Amanda Aremisia Forrester
It was Athena, forever and always my first love, my first God, who introduced me to Artemis of the Wilds. I was perhaps fourteen years of age, and awkwardly aware of my body changing with the onset of puberty. I was intensely uncomfortable with the gawking stares of both the boys in my classes and men many years my seniors. My own sexuality was beginning to emerge, always a terrifying experience for a young girl. My feelings on this subject were already complicated, to say the least, thanks to my puritanical upbringing, and further muddled by an attempted sexual assault.
I was already awash in teenaged angst, distressed by the never-ending custody battle following my parents divorce, confused and frightened by the unforgiving jungles of middle school. When I made a foolish attempt to run away from home, my already fragile psyche was thrust into another maelstrom of emotions. The truck driver who picked me up alongside the highway and drove me far from home tried to force himself on me. I was one of the lucky ones – I got away before anything could happen. But the shock and the violence of that episode stayed with me. When I returned home that evening after calling my father amid sobs from the rest stop, I was further bullied by a local cop who took it as his duty to lecture me on the dangers of the wide world “out there”. Despite my trauma, I resented being talked down to like that. Headstrong as always, I refused to validate his arrogance by reporting what had transpired.
I remained silent for years, my anger and resentment festering in the dark. I became extremely distrustful of the male gender. I dressed in men’s clothes, the biggest and baggiest I could find, to hide my developing curves. When well-meaning girls at school tried to hook me up boys, I loudly declared that I was asexual and was going to remain a virgin till the day I died.
And it was to this chaotic mess that Artemis arrived. She was wild and fierce and free and intensely protective. She was primal Woman, whom no man can touch. She was exactly what I needed. She drew me into a safe, woman-centered womb, where I could heal from the trauma inflicted on me. With women Artemis is soft and motherly, tender and gentle and understanding. Even in myth, this fierce Virgin Goddess heard the pained cries of women in childbirth and hastened to their birthing beds to ease the pains of women she ordinarily would not have had much contact with. But let any man try to violate that sacred circle, and this nurturing Goddess would become the fierce, hard-hearted protector of virginity and innocence that Aktaion encountered. At the same time She nurtured me, She gave me permission to rage, to scream, to cry.
But like my ancient Greek sisters, I could not stay in the realm of Artemis forever. In Athens, when girls were married they left their childhood toys and dolls, along with locks of their hair, on the altar of Artemis. Artemis, protectess of the young. And so they passed from her sphere to Hera’s.
Despite my loud protestations in my teenaged years, I did eventually meet a good, decent man who set my heart on fire. Artemis’s presence in my life has since shrunk to a background one. Although I am somewhat sadden by this, I know that She was accomplished what She set out to do. She took an angry and damaged young girl under her wing, healed her wounds, and ushered her into the world, a strong, independent adult woman.