Each month on the New Moon I celebrate Noumenia and focus my celebration on a different Olympian God. For the new moon in Sagittarius, I honor Artemis.
I have always had somewhat of a difficult relationship with Artemis because of the whole man-hating virgin thing. But I have come to realize that that’s pretty much just a smokescreen. It’s interesting that of the pair Artemis is the untamed female and Apollo is the civilized male. Artemis is the guardian of the wilderness, and as such, resists the “civilizing” influence of societal norms which, in her time, meant going from the protection of one man (her father) to another (her husband) to another (her son at her husband’s death). Instead, Artemis is the protector, and also the provider and also the killer. She has taken a male role and yet also a maternal role. She exists outside of societal norms, free from the control of the patriarchy and only in this way can she maintain her role as Mistress of the Hunt, Guardian of the Wilderness, etc. If she were to allow a man to seduce her, she would be reduced to a consort. She is never that.
Artemis doesn’t hate men; she had many male favorites. I believe my Grandfather was one of them. My Grandfather was a Hunter. Not just a guy who liked to hunt, or a guy who goes hunting sometimes. He was a Hunter. Okay, so he had a day job, but that was only so he could afford things other than meat. Hunting was his thing (and fishing too). But Grandpa wasn’t some mindless killer of all things furry (or scaly). He had rules. And if you didn’t follow the rules, you didn’t get to go hunting again. And you’d earn the wrath of Grama too. Which was even worse. Because angry Grandpa just meant you got the silent treatment. Angry Grama meant Grandpa had to hear about you for weeks afterward every time you came around, so it meant banishment for eternity.
I brought a boyfriend to Thanksgiving one year and Grandpa took him out hunting. That was the last time and the boyfriend didn’t last much longer. While they were out, the boyfriend took an unauthorized shot and wounded a deer that the rest of the hunters didn’t get a good look at. Because it was wounded, they were honor bound to track it. All. Friggin’. Day. They finally found it and discovered it was far too young and had to kill it anyway because it was wounded and would never have survived. Grandpa came home silent and grim. The uncles were too. Only my boyfriend had the nerve to chatter about how they had to chase the poor thing through the woods and he ran through a stream and his feet were frozen. They hung the deer in the garage and we all went out to look. Silence. The boyfriend still didn’t get it. In the face of stony silence, he continued chattering on about his great adventure. Finally Grama said, “Well ya’ll killed Bambi, I see.” and turned around and went back into the house. I trailed after her, leaving the men to sort out what they were going to do about the legalities of the situation. Nobody spoke to the boyfriend for the rest of the weekend and I never took him back there. We never spoke of him again.
Although I’ve never shot a gun, Grandpa taught me a lot about hunting. He taught me where the animals hide and how to get them to come out. He taught me about safety in the woods and about hunting laws and about how we manage our wild populations of rabbits and deer now that we humans have wiped out most of their natural predators. He taught me to respect the animal, how important it was to get a good clear shot so that it died instantly, to clean it with your own hands and make sure you used every bit of it. (All the gross bits go in the sausage). Antlers make great coat hooks and are better than Nyla bones or rawhides for dogs (I still recommend them to my clients). His prey were not just deer, of course; any rabbits, raccoon, squirrels or rattlesnakes that became a nuisance were fair game and went in the stew pot. My uncles were particular fond of raccoon.
Grama taught me about hunting too, in her quiet, passive-aggressive way with nods of approval and frowns of disapproval and meaningful looks to Grandpa that I eventually learned meant he was going to get an earful about this later. She taught me how to fillet a fish; and oh she had a technique that was fun to watch! It’s sad she can’t do it anymore since her hands shake so bad. And it was sad that Grandpa’s knees gave him so much trouble at the end so that he had a hard time doing what defined him but I remember them as they were. I feel that the essence of Artemis in that memory. It isn’t all of Her, obviously, but She is there.