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Artemis and her twin brother Apollo were born in Delos to the Greek deities Zeus and Leto. The name Artemis, when translated, means “high source of water.” It also symbolizes the Moon, and it gave Artemis the power to control all the oceans, seas and tides. Artemis has also been known by such other names as Delia, Phoebe, Pythia and Parthenos, while in another aspect, it is believed that she was known by the name “Callistro.” Artemis was also known as Dea Anna in Espheus, which means the “many breasted one,” which emphasizes her role as a patroness of nurturing, fertility and birth.
The name Diana, when translated, means “light,” and before she joined with Artemis, the Romans viewed her as a singular Triple Goddess: the Goddess of the Sun, the Moon, and the Open Sky. Some time later, Diana was also worshipped in another Triple Goddess trinity. When in this aspect, she took on the roles of the Virgin of the Moon, the Mother of all Woodland Creatures and a Huntress. It was also from this particular aspect that Diana gained the title the “Queen of Heaven.”
Artemis has frequently been depicted as a tall, slim woman, with sculpted features, dressed in a short tunic, and driving a chariot pulled by silver stags. She frequently carried a bow and silver arrows, and appeared to either be wearing animal skins, or else having animals, especially fawns, by her side. If Artemis was your friend, then she was your friend for life; and if one of her friends ever happened to be in need, Artemis would act quickly, using her sharp wits to rescue and protect them. However, when anyone happened to do something wrong, Artemis handed out her punishment quite swiftly, even though she was supposedly opposed to violence.
Diana was the far gentler, and less eratic of the two Goddesses, and she was well known for her extremely generous nature. There once existed an old, aristocratic family who lived in a beautiful villa that had been in their family for generations. While they were usually able to make ends meet, financially, every cent that they had went towards the upkeep of their home. Times were exceedingly hard on them, and it was sometimes quite difficult for them to feed their family. The family gardens were extremely beautiful, and within them stood a sculpture of the Goddess Diana, dressed in her usual attire of a short tunic, and accompanied by a hound. The family had been blessed with two children, a boy and a girl. One day, while they happened to be walking in the gardens, picking flowers, the children decided to leave an offering to the Goddess Diana. First, they placed some flowers at her feet, and then they wove a garland of flowers, which they were going to place upon her head. While the children proceded to give their offerings to the Goddess, Vergilius just happened to be passing by, and when he saw what the children were doing, he became so impressed by their devotion to Diana that he joined them, and instructed them in the proper ways to pray to the Goddess Diana.
Later that afternoon, when the children returned home, they told their parents about their day’s events. The following day, while they were strolling through the gardens and found a freshly killed deer lying at the foot of Diana’s statue; and from that day forward, their family never went hungry again. The family continued to find food at the base of Diana’s statue for many generations to come, and never once did they ever forget to honor the extremely generous Goddess, Diana.
Artemis was worshipped by the Amazons, and like Artemis, the Amazons were warriors and huntresses who had no need to have men in their lives. The Amazons were extremely loyal to Artemis, and they worshipped her during the phase of the new Moon.
Artemis and Diana were both Goddesses of the Hunt, but it was Artemis who carried a silver bow and wore silver sandals. Artemis frequently played in the woods with her female friends, and she was often joined by her many animal friends, as well as her pack of hounds, which were known as the Alani. Artemis was such an excellent huntress that the Gods decided to give her an extremely unique title for a woman, which was “Huntsman-in-Chief to the Gods.” Artemis also had some characteristics, which were totally and completely unique, only to her. On a few unfortunate occasions, she was also known to cause destruction, although her actions were usually seen, for the most part, as being benign. Artemis definitely had some very interesting qualities about her. Besides being a hunter-of-souls, and a shape-shifter, she also had control over the powers of magick, sorcery, and enchantment, and was also well known to have psychic abilities. She was also associated with both physical and mental healing, with the bow and arrow, with perfume and with menstrual blood.
