The Golden Bough (Frazer 1890)
Among her names are Hecate as the triple moon goddess Selene (Heaven), Artemis (Earth) and Persephone (Underworld), and the Queen of Heaven identified as Hebe (virgin) Rhea (mother) and Hecate (crone). In many places the Moon Goddess has inherited the more general title of Queen of Heaven encompassing the night sky along with its stars and planets, particularly Venus, stemming from Sumerian Inanna and continuing with Ishtar of Babylon, Hathor of Egypt. In Britain she gave her name to Albion.
Porphyry noted : "The moon is Hecate, the symbol of her varying phases ... her power appears in three forms, having as symbol of the new moon, the figure in the white robe and the golden sandals, and torches lighted; the basket which she wears when she is mounted high is the symbol of the cultivation of the crops which she made to grow up according to the increase of her light".
The name Hekate came originally from Heqit, the Goddess of Parturition amalgamating the seven Hathors of the birth-chamber - heq being tribal matriarch in command of the hekau or mothers words of wisdom (Walker 378).
Diana's Nemesis - The Golden Bough
Diana is both Moon Goddess - Queen of Heaven and Goddess of the Wilderness and Wildlife. James Frazer's study of the glade Nemi of Diana and its forlorn sacred king was the motivating principle for his renowned 12 volume work on religion and magic "The Golden Bough". It is the centrepiece of the introduction and the last paragraph in its completion.
In his preface, he notes: "When I originally conceived the idea of the work, of which the first part is now laid before the public in a third and enlarged edition, my intention merely was to explain the strange rule of the priesthood or sacred kingship of Nemi and with it the legend of the Golden Bough, immortalised by Virgil, which the voice of antiquity associated with the priesthood. The explanation was suggested to me by some similar rules formerly imposed on kings in Southern India, and at first I thought that it might be adequately set forth within the compass of a small volume. But I soon found that in attempting to settle one question I had raised many more: wider and wider prospects opened out before me; and thus step by step I was lured on into far-spreading fields of primitive thought which had been but little explored by my predecessors".
"Who does not know Turner's picture of the Golden Bough? The lake of Nemi. The scene, suffused with the golden glow of imagination ... is a dream-like vision of the little woodland Lake of Nemi - "Diana's Mirror," as it was called by the ancients. No one who has seen that calm water, lapped in a green hollow of the Alban hills, can ever forget it. ... In antiquity this sylvan landscape was the scene of a strange and recurring tragedy. In order to understand it aright we must try to form in our minds an accurate picture the place where it happened ; for, as we shall see later on, subtle link subsisted between the natural beauty of the spot and the dark crimes which under the mask of religion were often perpetrated there, crimes which after the lapse of many ages still lend a touch of melancholy to these quiet woods and waters, like a chill breath of autumn on one of those bright September days while not a leaf seems faded."
"The Alban hills are group of volcanoes extending from the Apennines in view of Rome Two of the extinct craters are now filled by two beautiful waters, the Alban lake and its lesser sister the lake of Nemi. ... On all sides but one the banks, thickly mantled with luxuriant vegetation, descend steeply to the water's edge. Only on the north a stretch of flat ground intervenes between the lake and the foot of the hills. This was the scene of the tragedy. Here, in the very heart of the wooded hills, under the abrupt declivity now crested by the village of Nemi, the sylvan goddess Diana had an old and famous sanctuary, the resort of pilgrims from all parts of Latium. It was known as the sacred grove of Diana Nemorensis, ... Diana of the Woodland Glade" (Frazer 1890 v1a 1).
The great wealth and popularity of the sanctuary in antiquity are attested by ancient writers as well as by the remains which have come to light in modern times. Despite its treasures being drained to pay for the civil war, two hundred years later it was reputed to be one of the richest sanctuaries in Italy. Within the precinct also stood shrines of the Egyptian goddesses Isis and Bubastis.
