Artemis Orthia – The Inescapable Indo-European Goddess Of Cosmic Law ‘Midst The Mediterranean : Part One – ‘Calling To Order’


Every so often, I am delighted to find that my work has become predictive in its accuracy. That the reconstructive efforts which we engage in are not merely idle conjecture of ‘fitting together’ elements within the confines of my mind – but the subtle perceptions of actually-extant archaic Indo-European religiosity and myth. In ways that I could not possibly have countenanced when I first set out the elaborate(d upon) typologies in question.

So it is with the figure of Artemis Orthia , otherwise known as Reitia – a lesser-known, although vitally important pair of deific expressions found amidst the Greeks (and in specia, the Spartans – at least most prominently; the cult had occurrence elsewhere in the Mediterranean), and amidst the Alpine and Venetian Indo-European sphere respectively.

These figures, these theonymics, are intimately correlated with communication – the former identified by some scholars as effectively meaning “The Wordy” (although I, predictably, have a somewhat … broader view of proceedings), and the latter as ‘Writer’ (indeed, it is suggested that ‘Writer’ would be from the same root as Reitia – although there is, perhaps, another possibility around ‘The Highland’, ‘The Mountainous’ … which would *also* track, and as per usual, prospectively be a case of ‘both rather than either’ in the relevant mythic assumption. More on that in a moment.).

Now as I have previously devoted many an (A)Arti-cle to, in the Vedic sphere we know this Goddess quite well – Vak Devi. The Goddess of Speech [Vak, as you can probably imagine, is similar to ‘Voice’, ‘Vox’ and from the same ultimate root]. This Goddess is regarded as being the in-universe expression of Rta (Divine Order, Cosmic Order; especially as The Absolute, a-priori to the universe and in some ways external thereto – c.f Nordic ‘Orlog’, ‘Supernal Law’), and quite literally foundational to All. We live in a world of Words, after (which is) all. And, importantly, this Goddess *also* bestows upon certain favoured beings the significant empowerments which are Hers to command – the Furor Poeticus to the Rsi, the Brahmin (per RV X 125 5), and also the martial empowerment of Rage to the Defender of the Faith (per both this line aforementioned as well as the next line of the DeviSukta – and it is intriguing to note that the same word, ‘Ugra’, can implicitly encompass both. Again, more upon *that* in a moment).

This tracks rather strongly with the cognate expressions of the figure in other Indo-European mythologies – we have already looked at Athena and Frejya in this regard; with the bestowal of the Menos potency to Diomedes and Achilles being a fantastic example of such conceptry, especially as it comes from the Goddess so iconic in the Western World as the patron of learning and intellect; and the strong association of Freyja with Odr being literally eponymous for Her Husband, even afore we consider the Ynglinga Saga citations for Freyja teaching the potencies of Magic to the people of Asaland. That ‘Husband’ citation for Freyja is interesting to us further – as it closely mirrors the situation recounted in the Vedas for the relationship of Vak Devi to Her Chosen … the favoured Man in question being hailed as the one ‘Loved’ (‘Kama’) by Her, and in RV 71 4, explicitly being spoken of in terms of being Her Husband (to Whom She reveals Herself and Her Beauty more fully, to paraphrase slightly in translation).

A most vitally important Goddess, indeed!

So how does all of this pertain to the two lesser-known deific expressions under discussion, Artemis Orthia and Reitia?

Well, as applies Reitia, the saliency should be fairly self-explanatory. Writing is communication – indeed, in the period in question, it was an especially supernatural form of communication, elsewise known to more northerly climes and peoples as Runes. Runes are not simply letters in the modern, conventional sense – but represent graven ‘patterns’ within reality, hence their metaphysical potency and potentia. A similar conceptry to how the ‘Empowered Speech’, the ‘Refined Speech’, the ‘Perfected Speech’ [‘Sanskrit’ in its literal meaning] of Devi Vak works for the Brahmin – or, for that matter, how the ‘Magical Songs’ taught by Freyja would have worked likewise in the Nordic understanding. In terms of Prayer, especially, these are expressive forms via which Order may be re-immanentized out into the Cosmos. 

