I sing of Artemis, whose shafts are of gold, who cheers on the hounds, the pure maiden, shooter of stags, who delights in archery, own sister to Apollo with the golden sword. Over the shadowy hills and windy peaks she draws her golden bow, rejoicing in the chase, and sends out grievous shafts. The tops of the high mountains tremble and the tangled wood echoes awesomely with the outcry of beasts: earth quakes and the sea also where fishes shoal. But the goddess with a bold heart  turns every way destroying the race of wild beasts: and when she is satisfied and has cheered her heart, this huntress who delights in arrows slackens her supple bow and goes to the great house of her dear brother Phoebus Apollo, to the rich land of Delphi, there to order the lovely dance of the Muses and Graces. There she hangs up her curved bow and her arrows, and heads and leads the dances, gracefully arrayed, while all they utter their heavenly voice, singing how neat-ankled Leto bare children supreme among the immortals both in thought and in deed.Hail to you, children of Zeus and rich-haired Leto!
And now I will remember you and another song also.
[ The Homeric Hymns, English Translation Hugh G. Evelyn-White. ]
Alongside my love of the goddess Hekate, I have an intrinsic love of Artemis, the Huntress and the Mountain-wanderer. In 2006 I published “Artemis” which is a collection of historic snippets about this fascinating Goddess, and with all the amazing work which has been produced by others since then, combined with wonderful visits to some of her most notable temples over the last few years, I am again spending time fostering a closer interest in her. This extract, telling the story of her birth, is from an article I wrote in 2008.
The Birth of ArtemisThis is one version of the story of the birth of the goddess Artemis.
It is a story that sets the scene for many later adventures and also gives a clear explanation for the associations Artemis has with the trails and tribulations of pregnancy and childbirth. The twins were conceived of a union between the Titan Goddess Leto and the Olympian King of the Gods, Zeus, who was known from his many amorous conquests. Zeus was married to the Goddess of marriage, Hera, who was both angry and extremely jealous of Zeus’ affair with Leto.
As a result Hera forced the pregnant Leto in the wilds to give birth to her children. She also sent the Python of Delphi, a giant serpent, to chase Leto across the land, forcing the rulers of all the kingdoms to refuse Leto sanctuary, cursing her so that she would be unable to give birth on solid land. Leto fled escaping the wrath of Hera, tired and exhausted she was unable to find sanctuary, except in Zoster in Attica where she managed to get a little rest.
Eventually, at the very last hour, Zeus came to Leto’s rescue by commanding the North Wind, Boreas, to bear her safely away from the Python to the floating island of Delos. Here Leto was finally able to give birth to the divine twins under an old palm tree. The myths tells us that Artemis’ birth was quick, easy and painless for Leto, but that Apollo’s was a difficult birth. Some of the myths tells us that this was because Eileithyia, the Goddess of childbirth, was being kept busy on Olympus by Hera to prevent her from attending the birth and that it wasn’t until some of the other Goddesses intervened, sending Iris the messenger Goddess to fetch Eileithyia [Hekate] to the birth, that Apollo was finally born. It is here that Artemis first takes the role of divine midwife, helping Eileithyia in the delivery of her own twin brother.