"Such, then, was the sanctuary of Diana at Nemi, a fitting home for the 'mistress of mountains, and forests, green, and lonely glades, and sounding rivers,' ... Multitudes of her statuettes, appropriately clad in the short tunic and high buskins of a huntress, with the quiver slung over her shoulder, have been found on the spot" (Frazer 1890 v1a 1). The buskin is a symbol of both Mari and Isis, and was worn by Dionysius. Graves has suggested that sacred kings, including Jesus, were lamed and wore high-heeled buskins so their heel would not touch the ground (Graves 1948 324-333).
"Down to the decline of Rome a custom was observed there which seems to transport us at once from civilisation to savagery. In the sacred grove there grew a certain tree round which at any time of the day, and probably far into the night, a grim figure might be seen to prowl. In his hand he carried a drawn sword, and he kept peering warily about him as if at every instant he expected to be set upon by an enemy., He was a priest and a murderer; and the man for whom he looked was sooner or later to murder him and hold the priesthood in his stead. Such was the rule of the sanctuary.
A candidate for the priesthood could only succeed to office by slaying the priest, and having slain him, he retained office till he was himself slain by a stronger or a craftier. The post which he held by this precarious tenure carried with it the title of king ; but surely no crowned head ever lay uneasier, or was visited by more evil dreams, than his. For year in year out, in summer and winter, ill fair weather and in foul, he had to keep his lonely watch, and whenever he snatched a troubled slumber it was at the peril of his life. The least relaxation of his vigilance, the smallest abatement of his strength of limb or skill of fence, put him in jeopardy grey hairs might seal his death-warrant.
It is a sombre picture, set to melancholy music - the background of forest showing black and jagged against a lowering and stormy sky, the sighing of the wind in the branches, the rustle of the withered leaves under foot, the lapping of the cold water on the shore, and in the foreground, pacing to and fro, now in twilight and now in gloom, a dark figure with a glitter of steel at the shoulder whenever the pale moon, riding clear of the cloud-rack, peers down at him through the matted boughs" (Frazer 1890 v1a 1).
It is said that Orestes came here with his sister bearing the hidden statue of Diana after killing King Thoas of Taurus. Herodotus noted that the Tauric Diana (Artemis) was said to sacrifice every man who landed on the shore to her altar, nailing the head of each victim to a cross (Walker 58). In Hierapolis the victims were hung on artificial trees in her temple.
Within the sanctuary grew a certain tree of which no branch might be broken, except by a runaway slave, who if he succeeded could challenge the priest to single combat and if he slew him to gain his kingly title. According to myth this branch was the Golden Bough which Aeneas plucked at the Sibyl's bidding before he descended to the underworld. The flight of the slave was said to represent the flight of Orestes. Until the end of the first century AD, it was said that the priesthood was still the prize of victory in single combat.
Diana was conceived as a huntress, blessing men and women with with offspring and granting expectant mothers an easy delivery. On the 13th of August she was worshipped with fire and lamps which lit up the lake and in hearths throughout the country. At Nemi she also bore the title Vesta indicating the role of her sacred fire. Her statues show her holding a burning torch. Women came to make offerings crowned with wreaths and with torches. The Vestal Virgins in Rome were renowned for their vows of chastity.
Diana's chaste attitude towards sex is illustrated in two myths. Achteon spied on her in her bath with her nymphs. Drawn to their beauty, he is changed into a stag and devoured by his own hunting dogs.
When Jupiter seduced Callisto by appearing as the amourous double of Diana herself, Diana when she discovers she is pregnant turns her into a bear and banishes her to the constellations. One can sense a similarity to Christian reinforcement of conservative morals in these myths of punishment for sexual misadventure. The same considerations apply to Artemis who had her paramour Orion stung to death by scorpions for touching her fortuitously. De Bernieres notes laconically (6) "she was such a fastidious stickler for etiquite and summary chastisement that entire dynasties could be disposed of for one word out of placeor an oblation five minutes late".