This also links well with another prominent Indo-European goddess-form which we have previously closely identified with Vak – that of Hekate. A full discussion of the understanding of this figure amidst the Classical milieu (and archaic Anatolian IE origins speculated for Same) is rather beyond the scope of this piece – but suffice to say that this is a figure , an indelibly *regal* figure , closely linked to the celestial sphere and with the magical potency … and, via the Diva Triformis (and also via ‘Trivia’) with Diana / Artemis. (Indeed, the Greek ‘folk-etymology’ for ‘Hecate’ was to render this ‘Far-Working’ or ‘Far-Shooting’; with the Ἑκᾰ́- element informing both the Greek understanding of Ἑκᾰ́τη (‘Ekate’), but also the ἕκατος of Apollo, and an array of other functional epithets/theonymics; effectively positing Apollo and Artemis as male and female equivalents in these regards. Scholarly opinion remains divided as to the accuracy of these for the Anatolian Hekate, however, and thusly the extent to which either Artemis was a development of Hekate (or vice versa), or to which two deifics had become conflated via this and other such potential linkages)

The underlying typology is quite simple – which should not be confused for ‘simplistic’. The Goddess is incarnate Cosmic Order, and bestows the empowerment *of* Cosmic Order and the connectivity to same – including via that most direct of enshrinements of the Law even today, the Letter (and, for that matter, the Spirit) of the Law. This is thusly expressed not only via Her Own (direct) Word of Goddess pronouncements (as RV X 125 is held to be – the Goddess, literally In Her Own Words, in multiple senses of  that phrasing) – but also via the sacred, often downright secret formulae which She guides the sage and poet / pundit to thusly unlock and make use of accordingly.

This fits quite logically with the close associations of Artemis – and specifically Artemis Orthia – with the signifers *for* just such a concept as Cosmic Order, in the Indo-European world view. We find the Goddess in general terms linked to the Mountain (‘Coryphaea’, etc.) – we find sustained supposition around the Goddess in specia being close to the Tree. What is the Axis Mundi in Indo-European terms? Well, where it is not being hailed as a Chariot Axle, as in the archaic Vedic conceptual syllabry – it is the World Mountain, the World Tree. And we similarly find a remarkably consistent pattern of both direct and figurative coterminity *for* the Goddess *as* the Mountain (e.g. ‘Parvati’ – ‘Mountain (Female)’) and as the Tree, likewise – something attested in Vedic, Eddic, and numerous other IE spheres besides. Perhaps this conceptual association also explicates the linkage of the Scandinavian Skadi – Herself depicted as an Enforcer of the Cosmic Order, viz Her Serpentine sanctioning of Loki – with the Mountains, as Her Home, likewise.

We may therefore situate Artemis as an expression of what I have earlier termed the ‘Mountain Queen’ Indo-European Goddess typology/deific – similar occurrences of Whom, again strongly correlated with Cosmic Order, we find in the figures of Parvati and the also-Anatolian Cybele (connected with the supernal order especially in Her Roman understanding by Lucretius in his De Rerum Natura). The fact of Artemis being more usually thought of as a ‘Huntress’ – should similarly strengthen the Order understanding to Her. For while it is often thought that figures located upon the fringes of society, or in the wilderness, are an antithetical sphere to Order – in truth, as we have repeatedly demonstrated, art not so. The Goddess appearing as a Huntress can be thought of in the same way that we consider the other expressions of the Black Avenging Form typology – the ultimate ‘enforcement clause’ to Cosmic Order, engaged in the hunting not merely of ordinary game but of the ‘most dangerous prey’ : the evildoer, the maleficent, the would-be violator of the Order of the Cosmos.

