Apollo and Artemis
Apollo is the Greek God of light, music and divination. He was an excellent archer and he used his arrows to help the ones he favoured in battle, but also to punish those that insulted him. As a punishment he started plagues, first hitting the animals and then humans (which is the mythological explanation of a plague, which indeed starts from animals and then is transmitted to humans.) But Apollo was also a great healer.
Apollo’s birth has survived in many different versions. I am going to recite the most known ones. First, there is the epic version. Leto, the daughter of the Titan Koeos and Phoebe once mated with Zeus. Hera, after finding out that two more of her husband’s children were about to be born, forbade all places to accept Leto. She was desperately running around trying to find a place to give birth, but no such place could be found, from fear of Hera’s anger. Leto had gone through the whole Greece, starting from Crete, she arrives to Athens, then Aegina, Euboea, Aiges Island, Eiresies, Scopelos Island (then named “Peparithus”), Athos, Pelion, Samothraka, Skyros, Fokaia, Imbrus (then inhibited by Greeks, until the Minor Asia battles when it was given to Turkey), Lemnos, Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Militos, Kos, Knidos, Karpathos, Naxos, Paros…No place would have her.
Finally, she arrives in Delos, a little unimportant island, with no people or any vegetation and pleads for mercy. She says that no man would ever step on this island, no animals would be bred, no plants would bloom. So, Delos had nothing to lose by Hera’s anger. If Apollo was born there, though, people would come from all over the world to offer sacrifices, and Delos would become known. It is worth saying that Delos was considered to be the sacred island of the whole of Greece, this is why when the Athenians created the first alliance fund, the alliance money was kept in Delos. Delos accepted, full of joy that she would taste such an honour. Her only fear was Apollo himself, because there was the reputation that he would be extremely strong and bad-tempered. Delos thought that he might not like the island, and would destroy it in order to leave and find another island that he would like more.
So Delos asked Leto to promise that the first and biggest temple of her son would be built there. Delos knew that many other temples would be built around Greece for such a reputed god, as Apollo. Leto took the most sacred vow of the gods, she vowed on Styx waters that her son would honour the island and his first temple and altar would be founded there.
Leto had a very difficult labour. For nine days she had been tortured by pains but she couldn’t give birth. The greatest goddesses came to the island to help her, but only Eilithyia, the goddess of birth could really help her, and she was unaware of what was happening, because her mother, Hera, had put golden clouds around her, so that she wouldn’t see or hear anything. When the goddesses saw that there was no other solution, they send Iris to Olympus, to inform Eilithyia. They offer her a very long and beautiful necklace, and she accepts, without Hera finding out about the meeting.
When she arrives on the island, they understand that the time has come. Leto hugs a Palm Tree that was on the island (Palm Trees in the Mediterranean and Eastern pagan traditions are a symbol of the Goddess) and in just a moment, the baby came out. Leto didn’t have to breastfeed him, because Themis put in his mouth ambrosia and nectar and a miracle happened! Apollo grew into a man and as soon as he stopped growing any more, he announced his life goals; he would play the guitar and in this way, he would inform all the mortals about Zeus’s will.
Delos was really happy, as well as astonished as she watched Apollo take his first steps on this island, his island. But he soon had to leave to visit Olympus, where all the gods welcomed him with respect and a bit of fear. And this would happen every time Apollo went to Olympus. The only ones who did not stand up when he entered were Zeus and Leto. She wass also the only one who could touch the lyre bow and take his quiver and arms from his shoulders. And only after he sipped from his golden glass did the other gods sit down.
Apollo plays his music for all the gods to rejoice and he does that frequently, while the Muses sing alongside with him. This is the time of the day when the gods and goddesses take a break from mortals’ affairs and have some time to spend in joy. The Hours, Harmony, Demeter and Aphrodite dance to the music. Ares and Hermes usually accompany them. Zeus and Leto sure were justified to be extremely proud of such a son.
The other version is Pindarus’. According to that one, Delus was an island that used to travel in the seas, depending only on the winds to guide her. Sailmen used to call her Ortygia, but the gods had named her Asteria (from the greek word “Astir”, meaning star) because they could sit watching her travel beneath the stars. When Leto stepped on Delos, four columns came up from deep in the sea and supported the island, so that she would stay there, in the middle of all the other islands, a precious décor for everyone to watch and for Leto’s children.
The third version is that of Kallimachus. According to this version, a nymph tried to escape Zeus by falling into the sea, being transformed into an island, Asteria, by Zeus. This is why she couldn’t stop anywhere. This was her punishment for refusing him. In the meantime, Hera had started chasing Leto, who couldn’t find a refuge either. Apollo, still in his mother’s belly got really frustrated by the way people were treating his mother, not letting her give birth, so it was in the last place, Thebes, that he unleashed his anger, prophesizing that the future kings of the area would be killed by his arrows, as it happened with Oedibus’ generation.
