Monday, February 7, 2011

Goddesses in the Dirt

Unearthing the Divine Feminine, one archetype at a time.....


Issue #3: Artemis


A few years ago, I was drawn to visit a small island in the eastern Aegean with a strange history. Until recently, people didn't come here volitionally --- they were sent here. Since the Greek government opened a psychiatric hospital on this remote island decades ago, Leros has primarily been a destination for the insane. Occupied by the Italians during the war, Mussolini originally established it as a gulag, but in the intervening years the prison became a notorious asylum and depository for many of Greece's castoffs and socially undesirables. Only in the past fifteen years has the hospital undergone serious reforms due to pressure by the European Union.

What few people know is that Leros is the supposed birthplace of Artemis, goddess of the hunt.........and the moon. Those with a little Latin under their belt can tell you that moon comes from luna, the root of the word lunatic. Considering the island's modern legacy, one can't help but wonder at the coincidence. 

Artemis has long been one of my favorite goddesses. Ever independent, she has a history of running away from men to live out her own life in the forest with only her canine companions at her feet. My trusty edition of Robert Graves' The Greek Myths tells us that Artemis was the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo. She is a virgin goddess, and as a huntress is often depicted carrying her trusty signature bow and quiver of silver arrows. 

Artemis sometimes appears with a crescent moon on her head, such as this statue in the Vatican collection, indicating her association with the swift-moving satellite. 

In later periods, she became associated with childbirth, as her mother gave birth to her without pain, and has appeared in such strange guises as this statue at Ephesus, depicting the goddess as an Earth Mother and protector of fertility. 


She is also known by her Roman name, Diana, as illustrated in this painting by Johannes Vermeer.


As a Cancerian, I identify with Artemis and her love of the moon. I believe her archetype speaks to that independent streak in us all, to be our own person, follow our own lights, to not depend on others to reinforce our sense of self, but to look within. 


When I visited Leros a few years ago, I visited her temple. Not much is left except the foundation stones, sitting on top of a lonely plateau with views of the Aegean and the Turkish coast in the distance. 


One of Artemis' notable aspects is as a protector of animals, specifically dogs. When I visited the island, I took with me photographs of my precious Airedale, Mia, and a friend's dog. While at the temple, I found a crack between the ancient stones and left the photographs along with an olive branch, to ask for Artemis' blessing and protection. 

Other locations in Greece also claim to be the birthplace of Artemis; Ortygia, near the island of Delos, among them. Yet having had the fortune to visit during a full moon, something tells me this is the place. 

Sitting alone at the temple one evening, I waited for the moon to rise over the water. Watched it climb ever higher into the sky, casting silver rays on the ancient stones, I could easily imagine Artemis in her sanctuary, testing her bow, throwing a few scraps to her dogs and tying her sandals before disappearing into the night. With its rolling hills, thickly forested landscape fit for a goddess of the hunt, and a modern legacy of an asylum - tying it forever to the emotional pull of the moon - it would be crazy to imagine anywhere besides Leros as her true home. 



Some photos courtesy of Google images

25 comments:

  1. Artemis - the fascinating and mysterious goddess. Always the solitary one - I think she is the personification tf that part of every woman which is kept hidden from everyone except from herself.

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  2. Yes, Artemis is still one of my favorites too. What happened to take goddesses out of the picture and just the men to triumph?

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  3. It's been decades since I've read the wonderful Greek myths. Your beautifully written post about Artemis/Diana makes me want to re-read the stories from which we can learn much about ourselves. Thank you for taking the time to write this, and post these stunning photographs!!
    Ann Best, Author

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  4. You have taken me back in time with these stories... I am off to check on the location and read some more...

    So glad that you took photos of your airedale and a friend's dog... You did well with your travel plan and got a full moon too!

    Bises,
    Genie

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  5. Another wonderful goddess her-story — with your personal involvement.

    And given that there's a little lunacy in all of us, there is something strangely fitting about the location of the asylum. (Except I suspect it was badly managed).

    Leaving the dogs' pictures there at Atremis temple seems so fitting. I'm sure Mia will bless you for that.

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  6. How fascinating, Amanda! What a wonderful image, you sitting at the temple watching the moon rise over the water. I love how you managed to tie every detail together.

    And taking the photos of the two dogs with you for Artemis' blessing? Genius of forethought!

    I'm delighted that our dogs share the same name. Our Mia, though, is a five pound Maltese.

    Thanks for another great chapter on the goddesses.

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  7. I really felt your passion for the subject in this post and admire your knowledge. I admit history was not one of my favorite subjects in school and I feel ignorant, yet in admiration of those with knowledge. Thanks. Let's talk!

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  8. Yes, the myth is really interesting although I wouldn't like to lead a life like she did, I am too dependand to people:)
    You are very poetic to seet at the remains of the temple in the night:)great!

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  9. you wrie these where even an Old Country Codger can get a new lesson. Thank you for dropping by my site and commenting. I look forward to coming back and educating myself beyond my backwoods history, lol

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  10. loree -- you hit the nail on the head, girl. couldn't agree more with your insightful comment -- thank you♡

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    rosaria, indeed - where are the goddesses? i think what happened did so about 5000 years ago when cultures shifted in a big way from matriarchal to patriarchal societies. have faith, though, a correction from this imbalance is occurring as we speak. the world never stays forever at one end or the other of the spectrum.

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    ann, many thanks - so glad you enjoy reading about the goddesses as much as I enjoy writing about them ;-)

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  11. genie - if truth be told, i actually planned my trip to coincide with the full moon -- that's how much of a romantic i truly am!

