Saturday, April 29, 2017

Artemis Is Not A Vegetarian, An Abortionist, or A Man-Hater

Some people in the modern Pagan community (though not the norm), are ripe with their own versions of the ancient Gods, which in itself isn't a bad thing. But when they basically create their own Gods and give them ancient names and images, that's when I find myself compelled to say something. One of the most common of these has to do with Artemis. She's one of the most commonly-adopted Deities by Neo-Pagans and Wiccans, even by some who are looking to start a gender competition. While these people are a minority in the community, there are still Pagans who want to start a culture, gender or race war within Paganism. Therefore, being an historical Hellenist and someone who has worshiped and studied Artemis for the past 7 years, I want to set the record straight about the Goddess based on historical record, myth and religious fact. 

Claim #1 - Artemis Hates Hunting
The argument that Artemis is against hunting or meat eating should, in and of itself, be an obvious ridiculousness from the start. She's the Goddess of the Hunt. The first sentence of the Homeric Hymn to Artemis calls Her the "slayer of stags," and talks about her chasing and striking down the wild beasts. She hunts and kills wild animals. So to say that Artemis is against hunting or opposes the consumption of game that was killed in ancient times specifically for eating, is a blatant historical falsehood.

Claim #2 - Artemis Supports Abortion
Whatever your views on abortion are, that's not the issue here. Not everyone has the same views on abortion; I understand that. But to say that Artemis revels in abortion, is simply not supported by anything other than someone's own personal theory, that is usually established to mold a Deity in their own image instead of the image of the Deity themselves. Artemis is the protector of infants and children, and she is also known as the Goddess of Childbirth. She carries no historical epithet that refers to Her as an abortive Goddess whatsoever. She fiercely protected the weak and vulnerable, especially young children. When Atalanta's father threw Her away at birth, it was Artemis who came and saved Her life. Another manifestation of Artemis is the legendary Artemis of Ephesus, which is a multi-breasted form to symbolize Her as "the Great Mother." The ancient Greek religion, in many cases, took a stance against abortion itself in some of its main cultural declarations. For example, the famous physician's Hippocratic Oath, which swears before "all the Gods and Goddesses" to not give an abortion. People in ancient Greek myth who harmed children were also dealt with very severely by the Gods. A good example would be Lycaon, who dismembered a young boy and tried to offer the remains to Zeus, who was so repulsed and offended that He wiped out the entire Bronze Age of Greece. 

Claim #3 - Artemis Is A Matriarch Who Hates Men
This idea mainly comes from a misunderstanding about Her refusal to take a husband and the death of Actaeon. While She did not marry, She always remained in recognition of the Supremacy of Zeus, the King of all the Gods. In fact, She sought His permission to remain chaste. She did not take it upon Herself to make the decision without Him. She also never decided that She was going to run everything. Zeus was always Her dear Father and the Ultimate Authority. All of the Gods, male and female, called Zeus the King. It wasn't as if the male Gods weren't expected to revere Zeus. The King was the King because He was King. It's that simple. While women worshipers today can find a great deal of independence in Her Divinity, She does not think of Herself as the ultimate ruler, or that She has a natural right to be at the top of the rule because of her gender, as a Matriarch would. The fallacy that people have here is the idea that one must be a gender-supremacist in order to be free, strong and independent. Nothing could be more untrue. One can be those things without crushing the opposite sex. Artemis is strong, powerful, wise, free and independent, but She doesn't try to usurp Zeus, nor does She feel that He is a threat to Her own greatness. To call Artemis a Matriarch, is to basically call Her a sexist, and the Gods are far above such human pettiness. 

