God of the Week: Artemis

God of the Week 01/11/10: Artemis

Artemis is an ancient Greek moon goddess and sister of the sun god Apollo. She was also associated with hunting and healing, both appearing to be ancient remnants of her origin as a female personification of a life in the wild.

Artemis has a small though pivotal role in the Greek tragedy The Iliad, which tells of a fictional war against the city of Troy. In it, she punishes king Agamemnon for killing a deer in her sacred grove and then bragging of his superior hunting prowess. In order to appease the wrath of Artemis, Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter, Iphigenia.

In the story of Adonis, a character that originated as a Semetic god but was eventually accepted into Greek lore, Artemis, who was believed to be his lover, sent a wild boar to kill him after his infidelity.

Though her role in the mythic stories are sparse, her day to day involvement in the life of ancient Greeks appears to have been great, her healing powers being appealed to far and wide:

As the goddess-physician, Artemis had broad functions, and no hard and fast line can be drawn about the kinds of ailments under her control. Malarial chills, leprosy, rabies, gout, epilepsy, phthisis, and mental diseases are all mentioned as coming within the range of her activities, and she even undertook to heal snake bites. Her methods of treatment savour strangely of magic, particularly of that branch known as homoeopathic, a circumstance which may be counted as good proof of her antiquity as a healer. The quail, partridge, guinea-fowl, goat, swine, and the fabulous hippocamp were included in her materia medica; and, among plants, the juniper, and the white and the black hellebore, the healing property in all these being Artemis herself, who, counteracting the power of Artemis the cause of the disease, effected a cure by virtue of the
famous principle (here to be interpreted, of course, in a magical sense) of similia similibus curantur (“like is cured by like”). Bathing in certain lakes and streams near her shrines, as in the Alpheios of Elis, was supposed to remove some diseases, the process to be understood obviously being that of magical ablution. It was apparently through her contact with magic that she entered into connexion with Hekate.
-The Mythology of All Races, Volume I: Greek and Roman
by William Sherwood Fox, Ph.D
Louis Herbert Gray, Editor

The Temple of Artemis, an ancient shrine visited by those desiring healing, prophesy, or dream interpretation, was recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. And yet, when it was built in the 6th century BCE, it was only the last of a series of oracular temples that had existed in that location for perhaps thousands of years. Inside the temple, the priestess of Artemis would read fortunes by going into a trance and uttering glossolalia. The inspired speech would then be interpreted for the patron by the priest on duty.

The temple was destroyed, set afire, in the 4rth century BCE. The arsonist, Herostratus, was tortured and killed for his act of sacrilege. The temple was rebuilt at various stages since then, and a reconstruction is mentioned in the Christian apocryphal work The Acts of John. In it, John is portrayed visiting the temple in order to expel the demons from it. The banishment of non-Christian religion by Theodosius the 1st in the 4th century CE effectively ended the temple’s existence.

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16 Comments on “God of the Week: Artemis”

  1. ketutar Says:

    By reading this blog I’m denying what? :->


    • The Holy Spirit. It’s the only unforgivable sin according to the synoptic gospels.

    • Crystal Says:

      By reading this no one is denying anything. It’s fact that people used to worship Artemis and some still do. It’s not a sin to have knowledge. Therefore “Universal Heretic”, before you try to condemn someone else… know what you are talking about AND remember what the Bible also says about “cast the first stone” and “remove the thorn from your own side first” and my personal favorite about how God is the only one who can judge others.

  2. John Says:

    Specifically, Mark 3:29 in the bible, http://bible.cc/mark/3-29.htm

    • Greek Mythi-maniac Says:

      John, sorry but no one died and made you God. Who are you to say that we are blaspheming the Holy Spirit? Seeking knowledge is not a sin (just like Crystal said). This page talks about the historical fact that people used to worship this goddess and tells of the stories they shared. And yes, some still do worship her, but the mere act of gaining knowledge about the past is not something to be frowned upon. Unless, of course, you personally have something to fear from it. And if that is the case, you have my pity.

  3. jdhostetler Says:

    Really love your work. Nice nice stuff.

  4. Callista Maris Says:

    Artemis got to me first. Too bad Jesus, you were too slow. You lose!

    • amowolf Says:

      why must it be an either or god/goddess. The same spirit resides in both and is one force just in different forms. I too, relate to the Goddess, Artemis, and Jesus also. I am not Christian but I can appreciate the teachings of Jesus. :)

  5. Victor Says:

    Jeez, try to warn some people about the fate of their immortal soul and they just crucify me. But, I’m sure I’m not the only one that’s happened to (rim shot).

  6. Victor Says:

    The “remove the thorn from your own side first” line is good. I’ll have to start using that.

  7. amowolf Says:

    My god/goddess is better than your god/goddess is a silly game for one to play who claims to be spiritual.

  8. Kalyana Says:

    I do not understand why people want one religion to be called as superior and great and others as bad. In India and China Christianity has been spreading like wildfire. The religious missionaries stooped to such a level that they offer money and gifts if someone is willing to convert. Once they convert halfheartedly, their children don’t know what religion to follow and ultimately they either follow Christianity or become atheists.

    What is it, why do people have a problem with whatever religion I follow. Once I had an argument with a Christian missionary father, who was asking people to convert. He came to me and said “Convert to Christianity, pray to Jesus and will forgive your sins.” I asked him what is bad with the religion I am born with and how come I am forgiven even though I know I did sins. One pays for his own sins, thats fair and square. His only answer was “Every God is same, its just the way you call him, so convert.” And my question still remained the same “So whats wrong with what I follow now?” He had no answer.

    Even if someone wants to follow Egyptian and have Ra as his Gid, I don’t mind as long as he/she doesn’t want to sacrifice someone/something.

    • Victor Says:

      One of the traits of a “world religion” is the belief that it it True, and thus all differing faiths must be wrong. And it’s not necessarily designed that way. It can be a by product of the salvation system. If one must believe in Jesus, for instance, to be ‘saved’, then all other faiths that don’t hold Jesus in the same regard would be flawed. Therefore all their followers would be damned. There are occasionally “special exceptions”, Jews, for instance, are given a free pass by some Christian denominations.

      In the ancient past, before people had a modern understanding of the size of the world and the number of peoples in it, such a belief system may have come naturally. With the knowledge that we have today, however, believing that a god or gods would have given special divine revelation to only a small group of people all from the same geographical location does seem to smack of a certain racism. Knowing that people make mistakes, suffer from delusions, and are occasionally outright dishonest, believing that a god that created the whole world granted a special relation to one group of people, occasionally your traditional enemies, but not another is a little hard to swallow.

  9. Erin Says:

    You have GOT to be kidding me? I’m denying the Holy Spirit by learning about the history of an ancient civilization? WOW, apparently my Catholic elementary school (as well as my daughter’s Catholic elementary school) never got that memo, since both schools not only taught about the pagan gods/goddesses but mine actually assigned us goddesses to become — we made costumes, masks, wrote poetry and all sorts of other things. Guess I’m going to Hell, err, I mean Hades.


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