Essay: Artemis: Archetype Profile
Artemis is the fiercely independent goddess of nature, and the twin sister of the god Apollo.
And like Apollo, she’s known for being antisocial and preferring her solitude. But whereas Apollo retreats to his penthouse office on the top floor of one of his skyscrapers, Artemis retreats into the wilderness.
She is both the protrectress of wild creatures, and the huntress of them. In that aspect, she is one of the “mystery goddesses” who encompasses birth, life, and death all in herself. I call her a mystery in that she’s not a sweet and simple figure who is only aligned with light and life, so it is not always easy for those who would follow her to wrap their minds around the entirety of her being. Following Artemis means coming to an understanding that both good and “evil” (a word that Artemis wouldn’t love, since it implies negative things are bad) are part and parcel of this world, and finding a true appreciation for both. Artemis’s followers must embrace death as well as life.
She protrects women and children, especially young girls. She can call the animals to her side with her howl. Hers is the wild, destructive force of nature—earthquakes, hurricanes, floods. She can destroy her brother Apollo’s most brilliant cities if she chooses. She can also send nature creeping in slowly when buildings are abandoned.
She trusts her intuition and her instincts. She doesn’t analyze a situation and decide on the best course of action. She lets her emotions guide her.
She’s the goddess of the moon, which tells us that she rules subconscious motivations that may not make much logical sense, but are no less driving. The darkness is full of mysteries, dangers, and possibilities. It’s a frightening, thrilling place. In the light of day (ruled by Artemis’s twin Apollo), everything is clear. We can see where we are and where we’re going. We can make plans. In the dark of night, things are more nebulous. We can’t always see where we are, and any steps we take or plans we make could be wrong—or even dangerous.
Artemis knows how to navigate this darkness.
(At this point, I do not believe this darkness is the darkness of death, transformation, and rebirth—that’s Persephone’s realm. I think that Artemis’s darkness is the darkness of self-knowledge, or lack thereof, and trusting your gut to know the answer when your mind doesn’t. Apollo’s motto is “Know Thyself.” Artemis’s motto might just be something like “Trust Thyself.”)
She doesn’t much care for cities. In fact, she’d really prefer not to live in a building at all. Unless it’s a treehouse.
She has developed her personal passions to a high level, and it’s not often that anything else catches her attention. Artemis is an archer, which symbolizes her ability to aim for a far-off goal and hit her mark. It also symbolizes that she’s capable of providing food for herself, and of protecting herself without getting her hands dirty. She is self-sufficient.
In general, she isn’t a very sexual goddess. One of the stories about her says that when she was a very little girl, she asked her father Zeus for the right to always be independent and never belong to a man. Zeus granted her wish, and now Artemis isn’t generally subject to the same sexual and romantic whims as the rest of the female gender.
She is sensual, but she doesn’t like to be pretty so that men will find her attractive. She likes to be pretty for herself, because it makes her feel good. Artemis’s version of “pretty” is very different than Aphrodite’s, though. Aphrodite goes all out to be beautiful not only to express herself, but to attract men’s (and women’s) attention. She spends time on her makeup and hair, she gets manicures, and she wears flirty, flattering, feminine clothing.
Artemis doesn’t do makeup. She might even have dirt smeared on her cheek now and then. She doesn’t brush her hair that often, and she doesn’t get manicures. (She lives in a tree, remember? You can’t climb trees with a manicure.) She likes boy clothes and things she can run around in.
Some stories say there’s a natural antagonism between Artemis and Aphrodite, because Aphrodite likes to make people fall in love, but she can’t do that with Artemis.
The Three Forms of Artemis: Dark, Earth, High
Artemis always has a penchant for spending time alone, in each of her forms. Her reasons for it change a little with her different forms though. Along with her independent streak comes a preference for being childless, even as she goes out of her way to protect children. All of Artemis’s forms are self-sufficient, and are likely to build their own careers and chase their own goals, which may be unique or unconventional. She can be athletic in any of her forms.
These different forms, or versions, of Artemis don’t experience one another’s worlds. Dark Artemis would not be able to understand the experiences of High Artemis. She wouldn’t even relate well to Earth Artemis. Dark Artemis lives in a dark world where suffering and power games are the norm. Earth Artemis lives in a world of “balance,” where negativity is a daily reality but there’s also a lot of good in the world. High Artemis lives in a state of her highest potential. In effect, they’re different women.
