When thinking about doing this, I knew I needed to start with Artemis, who was with me before I even knew what a pagan was. My love for her (and the rest of the Greek Pantheon) helped shape my spirituality in a big way.
My first encounter with mythology happened in 1989. I was 6 years old and perusing the advanced section of the school library. The Polar Express and similar stories were just not my style. While scanning the shelves, I came across a red and gold spined book with strangely formed white lettering that read 'd'aulaires book of greek myths'. The watercolour and pencil art of a great curly bearded man in a chariot, holding lightning bolts had me checking the book out without ever cracking the cover.
I took the book home and read it from cover to cover in one night. I read it cover to cover every night for a week, but always stopped on the story of Artemis, goddess of the hunt. I would gaze at the moon from my bedroom window and wonder if she was out driving her silver chariot through the night sky or in the woods behind my parent's house, running with the deer, peering into bear caves and dancing with her nymph companions. When it came time to give the book back, I was saddened to see Artemis go back on the shelf.
I took that book out every month until the librarian caught on and put limitations on how often I could borrow that particular book. I moved on to Norse mythology where Freya and Loki stood out to me, I read Chinese and Japanese Mythology which didn't resonate in me at all. I started taking out the books on Roman Mythology, but didn't care for the Roman names of the gods I loved, although I did enjoy that my middle name was Diana quite a bit after learning my much beloved goddess was known as such in Rome. Oddly enough, the school had no books about the Celtic Pantheon.
At 10 I started praying to the Greek Pantheon (each and every one of them) by name, each night. I always started out with Hestia and worked my way through the names, drawing a little moon in the darkness above my bed when I was done. I always said an extra word or two to Artemis.
When I graduated from that school in 6th grade and had to leave, the 'd'aulaires book of greek myths' never returned to the shelves of that library. (Hey, there are worse things than books a kid could be theiving!)
As I went through my teens, I grew apart from my pantheon, spirituality took a back seat to growing pains and the realities and dramas of High School. I still said a prayer some nights to the gods, I spoke to Artemis directly as well, asking her to watch out for me and to avenge me once. I'm sure too, that she did just that. I had one particularly terrible thing happen to me when I was 16 and from what I understand the perpetrator has had one hell of a streak of bad karma since then - arrests, drug habits, more arrests... you get the idea. I still thank Artemis 10 years later for that.
As I got older and married, the goddess left me. She still creeps into my thoughts and is important to me, she even works her way into my artwork as you can see in my art journal spread above. I will always love her as the mistress of the forest, great goddess of the hunt and a maiden of the moon, but I feel, for now, that our time together has come to an end.
Artemis - Greek.
Daughter of Zeus and Leto, Twin sister of Apollo
Other names: Diana, Artume
Artemis is the forever virginal maiden goddess of the hunt. She is the mistress of the wild forests, protector of nature and baby animals. She is also the goddess of childbirth and is said to have helped her mother give birth to her twin brother just minutes after her own birth.
Symbols of the Goddess: Silver bow and arrow, the crescent moon, Cypress trees
Animals Sacred to the Goddess: hounds and stags
Stones associated with the Goddess: Moonstone, Quartz Crystal
The Theban Prince Actaeon was out hunting and stumbled across Artemis while she was bathing. Unable to look away from the beautiful goddess, he spied on her a bit longer from the brush. Artemis, enraged by his actions turned him into a stag. He was chased down and torn apart by his own hounds.
The story of the constellation Orion is attributed to Artemis as well. There are several variations of the story, some bloody and more terrible than others. The one I grew up with is this:
Orion, son of Poseidon, was a renowned but humble hunter and Artemis took notice of his skill. The two became hunting companions and Artemis grew fond of Orion. Her brother Apollo, ever protective of his sister, was angered by the bond she and Orion shared and sent a great scorpion to kill the hunter whilst Artemis was away. The scorpion came upon Orion, and try as he might, the hunter was no match for it - he was stung and killed. Artemis, returning, slew the scorpion and in mourning hung Orions body in the stars. The scorpion she planted ever behind him as a reminder of the treachery that can be brought on us by even the ones we hold dear.