Greek God Pairings

Artemis and Apollo

   Artemis and Apollo are deities with two totally different origins, yet they have been combined in the Classical Greek tradition as brother and sister, born of Leto in the island of Delos.  Leto was the daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe, and Hesiod claims that she was Zeus’ wife before Hera.  When Leto was pregnant with Artemis and Apollo, she was relentlessly pursued by Hera until she finally came to the island of Delos.  Artemis was born first and helped her mother birth Apollo, hence Artemis’s title Eileithyia (believed to have been one of the names of the goddess in the Minoan culture): “Artemis Eileithyia, venerable power, who bringest relief in labor’s dreadful hour.”

   A late pulling together of old ideas, the twins represent two powers:  Apollo the power of the protector and the rational mind, and Artemis the power of nature.  Personified in Artemis are the nature powers hat inform he whole natural world.   G111

   Artemis is associated with the bow and consequently with the hunt, and in this role the death that she deals is a sweet and swift one.  The Muslims have a wonderful saying about the Angel of Death: in his approach the Angel of Death seems terrible, yet when he has arrived he’s sweet.  

    Originally, Artemis herself was a deer, and she is the goddess who kills deer; the two are dual aspects of the same thing.  Life is killing life all the time, and so the goddess kills herself in the sacrifice of her own animal.  Each life is its own death, and he who kills you is somehow a messenger of the destiny that was yours from the start.  So it is with the animal and the deity.  If the animal kills the deity as the boar killed Adonis, or if the deity kills the animal as Artemis hunts deer, these are two aspects of the same life mystery. 

   Actaeon was out hunting stags with his dogs and followed a stream up to its source, and in the pool at the source of the stream was the goddess Artemis bathing naked with her nymphs.  Actaeon, the poor chap, saw this glorious naked body and he looked at her with eyes not of worship but of lust. 

   This is an improper relationship to a deity.  Seeing that look in his eye, Artemis simply splashed him with some water and he was turned into a stag, and his own dogs then consumed him.  The dogs themselves, like the sailors on Odysseus’s ships, are representations of the lower appetites, while the stag represents his lower, merely animal nature; that is really what consumed him when he was in the presence of the Goddess herself.