The pre-Christian feast of the Mother Goddess Diana, or Vesta, was once celebrated with cyder, a roasted kid spitted on hazel- twigs and apples hanging in clusters from a bough. Another name of this Goddess was Nemesis (from the Greek nemos, 'grove') which in Classical Greek connotes divine vengeance for breaches of taboo. In her statues she carries an apple-bough in one hand, and the fifth-century Christian poet Commodianus identifies her with Diana Nemorensis ('of the grove') whose followers 'worship a cut branch and call a log Diana'. Nemesis and Diana Nemorensis are associated with the deer ... Nemesis carries a wheel in her other hand to show that she is the goddess of the turning year, like Egyptian Isis and Latin Fortune, but this has been generally understood as meaning that the wheel will one day come full circle and vengeance be exacted on the sinner. In Gaul she was Diana Nemetona, nemeton being a sacred grove" (Graves 1948 255).
"Diana ruled the wild forests of Europe through the medieval period. As patron of the forest of Ardennes she was Dea Arduenna; as patron of the Black Forest she was Dea Abnoba. Serbians, Czechs, and Poles knew her as the woodland Moon - goddess Diiwica, Devana, or Dziewona. She remained the Goddess of wild woodlands and hunting, all the way up to the 18th century in England, celebrated in the procession into the church of the head of a deer" (Walker 234).
She dwelt with two lesser deities, Egeria a water nymph and Virbius who was also Hippolytus, the young chaste hero who hunted with the virgin Artemis. Aphrodite in revenge for his chastity causes his step mother to become infatuated with him and to jealously betray him to his father Theseus. Poseidon causes his chariot horses to bolt and he is dragged to his death.
But Diana, for the love she bore Hippolytus persuaded the leech Aesculapius to make him whole, just as Egyptian Thoth made the Horus moon eye whole. She bore him away to the dells at Nemi to be looked after by Egeria unknown and solitary in the depth of the Italian forest.
These tables are turned in the case of Adonis who is consigned to a third part of the year with each of Aphrodite and Persephone and keep a third to himself (which he gladly gave to Aphrodite) just as Tammuz had to spend part of the season in the underworld, but having offended Artemis, he was torn by a wild boar and died (Henderson 118).
Diana and Artemis
Diana later became associated with Artemis the Greek woodland goddess of Ephesus, whose name means "Cutter" or "Butcher" (Walker 58). "Now we hear of vineyards and plantations dedicated to Artemis, fruits offered to her, and her temple standing in an orchard. Hence we may conjecture that her Italian sister Diana was also revered as a patroness of vines and fruit-trees" (Frazer 1890 a).
In Northern Greece, he has a similar ancient history beside a lake, taking as consort Hermes the messenger, who is also the sperminal essence of male fertility and the mind as male principal. Properz unites the two "by the holy waters of lake Boibeis has Brimo lain her maidenly body at Hermes side" (Kerenyi 63). Brimo the great goddess of Northern Greece named Phersia at Thesalonian Phera can be equated either with Demeter/Persephone or Artemis-Hekate. The lake's name in local dialect means "owned by Phoebe" and it is therefore the possession of just this "first" Artemis.
"Hippolytus had a temple at Troezen on a beautiful bay before the Island of Poseidon, and was worshipped by weeping unwedded maids who dedicated locks of their hair to him. Young men dedicated their first beard. Hippolytus had mounds dedicated to him by beside temples of both Artemis and Aphrodite, so both goddesses appear to have been his two lovers, as the tragic tale actually indicates. Orestes is supposed to have washed away his guilt at his mother's murder at Troezen, providing him another link with the goddess (Frazer 1890 v1a 24).
The giving of hair appears to be giving forth of first fertility and is parallelled by the practice in the cult of Astarte at Byblos of shaving of a young woman's hair, or losing her virginity by prostituting herself to a stranger. But how, it may be asked, does all this apply to Hippolytus who appeared so chaste? (Frazer 1890 v1a 28)
"To the ancients, on the contrary, Artemis was the ideal embodiment of the wild life of nature - the life of plants, of animals, and of men - in all its exuberant fertility and profusion. ... The truth is, that the word parthenos applied to Artemis, which we commonly translate virgin, means no more than an unmarried woman, and in early days the two things were by no means the same. ... In regard to Artemis, even the ambiguous parthenos seems to have been merely a popular epithet, not an official title. She was, like Diana in Italy, specially concerned with the loss of virginity and with child-bearing, and that she not only assisted but encouraged women to be fruitful and multiply ; indeed, if we may take Euripides's word for it, in her capacity of midwife she would not even speak to childless women" (Bailey 73).
