ARTEMIS--Greece-- Virgin Huntress; goddess of wild places and wild things; the Huntress; Maiden; Bear Goddess; Moon Goddess; Hunter of Souls; shape-shifter. In Ephesus she was called "many-breasted" and was the patroness of nurturing, fertility, and birth. In Greece she was sculpted as tall, slim, lovely, and dressed in a short tunic. Her chariot was pulled by silver stags. She acted swiftly and decisively to protect and rescue those who appealed to her for help and was quick to punish offenders. She knew the deep secret places in nature where one could rest and regain strength. The Amazons, who were loyal to her, worshipped one aspect of this Moon Goddess (the New Moon phase). Acorns were the symbol of her association with forests and the woodlands. Goddess of the hunt accompanied by a stag and the Alani (her pack of hounds), she carried a silver bow. Her priestesses did not consort with men, but the goddess helped women in childbirth. She could bring destruction but was usually benign. Her animals were guinea fowl, dog, horse, stag. Her symbols were the sickle, bridle, spinning distaff, hanks of wool. The sixth day from the New Moon was hers. Defender of women who were harassed or threatened by men. Very beneficial when dealing with animals or the elemental kingdoms. Patroness of singers; protector of young purification, sports, exercise, good weather for travelers, countryside, the hunt, mental healing, dance, wild animals, forests, mountains, woodland medicines, juniper, healing. The huntress aspect of this goddess was another form of the Crone or waning Moon. Her priestesses wore dog-masks; The Greeks called her Scythian devotees Alani, or "hunting dogs." The Amazon society near the Black Sea was a matriarchy ruled by an elected queen. Children were conceived by annual visits to neighboring tribes; the girls were kept, the boys returned to the father. Strictly worshippers of the Great Mother. They used a Moon-sickle for rituals and battle, as the y did the labrys, or double-bladed ax. The labrys was used by women in ceremonies, agricultural work, and battle. Its two blades represented the waxing and waning Moon crescents.
One day Zeus saw a beautiful nymph called Leto and fell in love with her. He noticed that Hera was watching, so he changed Leto and himself into quails, small brown birds that can easily hide in trees and bushes. But Hera was too clever to be so easily fooled and saw through this disguise immediately and put a curse on Leto. Hera told the unfortunate nymph that she would be pregnant, and that she would not be able to give birth anywhere the sun could shine.
Then she sent the great serpent Python to enforce her curse, to drive Leto from any sunlit spot. Zeus tried to help the mother of his child and sent the south wind to float her to an island called Delos. It was a small , rocky place, but Python followed anyway. However, because the island was so small, the wind could push it farther out to sea faster than the serpent could swim. And so, finally, Leto had a place where she could give birth.
It turned out that she bore twins. First she had a lovely baby girl she called Artemis. From all the running and hiding, she was so weak that she had difficulty giving birth to her second child. But Artemis, even though she was just a baby, helped her mother, and a beautiful son was born. Leto called him Apollo.
Zeus had a great many children but none he loved so much as those twins. They were gifted with strength and courage as well as beauty. Artemis was, in her own way as beautiful as her brother. While Apollo seemed to be surrounded with a golden light, his sister gleamed like silver. Zeus loved her very much.
On her third birthday, he asked her to make any wish--he would make sure she got what she wanted. Artemis, who in spite of her youth, had seen all the harm that Aphrodite could do to those over whom she had power, wished that she would always be a young girl, never a woman She asked Zeus never to give her to any man. Also, she wished for a silver bow and arrow, the best pack of hounds in the universe, and the freedom to run and hunt over the mountains and in the woods for all eternity.
Zeus granted her wishes. He gave her the gift of eternal chastity, but, considering himself more experienced than his three-year-old daughter, told her that she could change her mind about falling in love at any time, if she got tired of the single life.
Artemis went to Hephaestus and asked him to make her a silver bow, but the god of the forge suggested that silver should be created underwater in a cold light. So Artemis swam to the Cyclops who had made Zeus's thunderbolt, and they fashioned for her the most beautiful silver bow, quiver, and arrows in their power. The quiver had a special magic: As soon as it was empty, it filled up again.
Next she visited Pan, who gave her his ten best dogs. From then on Artemis spent her days and nights hunting deer in the woods and streaking across the sky like a silver bolt. She was worshipped as the goddess of the moon and the stars, chaste but happy and fulfilled. Men who came near her, whether they were gods or humans, were frightened away by her fierce hounds.
In many parts of Greece, young women whose relatives wished to marry them off to men they did not love prayed to Artemis to save them. According to legend, she frequently did, although she sometimes had to turn the girl into a tree, a flower, or a deer. But perhaps the Greeks thought that it was preferable to be turned into an enchanted plant or animal than to have to spend the rest of one's life with a mate one disliked.
The Roman name for Artemis was Diana; She became a favorite subject of sculpture and painting. She is usually seen carrying her bow and accompanied by one or more of her many dogs.
Source; Susan Seddon Boulet: The Goddess Paintings.
Artemis is one of the three virgin goddesses, strong, independent and apart from men. She is known as the "goddess of the three forms": Selene, the moon in the sky; Hecate of the underworld; and Artemis the huntress and maiden goddess. The cypress is sacred to her, as are all animals, particularly the deer, the quail, the lioness, the boar and the bear. Artemis personifies the independent feminine spirit.
The noon sun was overhead when Actaeon the hunter chanced to spot Artemis
While she stood there on the moss covered stone
He clings to the branches of the tree as he spies on the goddess
But then this is the cowardly hunter who uses savage hounds
The goddess's garnet tresses fall over golden shoulders as her supple fingers
As the strong brown hand tantalizingly glides
Her fingers stir the russet curls covering the mound
The voyeur loses all command of his wits
As Artemis stares violently upon Actaeon
As her still rotating fingers finish their task
With a little flick of a dainty wrist.