The River Peneus accepted Leto, ashamed by the way he and his brothers Anaurus, Larissa and Pelion had treated her. Ares got mad with Peneus and sent down his strike to Aimos, creating the biggest mountains of Greece, Ossa, Pindus and the Thessalian field. He was ready to punish Peneus, Larissa’s river as well but Leto took pity on him and left the place, so that the river wouldn’t be hurt. In Kos, Leto thought that she had found the place she was looking for, but Apollo prophesized for a second time and told her to go elsewhere, as this was a place for a great king to be born and honoured, Ptolemaeus.
He advised her to go and find Asteria, the travelling island, who agreed to allow Leto to give birth on her. Seven swans, sent by Leda (Helen’s mother) sang the birth of the new god. Apollo was born without any trouble and the island was renamed into Delos, because she had to travel no more. (Delos comes from the Greek word Dele-Δήλη, the one that is known) because everyone would know where this island was. Delos was the first to hug the newborn and called all the countries to come and share this miracle. The other islands seem to surround her dancing.
The Delphi Oracle
Apollo knew from the very beginning that he was supposed to be the god of Divination, he only had to choose the right place to build his oracle. He visited many places, but none of these seemed appropriate for what he wanted to do. After a long time he arrived in a place where no city was founded yet, there was a fountain with clear waters and a forest. He calls on Telfoussa, the fountain nymph and announces his will to build the Oracle. Telfoussa knew that if this was to happen, her fame would soon be shadowed by the god’s reputation. With that in mind, she tried to convince Apollo to go near Mount Parnassus, because, as she told him, men’s horses and mules were drinking from her waters, so this wasn’t the right place for such a sacred purpose. Apollo was convinced, so he located the place and founded the Oracle.
There was another fountain nearby, one that was guarded by an enormous snake that let nobody go near. This was Python, Gaea’s sacred snake that Apollo killed with his arrows. Since that time, that Apollo killed the snake and let it rot, the place was named Pythion and Apollo Pytheus. (Python either derives from the verb “pynthanomai”, meaning knowing well or by the same verb but with a different meaning, that of rotting. I have come to believe that the first version is the most probable, as Gaea was the first prophetess and it is natural for her sacred snake to be called like this. It also matches the historical evidence about the ultimate win of the new gods over the older ones and the masculine religion over the feminine. Delphi may be known as Apollo’s sacred place until now, but nearby, there is a temple of Athena, who is honoured there as a prophetess, healer and protectress. The Greek spirit could not allow for women to be totally replaced and Athena was the one who shared many masculine characteristics. Artemis also did, but she stayed as far as she could from humans’ affairs.
When Apollo understood that Telfoussa had tricked him, he told her that her goal would not be successful as her name would only be called near to his and so his reputation would be greater. This is true. Very few people know Telfoussa and only by this story.
Apollo needed only to figure out where and how to find the Priests who would prophesize underneath his sacred laurel. He saw a ship, coming from the Minoean Crete, full of merchants. They would be the first Priests, the god decided and with one jump, transformed into an enormous Dolphin (having the same etymology with Delphi) he is found on the deck. The Cretans didn’t know what to say before this miracle and every time someone tried to look at the god’s eyes an unseen force from within would move him and the whole ship, so they let the ship go where Apollo took it, until they reached the shores of Tainaros, waiting to see what the dolphin would do. But Apollo took them even further until the Gulf of Krisa.
Apollo, taking the form of a star jumped out of the ship and climbed to Delphi, where he was transformed into a flame. Then, after only a few seconds, he transforms again into a boy and goes back to the ship. He welcomes the Cretans, asking them who they are and why they have come to that place. (these kind of questions are repeated many times in the Epics, in the same manner, every time a stranger arrives in a place. This is why they are called “Typical Questions”). Cretans find some courage to ask about the place as well and Apollo tells them that they should forget about their homes in Knossos, because this was going to be their new home. He also tells them to build an altar that was going to be known as “Delphinio”. They started climbing to Delphi, but soon they started complaining that they wouldn’t have anything to do in that place. Apollo replied that people would bring so many sacrifice animals that they wouldn’t have time to do anything else.
An interesting part about animal sacrifices in Greece and one that always amazed us as students, and my students afterwards, is that they slaughtered the animals, sometimes prophesizing from their entrails and then roasted them. The gods would be pleased by the smell of the animals, whereas the people could eat them afterwards in big festivities in honour of the gods.
