Since the dawn of time women have been regarded as the ‘fairer’ and ‘weaker’ sex, aphorisms which are out-dated. However there were a number of role models who rallied against these stereotyped terms. Cleopatra, a strong and intelligent woman who ruled a country; Joan of Arc, who was burnt at the stake because men (the English with whom the French were at war with at the time) were scared of her ability to lead an army and the fact she was a girl who commanded loyalty; and Margaret Thatcher who was Prime Minister of England for a long time (11 years), a very influential and respected international leader. In Greek Mythology, there was a female whose characteristics reflect those just mentioned—Artemis, the Goddess of the hunt and childbirth.
Artemis was the daughter of Leto and Zeus and sister of Apollo, her twin brother. How she became a goddess of childbirth was through Hera’s interference. When her mother Leto was in labour, Hera captured Illithyia who was the Goddess of childbirth, to stop the babies from being born. Regardless, Artemis was born first and then assisted in her brother’s birth.
While a toddler, Artemis asked her father to grant her several wishes. One was to remain a virgin, faithful hounds, a chariot and nymphs as her companions while hunting. He granted her wish and in turn, her companions had to also remain virgins. This aspect was reflected in the daily life of young girls who were initiated in the cult of Artemis at puberty. Before they married, they would offer toys, dolls, locks of their hair on an altar to the goddess.
Each immortal was given a realm to rule over and Artemis had jurisdiction over the wilderness. She would not only hunt but also protected animals. This part of her myth explained the need for humans to eat as well as respect animals.
Artemis had a less virtuous side. If wronged, she would mete out punishment, most ending in the person’s death. In the case of Actaeon, a Theban prince who was out hunting spied her bathing. Artemis offended by his staring, turned him into a stag and set his own hounds to kill him. Chione killed for her pride and vanity. Brothers Otus and Ephialtes had kidnapped Ares. Artemis changed herself into a deer and when the brothers were out hunting, she ran between them. They threw their javelin at the deer and killed each other instead.
She was a beautiful goddess and usually depicted wearing a short khiton and armed with a bow and quiver. Despite her importance, she wasn’t worshipped much in Greece but in Asia Minor, she was the principal deity. The city of Ephesus had a temple built in her honour and was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. She held the title as earth and fertility goddess. The statues created demonstrated her connectivity with Mother Nature.
Next is Demeter, the goddess of fertility and crops. I always look forward to your comments, so please feel free to drop a line.