Earth Artemis has more personal power than Dark Artemis. High Artemis has the most personal power of all three.
A person with a lot of the Artemis archetype can ascend through these phases of self-development, but it doesn’t happen overnight.
Dark Artemis is isolated because that’s the only way she feels like she can be herself. Her isolation is a protective response to guard her against men (and the rest of the world), and it is the only way she feels capable of connecting with her intuition and wisdom. It’s actually the only way she feels safe.
Dark Artemis feels as though she doesn’t fit into the world. Like there’s no place for her there. She does not see the harmony of the entire system of creation, and only sees a kind of brutal harmony in the natural world—the dance between predator and prey catches her attention particularly. She would describe the world as a savage garden.
Sometimes she’ll hang out with a group of other women, but even then she tends to feel a little isolated from them, if not ostracized or verbally attacked. (And even if they do attack or ostracize her, she’ll still take their side against men.) She feels silenced by others and does not know how to use her voice around them, so she often works alone, behind the scenes, or in the dark.
This Artemis is antagonistic toward men.
She feels silenced, ignored, misunderstood, and abused by them. She often takes action against them.
Go watch “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and you’ll see Dark Artemis in action in the character of Lisbeth Salander. Dark Artemis’s reaction to men is anger, hurt, and self-righteousness. It is a valid reaction to the way men treat women in her world (she experiences the world as a dark, violent place), and her anger is very empowering for Artemis at this phase. Because she is coming from a place of feeling victimized and powerless, and anger is a more powerful emotion than fear. She is standing up and refusing to be abused.
However, this is a phase of Artemis’s development, and as justified as she might be in her rage, lingering here does not ultimately result in her healing or happiness. That healing is a process. It comes when Artemis ascends to her Earth form, then to her High form.
Through the lens of Dark Artemis, the story of Actaeon is a tale of a misogynistic man who went hunting with his hounds, and dared to look upon the naked goddess as she was bathing at a pool in the forest. As though he had the right to her body just because she was naked. As though he weren’t an intruder in her realm, and laying claim to something that was divine and certainly not his to use as he liked. Actaeon was terribly punished for it. Full of wrath, Artemis turned Actaeon into a stag and his own hunting hounds tore him apart.
PS: At the end of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (spoiler!) we get to see Dark Artemis elevate herself into Earth Artemis, as Lisbeth Salander’s anger and hatred towards men begins to heal.
Earth Artemis loves her alone time and personal space not because it’s what protects her, but because it makes it easier for her to connect with her own inner truth and to live in the way she likes to live.
She does not like to be surrounded by the opinions of others. The way others live, their values, and the standards of society often seem unnatural to her. She holds her own value system, and spending time alone in the natural world allows her to sink deeply into her own personal truth. And in essence, to “build her own kingdom.”
Earth Artemis’s kingdom might intimidate or confuse outsiders, like when people from the city venture too far into the wilderness and start to get nervous because they’re out of the regular bounds of their society, and they don’t really know this terrain. (“Are there bears here? Fuck, there are bears here, aren’t there? Oh my god, what was that noise?”) But to Earth Artemis, her kingdom feels perfectly natural and there is a perfect order in it. The kingdom may include unconventional relationships, work, and belief systems, but Earth Artemis tends to think she’s found the natural way of life, and the rest of the world is living outside of it, trying to force themselves into unnatural societal molds.
Earth Artemis is a hardcore feminist who makes her own decisions. She has a bad relationship with the patriarchy and the men who run it. It’s not that she hates men, per se (although she does have her moments), but she does not like the role that men assign her in civilization. You’ll find her at bra-burning rallies, and on the front lines of trying to effect social justice and gender equality.
She can partner, but can get competitive with her mates and this can compromise her relationships. She struggles to find a balance between wanting companionship and wanting her solitude. If her mate tries to make her change her way of life, he’ll be gone in an instant.
She is sometimes angry with men, but her anger is a blend of self-righteousness (like Dark Artemis) and of feeling abandoned by them—as though she thinks it would actually be kind of cool to have a partner worthy of her, but none of them are worthy of her.
Also, she is so hell bent focused on her own goals that there often just isn’t time for dating. Unless a man (or woman) shares her vision and her mission in life, she doesn’t really want him cluttering up her space and her time. You could think of this as “wanting to get ahead in a man’s world,” but that’s more Athena’s realm. Artemis is more likely to dismiss the man’s world altogether and carve her own path.