As far as the man-hating label She routinely gets tagged with, this comes from the myth that the hunter Actaeon secretly spied on Artemis naked in the forest, and after She spotted him, turned the hunter into a stag and his hounds attacked and killed him. This probably had a far broader ancient meaning, which was to not offend the Gods. Artemis didn't like sex, and therefore, did not want to be sexualized, and sexualization in those days was largely portrayed between male and female. But Artemis had and still has many male worshipers who show Her proper respects and don't end up on Her bad side. In fact, I built a sanctuary to Her in my yard and She was one of the main Gods I prayed to for help in saving my son's life when he was born prematurely. I am doing fine and so is my boy. I don't think we need to get so caught up in gender that we make everything about gender or sexism. I believe very strongly in gender equality, and I don't believe that women are somehow of less value or worth than men. Everyone deserves to be treated equally and fairly before the law. And even as a strong man, Artemis is one of my Patrons and has been for years. I kneel before Her the same as I do Apollo. 

There's nothing wrong with having UPG in your own private religious life, but to make it a universal declaration of the religion or the Deity, is quite another matter. In closing on this issue, I think back to something Susan B. Anthony once said. "I distrust those who know so well what God wants, because it's always the same as their own desires."

In the Goodness of the Gods,


  1. Honestly, people who think the Goddess of Hunt would be against eating meat baffle me.

  2. I am a writer, educator and media trainer. Thank you for posting this material on the subject of erroneous interpretations of Artemis. It is essentially due to the fact that our society is no longer taught history in school and its only inculcation is through societal morés and populist movements with filtering by media interpretation...a media which no longer fact-checks a story in order to get it out instantly. Recently I mentioned to someone that my supposed Roman ancestor conquered Hannibal. He looked back at me blankly. He probably thought of the fellow in Silence of the Lambs who ate the census-taker's "liver with some fava beans and a little 'chiAnti'"! (Followed by Lecter's...fffththth)

  3. There are indeed a lot of "misunderstandings" und MISINTERPRETATIONS that need clearing out. Only the naked historical Truth will enlighten us and show us as a people who we are. In face of the current state of affairs, it's more important than ever!

  4. Interesting article.

    Anyone that says Artemis, the bloodthirsty Goddess of the hunt, is a vegetarian or vegan or dislikes hunting needs to be slapped straight out of paganism.  I'll do it myself. 

    However the second point is a touchy one.  You neglected to mention Callisto which is the basis for everyone's lesbian suspicions.  She had sex with Zeus, who was disguised as his daughter, thinking it was Artemis the whole time. 

    There's a couple of things here.  Zeus pretended to be Artemis because he knew that's how he would achieve his goal of sex.  And until her pregnancy start to show, Callisto seem to accept these affections from "Artemis" as not out of the ordinary.

    On top of that as we all know the ancient Greeks did not view sex between female and female or male and male for that matter as actual sex.  So in their minds Artemis was perfectly capable of remaining a virgin goddess.  Actually even today a lot of people still think like that if she never had penetrative sex.

    And on that point, Artemis is a goddess and should not be viewed in human terms at all.  So I feel ridiculous even saying that. 

    In view of the myths however I believe she was sleeping with Callisto and her reaction was that of a spurned lover.

    Then at the end you confused Orion with Actaeon.  Orion was a great hunter who was Artemis's companion or friend only.  He met a premature and in a variety of different ways. Either Artemis was tricked by jealous Apollo into the shooting him while he was swimming or Gaia sent a giant scorpion after him at Artemis's request or Artemis ended him herself after he bragged that he would kill all the animals in the world.

    Actaeon was the more famous myth.  He was the one who saw Artemis naked as she bathed with her nymphs whether accidentally or intentionally.  She transformed him into a stag and send his Own dogs after him to devour him. That final layer adds a lot more poignancy in my opinion.

  5. I also don't like it when people portray Her as some unattractive tomboy. It makes people think that no beautiful female can be strong, independent and free. When Actaeon spied on Her, he couldn't look away because he was captivated by Her feminine beauty. She's a very gorgeous Goddess.

    1. Feminine beauty has a multitude of expressions. I believe as many as there are females in the world. It is such petty humanness to not be able to see an athletic huntress as feminine or "gorgeous" or spy-worthy. Perhaps you should try to expand your understanding of the Divine Feminine to encompass Goddess in Her 10,000 names.

