More About Goddesses: Artemis, Greek Goddess of the Hunt
By Tim Kavi
Artemis is the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo. Her bow and arrows that she would carry were made by Cyclopes and Hephaestus. She is depicted as goddess of the hunt, wild animals and many cities also worshiped her as the goddess of fertility. Artemis is often depicted with the moon above her head and was frequently depicted as being close with Selene, the goddess of the moon. More often she would be depicted as roaming the mountain forests with her nymphs by her side in search of panthers, stags, hinds and lions. In later myths she would assist these animals by protecting their overall well-being while fighting to ensure their safety.
Artemis is also seen as the goddess of chastity. Legend has it that when she was three years old, Artemis asked Zeus to provide her with eternal virginity. All of her close companions were virgins, and she would punish any man who attempted to harm the purity of herself or her companions. In one legend, Actaeon came upon Artemis and her nymphs bathing naked in a pool, and when she saw him watching Artemis transformed him into a stag and sent her hounds after him. She was also known to use her bow to kill those who were known to rape women, including Orion.
Because Artemis was born before her brother Apollo, her mother gifted her the island of Ortygia as thanks for helping her mother to cross the strait of Delos to give birth to Apollo. This legend made Artemis an idol to women going through childbirth. Some cities depicted her as a goddess and protector to those in the midst of the hunt, a mass of contradictions as she brought sudden death alongside the birth of a new life. Because her twin brother was seen as a healing god, many would pray to Artemis for assistance in the healing of gout, rabies or leprosy in hopes that she would appeal to Apollo on their behalf.
These and other legends of Artemis would be honored with lively festivals. Festivals were held throughout Orthia, Brauron, Brauronia and most notably Sparta. As women became of age and reached puberty they would be initiated into the cult of Artemis, although they would be required to leave this cult once they became married. Artemis was not against the realm of marriage, but she chose to be surrounded by those who were pure, so those who chose to engage in marital acts would be required to return her paraphernalia as they took on this new role.