Artemis Orthia – The Inescapable Indo-European Goddess Of Cosmic Law ‘Midst The Mediterranean : Part Two – Tracking the Skeins of Fate Via The Golden Bowstring

A particularly intriguing resonance is pointed via Artemis’ Χρυσηλακατος (‘Khryselakatos’ – ‘of the Golden Distaff’), for whilst we are not accustomed in the mythology to perceiving Artemis as engaged in such a ‘housewife’ and literally ‘economic’ role … this is not exactly what is meant via the term in specific application to Her. The notion of a ‘Golden’ weaving is well-known to us through various Indo-European comparanda. We might link it to the ‘fire-thread’ of the Upanishads with which the world is congealed, or for that matter the ‘Glittering Net’ of causality referred to as ‘Indra’s Net” or “Indra’s Web”, draped down from the Axis Mundi out across the Cosmos. However, it is better remembered by many in the dually resonant Greek and Germanic spheres – wherein the Fates and the Norns utilize just such ‘golden thread’ when weaving the fates which bind … which render ‘orderly’, we may suggest. A Hindu might term these ‘fates’ to be the ‘dharma’ of the individuals involved, although the parallel is not a precise one, and ‘karma’ is also relevant. 

To quote from the Völsungakviða (otherwise known as ‘Helgakviða Hundingsbana I’ – ‘The First Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane’):

“Sneru þær af afli örlögþáttu, þá er borgir braut í Bráluni;
þær of greiddu gullin símu ok und mánasal miðjan festu.”

Or, translated (by Bellows): 

“3. Mightily wove they | the web of fate,
While Bralund’s towns | were trembling all;
And there the golden | threads they wove,
And in the moon’s hall | fast they made them.” 

Now of interest to us here is not merely that golden threads are being woven, evidently in the Sky [‘Moon’s Hall’] – but that what is being woven is described as ‘Orlog’. Orlog, as long-term readers of ours shall no doubt know, effectively means ‘Supernal Law’ (in fact, that is a rather direct translation), ‘Cosmic Order’, and is cognate as a concept with Vedic Rta, etc. ‘Thattu’, meanwhile, I would suspect to be a formulation of Old Norse þáttr – a remarkable term which at once means a ‘thread’, but also came to mean a ‘story’ (or, rather, a phase of one unless it was a short story – in modern Icelandic, its direct descendant, þáttur, also can mean an ‘act’ of a play, etc.). An excellent expression for what is being measured out here – the course of a man’s life! This notion of an ‘act’ of a ‘play’ is incredibly salient both for the underlying Indo-European deific complex we are dealing with, as well as to Artemis in particular, but we shall come back to that at a later point. 

For now, it is enough to note that what is being spun out, via this ‘golden thread’ is intimately connected to Orlog. Why? Because as it happens, the Norns are not the only Nordic figures with an irreducible connexion to both Orlog and golden-thread-spinning. 

In the Lokasena, we find these interesting remarks from Freyja – 

“Freyja kvað:

  1. “Ærr ertu, Loki, er þú yðra telr
    ljóta leiðstafi;
    örlög Frigg, hygg ek, at öll viti,
    þótt hon sjalfgi segi.”

Or, in translation (again, Bellows): 

“Freyja spake:

  1. “Mad art thou, Loki, | that known thou makest
    The wrong and shame thou hast wrought;
    The fate of all | does Frigg know well,
    Though herself she says it not.”