    2. I didn't say feminine didn't have many beauties, I said I don't like the fact that people think you can't be beautiful, feminine and lady-like and also be strong and independent. People like to normally portray feminists as rugged and unattractive. When you think that being feminine makes you weak, you are viewing women in a sexually demeaning way. I don't look at a Goddess with 10,000 names because it doesn't make any sense to me. How can Aphrodite and Artemis be the same Goddess? How can the Goddess of Sex also be the Goddess of Abstinence? The idea of all Deities are one Deity, to me, makes no sense at all for the fact that there would be completely contradicting Beings rolled into one.

  6. Everything that you said is absolutely true, Chris.
    I have no problem with people attributing new spheres to the Gods, so long as they make sense in relation to the Theos at hand. If people want to say that Hephaestos is a Theos of technology, and it's ever increasing advancement, I have no problem with that, since, at least to me, it makes sense given His sphere over the forge and the creation of works that have been both a boon and bane to mortals.

    Artemis is trickier though, She is certainly not a vegan, and certainly not a Thea of abortion. She is the virgin Huntress, She is Kourotrophos, and She is a champion of women's empowerment (though not of matriarchy).
    You can't just attribute spheres to the Theoi that don't make sense given Their acknowledged attributes, if you do, you're not worshipping that God, at all.

    We cannot know everything about the Theoi, we just can't comprehend Them completely. To assert otherwise is Hubris. If some of these "pagans" want to attribute nonsense to the Gods, that is their right, but it is disrespectful in the extreme, again, just in my opinion.

    I love your articles, Chris!

  7. Since you did ask those of us on Facebook to post here:

    1) As has been called to attention, you fail to cite any individuals or groups who hold the positions you criticize here, making it impossible for your readers to follow up for clarification or to view their positions in context. While they could hold the weak position you're claiming here (in Greek mythology, the literary character of Artemis was literally a lesbian), or they could be holding a much more nuanced position (Artemis is a spiritual entity whose personality exemplifies female independence and female companionship, which are spiritually empowering to lesbians). If you are presenting the weaker argument unfairly, this would be known as the strawman fallacy. In debate, the principle of charity calls on us to engage with our opponents' claims in their strongest sense, rather than their weakest sense. This makes this article come across as more of an exercise in self-satisfaction, rather than an attempt to further our theological knowledge of Artemis.

    1. May I ask, what is the point to dedicating your criticisms toward people you can't identify or websites you apparently can't locate? At best, you're punching at those who can't punch back. As I noted, you're clearly poking at claims in their weakest sense, rather than engaging in more critical analysis.

    2. Matthew, my wife and I have heard Pagans directly says these things in the past, which is why I basically said that these people are a minority in the community. There are no mass publications of these statements and my post is simply a discussion about these encounters, although I did come across a Wiccan website in the past that claimed you could offer your aborted baby as a sacrifice to Artemis. It was very disturbing and sick, and I am sure that the Wiccan community would denounce it. As far as the lesbian issue is concerned, as you can see, I removed that from the original discussion because I realized it doesn't matter anyway and I can see how some could legitimately view Artemis in that way. But I certainly have nothing against gays or lesbians. I have spent years fighting for LGBT rights, so it would be quite ridiculous for me to have a problem with homosexuality. I am sorry that you are having such negative perceptions of the post. I'm not punching anyone because no one is specifically identified. And secondly, if you consider it punching to disagree with someone and cite historical facts, then so be it. But I'm not going to lie about what's on the record.

  8. 2) Your theological perspective in the article shares a lot with Evangelical Christian theology. In that you appear to place myth as the primary source of information about the gods, you seem to share a Sola Scriptura attitude, despite the fact that, in the Hellenic world, the ritual experience would be seen as the more fundamental method of engaging the divine, and philosophers as early as at least Plato managed to hold privileged in Hellenic society while maintaining extreme criticism of the myths' depictions of the gods. There's certainly historical examples of Greeks claiming that, when the myths depict the gods as "immoral," that they are inaccurate, so if a modern believer has firm reasons for believing eating meat is immoral, they have a historically valid method of exegesis to believe that the gods should not be depicted performing that action (though more complex methods of exegesis, like those of Proclus, would find ways to square the myth with his more metaphysical and ethical beliefs).

