Artemisian UPGs

I’ve been asked to write something personal about the Goddess Artemis that I can share publicly, and I’ve found this very challenging. One difficulty is that there’s so much, I don’t know where to start, and the other difficulty that it’s all so personal. I see Artemis as a Goddess of independence and freedom and individuality, so the way that I interact with her is going to be specific to me. I see a lot of people claiming what they call UPG – Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis – and then using whatever understanding they gain from UPG to make a general claim about the God or Goddess in question. I think that causes a lot of problems. Where do you draw the line between UPG and making it up? How can anyone prove their UPG to anyone else? I handle UPG – even my own – with extreme skepticism, but not because I think UPG is worthless. I think those experiences can be extremely valuable to the person that has them.

I think it’s possible that the Gods come through to a person in whatever way that person needs Them to. I don’t think that I can really assess that need. Only the Gods Themselves can. I think that because different people have such different needs, the way in which a God comes through to one person will frequently be different from the way that a God comes through to another, and I think that this may mean that sometimes the experience or understanding of a God that is valuable to one individual may be meaningless to another. I think that these experiences are very personal, and sharing them is difficult. I don’t think people should expect their UPG to be meaningful to anyone else. They might be, but I don’t think they always will be, and for strangers I think they frequently won’t be. I will be happy to share some of my own “UPG”s of Artemis at the request of Neokoroi, but please understand that they may not have any significance for anyone besides me, and there is frequently no evidence from the ancient world to back them up. I usually don’t share them unless someone asks.

Artemis has a very dark aspect to me, as a Goddesss of death and sacrifice. I resonate with the concepts of life feeding death and death feeding life, and in my experiences, Artemis seems to embody this, as She is both Huntress and Protectress of wild animals. I sympathize not only with the instinctual desire to hunt and eat meat, but I also sympathize with the animals that die. For me, Artemis’s connection with sacrifice comes from the sacrifice of the hunted animal: they die so we live. On a practical level, I work with this aspect of Artemis when I care for my snakes. I feed my snakes rats and mice, animals that I also see as being pets. I sympathize with the rodents, and try to treat them well and ask Artemis to make their deaths swift and painless, but when it comes right down to it, they have to die, or my snakes will die. It’s part of nature, and a necessity to having snakes as pets. As amusing as it might sound, I keep a token for the rodents on my shrine for ancestors and the dead, and I honor them for their sacrifice at Genesia and Samhain.

The connection between Artemis and sacrifice doesn’t really stop there for me, though. I extrapolate from that how many things in our lives must ‘die,’ or be cast away or left behind, and how this process often allows for new and better things to come instead, or just provides a release and relief when unnecessary things are finally destroyed. Whenever I have ‘baggage’ I need to get rid of, or when I there’s something detrimental affecting my life, I will often ask Artemis to help me ‘shoot’ it, to help me kill it and get rid of it. Just as often, there are times when I put up with things in my life that I really shouldn’t, for one reason or another, and often something will happen that forces those things out of my life. Sometimes this can be extremely painful, especially when they are things that I think I want or need or enjoy, but I always end up looking back a month later and realizing how much better off I am, or how much happier I am, now that those things are gone. I think this is Artemis’s way of helping me be who and what and where I need to be. In my experience, Artemis’s lessons are frequently harsh and transformative, and the amount of pain that comes with learning is directly proportional to the value of what is learned.

I think a lot about Artemis’s connections with light and fire. I’m not certain how much important those aspects had in ancient Greece, but it doesn’t look like they were central to Her worship. Although She had some ambiguous connections with the moon, Artemis was not a moon Goddess in ancient Greece, and yet when I look up at the moon I feel Her in a way that I can’t articulate. There’s something to that. Many of Artemis’s associations with had to do with bringing light into darkness, or shedding light on dark places. I think this ties in with Her association with transitions and the initiations of women, and when I work with this aspect of Her, it’s to help me learn about the unknown, to bring unseen things to light, and to shed some light on the darkness within myself.

Of course, all that said, there is this lovely scene in Callimachus where Artemis dances and Helios stops to watch, causing the hours of daylight to be extended. I want to look into that connection on a more personal level this summer, and see how that affects my sense of Her around midsummer.

Aside from Her usual favorite animals, I also feel a special connection between Artemis and horses (probably because of a dream I had as a child) and lions – or maybe just cats in general. The aloof and independent nature of most felines seems very Artemisian to me, and although lions are social animals, the association still works for me, since it’s the female lion that hunts, and because there’s actual ancient Greek evidence to support a connection between Artemis and lions. Although saffron-yellow seemed to be Her sacred color in ancient Greece, I see 6 colors (6 being Her number) as being particularly meaningful for Her: pure white, blood red, forest green, brown of tree trunks and animal hides, silver of moonlight, and black of night. But, that said, I also see how yellow (light and joy and childhood) and gold (frequently associated with the Gods in Homeric literature) and blue (She was patroness of harbors and known by some as a river Goddess) hold special meaning for Her, so maybe all colors relate to Her in some way. In my experiences thus far, Artemis seems to like snow, and I frequently “see” Her hunting in woods covered with white in the winter. I think this might have to do with the pristine look of the woods when they’re covered with a fresh coat of snow. We even call it “virgin snow” before anything walks through it.

These experiences and ideas are meaningful to me, but they may not be to anyone else, and I have no way to prove them so I can’t ask that other people give them any value. Perhaps someone will have a similar experience or feel similarly about the Goddess, but otherwise, this is just how Artemis comes through to me. After all, the important part, I think, is not so much the details and specifics, but the meaning behind them. If the essence of the Goddess behind all the details is the same, then we know we’re talking about the same entity, regardless of the specifics of how She comes through to different people. She is a Goddess of hunting, of freedom, of purity, of wilderness and wild things, of nature, of life and death, of independence and self-reliance, of femininity, of animals, of youth, of liminality and transitions… In my opinion, these concepts are important, rather than the details by which they are expressed.