Again, Orlog has been translated – not inaccurately, but most definitely incompletely – as ‘Fate’. And as for why we can tell this has some connexion to a golden thread … well, iconographic depictions of Freyja (the same deific as Frigg, even though here presented as speaking .. well, not so much ‘in the third person’ as about another) frequently feature a spinning-wheel, and we likewise have the otherwise curious attestation for the constellation of Orion (particularly the Belt thereof – that is to say, a ‘thread’) as being Frigg’s Distaff. There are a few theories as to how this labelling might have occurred, with one in particular suggesting it has to do with the ‘wheeling’ of these Stars around the Pole. I suspect there’s definitely something to that, see my earlier ‘Arktos, Ursa, Rksa SaptaRsi – The Seven Bear-Seers Amidst The Stars And The Foundational Act Of Piety Of The Maidens Of Milk And Fate’ for additional details concerning how certain relevant constellations (most prominently, Arktos – the Bear, and quite closely connected to Artemis) and figures are, indeed, regarded as ‘the turners’ (indeed, this is effectively where ‘Wyrd’ and ‘Urdr’ actually come from in PIE terms – PIE ‘Wert’, meaning ‘Turn’). 

In effect, I am suggesting that there is a bit of a ‘double-up’ between the role of the Norns here and that of Freyja / Frigg – which may, perhaps, mirror what we find in the Greek perspective, wherein there was a movement from a single Moira (as found in Homer) to multiple Moirai as time went on; with the latter coming to be regarded as Daughters of Nyx or Themis. Themis, of course, being Herself a Goddess of Law (‘That Which Is Placed’ – the same root as ‘Theos’, as it happens) this makes eminently logical sense. Given the apparent possession by the Moirai of a ‘golden chariot’ which They utilized to convey Themis from the far reaches of the Oceanus to Olympus (that is to say, the Axis Mundi – the Center of the World(s)), it would be tempting to likewise ponder whether the Artemisian epithet of Χρυσηνιος (‘Khrysenios’ – ‘Of the Golden Reins’) is similarly connected. Perhaps those ‘Golden Reins’ are, in fact, ‘Golden Threads’, and the creatures that are thusly steered and reined in … rather than horses (or, for that matter, the two Dragons drawing Artemis’ chariot in some representations – a feature also common to Demeter), are man

Essentially, directly proximate to the Axis Mundi (itself a salient of Cosmic Law in and through our universe, as I have detailed extensively elsewhere – a ‘Spoke in the Wheel’, spinning, chariot, or otherwise), we find both an array of female ‘attendant’ figures – such as the Norns, or the Ash-Nymphs … but we also find this aforementioned Great Goddess held to be directly correlate in certain senses with same – and evidently, in much the similar manner to how we can have both the Erinyes and Demeter Erinyes, Nemesis, and Nyx, as well as Persephone as ‘Mother’, ‘Leader’, ‘Archetypal / Exemplar / Highest Expression of the typology thereof’, ‘Commandant’, and so forth. Or, I suppose, Artemis as the Huntress, accompanied by quite the retinue of other huntress maids. 

Now that retinue is of additional interest to us for a number of reasons. In the Hindu understanding we find the Great Goddess Durga accompanied by female retinues of warlike hilltribes and mountain huntress sorts [c.f Shiva & Devi appearing as Kirata & Kirati – ‘Barbaric’ Hunter & Huntress form]; intriguingly, in the Mahishasura Mardini Stotram [‘Hymn of the Buffalo-Demon Vanquisher’], one of these is also described as having some figurative resonancy with the buzzing of bees – of interest for us due to the ‘Honey’ conceptry found with the aforementioned Ash-Nymphs [‘Meli’, as in ‘Honey’, informs ‘Melissa’, as in ‘Bee’ in Ancient Greek; and overlaps substantively with Meliae, the Ash-Nymphs]. We have already explored elsewhere just why we might find Honey-associated female figures in connexion with the Axis Mundi, and so shall not repeat that analysis here. 

In any case, it is another direction for the retinue’s importance which draws our attention here. 