Later on, only women could become Apollo’s Priestesses in Delphi and all took the name Pythia. So, Pythia in many stories and myths is not always the same person. Apollo would ask all of his Priestesses to abstain from sexual relationships and terrible things would happen if someone disobeyed him, but he also protected everyone who respected him. For example, Cassandra, princess of Troy fell in love with Agamemnon and had sexual intercourse with him, so Apollo cursed her to only prophesize bad things. After they returned to his palace, she foresaw her lover’s death by the hands of his wife, Kletemnestra and his cousin Aegisthus and also her own death. This is why until today, when someone only speaks of catastrophes that are to follow, we call them “Cassandra” or say that they “speak Cassandras”.
On the other hand, during the Trojan War, Chrysis, Apollo’s Trojan Priest had gone to Agamemnon to ask him for his daughter who was a hostage. Agamemnon refused, so Chrysis called on Apollo to help him. Since Chrysis had asked for his daughter as a Priest, refusing him was hubris, as was the bad manners with which Agamemnon had treated him. This is why the god sent his arrows and gave rats the plague. The animals followed and then the soldiers, in one of the biggest and most terrible situations for the Greek army. People were dying without even fighting. This was also when Achilles went against Agamemnon and after their fight he refused to go back into battle, causing more problems. But let’s go back to Apollo.
Apollo and Daphne (Laurel)
This is another very popular love story of the Greek mythology. Apollo fell in love with a mortal girl once, Daphne, Peneus’ daughter. The girl wouldn’t get married, despite how beautiful she was and how many men proposed to her. She preferred to hunt in the forests, like Artemis. Apollo chased her and she ran away in order to remain pure. Apollo’s words were not enough to convince her and as he was ready to catch her, she called on her father, who transformed her into a tree, turning her feet into roots, her body into a trunk, her hands into branches and her hair into leaves. Apollo, sorry for the girl’s fate, made her his sacred plant, Laurel.
According to another version, Daphne was king Amyclas’ daughter but she didn’t like living in the town. She preferred the forests and this is why she loved Artemis so much. When Leukippus, a prince came to her places and learnt that she didn’t like men’s company, he thought to make her his using his wits. His hair was long, because he was planning to sacrifice it later to river Alpheios. He dressed up like a woman and from that time he became hunting companions with the girl. Daphne came to love him more than any other of her friends, not only because she thought that he was a princess like her, but because he was a great hunter as well. Apollo, jealous, as he also was in love with Daphne, put in her mind the idea to swim in the river with her friends. When they saw that he was a man, they slaughtered him.
Laurel played a huge role in Apollo’s path. He was cleansed with the plant after killing Python, he cleansed Orestis, Agamemnon’s son, with Laurel after the boy killed his mother and uncle, his Priestesses chewed Laurel in order to divinate and they also stepped on these leaves, before ascending on the Laurel decorated tripod in order to divinate. People also used Laurel from the Tembi Mountains to make wreaths for the winners of the Pythian Tournaments.
Apollo’s Love Affairs, Children and Adventures
Apollo once loved a very beautiful young man, Hyakinth and they competed to each other in disk games, but Apollo missed his aim and killed the youngster by mistake. Apollo was also unlucky in his love for another young man, Hymenaeus, Magnita’s son, king of Magnesia. It was then that Hermes, saw how much time Apollo used to spend in Hymenaeus’ house and found the chance to steal the god’s sacred cows.. According to other versions of the myth, the young man wasn’t Apollo’s lover, but his son with Kalliope, one of the Muses and that Hermes just stole the cows because he liked playing such tricks.
Apollo won a lyre competition against Marsyas and Pan. He skinned Marsyas alive and gave Midas, (who was the judge in the competition and voted for Pan) donkey ears as a punishment. He later gave the lyre to Orpheus, a famous hymn creator, supposedly Apollo’s son with Kalliope, just like Hymenaeus. (Hymenaeus is also a hymn type used to celebrate weddings and the purity of young brides.) Even wild beasts were entranced when Apollo played his lyre. According to the Greek philosophy, music has the power to tame wild beasts, this is why it was taught to all children, even in Sparta, where young boys were trained as soldiers from a very early age. Imagine, what miracles Apollo’s music could do, since he was the god of music. After Orpheus’s death by the Maenads (the women celebrating Dionysus in a state of spiritual trance, tolerating no man participating in their rituals), Zeus took the lyre in the skies and made the like-named star complex.
