Goddesses

   Aphrodite

  

Artemis

Take a glorious deity like Artemis, for example.  What is wonderful about the Greek world is that she is manifested in no end of different ways in the different cults.  Martin Nilsson, the great authority on classical Greek religion, says that she was the prime goddess.  In the familiar Classical tradition, Artemis was known as the virgin goddess, but that is only one definition of her character and role.   She is as every goddess, a total goddess. G 109

   Artemis was originally a goddess associated with the bear.  The bear was probably the first worshiped animal in the world, and this goddess goes way back.  At Brauron, a very important sanctuary east of Athens, there was a festival where little girls danced in honor of Artemis, and they were called the “little bears.”  The name Artemis is related in Europe to Arthur: both these names are related to Arcturus and the bear.  G 110

   In Sumer, we saw the Goddess in her role as Lady of the Wild Things (Fig. 40).  In this guise, she is the World Mother – that is to say, the whole world is of her, and all are her children.  And in Greek myths too, the mistress of Beasts appears in the avatar of Artemis.  As Baring and Cashford ;point out, “Artemis became the Goddess of Wild Animals, a title she was given in the Iliad – Potnia Theron – inheriting her role from the Paleolithic Goddess of the Wild Animals of the Hunt.” G 113 

   Artemis, along with Selene and Hekate, was one of the Greek triads representing the Old European three-bodied or triune aspect of the Goddess.  We can see this represented in this figurine (Fig. 72 – page 117) of Artemis as part of three-fold Hekate.  First you have the pillar – the goddess mother is the axis of the universe herself.  Round about are three representations of the Goddess, including Artemis, and Hekate, who represents the chthonic underworld – the magic aspect of the Goddess – and then dancing in a relaxed, fluent manner around about we see the Three Graces.

   Artemis is the giver of abundance:  Our lady of the Wild Things, and the All-Mother of the many breasts, who bears the totality of the entities of the natural world.  This is something very, very different from the image of the virgin goddess and the mere huntress that we have normally associated with her.  

All of the animals of the forest are under Aremis’s protection, and so in the later, somewhat more sentimental literary tradition,, she is represented as the huntress.  This is her more cosmic representation; the wolves and cranes are associated with the goddess-as-initiator, and the swastika represents the cycle of time.  That’s the image implicit in my number 432,000, the cycle of the revolving spheres.   G 114

   Artemis, along with Selene and Hekate, was one of the Greek triads representing the Old European three-bodied or triune aspect of the Goddess.  We can see this represented in this figurine (Fig. 72 – page 117) of Artemis as part of three-fold Hekate.  First you have the pillar – the goddess mother is the axis of the universe herself.  Round about are three representations of the Goddess, including Artemis, and Hekate, who represents the chthonic underworld – the magic aspect of the Goddess – and then dancing in a relaxed, fluent manner around about we see the Three Graces.

   Artemis is the giver of abundance:  Our lady of the Wild Things, and the All-Mother of the many breasts, who bears the totality of the entities of the natural world.  This is something very, very different from the image of the virgin goddess and the mere huntress that we have normally associated with her.  

Athena

   The birth of Athena from the head of Zeus is another example of (…) patriarchal culture assimilating the Goddess.  Metis, an Oceanid titan and – by one reckoning – Zeus’s first wife, is pregnant, and an oracle tells him that Metis will have two children: one will be wise and powerful, but the second will kill him.  Zeus doesn’t like that ides, so he turns his pregnant wife into a fly and swallows her.  In the course of things, Metis gives birth.  Then one day Zeus has a terrible headache and calls in Hephaestus with his ax, who splits open Zeus’s head – and out pops Athena, fully armed. 

   (In a kylix of Athena [fig 89 G138] can be seen) Athena wearing the breast plate of the head of Medusa – the same goddess in her apotropaic or dangerous, repellent aspect, with the tongue out – and in her hand is the owl of Athens, which is her totem bird.  There is Athena in her character as an inspirer and protector, or sakti, of heroes.  You can see Pegasus on her helmet – Pegasus having been born when Medusa was beheaded.  You were not to look at the head of Medusa, as she would turn you to stone, and so Athena offered the shield to Perseus, and looking at the shield by reflection he slew her. Then when Perseus took Medusa’s head and put it into a bag, Pegasus, the winged horse, was born from her severed neck, and Medusa’s head then became the Gorgoneian on Athena’s breastplate. 

   In these two pieces (Figs, 90 & 91 G 141) we see the goddess behind the whole thing, the Great Goddess of Crete.  Athena actually means “protectress of the port” – thus you can have Athena of Athens, Athena of Pireaus, Athena of Ephesus.  She goes back to this Mycenaean and Minoan protector figure with the serpents (fig 91 G 140).  This is a perfect example of the way deities were assimilated and transformed into Classical shapes.  

    Hera

   While Classical Olympian mythology claims Hera as Zeus’s wife, she is a much older goddess, predating the Indo-European Bronze Age Syncretism.  She was therefore independent of, and more powerful than, Zeus at the time of that mythology’s appearance.  As Harrison points out, “In Olympia where Zeus in historical days ruled if anywhere supreme, the ancient Heraion where Hera was worshipped alone predates the temple of Zeus… Homer himself was dimly haunted by the memory of days when Hera was no wife, but Mistress in her own right.    G 131

Kerényi comments, “by this unique mythological creation Zeus is precisely fitted into the history of the Hera religion of Argos.”