Artemis is described as Ἡγεμονη – Hegemone – a term which, unsurprisingly, translates as “Leader”. However, ‘Leader’ of what? In some senses, it is a Queenly title that we should expect – ‘Master’, perhaps, might be a fitting rendition. But ‘Hegemone’ also has a rather more specific application as applies Artemis, and of direct saliency for Artemis Orthia. That is to say, the ‘Leader of the Dance’, the ‘Leader of the Chorus’, and other terms of this nature. I would suggest that ‘Dance’ is here most relevant in its broader sense – familiar to us in Sanskrit in ‘Nata’ ( नाट ), a term which at once means both ‘Dance’ and ‘Act’, just as the shorter ‘a’ sound ‘Nata’ (नट) refers to both an Actor and a Dancer. Because, of course, in the ancient world the performance of drama and dance was intimately acquainted – indeed, drama was sung, and dance was another mechanism of ritualized communication occurrent as part of this (I would be tempted to make a note of bees, too, communicating via their dance – but that is just idle musing upon my part). So, we find Devi Durga hailed in just such terms alongside Her Husband, Lord Shiva. Shiva is ‘Nataraja’ – the Lord of the Dance, a Lord of Drama; Devi, meanwhile, well .. let us quote from the Mahishasura Mardini Stotram directly:

“नटित नटार्ध नटी नट नायक नाटितनाट्य सुगानरते”
“Nattita Nattaardha Nattii Natta Naayaka Naattita-Naattya Su-Gaana-Rate”

Or, in a language more familiar to most of us – 

“[She] Acts As Half Of The Actor/Dancer – Actress & Actor As Protagonist Of The [Cosmic] Play, Delighting In The Beautiful Song/Dance/Performance”. 

There are additional layers of saliency to this, of course – and it is worth noting that the proper understanding for Devi in this context is not just as the ‘lead character’ within the universe understood as an unfurling ‘cosmic drama’ … but also as its lead director, scriptwriter, and producer. The director, in quite a direct sense, via those aforementioned skeins of Fate / Orlog which we have previously encountered. She writes the Script [‘Reitia’, indeed], She directs the various players within this dramatic context, She generates the set and many other elements entailed therein. 

And as applies Artemis Orthia specifically, it should therefore come as little surprise to find that we do, indeed, have a prominent ‘dramatic’ association to call upon. The archaeology pertaining to the cultic site of Artemis Orthia at Orthia itself amongst the Spartans, has unearthed quite the trove of terracotta masks, of a span of ages and several distinct typologies. It has been pointed out that with drama considered a ‘high art’ indelibly linked with the Hellenic concept of ‘civilization’, this is rather curious for a Goddess ostensibly of the Wilderness and the ‘barbaric’ fringes – although it has also been observed that as applies Dionysus, we see that being a God associated with both spheres is eminently possible. I would go further – given what we see with regard to Lord Shiva and Devi in the Hindusphere, it would seem almost a requirement that one be both if one is to be, in earnest, either. Perhaps the dramatic performer, too, channels wild and barely-tamed forces from the hinterlands of the human psyche as well as the cosmos – certainly this fits with the broader typology we have observed elsewhere around the ‘seizing’ [German: Ergreifen] of a holy-man by a divine force [c.f Latin ‘Vates’ for a Seer from PIE ‘Weht’ – the same root as ‘Odr’ / ‘Odin’]. 

This brings us handily to the potential understandings for this theonymic epithet of ‘Orthia’. It is conventionally linked to the geographical feature bearing such a toponym – however, I’m not sure that that’s quite right. It is not inaccurate – only, as per usual, ‘incomplete’. Especially when viewed also in light of the other major component of ‘Artemis Orthia’ – that is to say, the name of Artemis Herself. 

The two potential roots at hand are Proto-Indo-European h₃er and h₂er; the former of which, ‘H3er’, effectively pertaining to ‘stirring up’, ‘fury’, ‘fight’ – and is a plausible root for Ancient Greek ‘Erinyes’. The notion of the relevant Goddess as an imparter of Furor (whether Poeticus or Teutonicus – that is to say, poetic inspiration of the seer, or berserk fury – and in Sanskrit, these may be represented via the same word .. Ugra) is well-known elsewhere in the Indo-European sphere – via Vak Saraswati in the DeviSukta [RV X 125 5 – wherein this Ugra potency is given to the Poet/Seer and Brahminical Priest … very ‘Wordy’, we might suggest, indeed!], via the situation of Freyja and Odr [likewise, with Freyja in the Ynglinga Saga regarded as bestowing the magical arts executed via language to the people of Asa-land], and also as it happens via Athena’s imparting of the Menos to Diomedes et co in the Iliad. See my earlier ‘Furor Teutonicus And Furor Poeticus – The Furious Goddess-Given Power Of Both Barbarian And Brahmin Alike’ for more upon this. 