Apollo also fell in love with Marpessa, River Euenos’ daughter, but Idas took her away from him. Apollo, enraged, chased Idas and started fighting with him to win the bride. Zeus stopped them and asked the girl to choose between the two men. Marpessa chose Idas who was human because she thoughts that as the years passed, Apollo would abandon her because she would get old. This was the second time Apollo was stopped by Zeus in his fighting against a man. The first time was against Hercules. According to the legend, Apollo refused to give a divination to the hero and Hercules stole Apollo’s sacred tripod to build his own oracle. Zeus had to stop the fight between them and make Hercules give the tripod back, but he also made Apollo give a divination to the hero.
Kalliope wasn’t the only Muse with whom Apollo mated and had children; Thaleia also slept with the god. Koryvantes, who had a daemon-like power in dance (In ancient Greek, “Daemon” is a synonym for god and in some Plato’s texts it also means the godly power that moves the Soul) were their children.
Apollo had many other children with many women, but his most reputed son was Asclepius, god of medicine. Asclepius had learnt all medicines from Cheiron, a centaur, and also all the ways in which he could cure all diseases. Even now, doctors take a vow in Asclepius when they finish Medicine School. This was also a very suitable gift for Apollo’s son, since Apollo was the god of plague but also cures. But Asclepius committed a huge hubris when he started resurrecting the dead, something that made Zeus extremely angry, so he sent a lightning that hit the man and killed him. Apollo wanted to avenge his beloved son by killing the Cyclops who were making the lightning for Zeus. But the great father didn’t take such things lightly and was ready to drop Apollo to Tartarus (the place where all the damned dead went), but Leto, falling to her knees, pleaded for her son to be saved and Zeus took mercy on her. He punished Apollo less severely by making him serve a mortal man, Admetus, for a year. Admetus was really respectful towards Apollo and managed to gain the god’s friendship, this is why Apollo helped him taking Alkestis as his wife.
There was another time that Apollo served a mortal man, and this was in Troy. Again, this was his punishment by Zeus, this time because he made secret plans with Hera, Poseidon and Athena, against him. It is interesting to say a little story about the Trojan War, as it is said in Iliad. Apollo was with the Trojans. Hera, Poseidon and Athena were with the Greeks. At some point, Zeus had an agreement with Thetis, Achilles’s mother. When her son stopped participating in the war, angry with Agamemnon (in the story that we have foretold about Apollo’s priest, Chryssis), Thetis went to Zeus and asked for redemption for her son.
According to the myth, Achilles would either live many years and would die old and happy, but with no reputation, or he would die young, gaining huge reputation among the humans. Achilles had chosen the second option, and this is why he participated in the Trojan War. But abstaining from battle would only result in his ill reputation. Nobody could convince him to go back to battle, not even Odysseus with his words. Zeus promised Thetis that her son would indeed become famous and together they came up with a trick to make Achilles go back into battle.
Zeus would help the Trojans, so that they would win many battles and Achilles would then have to fight them back, or else the Trojans would win. In order for the plan to work, nobody should know about it, since there were gods in favour of the Trojans. Hera thought that Zeus had really changed his mind about the war and wanted the Greeks to lose, this is why she started gathering gods against him and she started making plans with Apollo and Poseidon. Athena knew that Hera was with the Greeks, this is why she helped her.
Apollo was glad to help against the Greeks, so Zeus got really angry. The only one who didn’t suffer a severe punishment, was Athena, his favourite daughter. Hera and Poseidon were harshly scolded, but Zeus became calmer when he learnt that they were with the Greeks. Apollo started then working for Laomedontas and built the city’s walls with Poseidon’s help. But Laomedontas refused to pay them for their hard work, so Apollo sent a plague and Poseidon sent a flood.
Apollo had very close relations with Troy. He had a temple there, he was revered by everyone, but also it was there that he fell in love with Kassandra, whose story is already known. According to another version, Kassandra could not only see the catastrophic things that would happen, but was also unable to convince anyone about what she foresaw. This way, she was obliged to both know about the catastrophes beforehand, but also see them happen, unable to intervene and help.
Mopsos, a great Oracle, Manto’s son with Apollo (Manto in Greek derives directly from the root of “mantevo”, the Greek word for “divinate”) was the one who welcomed the Greeks and the great Oracle Calchas, the one who followed the Greeks to Troy in order to explain gods’ will, in his land after they had defeated the Trojans. It is said that Mopsos won the competition between them and Calchas, humiliated by the loss, died from sorrow.