    Additionally, you appear to be engaging in a strong form of mythological literalism, similar to Biblical literalism. A user noted in the last thread that Artemis's virginity likely should be interpreted as a sexual trait, but relates more to Divine Purity. Similarly, you claim that the myth shows Artemis as subordinate to Zeus, in a patriarchal manner, but its unclear that even the ancient Greeks would necessarily interpret this in as literal a sense as you have. Looking into how focalization functions in the ritual act (once again, the foundation of Hellenic spirituality) or how polycentric theology may have functioned in the ancient world (see the works of Edward Butler), would provide your exegetical methods more nuance and depth.

    1. I fail to see how my theology has anything to do with Evangelical Christianity. Evangelicals believe that they are right and everyone else is wrong and doomed. I don't believe that. I am just stating my own beliefs and facts about Hellenic history, religion and culture. ALL of the Gods are under the authority of Zeus, as I clearly said. If you read my post, you will find the following statement, "All of the Gods, male and female, called Zeus the King. It wasn't as if the male Gods weren't expected to revere Zeus. The King was the King because He was King. It's that simple."

      The entire point was that gender isn't the issue. The Gods aren't that petty. It has nothing to do with some idea that men are naturally above women, or the vice versa. In fact, I was speaking against such an idea. When people call Artemis a Matriarch, they are essentially promoting reverse sexism.

      I also don't take most of the myths as literal facts, no Hellenist does. The myths lost such standing even in ancient times. As you said, Plato was known to criticize them and promote a universal positive image of the Gods. You'll notice that most of my discussion doesn't really have to do with myth as much as it does history and religious belief of the ancient Greeks, and sometimes, their beliefs were reflected in their myths as well, so it would be appropriate to talk about those myths in such a discussion. Again, this is a discussion about Artemis regarding many things about Her, and among those things is obviously Her mythology.

      It's fine if people have their own personal beliefs. I don't care about that. What I am talking about is when they basically try to say that a God is the same as they are and call it historical and cultural fact. It's not. They base their God in this case on their own personal UPG and nothing else. I am not attacking their beliefs, I am asking for integrity and honesty.

    2. I'm going to ignore the ridiculous concept of "reverse sexism" here. The point is that your exegetical method is inconsistent and uninformed. Polycentric theologians would claim that, in her ritual sphere, Artemis (or any god) is supreme, regardless of the broader cosmology. Therefore, so far as Artemis is gendered, she would be a matriarch in the ritual experience. If you disagree with polycentric theology or focalization, that's fine, but you need to actually engage with the experts and explain your disagreements.

    3. How is reverse sexism a ridiculous concept? You think women can't be sexist? That is the ridiculousness right there. If you think women are naturally better than men and should always usurp them because of gender, you ARE sexist. Period. And one of the reasons sexism stays in our society is because of people who allow double standards to exist. Artemis being the center of a ritual is not what a Matriarch is. A Matriarch is an absolute female ruler of all things in all places, or a government consisting of only female rulers (Matriarchy). Usually, people who believe in Matriarchy uphold it from the view that females are naturally better-suited than males because of gender, which = sexism.

    4. The reason sexism remains in society is because women are not treated equally. Not only that, we are abused and harassed, spied upon and raped, work for less $, and are underrepresented in government, and in the business world. There are no double standards, just women and girls trying to claw their way out from under the Patriarchy we were born into. Our attempts are often ridiculed and suppressed, and unfortunately sometimes even within paganism we are silenced and discouraged to not see our own faces in the Divine.

    5. I agree, there are many reasons. Hence, I said ONE of the reasons sexism remains in our society is because of double standards. If we're going to say that sexism is acceptable as long as it's coming from a woman, we are essentially giving sexism a permit that never expires. I want both men and women to be treated well and be able to realize and achieve their full potential.

    6. By the way, thank you for posting. I appreciate the discussion, as well as your respectfulness.

  9. 3) Finally, you simply don't discuss any of these moral categories that are allegedly applied to Artemis in any kind of cultural context. You assert that she can be a lesbian because she's a virgin, but don't actually discuss whether lesbians would have been seen as virgins in the Hellenic cultural context. You say that she's not a vegetarian, but you don't look at the views of vegetarianism and how they were viewed in Hellenic culture (many philosophers and religious cults held vegetarianism as a practice). This applies to all the categories which you discuss here.