Further, it is highly significant that while her titles and the allusions to her functions mark her out clearly as the patroness of childbirth, we find none that recognise her distinctly as a deity of marriage.' Nothing, however, sets the true character of Artemis as a goddess of fecundity, though not of wedlock, in a clearer light than her constant identification with the unmarried, but not chaste, Asiatic goddesses of love and fertility, who were worshipped with rites of notorious profligacy at their popular sanctuaries.'
"From of old a great goddess of nature was everywhere worshipped in Greece. She was revered on the mountain heights as in the swampy lowlands, in the rustling woods and by the murmuring spring. To the Greek her hand was everywhere apparent. They saw her gracious blessing in the sprouting meadow, in the ripening corn, in the healthful vigour of all living things on earth, whether the wild creatures of the wood and the fell, or the cattle which man has tamed to his service, or man's own offspring from the cradle upward. Her destroying anger he perceived in the blight of vegetation, in the inroads of wild beasts on his fields and orchards, as well as in the last mysterious end of life, in death. ... She was an all-embracing power of nature, everywhere the object of a similar faith, however her names differed with the place in which she was believed to abide, with the emphasis laid on her gloomy or kindly aspect, or with the particular side of her energy which was specially revered. And as the Greek divided everything in animated nature into male and female, he could not imagine this female power of nature without her male counterpart" (Bailey 73).
"At Ephesus, the most celebrated of all the seats of her worship, her universal motherhood was set forth unmistakably in her sacred image. Copies of it have come down to us which agree in their main features, though they differ from each other in some details. They represent the goddess with a multitude of protruding breasts [sometimes also referred to as 'eggs']; the heads of animals of many kinds, both wild and tame, spring from the front of her body in a series of bands that extend from the breasts to the feet ; bees, roses, and sometimes butterflies, decorate her sides from the hips downward. The animals that thus appear to issue from her person include lions, bulls, stags, horses, goats, and rams. Moreover, lions rest on her upper arms; in at least one copy, serpents twine round her lower arms ; her bosom is festooned with a wreath of blossoms, and she wears a necklace of acorns. In one of the statues the breast of her robe is decorated with two winged male figures, who hold sheaves in both hands.' It would be hard to devise a more expressive symbol of exuberant fertility, of prolific maternity, than these remarkable images" (Bailey 73).
No doubt the Ephesian Artemis, with her eunuch priests and virgin priestess was an Oriental, whose worship the Greek colonists took over. Her title as "Lady of the Clamours" is also reminiscent of Dionysius - the Lord of Pandemonium and Silence.
Another sinister sacrificial legend at Ephesus was the legend quoted by Petronius of the Widow of Ephesus who was supposed to have hung her husband on one of the three crosses outside the Temple of Diana, replacing the body of a crucified thief, and then lain with her lover at the foot of the cross.
"We can now perhaps understand why the ancients identified Hippolytus, the consort of Artemis, with Virbius, who, according to Servius, stood to Diana as Adonis to Venus, or Attis to the Mother of the Gods. For Diana, like Artemis, was a goddess of fertility in general, and of childbirth in particular. As such she, like her Greek counterpart, needed a male partner. That partner, if Servius is right, was Virbius. In his character of the founder of the sacred grove and first king of Nemi, Virbius is clearly the mythical predecessor or archetype of the line of priests who served Diana under the title of Kings of the Wood, and who came, like him, one after the other, to a violent end.' It is natural, therefore, to conjecture that they stood to the goddess of the grove in the same relation in which Virbius stood to her; in short, that the mortal King of the Wood had for his queen the wood land Diana herself.' If the sacred tree which he guarded with his life was supposed, as seems probable, to be her special embodiment, her priest may not only have worshipped it as his goddess but embraced it as his wife" (Frazer 1890 v1a 20).