We see this with, for instance, the occurrence of the Brahmahatya Sin – Bhairava is pursued by this dread female personification Who arises out of the Earth; and even Terror Himself Incarnate flees before Her. A dogged pursuit which goes on all the way to His Atonement at the Holy City of Varanasi. This Brahmahatya expression / enforcer, we also find spoken of as Kali, KaalRatri, in the course of the Mahabharat; and we can additionally link the aforementioned Nordic Skaði and Hellenic Demeter Erinyes, Nemesis, etc. to this complex. And to speak of Nemesis, it is surely utterly uncoincidental that we find “Adrasteia” (‘The Inescapable’) as an epithet for both Nemesis and Cybele, as well as Rhea. We also find this ‘Adrasteia’ theonym and associated conceptry associated with Bendis – the Thracian deific identified as ‘Artemis Basileis’ (‘Artemis the Royal’) by the Greeks, and intriguingly also potentially linked to Themis (‘That Which Is Placed’, directly referring to the concept of Divine Law, Herself). It would be tempting to expand this typology out further by considering the role of Adrasteia the (Ash-)Nymph as among the Stars in reference to Ursa Major, particularly given the likely original application of Callisto as an Artemisian theonym (Artemis still being worshipped as Calliste in the Hellenic sphere even in Pausanias’ time) – however, except to note a supposition on my part around this constellation representing a figure associated with the maintenance, support, and nurturing of Cosmic Order’s immanency and saliency here in this universe of ours (hence why this same set of stars is the SaptaRishis – the Seven Seers / most archaic and grandest Priests of the Vedic Age (and yet also, the Rksa – the Bear) – amidst the Hindusphere; Who must therefore assumedly have engaged in milk-and-honey libations to the Axis Mundi as Sthambha (or, in modern understanding, the ShivLing) correlate with the Sky Father … just as we see these (Ash-)Nymphs nurturing the young Zeus), this should likely remain ‘another story for another time’. [And, in fact, I covered this somewhat extensively in my recent ‘Arktos, Ursa, Rksa SaptaRsi – The Seven Bear-Seers Amidst The Stars And The Foundational Act Of Piety Of The Maidens Of Milk And Fate’]

This notion of Artemis as a Striker Down of those who would seek to violate the Divine Law finds reasonably direct vocalization in Callimachus’ Third Hymnal to Her :

“Artemis, Lady of Maidenhood, Slayer of Tityus, golden were thine arms and golden thy belt, and a golden car didst thou yoke, and golden bridles, goddess, didst thou put on thy deer. And where first did thy horned team begin to carry thee? To Thracian Haemus, whence comes the hurricane of Boreas bringing evil breath of frost to cloakless men. And where didst thou cut the pine and from what flame didst thou kindle it? It was on Mysian Olympus, and thou didst put in tit the breath of flame unquenchable, which thy Father’s bolts distil. And how often goddess, didst thou make trial of thy silver bow? First at an elm, and next at an oak didst thou shoot, and third again at a wild beast. But the fourth time – not long was it ere thou didst shoot at the city of unjust me, those who to one another and those who towards strangers wrought many deeds of sin, forward men, on whom thou wilt impress thy grievous wrath. On their cattle plague feeds, on their tilth feeds frost, and the old men cut their hair in mourning over their sons, and their wives either are smitten or die in childbirth, or, if they escape, bear birds whereof none stands on upright ankle. But on whomsoever thou lookest smiling and gracious, for them the tilth bears the corn-ear abundantly, and abundantly prospers the four-footed breed, and abundant waxes their prosperity: neither do they go to the tomb, save when they carry thither the aged. Nor does faction wound their race – faction which ravages even the well-established houses: but brother’s wife and husband’s sister set their chairs around one board.”

