Artemis - The Divine Witch: Goddesses and Gods

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

The Divine Witch: Goddesses and Gods

Artemis is among the most ancient indigenous spirits of Greece. Her earliest incarnation seems to have been as a bear-spirit, perhaps deriving from traditions dating back to the second millennium BCE that involved devotion to a deity in the form of a nursing mother bear.

In the Iliad, Artemis is called “Mistress of the Animals” and may be traced back to the Minoan era in this capacity. By the classical era, she was absorbed into the Olympian pantheon as the spirit most associated with witchcraft, lunar magic, and women’s mysteries.

According to her Olympian myth, Artemis was born on the island of Delos, the daughter of Leto and Zeus. Her very first act upon drawing breath was to assist Leto in the long, difficult delivery of her twin brother, Apollo, spirit of the sun and masculinity to her spirit of the moon and femininity.

Zeus offers to grant Artemis her deepest wish: she requests never to be forced to marry. This may be understood as a demand to maintain female autonomy and independence.

Artemis is Mistress of the Hunt: she protects the wilderness from excessive human encroachment and regulates sacred hunting rituals. She influences and grants fertility to humans, animals, and plants. Through her association with the moon she regulates menstrual cycles.

Artemis is a magician and a shape-shifter who takes many forms. Her most common is as a youthful female athlete, usually accompanied by a stag and/or a pack of hunting hounds, but she also manifests as a doe or female bear.

Artemis’ colors are white and silver. Her metal is silver, too. Her planet is the moon; her earthly domain the forest but she is also associated with natural springs. She is the Lady of the Beasts: all wild animals are sacred to her but especially bees, bears, boars, deer, dogs, dolphins, goats, fish, wolves, and all kinds of cats. Her chariot is drawn by stags.

The moon was perceived as Artemis’ spinning wheel, upon which she spun the fate of human beings; spindle whorls, shuttles, and assorted weaving tools have been found in nearly all her shrines (see WOMEN’S MYSTERIES: Spinning).

Although Artemis is often described as a solitary spirit, she is often found in the company of others. In addition to her animal companions, she has a band of nymphs to serve and accompany her. Among the spirits, her cousin Hecate is her favorite companion.

Artemis is closely identified with Diana and is also sometimes considered part of a trinity of goddesses:

Image Artemis, Hecate, and Selene represent three aspects of the moon

Image Artemis, Persephone, and Hecate represent three realms: the living, the dead, and the spirits

The most prominent manifestation of Artemis two thousand years ago was not, however, that classical woodland goddess.