In our society today, being selfish is an extremely negative way to be. It is an insult, something that is totally frowned on. From very early on we are taught to share and take other people’s feelings into account when making a decision.
We are all selfish in some way, however. It really is in our nature to think of our own needs first. And that is as it should be. I am the center of my own Universe, just as you are the center of your own Universe. If I do not take care of my own needs first, I will not be able to give anything to anyone else. It is like the flight attendants say at the beginning of every flight – put your own oxygen mask on first before trying to help someone else with theirs. If you can’t breathe, you’re not going to be of use to anyone!
It is when that personal wants and desires are held to the exclusion of other people’s welfare that it becomes problematic. If I am always making decisions based on what I want without ever considering what my family wants, I am going to have a mutiny on my hands before long.
Artemis was definitely selfish. She asked her father for several very specific gifts at a young age, and received them. She knew exactly what she wanted and was committed to protecting her interests. And she definitely had the wherewithal to do so! She shot or cursed those who entered her realm without permission, or those who took advantage of her companions, or even those who insulted her mother.
But she also helped her mother deliver her twin brother. She rescued young women who were going to be sacrificed or married against their will. She protected the forests and wild places.
So the guidance I am receiving from Artemis right now is that it is ok to be selfish. I need to make sure that I take care of myself first. Protect my personal interests, and then protect the interests of those I care about. I can be a warrior for others, but only if I am a warrior for myself first.
And that is partly why this post is late this week. I was taking care of myself first. 🙂
I went to see The Hunger Games movie last night. I want to make it clear that I read the entire series over a year ago, long before I knew anything about the movie, or saw anything of their social media campaign (which was pretty impressive). It struck me even more strongly in seeing the movie than in reading the book, that Katniss bears some resemblance to Artemis.
Both are strong, independent female characters, and both are archers. Both Katniss and Artemis were skilled hunters, and not much interested in the opposite sex. Those are the obvious similarities. Are there others?
When Katniss attacks Peeta after their interviews for saying he had a crush on her, it reminds me of the myth of Artemis and Acteon. Acteon was hunting with his dogs, and he happened upon a pool where Artemis and her companions were bathing. Enchanted, he stayed and watched a while. When Artemis saw him spying on her, she cursed him by changing him into a stag and set his own dogs upon him. Katniss wasn’t quite that severe with Peeta; she is human after all.
The Greeks enjoyed athletics and competition. They created the Olympic games. The Hunger Games is less like the Olympics and more like a gladiatorial arena. We associate gladiators with Roman times, though some scholars think that the gladiators may have a Greek origin, though the Greeks would have used them on a much smaller and less grandiose scale than the Romans. So there is a possible link there.
Katniss is very loyal to those that she chooses as her companions – first her little sister, Primrose; then Rue, and finally Peeta. Artemis is loyal to her companions that she chooses – she often made those of her devotees that she loved her immortal companions. Artemis saved Iphegenia from her father’s sacrifice, similar to Katniss saving her sister from becoming a tribute.
In looking back, I am quite amazed at the similarities. I wonder how conscious a choice this was on Suzanne Collins’ part, and how much was the archetype of Artemis seeking a voice in the modern world.
For the last three weeks in a row, Sunday afternoon/early evening has been my time to go out and sit in nature. I have found a wonderful spot to sit and watch the pond, and not be visible from the path at all. I have yet to see someone else on this particular path when I am out there, though I see the evidence that other people, and animals, travel that way from time to time.
Last week we had an incredible storm. Winds were blowing over 100 km per hour, with gusts over 135 km per hour. (Hurricane force winds are 120 km per hour, to give you some perspective). Lots of trees were blown down throughout and around the city, and school was cancelled on Monday. Our power was out for 28 hours (hence, no post last week!). I was extremely grateful for our wood stove, let me tell you! Not only did it keep us warm, I cooked our dinner on it!
Yesterday was my first visit back to my “sit spot” since the storm. It was amazing to see the trees that had fallen, and the sheer number of pine boughs that littered the path was stunning. Others who had travelled this way before me had cut through some of the fallen trees that crossed the path, though there was still one I had to climb over.
I feel so clumsy and loud walking through the forest. Branches snap and brush against my coat, my boots clump along, and I sometimes I stumble to keep my balance. Once I finally make my way to my sit spot, however, I feel peaceful and silent.
I was looking forward to seeing what waterfowl would be on the pond today. The insects were flying and skimming the water, and the fish were jumping up to catch their dinner, but no birds were in sight. I heard an eagle, and a raven, and robins and other song birds, but they all hid from my eye. Instead, I challenged myself to pick out the changes the storm had wrought on this now familiar place.