She is protective of women and children, but does not want children herself.
Dark Artemis does not see the harmony in the world, but Earth Artemis is starting to see it. Her spirituality may tend toward the superstitious side, and she would never follow any religion or dogma that required her to step in line (especially a hierarchical system headed by a man!). She might become almost shamanistic in the way she believes in totems and signs—especially signs from the natural world, like spotting a hawk and deciding it was a message that she was on the right path.
This Artemis is not antagonistic toward men. She loves all of nature, and she does not see anything as separate from nature–not even civilization.
She understands men and loves them for what they are, but does not necessarily want to partner with them—although she can (as she did with Orion).
When she does partner she usually finds her equal. She winds up with someone who shares her interests but does not “need” her, in that he’s independent and whole without her. They pair so well together because they both set themselves apart from society in a similar, dramatic way. (Like she’s a CEO, he’s a CEO. She travels alone, then meets a dude who also travels alone. Then they’re traveling side by side. They may not want to travel to the same places because they are both so independent, but this is okay—they can separate and come back together as needed.)
She understands the interplay of civilization and nature as a natural cycle itself. She is still a protective force for what she considers the creatures under her care, including children, but she does not want children herself. (She’s too independent.) Adult women must earn her protection.
Furthermore, High Artemis now includes men and boys in her protection. Boys get her protection naturally, but adult men have to earn it.
Why do adults have to earn High Artemis’s protection? Like all the “High” archetypes, she has high standards. If she sees someone stuck in their “Dark” phase, or clinging too much to their “Earth” phase, she will let that person go their way, make their own decisions, and suffer the obstacles in their own path. She sees this as part of the natural order of things. She does not have to make anything happen. It will all happen of its own accord, effortlessly. This is the beauty of the natural world. Nothing has to be forced.
Relationship with Apollo: High Artemis’s relationship with her twin is much like I’ve described above. The two are perfectly matched to each other. She does not have anger toward him. She truly experiences him as her other half, her brother, her partner. She trusts him to know things she does not know, and to do things she has no interest in doing but knows need to be done to fulfill the natural order and evolution of the universe. (For example, High Artemis has no interest in building cities, but she knows they are an essential part of the natural order and development of things. She will leave that to her brother and trust him to do a killer job with it. She has no interest in writing books, but knows that is an essential method of spreading knowledge and elevating mankind. That’s another thing she’ll leave to her brother. She has no interest in civil law and order, and in her world there is no need for laws and governments, but she knows that these things are an essential phase of mankind’s development. She will leave that to her brother, trusting him to create a kind of structure that will guide mankind to their own best interests. When Apollo has done sufficient work in elevating mankind to the place where they no longer need laws and governments, then those structures will fall away and Artemis’s “rule” will take over.)
Through the lens of High Artemis, the story of Actaeon is different. This is a story of an unprepared soul who dared to think he was spiritually and psychologically ready to gaze upon the splendor of the goddess. It’s the story of a man trying to enter the Holy Divine Presence, but not having purified his spirit enough yet. So what happens to the unworthy when they step too far into the temple of holy fire? They get burned. That’s why Artemis turned him into a stag and had his own hounds rip him apart.
High Artemis still prefers her own space, but she has learned to balance it with being around others. Now she can carry the wild stillness of the natural world with her, even if she ventures into her brother’s busy cities. She still prefers the natural world, though.
She now sees her spiritual signs everywhere, but they are not occasional cryptic indicators that she can only vaguely interpret as signs that she’s on the right path. For her, the signs and totems have become so common that they are just a given. They are all around her all the time, like another language she has learned—as though the animals, plants, and every other thing in her world is a language of her own personal hieroglyphs that she can decipher easily. This makes it simple for her to navigate the world in an easy, fluid manner, and to always achieve her goals.
This is another thing she has in common with her brother. High Apollo, the intellectual mystic, does not see coincidence in anything. Coincidence would amount to randomness and chaos, and this is something that the god of order and organization knows does not exist. So Apollo also sees the entire world as a language of symbols that is constantly communicating to him. Reading this “language” aloud basically amounts to prophecy in the eyes of those who have no idea that the language of symbols is even there in the first place. (Think of the way Sherlock Holmes can notice every detail of everything around him and immediately interpret it. For him, this is a very natural mental process. To others, it seems almost magical.)
By the way, if you like this article as it’s written, I suggest saving a copy to your hard drive or printing it. I may change or update it as things become more clear to me.
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