Costume Candidate for 2013: Artemis

Thanks to our Kickstarter campaign for 2013, we’re adding 19 new costumes this season, 7 of which our backers and supporters will get to vote on. This series of posts is designed to briefly introduce the many notable women and legendary figures we’ll be considering. Voting will take place spring/summer of 2013.


If you grow up reading Greek mythology as a kid, the image you get of Artemis is rather one-dimensional. She’s the eternal tomboy, the ever-virginal goddess of the hunt, roaming through the woods in her short tunic and boots, beholden to no man. Twin sister to Apollo, she’s the moon to his sun (figuratively speaking; Artemis and Apollo were linked to, but not quite the same as, the celestial bodies).

All that’s true enough, as far as Classical Greek mythology goes, but the full picture is more complex. Artemis was also the patron of women in childbirth, and outside of Greece was worshiped with statues covered in breasts (or eggs, or gourds, or whatever the heck those things are supposed to be). Archaic Greek art shows her surrounded by bees and other fertility symbols, and ancient folk rituals connected her with motherhood, the moon, and untamed nature. The Romans identified her with Diana, an Italian goddess with a similar portfolio (hunting, childbirth, the moon), while in the Near East she was identified with Cybele, the Great Mother. To moderns it all seems a bit of a mess—what does a virgin tomboy hunter have to do with childbirth?—but to the ancients it made sense. They seem to have been working from the same mental checklist: nature, animals, childbirth, virgin, moon…yep, that’s Her!

Some scholars believe that Artemis was ultimately descended from a Neolithic Great Goddess, particularly in her aspects as Mistress of Animals and Eternal Virgin (signifying self-possessing female power). Whether this was the case or not, people do seem to have had a shared concept of an animal-accompanied goddess who combined perpetual virginity with childbirth. It’s interesting to note that when Christianity came along, shrines to Artemis/Diana were transformed into shrines to the Virgin Mary.

Illustration credits: The gorgeous modern painting on the left is Artemis by Raine Szramski.


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