In Greek mythology, Artemis was the chaste moon goddess, goddess of nature and the hunt, and of maidens and midwives. She was known by her bow and arrow, and dogs, deer and bears were sacred to her. And she’s one of my most favorites.
Fathered by Zeus, but born in exile to her mother Leto, Artemis delivered her own twin brother Apollo, as there was no midwife available in far-off wolf country. As soon as she knew her own mind, Artemis entreated Zeus not to make her marry, so that she might always remain a virgin. She also requested a bow and arrow, and a knee-length tunic, for ease of running and hunting. Ever the doting dad, he granted her wishes. And thereafter, Artemis followed her own path.
If you call on her, you probably won’t find her on Olympus with the rest of her siblings and cousins—highborn and powerful as any of them though she be. She prefers the woods and the mountains, and the company of her dogs or her maidens, running free under cover of night. You might also find her at the bedside of a woman in labor, or a sick child. Artemis was invoked for the protection of young girls: her initiates, “she-bears,” danced naked or in honey-colored robes, celebrating the end of carefree girlhood before donning the veil of marriage. The moon goddess would give her blessing, in a ritual she oversaw but never herself participated in.
Artemis-Diana is a solitary figure, but her solitude is shrewdly self-determined, not the result of exclusion. She guards her chastity so carefully because, to her, it contains her power and affords her autonomy. “Whole unto herself,” she is unattached and unconstrained. Maybe it’s her lunar nature, or maybe her being a twin, but Artemis is a multi-faceted figure and an interesting manifestation of the Greek consciousness. She is proud and independent, as well as loving, nurturing and fiercely protective of those she loves, and capable of great wrath when crossed or betrayed. With the mighty hunters, her body and heart met their match but still prevailed, at a price—just ask Orion and Actaeon.
We can see Artemis in fictional characters such as Jo March in “Little Women,” Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games,” Peter Pan, or the nuns of Nonnatus House in “Call the Midwife.” Historical ones too: Queen Elizabeth I, The Virgin Queen, had the Sun in Virgo and asteroid Artemis at 0 degrees Leo. Many generations later, Diana Princess of Wales was born with Artemis conjunct her Sun in Cancer. The archetype runs throughout history in the many who have asserted their bodily autonomy, or stood up for the protection of young girls, women’s health or animal welfare. And it is alive and well in birth charts today: a child of Artemis may have a love of nature and animals, or be great with children (think of your favorite camp counselor), though she may be ambivalent about having her own. They can alternate effortlessly between the masculine and feminine spheres, or even embody both energies in equal measure, but may never feel fully at home in either. Sometimes they are the sibling that diverges from the family path, or that fights to get out of the shadow of the Golden Child and carve their own identity. In love and relationships…it’s complicated. They need to have a great deal of freedom to be themselves, and a partner that meets their very high standards. They are children of the adolescent moon, and are here to learn about life with a sense of innocence and idealism, combined with a nocturnal wisdom that can seem a mystery in our Sun-worshipping world.
As it happens, the waxing crescent moon is traveling through the last degrees of its home sign of Cancer, where in the wee hours of tomorrow it will conjoin asteroid Artemis at 0 degrees Leo. It seems right and fitting that we honor the Princess of the Night, the “goddess with a bold heart,” as she watches over us all.