Sunday, April 14, 2019

Artemis' Festival & The Day Earth Stood Still At Munikhia

Artemis Mounikhia, a name of the Goddess not commonly known in modern circles, takes the 16th of April as one of Her annual festivals. The name Mounikhia is from the title given to the hill (Munikhia) that held the Temple of Artemis near a very special place in Greek history, Salamis, where the Athenians obliterated the second Persian invasion of the West. Leonidas had successfully held off the impossible odds of the Persians at Thermopylae, but who eventually killed Him and His troops and broke through into Greece, leaving widespread devastation in their wake. However, the Greeks, particularly the Athenians, knew that the Persians could not successfully invade Greece if they lost their navy. When the Oracle of Delphi said that the Greeks would find their salvation behind wooden walls, the Athenian leader Themistocles interpreted that to mean the Greek navy (which was all made of wood at the time). The Athenian navy lured the Persian fleet into the narrow waterway called Salamis where, as at Thermopylae, their numbers could not save them because they couldn't spread out (I really can't believe they were stupid enough to make the same mistake twice. Their arrogance was obviously blinding). The Greek ships utterly destroyed the Persian navy, and later victories on land at places like Mycale and Plataea, halted the Persian foot invasion as well. They never conquered Greece or the West.  

There can be no doubt that when historians list the result of the Greco-Persians wars, it has to be "Decisive Greek victory, liberation of the West from Persian threat." And, of course, this particular festival was instituted as part of the annual celebration of the victory at Salamis, with obvious gratitude to Artemis for protecting Her holy region and for descending Her blessing upon the Greek fleet, which is somewhat interesting since She's not traditionally a Goddess associated with ships, seas, or even war.

Themistocles, the Athenian political and military leader who was instrumental in getting the Athenians to successfully repel the Persian navy at Salamis, attributed his success to Artemis as well, and in a like-fashion, built himself a personal sanctuary to Her around his home and gave Her the title Artemis of Good Counsel. However, this got him on the bad side of the Athenians, probably because they misinterpreted the sanctuary as a monument where he took all the credit for himself. If there was one thing the Athenians resented, even considered impious, it was the slightest hint of arrogance. I highly doubt, however, that such was his intention. Sometimes, I think, people had a tendency to overreact.

My family and I celebrate this annual time with all general worship of a God in Greek culture, and as customary, with cakes adorned with candles as offerings, and I thought it would be a wonderful community contribution if I posted the following prayer I made for the Goddess during this time that others can use if they are looking for something to add to their own celebrations. A mentor of mine once told me, "If you can sing it, it's a hymn," and since the prayer can also be put to the right tune, one can also use it as a hymn. Remember as you rejoice in this time that it's not just a Greek celebration, but a Western one. We are all free today because of the success and sacrifice of the Greeks at this time in history.

O' Artemis Mounikhia of this day,
a Goddess who excels in might,
She guards Her temple and Her bay,
with Her heavenly bow of silver light.

There is no army She can't withstand,
all the force that is of man,
She lays to ruin with Her hand,
and slams their ships upon the land.

Into the sea they sink,
the enemies of the vast West,
the bitter salt they will drink,
to her defense we never rest.

And Artemis Mounikhia do we praise,
Her statue we now adorn,
Her good counsel won't stray,
from tyranny's grasp we are torn.

Come, dear Goddess, bring your grace,
delight in gifts we have made,
we smile to see your face,
from the Earth your name won't fade.

In the Goodness of Artemis,
Chris Aldridge.