More on Apollo
All the stories about Apollo’s affairs and his children, show his connection to the Sun, the great god who gives life to everyone. The same connection is shown by the facts that Apollo was the god of music and divination. Music shows great creativity. The Sun is a god who sees everything and knows everything. Since the old gods were replaced by new ones, these attributes of the Sun could not be overseen. One of Apollo’s epithets is “Lycios”, a word that connects the god to wolves, always considered to be connected to light in the Greek mythology. All epithets given to gods that derivate from the word “Lykos” (wolf), were given to gods that were connected to the light (eg. Lykaon Zeus). Moreover, when Koronis, Asclepius’s mother is pregnant, Apollo burns her, just as Zeus had done with Semele when she was pregnant to Dionysus. This is an allegory for the Earth, who is burnt by the Sun during her blooming phase. Asclepius’s birth was similar to Dionysus’s birth.
Apollo killing Hyacinth with a disk (symbol of the solar disk) is similar to Perseus killing Dionysus and Hercules killing Linus (who was killed by dogs, according to another myth), and symbolises plants dying by the solar energy after being ripped out (Dionysus was a god of fertility and plantation, Hyacinth and Linus are plant names) or by “Dog scorching” (As we call in Greece greatly hot weather). Apollo working near a mortal, helping him do his jobs more easily, symbolises the turnings of the Sun who helps humans do their workings. Apollo’s cows (as well as the Sun’s sacred cows symbolize the days of the solar year.) Apollo’s sister is Artemis, a lunar goddess. Solar gods and the Sun himself were often related to lunar deities. Many of Apollo’s lovers were also connected to the Moon. Ariadne, Minoa’s daughter, princess of Crete was also connected to the Moon and we have already referred to Apollo’s relation to Crete.
The Sun is connected to music, also because the light and the Sun are symbols of harmony and rhythm.
Apollo’s wandering around Greece to find the perfect site for his oracle and his mother’s wanderings to find a place to give birth to her children, show clearly Ancient Greeks’ love for geography. Geography may nowadays be considered to be an antipoetic element, but it wasn’t the same for the ancient Greeks.
Places were given the names of gods, or gods received epithets thanks to their connection to some places (Remember also the “fight” between Athena and Poseidon for the city of Athens). On the other hand, poets didn’t feel obliged to give the precise site of a city or country.
Although Apollo was not a sea god, his connection to dolphins is very old. It was believed that he protected the sailors and when someone who was going to found a new colony or was traveling to Delos to honour the god saw a dolphin near the ship, they believed that it was Apollo who was escorting them.
According to another myth, Gaea passed the Oracle onto her daughter Themis, who then passed it on to her daughter Phoebe. She gave it as a gift to Apollo, who then took the epithet Phoebos, which became his most renowned epithet.
Many animals and plants are considered sacred to Apollo, like Daphne (Laurel), Hyacinth, dolphins, crows and swans. This is because of the god’s adventures with mortals who had these names.
Apollo fought on his father’s side during the war with the Giants. He managed to aim and hit Ephialtes’ eye (Ephialtes is translated into “nightmare”.) It is interesting that it was a man named Ephialtes who showed the Persians how to find the way behind the Spartans and win Leonidas and his army and it was also a man named Ephialtes who showed the Turks the Cecropian Door, aiding them to take Constantinople). He also founded the plan in order for the twins Aloades to be killed. Those two could not be killed by any mortal or immortal. Thus, Apollo sent his sister, Artemis, and made them fight and kill each other for her sake. When Tityos tried to rape Leto, Apollo sent his arrows before the giant managed to do anything. He also planned Orion’s killing, a beautiful giant who was Eve’s lover and Apollo was afraid that he might steal his sister as well. He told Artemis to shoot the Giant from a distance and so she did, not knowing who she was shooting at. Giants were considered dark entities (as in Norwegian mythology) and Apollo who was a god of light often fought against them, also symbolising a new era of light that followed the era of darkness, chaos and old gods.
There is another story that is interesting enough to mention. Once, people wanted to offer a sacrifice to the gods. They sent a man named Korakas (translated into Crow) to bring some water. Korakas went to the fountain, but he saw a beautiful fig tree nearby. As the fruits weren’t ripe yet, he waited some days until they were ready and after having eaten enough, he was ready to return back with the water. Only then did he realise that he was really late. In order to be excused, he took a snake and told those who were waiting for him that the snake stayed all day near the fountain, drinking water, prohibiting him from fetching water (it was a common thing for snakes prohibiting people from taking water or building near fountains, lakes or rivers, as it happened with the snake prohibiting Apollo from building the Oracle). Apollo knew that he was lying and in order to punish him he made him always feel thirsty (there is a word in Greek that cannot be translated here, for someone who is extremely thirsty and derivates from the Greek root for “crow”).
Apollo being a fanatical defender of the Trojan people is justified by the fact that this god’s origins are Asiatic and more specifically his worship came from Asia Minor, a Greek territory at the time.