There are multiple points of quite direct and salient resonancy here for our understanding of the Goddess in a comparative Indo-European situation – elements which directly connect to Devi Vak of the Vedas, the Thunderous In-Universe Vocalization of Cosmic Order in our Hindu theology as given particularly in RV X 125 (the famed DeviSukta which I seem to invoke in just about every other (A)Arti-cle of mine!) (and speaking of ‘Thunderous-Voice’ – consider Artemis Κελαδεινος / Κελαδεινη, meaning effectively that). We find this not only in the Wind expression for just such a Devi (and it is worth noting that Haemus is referred to in the aforementioned Greek hymnal precisely because he had been condemned to a divine punishment for the sin of impious declaration), but also via the Fire of Piety – that most “unquenchable” of flames at the heart of the community and of the world, the universe entire. That which renders the Sky Father’s Weapon as mighty as it is – as it is imbued with the very substance of Cosmic Law Itself (or, we should likely say – Herself); an understanding paralleled by the presentation by Aeschylus of Athena as unlocking Zeus’ Thunderbolt, and for that matter the Vedic conceptual saliency for Saraswati Vak doing exactly this for the Vajra weapon (also wielded by Rudra, it must be remembered) and as aforementioned the Bow of Rudra, per the DeviSukta. The Bow being the innate Weapon of Cosmic Order is (along with the (Three-)Spear), something similarly Vedicalliy Attested – the Bowstring of Brihaspati is said to be Rta (Cosmic Order) Itself, for instance; and the specific task for the Bow of Rudra in RV X 125 is to smite down with great vengeance and fuuurious ugra against the “Hater of Devotion”. 

That notion of ‘Ugra’ we can also potentially see in a perception of Artemis Herself – “Θυιάδα, φοιβάδα, μαινάδα, λυσσάδα”, per the words of Timotheus (‘Mantic, Frantic,  Bacchic, Fanatic’); and likewise, the Furor of the Goddess in (frequently bow-armed) Black Avenger Form is most directly salient here. Qualities the Goddess may Bestow, and Qualities which the Goddess Herself is hailed as having, are frequently foundationally coterminous. 

Further points of concordancy with Vak Devi of immediate interest to us are to be found amidst Artemis’ theonymics and cultic epithets. Consider, for instance, ‘Hymnia’, ‘Hiereia’, or ‘Pyronia’. What do these terms mean? ‘Of the Hymns’, ‘Priestess’, and ‘Of the Fire’ (with the latter being particularly applied to Artemis in relation to ritual fires drawn therefrom). What is Vak Devi? The Goddess irreducibly connected to the Hymns, the Goddess acting as the supreme presider over acts of a priestly purview, and yes, also to be found within the Sacred Flame, indeed the essential element to *render* the Flame Sacred in the first instance. And, speaking of which, we also have Artemis hailed as ἁγνός – ‘Hagnos’ – a term quite directly cognate with our Vedic ‘Yajna’. That last term is also utilized in the Odyssey not only to refer to Artemis but to Persephone (albeit favouring Artemis to Persephone in terms of frequency of occurrence), and turns up amidst the Homeric Hymns to refer to both Demeter and Persephone likewise. This presents no obstacle, due to my well-remarked upon observance that what are multiple Greek deifics in the later Classical realm, are in truth a rather smaller number of underlying (Proto-)Indo-European Ones – and I have already parsed the situation of Demeter (particularly Demeter Erinyes) and Persephone in relation to Poseidon and Hades, relative to an archaic Myth of the Sky Father in pursuit of the Mother Goddess, elsewhere in the span of my work; as well as the Classically observed coterminity of Artemis and Persephone. The co-identification of Artemis with Demeter *and* the Kore that is the Daughter of Demeter was likewise well-known in antiquity. It is interesting, however, to note that as applies this ‘Hagnos’, its interpretation for Artemis has tended to focus upon the ‘Chaste’ and ‘Pure’ potential applications of its semantic field, and substantively overlook the rather more obvious ‘Sacred’, ‘Hallowed’, ‘Sacral’, ‘Worship’, and indeed ‘PurifyING’ understandings also intimately connected to this term. And yet, as we can see with relation to ‘Pyronia’, ‘Hymnia’, ‘Hiereia’, it is quite clear that the Sacral sense is of significant saliency here. People appear to see a virginal figure as the ‘acceptable’ understanding of a term incorporating ‘Purity’ in its potential ambit – they miss that what renders a figure ‘pure’ is in fact coterminity, co-expressiveness, of the Cosmic Order Itself. 