    But most importantly, you are criticizing "some pagans" as applying the name "Artemis" in an ahistorical manner, but you don't actually discuss the function of divine names in Greek culture. The Artemis of Ephesus shows that, within the Hellenic world, Artemis could be view with quite different features (from a virgin huntress to a many-breasted fertility goddess). This shows that either the goddess can appear quite differently to different groups (in which case your argument here is rather pointless as you fail to establish that Artemis does not appear to "some pagans" in the way described here), or that Hellenic culture was quite comfortable with applying their divine names in "ahistorical" manners (in which case, your argument here is quite hypocritical, as you're using an ahistorical theological method to criticizes others' ahistoricity).

    All together, I agree with you that many pagans have uninformed and muddled conceptions of theology, but this kind of uncritical analysis is just another example of that kind of uncritical paganism. I say this not to judge you as a person, but because we should all be challenging each other to excel, and this article could simply use a lot more work in order to be excellent.

    1. I responded to the lesbian post in my first response to you. I know there were vegetarians in ancient times as there are now, but you don't seem to understand that personal belief and life isn't the topic of this post. The topic is historical, religious and cultural facts and how people today try to relate them. Artemis is the Goddess of the Hunt who slays wild beasts, and in ancient times, one of the main reasons for hunting was to eat. It would be ridiculous to say that Artemis is against hunting or meat-eating.

      I think you have a false notion of attribution by association. Artemis is the Goddess of Childbirth while still being called a Virgin Goddess. Just because She loves and cares for children, doesn't mean She Herself is a Goddess of Sexuality. I'm sure there are asexual or abstinent people in the world who love children but don't want to have sex. And I am also sure there are many adoptive parents who never had sex to create the child they now have. That child came from the sexuality of others. Sex and the care of children are not inherently dependent or intertwined.

    2. How can you discuss the significance of the hunt without discussing the larger context of the Hellenic relationship with animal life and the eating of it, especially as related to the religious or philosophical experience? Once again, a philosopher could easily challenging Artemis's hunting as easily as they challenged Zeus's philandering. You need to engage with the topic in its strongest forms, not its weakest.

      Additionally, your second paragraph here doesn't demonstrate an actual theological analysis of the Ephesian Artemis. Or a historical analysis either (is she just a goddess of motherhood, or of fertility). The question remains, what is the function and proper application of divine names?

    3. Philandering was mainly in myth, not epithet. No philosopher in the right mind would have challenged the idea that Zeus was King or God of the Sky, no more than they would have challenged that Artemis was Goddess of the Hunt or Athena the Goddess of War, because these are their distinct and defining cultural and religious traits.

      I also want to point out that you are about to cross the line between discussion and disrespect. You're welcome to post, but I'm not going to let you call me ignorant or accuse me of having some immoral, extremist or intolerant mindset or motive, because I don't.

  10. I responded to this post on Facebook. I will reproduce my response here in hopes of contributing to this discussion:

    I remember seeing an Artemis as huntress statue at a museum in Rhode Island as a child and thinking that it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. This initiated a fascination with Greek myth which developed into an interest in several other academic subjects. It is significant to note that She was the protectress of Hippolytus, the son of the Amazon queen Hippolyta, who later became Virbius (Latin. "Twice-born man"), a priest dedicated to Her.

    I agree that many modern "neo-pagans" lack a grounding in historical precedent and take too many liberties in molding the gods to fit their own modern sensibilities. I have seen a similar phenomenon in modern Hinduism where middle-class White women have even infiltrated Hindu temple governing bodies and outlawed animal sacrifice despite the fact that in Tantric texts, the goddess Kali is called, "She who is fond of liquor and the flesh of beasts..." I was highly disappointed to find that they had outlawed animal sacrifice at the Dakshineswar Kali Temple in Calcutta during my field research there.