The Golden Bough is mistletoe as it appears after hanging dried. "Virgil tells how two doves, guiding Aeneas to the gloomy vale in whose depth grew the Golden Bough, alighted upon a tree, "whence shone a flickering gleam of gold. As in the woods in winter cold the mistletoe - a plant not native to its tree - is green with fresh leaves and twines its yellow berries about the boles ; such seemed upon the shady holm-oak the leafy gold, so rustled in the gentle breeze the golden leaf." Here Virgil definitely describes the Golden Bough as growing on a holm-oak, and compares it with the mistletoe. Now grounds have been shewn for believing that the if the priest of the Arician grove - the King of the Wood personified the tree on which grew the Golden Bough.' Hence if that tree was the oak, the King of the Wood must have been a personification of the oak-spirit. It is, therefore easy to understand why, before he could be slain, it was m necessary to break the Golden Bough. As an oak-spirit, his life or death was in the mistletoe on the oak, and so long as the mistletoe remained intact, he, like Balder, could not die. To slay him, therefore, it was necessary to break the mistletoe, and probably, as in the case of Balder, to throw it at him. And to complete the parallel, it is only necessary to suppose that the King of the Wood was formerly burned, dead or alive, at the midsummer fire festival which, as we have seen, was annually celebrated in the Arician grove. The priest of Diana may have personated in flesh and blood the great Italian god of the sky, Jupiter,' who had kindly come down from heaven in the lightning flash to dwell among men in the mistletoe-the thunder-besom - the Golden Bough - growing on the sacred oak beside the still waters of the lake of Nemi" (Frazer 1890 v7 303).
Frazer completes his last paragraph finally evoking the identity between Diana and the Moon Goddess. "If that was so, we need not wonder that the priest guarded with drawn sword the mystic bough which contained the god's life and his own. The goddess whom he served and married was herself, if I am right, no other than the Queen of Heaven, the true wife of the sky-god. For she, too, loved the solitude of the woods and the lonely hills, and sailing overhead on clear nights in the likeness of the silver moon she looked down with pleasure on her own fair image reflected on the calm, the burnished surface of the lake, Diana's Mirror" (Frazer 1890 v7 303).
Roberts Graves' Muse - The White Moon Goddess
For Graves Leucothea, the White Goddess became a poetic, occult and prophetic entity of power, representing also the lost subtleties of the subconscious lunar mind.
"The theme, briefly, is the antique story ... of the birth, life, death and resurrection of the God of the Waxing Year; the central chapters concern the God's losing battle with the God of the Waning Year for love of the capricious and all - powerful Threefold Goddess, their mother, bride and layer-out. The poet identifies himself with the God of the Waxing Year and his Muse with the Goddess; the rival is his blood-brother, his other self, his weird. All true poetry - true by Housman's practical test celebrates some incident or scene in this very ancient story, and the three main characters are so much a part of our racial inheritance that they not only assert themselves in poetry but recur on occasions of emotional stress in the form of dreams, paranoiac visions and delusions. The weird, or rival, often appears in night as the lean, dark-faced bed-side spectre, or Prince of the Air, who tries to drag the dreamer out through the window, so that he looks back and sees his body still lying rigid in bed; but he takes countless other malevolent or diabolic or serpent-like forms" (Graves 1948 24)
"The Goddess is a lovely, slender woman with a hooked nose, deathly pale face, lips red as rowan-berries, startlingly blue eyes and long fair hair; she will suddenly transform herself into sow, mare, bitch, she-ass, weasel, serpent, owl, she-wolf, tigress, mermaid or loathsome hag. Her names and tides are innumerable. In ghost stories she often figures as 'The White Lady', and in ancient religions, from the British Isles to the Caucasus, as the 'White Goddess'. I cannot think of any true poet from Homer onwards who has not independently recorded his experience of her. The test of a poet's vision, one might say, is the accuracy of his portrayal of the White Goddess and of the island over which she rules. The reason why the hairs stand on end, the eyes water, the throat is constricted, the skin crawls and a shiver runs down the spine when one writes or reads a true poem is that a true poem is necessarily an invocation of the White Goddess, or Muse, the Mother of All Living, the ancient power of fright and lust - the female spider or the queen-bee whose embrace is death. Housman offered a secondary test of true poetry: whether it matches a phrase of Keats's, 'everything that reminds me of her goes through me like a spear'." (Gaves 1948 24)
