Of Artemis we sing
no light matter is it for poets to forget
she who amuses herself with archery
and shooting hares,
who cares for the mountains.
— from Callimachus’s Hymn to Artemis, translated by Yvonne Rathbone
When I try to explain You, words fail me.
You are a steward, I say.
You are a protector.
Once I called You the ultimate forest ranger.
These are not sufficient.
I try to explain why You protect, and also kill.
Why You are a doula, and never give birth Yourself.
Why You are virgin, as though being a woman in this world were not sufficient explanation.
Perhaps the fault lies in attempting explanation in words.
The forests are explanation.
The mountains are explanation.
The burst of feathers where a quail was killed, the pile of bones where an elk was killed, the tracks of deer and wildcat and coyote and bear…
These are the explanation.
Follow the trail, and understand.
Years ago I saw this band perform live (they don’t seem to have been active for about a decade). The album this song is on had just been released. The lead singer said the song was about women going up into the mountains at night to light bonfires and dance. Sounded pretty Bacchic to me. Or maybe Artemisian…She likes to dance, too.
A beautiful rendition, translated by the reciter.
The temple of Artemis at Ephesus was made by a woman,
the Amazon Otrera, wife of Ares.
The Amazons made themselves in Her image,
armed themselves with bows,
burdened themselves with offerings
for Artemis as they fled from Herakles.
She protected them and led them,
inspired them and loved them,
Artemis rarely called motherly,
Artemis rarely called kind.
Love is not always soft.
Patronage is not always simple.
Artemis was called Goddess of the Amazons,
and they loved Her with a sharp,
warlike love, and built temples
and wooden statues to honor and ask
for Her love in return.