The thousand faces of Artemis
Artemisya Design as Artemisia Gentileschi… but also as Artemis, goddess of the hunt and the Moon, personification of the female warrior spirit, who was never a wife or lover, an undisputed model of integrity, independence, and psychological strength for Greek women who they lived in total obedience and submission to their fathers, husbands, brothers and children.
Her figure, as often happens to female divinities in patriarchal civilizations, takes on different forms, hides and reappears, welcoming other divinities inside, changing her name, transfiguring herself, but always remaining recognizable to those who seek her, thanks to some fundamental aspects. There are those who claim that she was once the goddess Astarte (Ishtar, Inanna), goddess of love and war, who was later “torn to pieces” by several specialized goddesses.
Artemis was the protective goddess of the Amazons, strong and independent women, highly skilled warriors, who had moved from Libya, in order not to submit to patriarchy, to the mountains of Thrace and Anatolia and lived there in total freedom. The temple of Artemis in Ephesus was dedicated to her, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, where there was a statue that represented her with hundreds of breasts, as mother-animal-nature, great divine nurse, dispenser of life.
Artemisia's self-portrait as an allegory of Painting (1638-1639)
Judith and her maid (1618-1619)
ARTEMIS IN ANCIENT GREECE
Among the Greeks, Artemis was one of the twelve major gods of Olympus. She was the daughter of Zeus and Leto, Apollo’s twin sister. Artemis was the Moon, Apollo the Sun. But Artemis was born before Apollo and then helped his mother to give birth to her brother, assisting her during the nine long days of labor. For this reason she is also considered the patron goddess of women who give birth. Artemis is one of the virgin goddesses, she is independent and is a very skilled archer. With her bow and golden arrows, custom-made for her by Ephesus and the Cyclops, Artemis, whom the Romans called Diana, never misses her aim. She is a competitive, vengeful goddess who lashes out at her goal without letting herself be distracted by anything. Artemis always gets what she wants and mercilessly punishes those who disrespect her or any of her nymph sisters. Artemis protects women (there are many occasions in which he prevents or avenges rapes against one of his nymphs or women who have invoked his help), women giving birth, puppies, wild animals, woods.
More generally, it can be said that Artemis protects uncontaminated nature, the regenerative power of Nature in its purest, most primordial form. It is the goddess of what does not belong to man, of what man cannot and must not control or violate, the most mysterious part of Gaia, his green heart. It is the goddess of Life who regenerates herself, and as such she is a young, impetuous, indomitable, full of strength.
It can appear in the form of a hare, a deer, a quail, a bear, a lioness or a crescent moon. Her being goddess of hunting is not to be seen as a contradiction: in fact Artemis is more than any other goddess of predatory instinct, as well as of Instinct in general: it is the Bear who hunts to feed her cubs, the lioness who becomes one with the prey. It is the instinct for survival, the hunger for life. Just as we must not see contradictions in her being virgin and at the same time protector of women giving birth: Artemis protects all women, helps them, defends them with her adamantine strength. The women who give birth deserve even more protection because they are giving birth to puppies, they are propagating Life, and in that sacred moment, in that rite of initiation and passage that is giving birth, they become pure Nature, pervaded by a pain-joy that unites all the mothers of the world.
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Artemis is a virgin for the Greeks because in a patriarchal society a free, independent and uncontaminated woman had to be a virgin, to be considered respectable, worthy of honor while not belonging to any man. In a world of men, virginity made her free, while if she had “granted herself”; to someone her power would have diminished. This does not imply that the pre-Hellenic divinity from which Artemis derives was also a virgin. In a matrifocal society, where woman is not considered a man’s property, virginity does not necessarily constitute a value, even if it can be a choice. In any case, the virginity of Artemis identifies her with the white aspect of the Triple Goddess: that of the playful girl who goes to discover life, the teenager who runs through the woods possessed by the Spirit of Nature.
The attributes of Artemis are the bow and arrows, the crescent moon, a yellow robe with a red border that only reaches the knees to allow running, a pack of hunting dogs (six males and seven females), 60 oceanines and 20 girl nymphs who take care of her dogs when the goddess is not there.
Artemis, goddess of the Moon, felt perfectly comfortable in the night, when she wandered through her wild kingdom in the moonlight or a torch. In the guise of a crescent moon goddess she was connected with two other goddesses: Selene, the full moon, and Hecate, the new moon. Together the three goddesses were considered a lunar trinity: Selene had power in heaven, Artemis on Earth, Hecate in the mysterious underworld.
THE ARCHETYPE OF THE WARRIOR WOMAN
We invoke this indomitable and elusive goddess when we want to activate in us the archetype of the virgin warrior, of the Amazon, of the woman-goddess completely focused on her goal, who aims the bow, takes aim and strikes the golden arrow perfectly hitting the target. Artemis gives us the strength of independence, concentration, freedom of spirit. It also ignites in us that lunar vision that allows us to see ourselves and the world around us in another light, with the gaze of a being of Nature. Artemis awakens our sixth sense, the accuracy of those who act guided by instinct and intuition rather than reasoning. It pervades us with Life, with regenerating power. It allows us to intuit with extreme lucidity that we are divine Nature, that between us and the forest there is no difference, that within us there are woods illuminated only by a crescent moon, inhabited by wild animals, which we have on our side the immense and inexhaustible energy of Life, which sustains us precisely when we decide to listen to our instinct, to follow its flow by swimming.
Artemis protects all women in difficulty, especially those who are abused by men, and all mothers who are giving birth to their puppies. It also protects animals, forests and pristine places. We celebrate the goddess by going to the woods or to wild places, if possible during nights of a crescent moon, attuning to the heartbeat of Nature, with the animal breath that animates us, developing our lunar vision and listening to our instincts. If we want, we run through the woods, or bathe in rivers or waterfalls. Let’s feel alive, strong, free, whole. We have every right to be. We feel that the goddess is all around us: it is the body of the forest, the gaze of the Moon, the breath of the trees and the Earth, sings with the voice of the streams, grazes us with the wind, entering inside us and vivifying all our cell. At the same time the goddess is also already inside us, always, in those places of our unconscious covered by unexplored forests, waiting among the trunks that we discover, holding in her hand her magnificent golden bow, caressing a wolf with the other. And sometimes she turns into a bear…
Artemis, like nature, is reluctant``