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 a 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. These are not opinions, these are facts of religious and cultural Greek history.

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 as we would think a Matriarch would, nor does She feel that He is a threat to Her own greatness or Her own rule over Her domains. There is no competition or war. 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. 

Conclusion
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,
Chris.