Then I asked Artemis what she had to teach me today. She told me that it was all well and good to be comfortable just being in the woods. Followers of Artemis must also have a sense of adventure. “Explore!” she told me.
I’ve been wondering for a while what the view looked like from the other side of the pond, and how I would get there. After one more scan for any birds, I got up and made my way further up the stream that feeds the pond, repeating, “Explore!” over and over in my mind. I wasn’t so worried about what noise I made this time.
View from across the pond
I tried crossing over one fallen log, but it didn’t go all the way across. I continued up the stream, and came to another log that did cross the stream, with a small break in the middle. With my mantra to encourage me, I made it across the stream, and back to the far side of the pond. It was neat to confirm the fallen trees I had seen from the other side of the pond.
I knew that if I continued on to the East/north east, I would eventually come to the main path that we walk through the woods. So I set off in the general direction that I thought the path was in, making my way through the ferns, and undergrowth and fallen branches. I saw lots of deer scat, which I took as a good sign.
There was a lighter area ahead of me that I made for, thinking that was where the path would be. When I reached it, however, it was just a marshy area with fewer trees. I began to get a little discouraged. “Explore, she tells me! Whose idea was this anyway?” The eagle called over my head. I looked, and still could not see it. I hopped and jumped from high ground to high ground in the marshy wetland, and at one point picked up a branch to use as a walking stick and to help me vault across a larger area of water.
After a while, the eagle called again. I had been “lost” in the woods for over half an hour. I told the eagle to stop laughing at me. And then I stopped, took a breath, and said to it, “I know. You’re not laughing at me. You’re encouraging me.” I continued on, and very soon after I came to the path. The eagle called again, and I thanked it for its encouragement.
The wild didn’t entirely let me go unscathed. As I was climbing over the last fallen branch on my way to the path, I banged and scraped my knee. I have a small wound to remind me of my adventure!
I sometimes take longer than I expect, but I do keep my commitments. I finally made it out to sit in the woods!
I am so blessed to have a wooded area near my home with plenty of streams running through it. There is a wide path, perhaps an old logging road, that we often walk through. On Sunday, after a couple of very late nights, I decided to cancel my other plans, and go sit in the woods.
I decided to take an off-shoot path that I don’t often take. Going down the old road makes a nice circuit, I enter the woods in one part of my neighborhood, come out in another, and I can walk back through the streets to get home. It’s about a 30 minute walk at a leisurely pace. The off-shoots don’t necessarily make a loop like that. I have to retrace my steps to get back home, and I usually prefer to continue going forward, instead of turning back.
However, the main “road” is often used by recreational vehicles – dirt bikes and quads. I wanted something a little more secluded, more wild. Hence, the path less traveled.
Less traveled also means more obstacles. I live in a temperate rainforest climate, so there were lots of large puddles to circumnavigate. I was rewarded with quiet, and not far down the path, I could tell that it had been many days since vehicles or people had been through this way.
I tried to walk as quietly as I could, though the protective rain pants I was wearing made that a little challenging! Before long, I found the pond I remembered, and found a spot next to a huge tree stump to sit and listen to the water rushing through a natural dam. I noticed a few flying insects, and I could just pick out a bird chirping over the sound of the water.
I grounded and meditated for a while, and then I heard an unusual noise. I think it was a dog howling, quite a ways off in the distance. But my mind went into protection mode, and I started thinking about cougars. As much as I told myself I was safe, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched.
So I got up, and was about to start back down the path, when I felt called to go just a little deeper into the woods.
I carefully picked my way through the marshy ground, and as I came around a curve, I saw some waterfowl resting in the upper part of the pond. As quietly and as slowly as I could, I made my way closer and sat on the bank to watch them. As I was moving to sit, a pair of mallard ducks that I had not noticed lifted off from the pond and flew away.
I sat for at least a half hour watching the three other birds. (I looked them up in my bird book when I got home; I am pretty sure they were common mergansers.) There was a male, a female, and a smaller bird. The male and female were calmly floating on the surface. The male was preening every once in a while. The smaller bird kept diving under the surface. I’m not sure if it was the same kind of bird, but it reminded me of my children – in constant motion!
It was so peaceful sitting on the bank of the pond, listening to the rain falling gently on the water, and not DOING anything. I simply was. I didn’t have a book, or technology to distract me. And it was so pleasant!
