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.