In darts rejoicing — The Orphic Hymn to Artemis

Hear me, Jove’s [Zeus’] daughter, celebrated queen,
 Bacchian [Bromia] and Titan, of a noble mien:

In darts rejoicing and on all to shine,
 torch-bearing Goddess, Dictynna divine;

O’er births presiding, and thyself a maid,
 to labour-pangs imparting ready aid:

Dissolver of the zone and wrinkl’d care,
 fierce huntress, glorying in the Sylvan war:

Swift in the course, in dreadful arrows skill’d,
 wandering by night, rejoicing in the field:

Of manly form, erect, of bounteous mind,
 illustrious dæmon, nurse of human kind:

Immortal, earthly, bane of monsters fell,
 ’tis thine; blest maid, on woody hills to dwell:

Foe of the stag, whom woods and dogs delight,
 in endless youth who flourish fair and bright.

O, universal queen, august, divine,
 a various form, Cydonian pow’r, is thine:

Dread guardian Goddess, with benignant mind
 auspicious, come to mystic rites inclin’d

Give earth a store of beauteous fruits to bear,
 send gentle Peace, and Health with lovely hair,

And to the mountains drive Disease and Care.


This is an interesting Hymn in that it seems to wander through several various aspects of Artemis including her as one of the guardians of both children and women in labor. She is also portrayed as a guardian of humanity in general as she is depicted as being the “nurse of humankind” who is also “bane of monsters fell”.

It is easy to see her as only the Maiden Huntress until you read this and see how multi-faceted the Orphic view of her was. This did not exist in a vacuum and she is actually called “queen” not once, but twice in this translation, pointing to her overall importance in that worldview. She is also connected with Dionysus in this hymn, probably because of the wild women that followed him, but also maybe because she could be a raging woman herself.

It does indicate that she was perhaps more at home in the wilds than on Olympus, but we do know that she is accorded a place as one of the Olympian Gods and so is more important in the ancient view than perhaps she is in modern times (except to those who see her as part of a false triune Goddess)


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