And in terms of being directly identified with the Law, Herself – in human political terms, we should perhaps expect to see a ‘Ruler’ epithet. ‘Rule’ and ‘Ruler’ as the active expresser and immanentizer of same. This is certainly something encountered with Artemis – Ποτνα Θεα (‘Potna Thea’ – ‘Divine Queen’), the Βασιλεις (‘Basileis’ – ‘Royal’) much earlier aforementioned in this piece, Πρωτοθρονιη (‘Protothronia’ – ‘Of The First Throne’), Ἡγεμονη (‘Hegemone’ – which means much what you suspect it does), Δέσποινα (‘Despoina’ – the female counterpart to ‘Despot’, often translated as ‘Mistress’) and quite an array of others besides. Of particular interest for us, perhaps, are the rather more obscure terms (at least, in application to Artemis) like κοσμοκράτωρ (‘Kosmokrator’ – Ruler of the Cosmos) and βασιληΐ- δι κόσμου (again, ‘Ruler/Empress of the Cosmos’), the latter of which is attested via a Lydian inscription. ‘Kosmos’, in the Greek sense, is perhaps best translated as ‘Regime’, in the sense of an area under Rule, under Law – indeed, it literally means “Order”, “Government”, as well as ‘Universe’, and comes from PIE ‘Kens’ – ‘Declare’, ‘to Order’ (as in, ‘place in order’, but also assumedly to issue an Order). As it pertains to the relevant IE comparanda, ‘Queen of the Gods’, ‘Metri Theon’ another descriptor linked to Artemis is also directly relevant here. 

Now, various of these Regal epithets are shared with other Classical deific figures. Despoina, for example, is also applied to Persephone; however perhaps more intriguingly, is likewise affixed to the female companion deific to Wanax (‘(War) Leader’), King of the Gods in the Mycenaean Greek reckoning. Kosmokrator, we more usually find in the persona of Zeus. ‘Mother of the Gods’, we see as Cybele and others. Hegemone, is also encountered as a Grace, and a figure presiding over Autumn and growing plants (which has intriguing accordances with a particular Vedic figure we shall be meeting in due course). It is a ‘problem’ which is not a problem – provided, of course, that one takes the somewhat nebulous view of co-identifications giving good guidance as to the underlying unified essence of the deific; as was most definitely an archaic Classical point of view. 

My reason for running through several of these terms pertaining to ‘rulership’ and ‘queenly’ characterism is due to how well these accord with the traits of another Vedic deific expression: Aditi, ‘The Limitless’, Herself the same Goddess as Vak Saraswati, and again directly coterminous with Cosmic Order and occupying a role as Queen of the Cosmos. Aditi is a Solar deific par excellence in various ways, and it should therefore come as little surprise that we can likewise find Solar-readable regardings for Artemis – as Φωσφορος [‘Phosphorous’], for instance, an epithet held in common with Hekate, Herself archaically an Anatolian Sun Goddess, coterminous with Artemis, and most strongly linked to Aditi in various ways I have parsed in my other work. Artemis as Χρυσοθρονος (‘Khrysothronos’ – ‘Of the Golden Throne’) is also most definitely relevant here, and recall my earlier work linking the Golden Throne of Odin [‘Hlidskjalf’] to the (All-Seeing) Sun in this light. Other ‘Golden’ terminology pertaining to Artemis should potentially also be considered – although as applies Χρυσαλακατος (‘Khrysalakatos’ – ‘[Armed] With Golden Shafts’) and Χρυσάωρ (‘Golden-Armed’ / ‘[Armed with] Golden Sword’), other interpretations are most definitely possible (including in connection to Lighting-arrows such as those of Rudra which are similarly described; and either the output of a Soma rite (which may also pertain to the ‘Golden’ related epithet of Saraswati), or the Gold of growing ‘blades’ or ‘shafts’ of vegetation (as seen with Demeter’s similar epithet), or both). Certainly, it cannot be coincidental that we find PIE ‘Herkw’ to mean *both* ‘To Shine’ and ‘To Sing’, producing various Vedic terms for the pious vocal expression infused with such radiant energy, itself. 

One thought on “Artemis Orthia – The Inescapable Indo-European Goddess Of Cosmic Law ‘Midst The Mediterranean : Part One – ‘Calling To Order’

  1. Pingback: Artemis Orthia – The Inescapable Indo-European Goddess Of Cosmic Law ‘Midst The Mediterranean : Part One – ‘Calling To Order’ – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

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