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Climbing Olympus: Artemis

September 1, 2011

May Welland (Winona Ryder), House of Mirth, 1993

Artemis

Identity: Olympian virgin huntress. Sister of Apollo

Descriptive archetype: Athletic, outdoor maiden archer. Patroness of animals

Nature: Introvert

Polarity Emphasis: Animus

Symbols: Bow and arrow. Torch. Animals in general, but the cat (or lion), dog, hind and bear, in particular

The Greek Myth

Artemis was born on the sixth day of the month of Thargelion (or Bysios according to some authorities), a day before her brother Apollo. Shortly after she was born she approached Zeus with a request for a hunting tunic, a bow and arrow like Apollo’s, eternal virginity, and the office of bringing Light, all of which her father promptly granted. She loved all animals, but had little patience with people and showed no mercy to anyone who dared attempt to violate her person. Legend has it that only once did she fall in love and that was with Orion, the hunter, but Apollo, to whom she was very close, was jealous of this affection and tricked his sister into accidentally shooting her lover.

Artemis was goddess of the chase and of forests and both she and Apollo were skilled in marksmanship. There is said to be a deep psychological meaning in the hunter archetype that is unconnected with the traditional concept of the chase. The hunter seeks his or her true Self, the bow and arrow representing either the anima and animus, or the positive/negatie aspects of the personality, which need to be stretched to their finest tension before the inner peace of individuation can be achieved. Artemis’ healing powers were more of a mental than physical nature, in spite of the rugged out-of-doors persona bestowed upon her by the Greeks. She also possessed a fine singing voice and would entertain the inhabitants of Olympus with her songs while her brother accompanied her on the lyre. This she did for pleasure rather than to gain recognition for her talent.

Because one of her symbols was the she-bear, she is often confused with Callisto. And, as with the Egyptian Horus, there were several earlier versions of her archetype, notably the fertility goddess of Ephesus. But the Greek maiden goddess has little, if anything, in common with her multi-breasted namesake except, perhaps her office as patroness of childbirth, which she shared with Ilythia on account of her own difficult birth. Both Artemis and Apollo loved their mother dearly and spared no effort to protect Leto in times of danger or distress.

Upright Meanings

Chastity. Reliability. Protection, particularly against unwarranted attentions. Caution. Good coordination. Love of animals. Sporting skills. Outdoor life. Devotion to parents and close friends. Selectivity of company.

Reversed Meanings

Insensitivity. Remoteness. Recklessness. Lack of coordination. Implacability. Unwarranted disdain.

(Excerpt from Olympus: an experience in self-discovery by Murry Hope, The Aquarian Press 1991)

Image Sourced: Strangegirl

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