Working with Apollo
Sanctuaries: Delphoi, Delos, Shrines in nowadays Turkey and in Italy
Symbols: lyre, bow and arrow, the plectrum, tripod
Sabbat: Any Sabbat of the Light Half of the year
Animals: Swan, Snake, Dolphin, Wolf, Hawk, Crow, Mouse, Grasshopper, Griffin
Plants: Hyacinth, Laurel, Palm, Bay Laurel
Number: 7 (He was born on the 7th day of the 7th month according to the old Delphoi Calendar, so the 7th day of each month is appropriate to work with him)
Magickal Workings/Spells: Healing, music, psychic development, philosophy, divination, protection (if you work with Apollo he can be a great protector of those following him, but be careful to ask something justified), working with the Sun and God energies
Orphic Hymn 34-To Apollo
The Fumigation from Manna (frankincense).
Blest Pæan, come, propitious to my pray’r,
Illustrious pow’r, whom Memphian tribes revere,
Slayer of Tityus, and the God of health,
Lycorian Phœbus, fruitful source of wealth.
Spermatic, golden-lyr’d, the field from thee 5
Receives it’s constant, rich fertility.
Titanic, Grunian, Smynthian, thee I sing,
Python-destroying, hallow’d, Delphian king:
Rural, light-bearer, and the Muse’s head,
Noble and lovely, arm’d with arrows dread: 10
Far-darting, Bacchian, two-fold, and divine,
Pow’r far diffused, and course oblique is thine.
O, Delian king, whose light-producing eye
Views all within, and all beneath the sky:
Whose locks are gold, whose oracles are sure, 15
Who, omens good reveal’st, and precepts pure:
Hear me entreating for the human kind,
Hear, and be present with benignant mind;
For thou survey’st this boundless Æther all,
And ev’ry part of this terrestrial ball. 20
Abundant, blessed; and thy piercing sight,
Extends beneath the gloomy, silent night;
Beyond the darkness, starry-ey’d, profound,
The stable roots, deep fix’d by thee are found.
The world’s wide bounds, all-flourishing are thine, 25
Thyself all the source and end divine:
‘Tis thine all Nature’s music to inspire,
With various-sounding, harmonising lyre;
Now the last string thou tun’st to sweet accord,
Divinely warbling now the highest chord; 30
Th’ immortal golden lyre, now touch’d by thee,
Responsive yields a Dorian melody.
All Nature’s tribes to thee their diff’rence owe,
And changing seasons from thy music flow:
Hence, mix’d by thee in equal parts, advance 35
Summer and Winter in alternate dance;
This claims the highest, that the lowest string,
The Dorian measure tunes the lovely spring.
Hence by mankind, Pan-royal, two-horn’d nam’d,
Emitting whistling winds thro’ Syrinx fam’d; 40
Since to thy care, the figur’d seal’s consign’d,
Which stamps the world with forms of ev’ry kind.
Hear me, blest pow’r, and in these rites rejoice,
And save thy mystics with a suppliant voice.
Artemis, Zeus’ and Leto’s daughter and Apollo’s twin sister, is sometimes depicted as wild and untamable and other times as gentle and protective. She liked to wander in forests and mountains to hunt wild animals or to protect their newborns. This is why she was considered to be a protectress of wildlife and is especially revered as a Moon goddess of the wilds by many pagans today. She was a goddess that didn’t like any connection to men.
She was born a little before Apollo and she was only a child when she asked her father to let her live free from any marriage bonds. She especially liked hunting in Mount Taygetus or Eurymanthus. Homer calls her Agne (Pure), Agrotere (who was wandering in fields), Iocheaera (who hunts with arrows) and Chrysalacatus (with a golden bow). She didn’t always hunt alone. Most of the time, the mountain Nymphs escorted her. Artemis was considered to be more beautiful than the Nymphs. Many times she was the first in the dance of the Charites and the Muses in Olympus Mountain or in Delphi.
As she was a pure and virgin goddess, she liked pure youngsters, such as Hippolytus, Theseus’s son, who also had no interest in women and only liked to hunt in the mountains. On the other hand, she shot and killed Kallisto, her hunting escort, when she discovered that the young woman had given herself to Zeus, although she had vowed to stay pure forever. Aktaeon, a young man who saw her bathing hidden behind some bushes, was immediately transformed into a deer and the the goddess put his fifty dogs into a frenzy and they devoured him. According to a myth version she killed Orion out of jealousy because she found out that he had mated with Eve, or because he challenged her in the disk game, or because she had raped Opis, one of the Hyperborean virgins.