The notion of Artemis Orthia having as Her linguistic root, this term which also informs not only the functional aptitude of the bestower of Furor but also the Erinyes [as in – not only the Erinyes, but Demeter Erinyes – and thence, the broader ‘Black Avenging form of the Mother Goddess’ as ‘ultimate enforcement clause for Cosmic Law] certainly fits well. And we additionally have various occurrences within the mythology wherein Artemis is said to whip up into a frenzy either Herself, or other creatures as necessary to uphold Her sacred Aims. This would place in an interesting light the potential mythic coterminity of Artemis’ slaying of Orion with Kali (Herself an expression of this Black Avenging Form typology, and an embodiment of Fury) in a berserk rage killing Her Husband, Lord Shiva. [See the relevant section of my earlier ‘The Transcendent Indo-European Typology Of The God Of Masks – The Sky Father Dances On [ On The Indo-European ‘Interpretatio’ Of Dionysus Part Dieux ]’]

That PIE H3er can also refer to a being ‘in motion’ – furious motion, we might say, which makes abounding sense for the Furor quality, the Weht quality and its well-known co-occurrence with the Wind-Wanderer and Hunter understandings for Her Husband. However, it may also underpin the Ancient Greek ὄρος (‘Oros’), as in ‘Mountain’. Artemis is frequently associated with the Mountains, and as we have seen, Orthia in particular pertains to just such a toponymic feature. It attains this sense via the ‘raise up’ understanding of ‘H3er’ – and thence refers to a ‘Highland’, something figuratively ‘raised up’. In the Hindu understanding, we find the High Peaks as the Realm of the Gods – and there is a metaphoric congealment around ‘ascending the mountain’ when one is proceeding in the direction of The Absolute, Brahman [c.f Devi as Brahmacharini doing just exactly this in the course of the NavRatri mythic processional] – given the potential ambit of H2er in relation to Artemis, and another frequently encountered etymological suggestion for ‘Artemis’ which we shall be meeting momentarily, this might prove most intriguing. Cosmic Law, given Rta is Brahman, is the Highest Place, indeed. And, per the well-renowned theology of Sayana – Devi is the in-universe expressive-emanation of exactly this. A Goddess of the Uppland come down into this universe of ours as Her cosmic arena (or, if you prefer, dramateurgical ‘stage’). 

PIE H2er, meanwhile, means ‘to fit’, ‘to fix’, ‘to set right’ – and a grand example for its definitional ambit and application is provided via some of its more justly famous descendant terms. English ‘Order’, Latin ‘Ordo’ (from whence ‘Order’ derives), and above all – Vedic Sanskrit ऋत , Rta , meaning Cosmic Order. This term is relevant for us not only due to its potential occurrence in ‘Orthia’ (assuming it is not a similar derivation to Ancient Greek – ὀρθός (‘Orthos’, whence modern ‘Orthography’) – and I say not a similar derivation, because as applies ‘Orthos’, intriguingly, this is hypothesized to perhaps actually be from PIE H3er, thus making its archaic sense ‘to make grow (up)right’ … of obvious potential saliency for a Goddess so closely associated with children and childbirth; yet also apparently resonating with Latin ‘Arbor’ etc., meaning ‘Tree’ … another prominent Artemis alignment, especially in light of the Tree/Mountain Axis Mundi as Saliency of Cosmic Order within this universe of ours), but also due to the ‘Arte’ of ‘Artemis’. Which has been hypothesized via Phrygian to correlate with that aforementioned ‘Rta’ in Indo-Iranian (the westerly, Iranic form of which being ‘Arta’; although Arta also occurs in Indo-Aryan – for example with an ‘A-‘ prefix, meaning ‘toward’, as seen with certain Mitanni Indo-Aryan kingly names) . That is to say, PIE ‘Hrtos’, with the ‘Hr’ becoming an ‘Ar’, just as it does for PIE Hrtkos [‘Bear’ – another prominent Artemis mythic linkage] when it becomes Ancient Greek ‘Arktos’; or, for that matter, PIE H2er becoming Ancient Greek ἀρτύω (‘Artuo’ – Prepare, Arrange, Plan), ἁρμονίᾱ (‘(H)Armonia’ – ‘Law’, ‘Fitting Together’, ‘Union’, ‘Harmony’ including of sounds), or ἀρθμός (‘Arthmos’ – Bond, League, Concord, etc.).