Eventually, as the gray light began to fade, I slowly rose and made my way back. I was in absolutely no hurry, and so I noticed the robin who stopped and sang for me. As I came out of the woods back onto the street, I startled a buck and two does in someone’s yard. I froze, and watched the doe who had not bolted with the other two deer. She and I stood looking at each other for quite a while, before she made her way off into the edge of the forest. Even then, I saw the two does looking back and watching me. A blessing from Artemis.
My schedule is very full, and I don’t often make time to sit in the woods like I want. However, I am filled with the peace of nature, and I have that memory to recall whenever I am stressed by our technological world.
Since I began even thinking about walking with Artemis, I’ve been feeling the urge to go spend some time in nature. It is something that calms me and grounds me anyway, but this urge is for more than just a walk in the woods.
I had thought I might make some time to go sit in the woods near my home this past week. That was before my entire family took turns being sick with the flu – including me!
So I had to content myself with a memory of another time when I went and just sat in nature. I was taking Wes Gietz‘s Coyote Mentoring course. It was an evening in late spring, and Wes had brought us to one of his favorite “sit spots”.
After some practice fox walking and seeing with owl eyes, we spread out on the edge of a pond that a family of ducks frequented. I remember that it was dusk, early twilight as the sun was beginning to set. We carefully and quietly walked through the woods and found the pond. Slowly we spread out around the edge to sit, and just be.
For the first few minutes, it was pretty quiet, because even though we did our best to be slow and silent, the birds and animals all knew we were there, and none of the rest of us were quite as silent as Wes!
Then, as we sat still, the world around us began to wake up once more. I noticed insects crawling in the grass, and buzzing about over my head. A sapsucker flew low over my head several times, going from tree to tree in a triangle around me looking for its evening meal.
My most anxious moment was when I heard something coming towards me in the undergrowth. I turned my head in its direction ever so slowly, to appear as if I was not moving at all. I scanned the grass around me, trying to figure out what it was, without alerting it to my presence.
It was small, completely hidden by the grass and plants. I watched, and waited, a little nervous, but also enjoying the anticipation and wonder of the moment. It was coming directly at me, whatever this small creature was. Finally, I saw a small vole appear near me. It kept on, either unaware or accepting my presence as no threat. My feet were flat on the ground in front of me, and my arms were around my bent knees. It went directly under my upraised knees, and then disappeared.
I must have been sitting right above its hole, though thankfully not directly on top of it! I can still feel the awe of that moment, when I was able to observe the natural world around me without disrupting it by my presence.
That is the call I am feeling – to go and sit in nature, to observe and just to be, without any other purpose than the observation and the experience. I will be on the lookout for an opportunity in my schedule to find my own “sit spot” this week!
Thank you so much to everyone who voted in the poll a couple of weeks ago. I value your input, and it confirmed what I was feeling. The next Goddess I will be walking with is Artemis.
Artemis is the Greek goddess of the hunt, wild animals and fertility; daughter to Zeus and sister of Apollo (the sun god). Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some say she was one of the most venerated goddesses of the Greek pantheon.
I find it interesting that Artemis became a goddess of fertility, since she was a virgin goddess. It was said that as a young girl of only three years old, she sat on her father’s knee and asked to be granted these wishes:
to remain forever a virgin
to have many names to make her distinct from her brother
to have a bow and arrows fashioned by Cyclops (a renowned smith)
to be “Pheasphoria” – bringer of light
to wear a tunic reaching only to her knee that she may hunt great beasts
60 daughters of Okeanos for her choir, all nine years old and chaste
20 Nymphai Amnisides to be her handmaidens and tend her hounds, also chaste
all mountains as her realm
Her connection with childbirth comes from the legend of her own birth. Artemis was said to have been born before her brother, and then immediately became midwife to her mother for her brother’s birth. According to Callimachus, a Greek poet from the 3rd century BC, Artemis declared that the moment she was born, the Fates declared that she would be their helper for women in childbirth, so that they might deliver without pain, just as Leto gave birth to Artemis without pain.
This seeming paradox of a virgin goddess who really seemed to dislike men (I’ll tell you of her one reported romance another time) being the goddess women called on in childbirth perplexes me. As a woman who has given birth three times, I think that someone who has actually given birth might be a better goddess to call upon for assistance. I’m going to have to do some more research and meditate on that one for a while to see what insights I can find there. If you have any ideas, please post them in the comments below!
PS. While searching for images, I came across an article that called Sarah Palin an “American Artemis”. *shudder* 🙂