When the aspects of Diana and Artemis merged, Diana brought to their dual persona an extremely interesting aspect; she was the Patroness of Outlaws and Thieves. Diana also brought many other things to their joint persona as well, such as the ability to protect harvests against heavy storms, the ability to grant sovereignty, and the power to help women conceive.
The Festival of Diana was celebrated on August 15th, while the Festival of Artemis was held on February 12th, and both Goddesses were frequently associated with the Greek God of the Forest, Pan, and the Roman God, Sylvanus.
While the Greeks looked upon Poseiden as being the King of the Seas, Artemis and Diana, who were both Goddesses of the Moon, held a great power over Poseiden, which was a power that only they could control. That is because they had the ability to make the tides flow in whatever direction they chose, and they were able to hurl the waves crashingly to the shore, or just let them gently subside, all depending upon their will.
Artemis was the half-sister of Athena, and because she respected her sister so much, she followed in Athena’s footsteps and took her own vow of chastity. Once done, she then proceded to force it upon all of her friends, although she never required a mere mortal to do so. She was also known for helping young lovers, by hiding them in her shadows; or else by causing the moon to shine so brightly in the evening sky, that they had enough light for them to frolick beneath the stars.
Artemis, Athena, and Hestia were known as the three Virgin Goddesses, and even though Artemis may have been considered to be virginal, that in no way meant that she was celibate. Rather, she considered herself to be independent, and that she had no need to rely upon men, or to have a permanent mate. This particular view of virginity can also be found in other pantheons, as well. The Welsh Goddess Arianrhod, is one example of a deity who believed that a virgin was a woman who was answerable only unto herself, and who never had the need to have a man in her life solely to make her feel whole.
Greek Mythology would not be Greek mythology, without it having a darker side to it; and so it was with Artemis, who did, indeed, have a very dark side to her. Her dark side was filled with aggressive and violent tendencies, and if those tendencies were ever left unchecked, Artemis could then become a ferocious and vengeful warrior. One example of her dark side was when some hunters had killed more animals then they actually needed. That was an issue which Artemis felt very strongly about, because she believed that you should only kill that which was necessary to allow a person to survive. To Artemis, the action of overkill was a travesty, and she made quite sure that it required a very severe punishment. Artemis also believed that the punishment should fit the crime, and she was well known for metting out extremely harsh punishments. As for the punishment for the hunters who killed more animals then they needed to survive, Artemis first had them thrown from their horses, and then had them eaten by wolves.
Even though Artemis may have been considered to be a protectress of the young, she was also known for using her powers to exact revenge. It was she who kept the Greek Fleet from sailing to Troy, until the royal maiden, Iphigenia, had been sacrificed to her. Artemis demanded that extremely harsh punishment, because several of the Greek soldiers had killed a hare and its young, which also happened to be some of her creatures. Rumor has it, that many of the cults that followed Artemis, also practiced human sacrifice. Yet, when a woman died a quick and painless death, it was said that she had been slain by one of Artemis’ silver arrows.
Even though Artemis may have done many good and decent things, it is through her actions that we are able to see the duality the existed within her, and which exists within each and every deity, as well, since they all have the ability within them to do both good and evil.
In ancient Italy, Diana’s oldest and most famous place of worship was at the volcanic lake, known as the Mirror of Diana. Her sanctuary was in a grove which was known as Nemus, and it was only accessible from the lake’s shore. Diana’s worshippers often payed homage to her on the nights when the moon was full, and they did so by reveling in the forest beneath her wonderous moonlight, so that Diana could look down upon her devoted followers, while they were enjoying themselves.
Artemis and Diana were in no way simple Goddesses, having only one aspect or form. Like humans, they had many aspects and emotions, and just like humans, they could make mistakes, do good works, and possibly even kill. In Artemis and Diana, we are able to see the many sides of these amazing Goddesses. That not only makes their duality all the more intriguing to us, but it also allows us to feel a little bit closer to them. It is almost as though we are seeing ourselves, reflected in their eyes, because we have some parts of these Goddesses within each of us. That may be the reason why we seem to love them so very much.
Painting by Sandra M. Stanton
Used by Permission