She is also said to have helped her brother against Tityos who wanted to rape Leto. When Niobe bragged because she had fourteen children, while Leto only had two, Apollo killed her seven boys and Artemis her seven daughters. Apollo and Artemis were really close to each other and always protected their mother when she was endangered or insulted.
Just like every god and goddess, Artemis doesn’t like to be ignored by mortals and punishes anyone who doesn’t respect her. She sends a wild boar in Oeneas’ land to destroy it and she also punished Admetos, king of Thessaly, by sending snakes into his bedroom.
During the Trojan War, Artemis was on the Trojan side, although she preferred hunting to watching the war or participating in it. When she accused Apollo of being a coward who didn’t want to fight against Poseidon, Hera took her weapons and hit her with her own arrows (Iliad “Theomachia”). Artemis’s power is less than Hera’s and the mother goddess makes her understand that by saying while she is hitting her that Zeus may have offered Artemis great power to fight against mortal women, but she should keep her head low when she confronted her. Behind this episode, one can find the archaic belief that Artemis sent painless and sudden death to women with her arrows, just like Apollo did the same to men.
Artemis’ worship also came from Asia Minor as her name shows, as it cannot be derived from Greek roots. As a goddess of fields and protectress of young animals, she also acquired the abilities and qualities of an old goddess, “Potnia of beasts” (Mistress of the beasts) and also Kybele, Rhea, Hecate and Selene. As “Locheia” or “Lecho”, Artemis was brought really close to “Eilitheaia”, goddess of birth. As a protectress of birth, she received new clothes for women who had escaped the dangers of birth and also new clothes for women who had died during labor. Little girls aged between five and ten years old, named “Arktoi” were serving in her temples, but it remains unknown still what was expected of them.
As a goddess of the groves, Artemis was connected to plants and trees, especially in Peloponnese. In Orchomenus of Arcadia, she was also named “Cedreatis”, because her wooden statuette was in the empty bunk of a Cedar Tree. She was worshipped as “Karyatis” in Arcadia, in the Karyae Village, because of her connection to Oak Trees.
In Sparta, she was called “Orthia” (the one who stands straight), because of her connection to Wicker Trees. Her statuette was found, according to the legend, in a Wicker Tree bunk, and with time, she was encircled by the branches of the tree, so that the statuette always stood. This is why she was also called “Lygodesma” (the one bonded by Wicker Trees).
As we have already seen, she managed to make the twin giants Aloades kill each other, as she passed really quickly between them, transformed into a deer, in Naxos Island. On another occasion, Artemis managed to escape Alpheios’ plans, the River who was in love with her. When he understood that he couldn’t do anything to win her love, he decided to take her with violence. So, the River, waited and watched and tried to find the chance to take her by surprise. He thought that he had this chance one night that Artemis was having a feast with her friends somewhere nearby. Artemis had understood Alpheios’ plans, so she appeared with the Nymphs that escorted her, having their faces covered with clay, so that they wouldn’t be recognised. The River saw that he would have no luck in making out who Artemis was and left. Because of that event, Artemis was worshipped in that place as “Alpheaia Artemis”.
According to some versions of the myth, Artemis had not only killed Kallisto, but she also killed Ariadne because she slept with Theseus in Naxos Island. (According to another version, Theseus had left Ariadne to Dionysus, although he had promised her to take her to Athens with him and get married to her, as an exchange for the help she had offered to him against the Minotaur in the labyrinth. So Ariadne cursed him, and this was why he had forgotten putting white sails on his boat to show his father that everything had gone well. Aegeas, his father, waiting on Sounio to see the Athenian boats, saw the black sails and jumped into the sea, giving his name to the sea, that was named Aegean Sea from then on).
When Chine, Apollo’s and Hermes’ lover bragged that she was more beautiful than the goddess, thus committing hubris, Artemis killed her.
Oeneas and Admetos were also punished because they weren’t punctual in their worshipping duties. She was equally angry with Atreus who neglected to sacrifice a golden female lamb as he was supposed to do. Artemis let Thyestes take the throne. After that, Agamemnon, Atreus’ son, made her angry, when he hunted down and killed a deer, bragging that even Artemis could not aim as well as he could, or because he didn’t keep his word to sacrifice his best animal to her, according to another legend. When Agamemnon and his brother Menelaus gathered the Greek army against the Trojans for having abducted Helen, the winds were not favourable for the Greeks, so Agamemnon was asked to sacrifice Ifigeneia, his daughter. Having learnt his lesson, Agamemnon took his daughter to the Altar and was ready to sacrifice her, but Artemis changed the girl with a lamb and took Ifigeneia to Africa, to her temple in the land of Taurus and made her a priestess.