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    miss sadie, you are right, sadly - the asylum was poorly managed over the years. the good news is that it has improved tremendously due to the reforms handed down over a decade ago, but it will likely be phased out completely in coming years.

    i hope mia blesses me! even though she will be 14 years old this year (goddess willing) she still can act like the pup she once was. but i'm sure you understand that - i've always admired the similarities between your regal breeds.

    xx

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    jo -- thank you my friend --- and you have a mia too?!! seems as though we share quite a few things in common!

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  12. sonia, thank you. although i never considered teaching, seems as though a part of me wants to do that (as long as it involves greece and mythology!)

    i would love to talk. will send an email so we can schedule a good time.

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    ola -- i'm a romantic at heart. and having the fortune to actually have that temple all to myself was a gift i will long remember~

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    glnroz - you're welcome pardner -- good to see you in these parts - thanks for dropping by!

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  13. You had me sitting there with you, overlooking the sea and the island grass, wondering where Artemis is hunting these days. May she protect Mia for a little longer, 14 is already a high age, though.
    Yes, I also believe that the times, they are a`changing, and the old goddesses will return, or breed new ones. Who knows? Thanks for this post again, Amanda!

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  14. Super-Gorgeous post...beautifl writing..and beautiful tribute to such magnificent Goddessess! We are kindreds..this was an enchanting beautiful visit! Wonderful blog!Inspiring photos..pure magic.
    Victoria~

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  15. geli -- maybe we will be blessed with both - a return of the old goddesses combined with a birth of the new ~ !!


    and yes, mia is getting up there. she amazes us with her energy and we cherish each day we have with her♡♡

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    kiki~victoria -- so happy to see you've stopped by! thank you for visiting and commenting -- i look forward to sharing more of our common interest in magic and the Divine Feminine~~

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  16. What an inspiring post, dear "Twin"! Artemis has ALWAYS been close to my heart.... how could it be otherwise for any Moon lover? How wonderful you were at Leros (it MUST be the right place)... and how like you to leave the photos of Mia and your friend's dog there.

    The Celtic "version" of Artemis is:
    Rhiannon, Celtic goddess of the moon and inspiration, the enchanting fairy princess who rode so swiftly that no horseman could catch her, loved and chose to marry a mortal King of Wales. She is also connnected to the Arthurian "Lady of the Lake"....who procurred and then took back King Arthur's sword.
    There is also another Cornish name for her: Nimue. Once, I visited Tintagel (in Cornwall) where Merlin
    conjured the birth of Arthur. The castle is a ruin - like Leros....but, I put a poem I wrote about all of these magical events in between a crack in the castle...

    Romantics both of us! Isn't is wonderful!

    Sending love and moonglow!

    ♥ Robin ♥

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  17. What fun history! And the description of that island gave me the chills. I recently saw SHUTTER ISLAND, and your post made me think of that.

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  18. I really enjoy these posts. You write them so well and I love learning a bit more about the Goddesses while I have my morning coffee, it's a nice way to start my day :-)

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  19. robin -- thank you for this wonderful info on the celtic artemis!! i love learning about other myths and seeing how they connect in these curious ways.......

    i've been to tintagel as well, many years ago -- it is a hauntingly lovely place -- and now i'm completely curious about your poem -- would love to read it if you would ever share (unless you placed your only copy between those stones...romantic indeed!!)

    sending love and moonglow back to you dear twin!!♡

    xxx

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    julie - i've been meaning to see that movie!! thanks for the reminder -- am adding it to my netflix cue today ;-)

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    sara - how sweet of you!! kind mercis, mon amie!

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  20. amanda, did seeing those rocks give you a chill? because they did me, just through your photograph.

    i did not know that artemis is the protector of dogs. i will remember that for my stella, who is not walking so well these days.

    you are a fantastic teacher and writer, amanda.


    kj

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  21. i must have been skipping school to go surfing, indeed, i know i was because i don't remember greek mythology. but angela's right, you take me there (wish i could really go)and i am learning so much.

    hope to see you soon!
    xxx

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  22. Amanda, it would be crazy indeed.

    You write so easily, one evening, I waited for the moon to rise over the water. For me, it is near incomprehensible to imagine myself in a place with a history such as that, or a view. It has been a great long time since I have travelled, and yet I feel it like a huntress, like a pull from the moon.

    Wonderful reflections.

    (Are we but minor goddesses? Are we but the foundation rocks left askew?)

    xo
    erin

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  23. kj,

    i am really sad to hear that your pup is having trouble walking. i will say a prayer for her and ask artemis to help her get her strength back.

    i think, at the time of my trip, mia was to have surgery. artemis must have heard my prayer, i am so grateful to still have mia with us, at 13 1/2.

    those rocks......there is something lonely and otherworldly about them, isn't there? maybe it is a power place........

    thank you, kj, for your loving words.

    xx

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  24. lori -- how i wish i could have been surfing when i was growing up! minnesota may have 10,000 lakes but not the right kind of water for that ;-)

    i will give a call next week and look forward to seeing you soon i hope!!!

    xxx

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  25. erin,

    sometimes it feels as though we are minor goddesses - at least that's what the world would have us believe...

    but we know better. rocks may scatter yet they don't lose their integrity. the feminine is too long overlooked -no - too long feared and smothered. it may take eons, but it always tips back. we are at that moment on the seesaw, amidst all the terrible/wonderful shuddering before it moves in the other direction.

    you travel and hunt with your words -- every moon pulled one♡

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