The likely meaning for this H2er derived ‘Arte’ in ‘Artemis’, therefore, would therefore be much as it is in those more easterly Indo-European spheres, and with resonancy to the underlying Greek sense to those terms aforementioned. Something Righteous, of Order, Holy, True, and Noble (indeed, ᾰ̓́ρῐστος –  ‘Aristos’ – is similarly ultimately derived – ‘the best’, ‘the best fitting’ (c.f Artemis’ attested epithet of Αριστη, another form of the same word); whence ἀριστεύς – ‘Aristeus’ – ‘Chief’). 

The ultimate origins of both ‘Artemis’ and ‘Orthia’ are, of course, obscure – and it is a matter of some considerable interpretation as to which, if any, of the aforementioned potentialities is felt to bear fruit. However, the fact that each of them has something to say, and some intriguing points of direct resonant saliency with both Artemis and the underlying Indo-European deific complex(es) from whence She hails, may mean that it is a case of multi-faceted mytho-linguistic resonancy. That is to say, that similar-sounding and similarly-derived terms have all correlated with key elements to the Goddess as understood by the Ancient Greeks themselves, on a non-exclusive basis.

So, as we have seen – we have a Goddess closely associated with the Mountains and the Trees; a Goddess correlate with the Cosmic Order, Fate, and its immanentization via the Drama [c.f., as applies the former two, various of the epithets and titles for Her which we considered more fully in Part One], its Upholding [‘Adrasteia’, and c.f the Hymn of Callimachus]. along with the further active expression of that which is Holy, Righteous, and Orderly via Hymnals and the Flame [Hymnia & Pyronia, respectively].

Some of these understandings have, of course, ‘dropped out’ of both the popular perception of Artemis, as well as the ‘general’ depiction found within the annals of the Greek canon – who would think of Artemis in relation to drama, after all. However, via a close analysis of various of these less immediately prominent archaic perceptions of Artemis, we can see that they never quite went away. And, indeed, when looking at the broader constellation of thinking which lead to co-identifications with this mysterious ‘Reitia’ to the west, and Anahita to the east, we can glimpse some of these elements restored to ‘front of stage’, as it were. 

There are quite an array of additional elements I should like to address as applies Artemis which further serve to elucidate the accuracy of the above, and help to sketch out the broader Indo-European Goddess complex to which She is irreducibly linked. 

Yet for now, I suspect, it is enough. 

Hail to Artemis – 

कनकपिशङ्ग पृषत्कनिषङ्ग रसद्भटशृङ्ग हताबटुके

‘[She Whose] Golden Arrows Seek And Slay The Loudest-Howling Unenlightened Prey’. 

Jai Mata Di ! 

One thought on “Artemis Orthia – The Inescapable Indo-European Goddess Of Cosmic Law ‘Midst The Mediterranean : Part Two – Tracking the Skeins of Fate Via The Golden Bowstring

  1. Pingback: Artemis Orthia – The Inescapable Indo-European Goddess Of Cosmic Law ‘Midst The Mediterranean : Part Two – Tracking the Skeins of Fate Via The Golden Bowstring – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

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