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Six Olympian Goddesses
Aphrodite is the Greekgoddess of love, beauty and sexuality. According to the Greek poet Hesiod, she was born when Cronus cut off Uranus‘ genitals and threw them into the sea. From the aphros (sea foam) arose Aphrodite.
Because of her beauty the other gods feared that jealousy would interrupt the peace among them and lead to war. So Zeus married her to Hephaestus, who was not viewed as a threat. Unhappy in marriage, Aphrodite frequently sought out the companionship of her lover, Ares. She also became instrumental in the Eros and Psyche legend, and later was both Adonis‘ lover and his surrogate mother.
Artemis is the Hellenic goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity, fertility and young girls. Depicted as a huntress carrying a bow and arrows, Artemis was one of the most widely acclaimed of the Ancient Greek deities. In fact, some scholars believe that she was originally pre-Greek with Homer referring to her as “The Mistress of Animals, Artemis of the Wilds.”
In the classical period of Greek mythology, Artemis was often described as the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo. The deer and the cypress were sacred to her and in later Hellenistic times, she even assumed the ancient role of Eileithyia in aiding childbirth.
She was the favorite child of Zeus, having sprung fully-grown out of his head. Fearful that his first wife, Metis, goddess of wisdom, might give birth to a son mightier than himself, Zeus swallowed Metis when she was pregnant. While inside Zeus, Metis began making a robe and helmet for her unborn child. The hammering of the helmet created headaches for Zeus, crying out in agony from the pain. His son, Hephaestus, the patron of the craftsmen, split open Zeus’ head from which Athena emerged, fully grown and wearing her mother’s helmet and robe.
Demeteris the goddess of the harvest, who presided over grains, the fertility of the earth, the seasons and the harvest. Though Demeter is often described simply as the goddess of the harvest, she also presided over the sanctity of marriage, the sacred law, and the cycle of life and death. She and her daughter, Persephone, were the central figures of the Eleusinian Mysteries that also predated the Olympian pantheon.
Demeter also oversaw the Mystery Cults that promised initiates the path to a happy afterlife. She was depicted as a mature woman, often crowned, holding sheaves of wheat and a torch.Her Roman cognate is Ceres.
Herais the queen of the Olympian Gods and Goddesses. The daughter of Cronus and Rhea, Hera was one of Zeus’ three sisters and his wife. She was primarily worshipped as a goddess of marriage and birth. According to mythology her virginity returns each year by her bathing in the well, Canathus.
Portrayed as majestic and solemn, often enthroned, and crowned with the polos (high cylindrical crown worn by several of the Great Goddesses), Hera was known for her jealous and vengeful nature, most notably against Zeus’s paramours and offspring, but also against mortals who crossed her, such as Pelias. Paris offended her by choosing Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess, earning the wrath of Hera’s hatred. In Roman mythology, Juno was the equivalent of Hera.
Hestiais the virgin goddess of the hearth and of the right ordering of domesticity and the family. The guardian of innermost thoughts and desires, Hestia received the first offering during prayers and sacrificesin the household.
She had no throne, but tended the sacred fire in the hall on the Olympus and every hearth on Earth was her altar. Whenever a new colony was to be established a flame from Hestia’s public hearth in the mother city would be carried to the new settlement.
The gentlest of all the Olympians, she swore by the head of Zeus to remain a virgin when wooed by Poseidon and Apollo. The Romans called her Vesta, honoring her namesake with Vestal Virgins tending the sacred flame of Rome.
Goddesses of The Seasons
In Ancient Greece there were only three seasons: spring, summer and winter. The Horai (Horae or Hours) were the goddesses of the seasons and the natural portions of time—in accordance with the firm law of nature and life. They presided over the revolutions of the heavenly constellations by which the year was measured. They were the three daughters of Zeus and Themis.
Often depicted together, the Horai were honored by rural farmers throughout Greece who planted and tended their crops with the rising and setting of the stars to measure the passage of the seasons. The three were named Eunomia (Good Order), Eirene (Peace), and Dike (Justice). They were the law-and-order goddesses that maintained the stability of society to ensure the conditions required for prosperity.
Eunomia was the goddess of good order and lawful conduct. She was associated with the internal stability of a state, including the enactment of good laws and the maintenance of civil order. She was also the springtime goddess of green pastures.
Frequently depicted in Athenian vase painting amongst the companions of Aphrodite, Eunomia in this sense symbolizes the lawful or obedient behavior of women in marriage. She was not one of the goddesses who lived on Mt. Olympus.
Dikē was the Greek goddess of justice for humanity. She represented the spirit of moral order and fair judgment of socially enforced norms and conventional rules. An enemy of all falsehood, she was the fierce protector who severely punished all wrong by piercing the hearts of the unjust with a sword.
Born a mortal, she ruled over human justice, as her mother, Themis, ruled over divine justice. An ever-young woman dwelling in the cities of men, she was placed on earth by her father, Zeus, to keep mankind just. Recognizing justice was impossible for mankind, Zeus brought Dike up to Olympus with the gods and goddesses to sit on the opposite side of her mother, next to him.
Eirene (Irene) was the goddess of peace and of the season of spring. Late spring was the usual campaign season in Greece when peace was most at risk. The personification of peace and wealth, she was depicted in art as a beautiful young woman carrying a cornucopia, scepter and a torch or rhyton.
In classical art Eirene usually appears in the company of her two sisters, bearing fruits of the seasons. Statues of the goddess characterize her as a maiden holding the infant Ploutos (Wealth) in her arms.