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
“On 6 Mounychion, the spring month named after Artemis Mounychia, a procession of girls walked to the Delphinion. Each girl carried an olive twig bound with white wool, the hiketeria (‘suppliant’s twig).” — Erika Simon, Festivals of Attica
Lady of the Wild
Lady of Beasts
Leader of Nymphs
I come to you now as I do every month at this time
With offerings of evergreen branches
Of water and flame
I ask your protection on my path, torch-bearer, illuminer
And protection for the wild young on the edge of winter
And protection for my family’s children, my friends’ children, for all children
And those taken untimely by illness or violence or accident
Take them in your train
Lead them on safe paths
Let them find good water and a place to rest and peace
This I ask of you, O Goddess of the grove and of the childbed
And I will remember you again.
Last weekend, a group of us went into the woods by a river to be together, share friendship and camaraderie, and do ritual: in honor of Asteria/Brizo, who has made herself known to me recently, and of Dionysus, one of the gods of our cultus.
We danced, drank, played music, swam in the river, sat beneath the trees, cooked breakfast in the rain, and traded quizzical looks with scrub jays, chipmunks, and deer.
And then we came home to the news out of Charlottesville.
Retreats refresh the soul and provide the opportunity for the kind of private ritual that, as polytheists, we sometimes have trouble finding time and space for in our daily lives. But we do not believe that our gods are only to be found there; nor is that the only place for our work. Dionysus is a god of liberation, and that does not mean solely in the woods, or in the circle, or in the wine-soaked temple. It also means in the streets, and in our own hearts. America has a lot of work to do, not least in recognizing that our past isn’t really past, and that we have never come to terms with our history.
We have work to do.