"The Night Mare is one of the cruellest aspects of the White Goddess. Her nests, when one comes across them in dreams, lodged in rock-clefts or the branches of enormous hollow yews, are built of carefully chosen twigs, lined with white horse-hair and the plumage of prophetic birds and littered with the jaw-bones and entrails of poets. The prophet Job said of her.- 'She dwelleth and abideth upon the rock. Her young ones also suck up blood" (Graves 1948 26)
Diana and Mary : The Assumption of the Moon Goddess
The people of Ephesus did not convert easily to the Christian message. Acts notes "... throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. ... But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians." (Acts 19:26 )
To the Christians Diana became the "Queen of Witches" (Walker 233). However the legend that Mary had gone to Ephesus and died there in her old age resulted in Ephesus and the festival of Diana becoming the Assumption of Mary. This is an ironic twist of fate because the Christians are here using the moral prudishness of Artemis to purvey a very pure virginal image of the feminine even to the extent of Mary have been circumcised. Thus the forefathers repressed the more promiscuous aspect of the Goddess manifested in Magdalen.
In Roman Catholic doctrine, the Assumption means that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was taken (assumed) bodily into heavenly glory when she died. In the Orthodox church, the koimesis, or dormition ("falling asleep"), of the Virgin began to be commemorated on August 15 in the 6th century. The observance gradually spread to the West, where it became known as the feast of the Assumption (Grollier 1993).
The Virgin is believed to have died on August 13th, to have risen again and ascended to Heaven on the third day. Since the Virgin was closely associated by the early Church with Wisdom - with the Saint 'Sophia', or Holy Wisdom, of the Cathedral Church at Constantinople- the choice of this feast for the passing of Wisdom into Immortality was a happy one (Graves 1948 255). When Diana's temple was finally pulled down, as the Gospels ordered, its magnificent porphyry pillars were carried to Constantinople and built into the church of Holy Sophia (Walker 234).
The Litany of the Blessed Virgin contains the prayer Sedes sapientae ora pro nobis, 'Seat of Wisdom, pray for us!' For St. Peter Chrysologos in his Sermon on the Annunciation had represented the Virgin as the seven - pillared temple which Wisdom (according to Proverbs 9) had built for herself. So the meaning of the mediaeval allegory about the milk-white unicorn which could be captured only with the assistance of a pure virgin is now easily read. The Unicorn is the Roe in the Thicket. It lodges under an apple-tree, the tree of immortality-through-wisdom. It can be captured only by a pure virgin - Wisdom herself. The purity of the virgin stands for spiritual integrity. (Graves 1948 255)
"The Christian Church appears to have sanctified this great festival of the virgin goddess by adroitly converting it into the festival of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin on the fifteenth of August. ... a passage in the Syriac text of The Departure of My Lady Mary from this World, ... runs thus: "And the apostles also ordered that there should be a commemoration of the blessed one on the 13 th (also 15 th) of Ab (August), on account of the vines bearing bunches (of grapes), and on account of the trees bearing fruit, that clouds of hail, bearing stones of, wrath, might not come, and the trees be broken, and their fruits, and the vines with their clusters" (Frazer 1890 a).
"Similarly in the Arabic text of the apocryphal work 'On the Passing of the Blessed Virgin Mary', which is attributed to the an Apostle John, there occurs the following passage 'Also a festival in her honour was instituted on the fifteenth day of the month Ab [that is, August], which is the day of her passing from this world, the day on which the miracles were performed, and the time when the fruits of trees are ripening' " (Frazer 1890 v1a).