Of course, Artemis only punished those who deserved it, but she protected the innocent, as the abovementioned story shows. She was especially protective with the young, unmarried girls and pure boys. When Pandareus’ daughters lost their father, Aphrodite took care of them and gave them extreme beauty and grace, Athena gave them the ability to make beautiful pieces of art and Artemis made them brave. She also ordered the girls of Troezina to make hymns for Hippolytus, the young man who was killed by Aphrodite because he had refused her, and also devote their hair to him before their weddings. It was Artemis who convinced Asclepius to bring Hippolytus back to life, something that caused the young god’s life, according to a rare version of the myth.
According to the myth, Artemis was born a little before Apollo’s birth and helped her mother give birth to him. This agrees with the fact that Artemis must have been an older goddess, brought to the basic Greek Pantheon, replacing or identifying with many other goddesses and also connects her to Eilitheaia, goddess of birth. Eilitheaia was Hera’s daughter, or in some cases, Hera herself, who was made the protectress of the lawful wife from then on.
Artemis, as a protectress of newborns and young boys and girls was also revered as “Paedotrofos” or “Kourotrofos” (the breeder of children or young boys and girls).
Her connection to plants and lakes or generally water (as it happens with most of the Moon goddesses) is shown in her fights against the Giants, who were entities of the Earth and River Alpheios, as well as in the stories of her many encounters with animals. In the land of Taurus, Artemis was worshipped as the protectress and goddess of the bulls, but Apollo, Athena, the Sun and Demeter were also worshipped along with her.
Her connection to fertility, motherhood and normal upbringing in the natural world is justified by her connection to the Moon, since after Gaea’s worship was passed to the past, all these attributes were connected to the Moon. She has a Lunar Nature, (aside from her connection to the solar god Apollo, her brother – showing that in ancient times the Sun and the Moon were considered to be siblings and not lovers, since the Sun procreated with the Earth and the Moon helped in keeping the balance) and is connected with Kallisto, Ariadne, Faedra, Afaea, Diktynna, Ifigeneia etc, who are considered to be older forms of the goddess, who often had their name escorting hers, eg Artemis Ariadne. She was also connected to Hecatye, one of the most known Moon goddesses. She liked to feast in rituals that lasted the whole night and she was connected to the water, as is the Moon.
Artemis is often depicted as a vengeful goddess, and this must be a product of her more ancient forms when people also sacrificed young children to her. In Sparta they used to whip young boys in front of the goddess’s statue, as a form of discipline and also passing into manhood. The many deaths of children were probably attributed to Artemis and children sacrifices were meant to make her more favourable, so that no more children would die. Ifigeneia is considered to be Artemis herself, in an older version of the goddess. As the names of Ifigeneia’s (of a high generation) siblings show, all of them were connected to older forms of the goddess’s worship. Electra was connected to the Sun and helectron (amber, a solar stone, whose Greek name has the same root with the Sun, Helios), Horestes’s name has the same root with the Greek word for mountains.
Working with Artemis
Sanctuaries: Arcadia, Delos
Symbols: Moon, menstrual blood
Plants: Willow, Wicker, Oak, Myrtle, Fir, Wild Fig, Mugwort, Wormwood, Tarragon
Animals: Deer, Lamb, all wild animals, Dog, Goat, Wolf, Cat, Quail
Gem: Moonstone, Pearl, Quartz Crystal
Sabbat: Any Sabbat related to the Core, to the Maiden
Colours: White/ Silver
Number: 6 (So the 6th day of every month is appropriate to work with her)
Magickal Workings: moon magick, hunting (literally and symbolically, but careful not to hunt illegally and never take more than you need) Nature protection, virginity and chastity, protection of women, communication with Nature
Offerings: Honey, Milk
Orphic Hymn 35-To Artemis
Fumigation of Manna
Hear me, Daughter of Leto, Celebrated, Noble, Bacchian Queen, rejoicing in Your silver arrows,
Torch-bearing Goddess Dictynna, who presides over births and relieves the pain of labor,
Divine Maiden, who glories in the Sylvan hunt,
Swift and fierce, no one is Your equal with the bow.
Wandering by night, reveling in the flowering meadows,
Brave and beautiful Nurturer of mortals,
Eternal and Earthly, Bane of fell monsters,
Dweller in the hills whom the woods and dogs delight,
You hunt the stag and give the Earth a store of bounteous fruit to bear.
Oh Universal Queen, You flourish in endless youth,
Wield the Cydonian Power, Dread Guardian Goddess,
With benevolence come to these mystic rites,
Send us gentle Peace and Health, and drive disease and care far from us.
In Love and Light always,
pictures from Google