of animals we thrown on the fire and burnt--birds, deer, fawns, wolf cubs, bear cubs, boars." The Myth of the Goddess, Baring & Cashford

"NIOBE A Queen of Thebes in Boiotia (Central Greece) who was excessively proud of her 14 children and claimed superiority in motherhood over the goddess Leto. Apollon and Artemis, her divine children, rushed to their mother's defence, descended upon Thebes and struck down the 14 children with their arrows (Apollon the seven boys, and Artemis the seven girls.)" http://www.theoi.com/

"ADMETOS A King of Pherai in Thessalia (Northern Greece) who neglected to offer Artemis her dues in his matrimonial sacrifices. In wrath, she filled his bridal chambers with coiled serpents." http://www.theoi.com/

"KORINTHIANS, THE The people of Korinthos (in Southern Greece) turned Apollon and Artemis away when the pair came seeking purification for the slaying of the Python. The gods in their wrath brought a deadly plague down upon the city until appeased by the supplications of seven youths and seven maidens." http://www.theoi.com/

"KALLISTO An Arkadian princess (of Southern Greece) and companion of the goddess Artemis. When she was impregnated by Zeus, she attempted to hide her condition from the goddess, and violated the holy circle of virgins by remaining within their company beyond her time. Artemis was wrothful, when she discovered the deception and transformed Kallisto into a bear." http://www.theoi.com/

"AKTAION A young prince and hunter of Thebes in Boiotia (Central Greece) who incurred the wrath of Artemis by spying upon her as she bathed (though some say he merely came across he by accident, but nevertheless failed to avert his gaze). She transformed him into a stag and then incited his hounds to tear him apart in a mad frenzy." http://www.theoi.com/

"SIPRIOTES A boy who was transformed into a girl by the goddess Artemis when he accidentally came across the goddess bathing."
http://www.theoi.com/

Are you beginning to see why the people of Ephesus were apprehensive about pledging their allegiance to someone other than the 'Great Artemis'? Moreover why the demons were beating the men bloody!{Acts 19:16} Now I must also note here that Artemis was known for avenging the poor treatment or even rape of women. This was another reason that she became so dear to the women of the Greco-Roman world. Here is an example.

"... At that time the office of priestess to the goddess was still always held by a girl who was a virgin. The maiden persisted in resisting the advances of Aristokrates, but at last, when she had taken refuge in the sanctuary, she was outraged by him near the image of Artemis. When the crime came to be generally known, the Arkadians stoned the culprit, and also changed the rule for the future; as priestess of Artemis they now appoint, not a virgin, but a woman who has had enough of intercourse with men." Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 5. 11 http://www.theoi.com/

But let us not forget who we are dealing with. Remember the arsonist by night and the hero firefighter by day that we discussed in the other posts? It was the devil who was working both sides of the story. In this way the women that were pledging allegiance were doing so out of fear from the goddess herself or out of a bitterness towards the opposite sex that mirrored the same disdain as Artemis. So in a way Artemis was the 'mother bear' by day but was heaping the 'bear cubs' on the sacrificial altar by night. But in both cases the women were enslaved to fear and bitterness by way of Artemis. This could be the attitude that Paul was addressing in 1 Timothy 2 that was written to the church in Ephesus. Strong wording to temper deep bitterness for men. More on this in later posts.

The last aspect I want to discuss about Artemis is a very elusive one. I have poured over text after text to find direct evidence that the goddess Artemis was the reason behind many an abortion in the Greco-Roman world. It is something that I am still working on. For now I will share the evidence I have come up with. Abortion was something that was by no means unknown in the ancient world. In fact Ephesus was the home of a medical school made famous by a 1st century gynecologist named Soranus. Soranus was no stranger to giving advise as to how induce natural abortion. Here is the advice in his own words.

"First the womb must be separated from the uterus. In order to create the separation, empty the abdomen and purge it with warm and sweet olive oil as injections. Then bathe the whole body in sweet water, lingering in the tub, drinking a little wine first and eating pungent food. If at this point, it is not effective, then sit in a bath of linseed, fenugreek, mallow, marsh mallow, and wormwood. Have injections of old oil, alone or with rue juice or with honey, iris oil, or absinthian with honey, or panax balm spelt together with rue and honey or Syrian unguent. If it is still not effective, then take a meal of lupines with ox bile and absinthian." Soranus (Bk.I, Ch. XIX)http://dinweb.org/dinweb/DINMuseum/Soranus.asp

Now I have highlighted two of the ingredients...wormwood and absinthian. Common wormwood or mugwort has the Latin names Artemisia Vulgaris and Artemisia Absinthium both from the same bitter herb family named after the goddess. The curious dichotomy of the Artemisia herb family is that while artemisia absinthium was used to ease labour pain; artemisia vulgaris was known as a trusted abortifacient{herb that induced abortion}in the ancient world. BTW wormwood is still used in many pagan practices today. So again the goddess was a mother bear but also sacrificed bear cubs on the altar. Now look at a couple of verses with me.

"'Men of Ephesus, doesn't all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven?'" Acts 19:35

"...and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky...the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter" Revelation 8:10-11


So in the last few posts observing the fertility goddesses we have seen we have gone from copious amounts of ritual sex in the name of fertility. To the blurring and sacrifice of gender so that sexual acts will not produce a child. To demanded virginity and no sexual acts to prevent the production of a child. Not only that but the sacrifice of the life of the child if one was to become pregnant. I think it is safe to say that girls were terrified of the wrath of Artemis if they were to be found pregnant; 'breaking the circle of virgins' as it noted above. So in a way we have come full circle to a fertility goddess who really is the antithesis of womanhood and being a mother. I will leave you with a few more quotes about this so called 'mother' goddess Artemis.

" Zeus has made you{Artemis} a lion among women, and given you leave to kill any at your pleasure..." ibid.,21,483-4

"...the clothes of the women who died giving birth, hunted down like animals by her{Artemis'} golden arrows, were offered to Artemis at Brauron." The Myth of the Goddess, Baring & Cashford

"Abortion is a sacrifice to Artemis. Abortion as a sacrament for the gift of life to remain pure...The same goddess thus offers protection and also death to women, children, and animals." The Sacrament of Abortion by Ginette Paris


Next we will discuss the impact of the goddess on todays woman and finding the feminine in God.  And how that has affected the church.


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