As some of you who have been following this blog for a while will know, I’m soon to release a science fiction novel, called ‘The Artemis Effect’. As the title is perhaps a little obscure, I thought I’d post something about my research into Artemis, and how she fits into the book.
Artemis was a greek goddess, the twin of Apollo, and daughter of Zeus, through one of his many extra-marital affaires. The Romans also worshipped her, but rebranded the goddess to become their Diana. Talking of names, Artemis may have come from the greek word: árktos, which means bear. I understand that in one of the cults of Artemis, young girls were to act out being as wild as bears, which is interesting, but has nothing to do with my title. Must have been fun though.
The story goes that when they were being born, Artemis was born first, and being a precocious little tyke, then helped her mother Leto to give birth to her brother. As such, childbirth became part of her professional portfolio. Childbirth is a major theme in my novel (don’t let this put you off – it is relevant to the story), and hence the first connection with Artemis.
As a 3 year old, she apparently climbed into her father’s lap (possibly after having been beaten by his wife, Hera), and asked for several wishes. One of these was to always remain a virgin, which these days we would perhaps put down to the trauma of seeing childbirth up close. 😉 She also asked for a bow and arrow to be allowed to hunt, to have many names, to have various nymphs and followers (all female), and to become a Light-Bringer.
This last one is particularly interesting to me, and relevant to the title of the book. Some sources suggest that as Apollo represented the sun, Artemis represented the Moon – as a bringer of light in herself. She also seems to be identified with Selene, the goddess of the moon, but whether this is one of her many names, or if she is one aspect of the moon and femininity (the ‘virgin’ stage, as opposed to the mother or the crone) is not really clear. As she was worshipped over a long period of time in many different places, they all may have believed slightly different things of her. Artemis was often depicted with a crescent moon, giving strength to the idea that she was connected with this celestial body.
The Moon is really the major player in the book, and so we have tie number two.
Various men and gods fancied their chances with the lovely Artemis, but were sadly disappointed. Orion, her hunting companion, was either killed by Artemis when he tried to rape her, or stung by a scorpion which she conjured up. One story has both Orion and his hunting dog being stung by the scorpion, and rising to the heavens to become the constellations of Orion and Sirius. Bouphagos was struck down, Sipriotes was turned into a girl, and Actaeon into a stag. So Artemis was a strong and resourceful woman of the times (which were pretty rough for deities), and well able to look after herself. Many of my female characters in the book have this kind of strength, although they don’t go around randomly slaughtering chaps who cast them sidelong glances.
Artemis’ portfolio also extended to forest and hills, wild places and wild animals. These places emerge as being of greater importance as refuges and resources throughout the novel, and hence the third tie. In typical style for mythology, she has conflicting aspects of being a madly keen hunter, and also a protector of animals such as stags.
So – I hope that’s helped to make things a little clearer, and to give you some feeling for the story. I should say that it is science fiction, not mythology, but the goddess Artemis is certainly mentioned, and her aspects fit so well with the story that I couldn’t resist naming it in her honour.