Monday, November 7, 2011

Artemis, the death dealer

Among the many aspects of Artemis that are seemingly contradictory, is that of the far shooter who brings death. Like Apollo, Artemis is a dichotomy in that like him, she is a protector of life, a healer, especially when children and women in childbirth are concerned, yet she also deals death from her quiver. When a woman died at childbirth, it could be said that she was struck down by Artemis.

Of course, the dangers of childbirth are well known. Even with all our technology, all of our medical advancement today, women often die in childbirth, and as the goddess who is often invoked as part of that ordeal, it seems to make sense that she would be blamed for the deaths that occur during it as well.

Often, we who worship at the altars of the ancient gods will have trouble using negative terminology when referring to the actions of the Gods. The immense Abrahamic influence on our society means that the same kind of fear or feigned respect that they pay to their deity is often manifest in our attitudes toward the gods. The ancient people, however, had a healthier and more realistic appraisal of the gods. They understood that the gods did not simply give us all the good things in life, but that many of the bad things came from them as well. Their reasoning mysterious, for sure, but whatever made such things necessary in the greater scheme of things was accepted and they understood that the gods acted for reasons we did not always understand, and as a result, it was ok to sometimes feel anger at them for the things they seemed to throw their way.

Like the ancients, I do not have an "everything is rosy" attitude toward the gods.  But I have to admit, sometimes I wonder if Artemis is not a bit of a cold hearted bitch. Oh, don't get me wrong, I have a great deal of respect for her, and part of me understands that as a nature goddess, she will sometimes seem cruel from my perspective. After all, is not the lion pride tearing apart the still living deer cruel? But part of me also has to have respect for the attitude. Nature is as nature does, and Artemis, at least in this aspect of divinity of the natural processes of life, must by her nature seem cruel to us.

Artemis' myths make no bones about it. Her demand that Agammemnon sacrifice his only daughter, the tearing apart of the hunter who sees her naked form, the destruction of the children of Niobe, all point to some of the darker aspects of the divine, some of the aspects which we don't like because they remind us of our mortality. They remind us of our place in the grand scheme of things. A place we are sometimes too arrogant to accept without a fight.

No comments: