SLEUTHS & ARCHEOLOGISTS
is an essential ritual tool. Most magickal practitioners spend considerable
time and energy learning things esoteric, yet do not use mundane
resources and skills to inform their practice. Research, the critical
review of a topic and the body of knowledge attached to it, is one
of the mundane resources being underused. The research process looks
and sound more difficult than it actually is - all that is required
is a modicum of literacy, a willingness to think critically, and
time. Research can provide the practitioner with ideas for rites,
offerings specific to the deity, and insight into the character
and context of divinity and her worshippers.
most important issue in doing research is to distinguish and specify
what the information you've uncovered means to you versus what it
meant in the particular time and place it was used. Information
that has a long history of use or was used over a wide geographical
area may have many different meanings in each of those times or
places. In addition, the same information can be understood differently
by different people even though they are in the same time or place,
depending on such issues as class, gender, education, culture of
origin, professional training, and political bias.
is nothing inherently wrong or incorrect in assigning your own twentieth
century understandings to historical information. The difficulty
lies in confusing these with historical reality. For example, in
her book Luna: Myth and Mystery, Kathleen Cain claims that
the Minoans worshipped a moon goddess. She even cites a reputable
scholarly source. However, Ms Cain is incorrect. There is no evidence
that the Minoans linked deities and celestial events or bodies.
Ms Cain's source actually states that the Minoan goddess was offered
garlands of lilies. She interprets this accurate statement to mean
that the goddess was linked to the moon because in the twentieth
century neo-pagan world of Ms Cain lilies are rampant in what passes
for neo-pagan research, and makes neo-pagans who uncritically accept
them look ignorant at best. This kind of bias is entirely avoidable
if the researcher scrupulously examines, and then separates, her
understandings from the evidence she discovers in the research process.
For Ms Cain to worship a goddess of the moon is appropriate; to
say the Minoans did is unconscionable and inaccurate.
through the overlays of ethnocentric and egocentric interpretation
of historical information can be a lengthy and frustrating task.
For most people it is enough to check a source or two (without evaluating
those sources), and work with the information presented therein;
either discarding it because it conflicts with one's experience,
or discarding experience because the "expert" says it's
wrong. Evaluation of sources is a tricky business. Every author
has a bias. Some are obvious or clearly stated; others require detective
skills to uncover. Reading everything available on the topic and
thinking critically and comparatively will pinpoint both bias and
accuracy of information. There are enormous rewards to be had by
sticking with this task, both in terms of intellectual satisfaction
and of informed practice. If your interest lays in reconstructionism
of any sort, this task cannot be avoided.
related research task is the stripping away of the layers of political
rewriting done by cultural conquerors that obscures, reverses, or
modifies the older myths and understandings. The most obvious of
these rewritings - yet the hardest to see beyond because it defines
all accessible worldviews - is the patriarchy. But others exist
as well. Caesar writing about the Celts is the conqueror writing
about the enemy. Even if he respects the enemy's prowess he speaks
only about his own understandings, not those of the enemy. We know
so little about the Eleusinian Mysteries because only the uninitiated
wrote of it. And the Thesmophoria, a festival open only to women,
is inaccessible to us because Greek women could not write or publish.
Unfortunately, these secondary sources are often our only known
sources, so the researcher interested in going deeper is forced
to speculate from the evidence; to become both sleuth and archeologist.
to see beyond these rewritings and reversals it is necessary to
know something of the history of the people and places that form
the context of your major research interest. For example, if you
are interested in the worship or nature of a particular goddess
at a particular time you will have to know something about her worship
and nature just prior to and just after that time. In addition,
you will have a passing acquaintence with the worship of other divinities,
and of the religious system as a whole. Otherwise it is impossible
to assess the relevance of the information you acquire. It's not
enough to know what worshippers offered to their deity unless you
also know how that offering fits into the worship of other deities
of the same time and place. Identifying what is unique to a particular
divinity or rite depends on breadth of knowledge, as well as depth.
research into the worship and nature of Artemis illustrates many
of these issues. Most of the modern, popular sources show her as
a cross between a prepubescent girl and a slightly dykey, but well-endowed,
woman-child. She carries a bow and arrow, hangs out with animals,
and wears an enticingly short skirt. If the author is into the Amazon
myth, then Artemis has one breast bare.
even the best of the psycho-Jungian-magickal-archetype hype she
is seen as the girl who avoids men, likes the woods, and has cross-gender
interests (like being independent, one presumes). She is always
associated with the moon, in either its first crescent or full phase.
She is named, in some versions, of the charge of the goddess but
rarely mentioned in pagan literature. She is always linked to the
Roman Diana, and most pagans and pagan sources use the two names
interchangeably. She is very popular with so-called feminist magical
groups, mostly because they buy the popular image of her, and she
fits their political agenda.
one follows the hints and allegations buried in seminal and secondary
sources (see recommended reading list), however, a very different
picture emerges. Her history begins in the Paleolithic era, although
her name in that time and place has been lost to us. She emerges
clearly in the Anatolian and Minoan Neolithic and Minoan Bronze
Ages. She is everywhere the Mistress of the Animals, but this designation
is less narrow than modern understandings. She is the bestower of
life, fertility, abundance, protection, and death for all living
things: animal, plant, and human. Early depictions of Artemis never
show her as a girl or maiden, but always as a fully grown woman
in a long gown or chiton. She is sometimes armed, sometimes accompanied
by snakes or hounds, often holds lions or deer by the neck or hind
legs, is surrounded by fish, birds, and swastikas, and is often
winged. She is Virgin, but not a virgin. During the Paleolithic
and Neolithic she is never associated with a lover or consort (but
then, none of the Goddesses were). She is not a child, a sex object,
a little sister, or a dyke. She is a mature, autonomous female force
embodying the birth-life-death cycle with which all living things
the cultures in which she originated were overtaken by migrations,
natural disasters, and invasion she was assimilated into the newly
evolving understandings, or rewritten entirely to mirror the cosmology
of the newer power structure. Much as the Catholics found they could
not purge the goddess and so accepted Mary as a subservient pseudo-deity,
so the Dorians and later Greeks found they could not purge the Mistress
of the Animals. So they did what any self-respecting power-holder
does, they rewrote and reversed her myths, spheres of influence,
and cultural meaning.
attempted to give her lovers and children, but she remained autonomous.
The best they could do was link her to a brother who then usurped
many of her ancient prerogatives. They stripped her of much of her
complexity, narrowing her sphere of influence to that of a "woman's
goddess" and a slightly foolish maiden who ruled over young
girls before their inevitable marriage. Her role of protector was
reversed and she was made the punisher of unchaste females, ostensibly
because she was a virgin (but no longer Virgin). Not until the fifth
century B.C. was she linked to the moon, or made a triple goddess.
Both of these developments reflected a change in religious focus.
Pre-Dorian understandings located the source of magick and power
within the planet. Dorian and post-Dorian understandings saw the
ultimate source in the sky or the heavens, so all things divine
had to have a celestial connection or become evil. Grouping goddesses
into trinities also became popular in the fifth century B.C. Artemis
was linked to two other moon goddesses, Selene and Hekate; although
Hekate was also not linked to the moon before this time.
overlays, rewritings, and reversals continue down to the present
time. In any historical period authors and practitioners have their
own ethnocentric view of who Artemis was. And a case could be made
that in each era her nature changed to reflect the mind-set of her
devotees. This process is not idiosyncratic to Artemis. Any divinity
that has been around for any length of time will have numerous overlays
and reinterpretations, each denoting a different understanding.
The question for the modern practitioner is which of the many competing
views will inform your practice? A choice is mandatory, unless one
is a monotheist whose divinity encompasses everything. Each version
of Artemis (or any other divinity) speaks to a different worldview,
a different context in which she forms part of a unique pattern.
version of any particular divinity may preclude other versions.
Artemis as moon goddess reflects a very different world than Artemis
as earth goddess. Artemis as a pre-teen begging Zeus for a bow and
arrow like the boys' is a far different force than the Artemis who
is the horned hunter of the wilds. Decisions about the nature of
the divinity that you interact with are personal and spiritual.
The process of discovering the range of choices each divinity embodies
is mundane, and just as essential as what is done in temple or circle.
is a Weaver, Mother, Co-Founder of DarkStar Guild & Circle of
Alani, Clinical Social Worker, Radical Feminist Lesbian, Researcher
Richard Lewis. (1977). The Cults of the Greek States. Caratzas
Brothers: New Rochelle, N.Y.
is the best single source for anyone interested in Greek religion
or Greek divinity. Although this is not a primary source (e.g. an
ancient Greek writing about his religion), it is a seminal (quoted
by everyone) source of great value. It is out of print so if you
find it, buy it or copy it. Many of us are searching for copies.
University libraries are a good source.
Robert. (1984). The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in
French Cultural History. Vintage Books: New York
is an excellent introduction to and example of how very different
the understandings of people in other times and other places are
from ours. This is fun reading on its own, but will really help
frame the kinds of questions that allow you to look at your own,
Marija. (1989). The Language of the Goddess. Harper and Row:
of her books are excellent. Her scholarship is unquestionable, and
the wealth of information is overwhelming. Even if you don't agree
with her conclusions, her process and attempts to interpret information
in new ways are fun and provacative.