Hello, Dr. Anita Johnston here.
I’m in Athens, Greece. Right now, I am at the sanctuary for Artemis. Artemis was the goddess of young children, and animals, and especially the maidens. In this particular sanctuary, the story goes, Athena had Agamemnon’s children steal an effigy of Artemis so that they could come here and build this sanctuary for Artemis.
Here, young girls, maidens who were ready to become women, would come here to worship Artemis and have special rituals. They had their coming of age rituals right here at this spot. We are talking about 700 BC, so a long, long time ago. What’s really special about that, is it tells us that there was a time, an ancient time, when the transition from girlhood to womanhood was sacred. There was a goddess that honored that, and there were rituals for the girls to participate in as they moved from the body of a girl into the body of a woman.
Now imagine what this would mean for us nowadays, because we don’t have rituals like that in our modern culture.
We don’t have ways of honoring, probably the most profound transition that is ever made – from girlhood to womanhood.
We are just really left to our own devices.
Nowadays, the only ritual that we have is dieting, because there is no other way of recognizing and honoring this most profound and sacred transition.
Many of us are left with body shame, because there are two kinds of secrets: those that are sacred and those that are shameful. In the absence of the sacred, we are left with shame. So many of us that grew up in this modern culture, have no way to recognize the profound sacredness of what it meant to come into the body of the woman. So, we inherit the shame. I like to think of how things would be different, if, when we were young girls, and we were ready to transition into becoming women, we went to the temple of Artemis, and we did special rites that honored this and ritual were created to help contain us as we went through this passage, this very sacred transition from being a girl to being a woman.
What do you think that would do to our body image issues?
I suspect that it would make a huge difference if we as a culture had some way of honoring and protecting our girls as they became women, as they moved from the body of a girl into the body of a woman, and that this was recognized as a very, very sacred time when our bodies would morph, rather than spin out of control. It would make a huge difference if we recognized we were partaking in a much, much bigger picture: That we were becoming members of a tribe, a tribe of women that were all connected by the red thread.
So, from the Light of the Moon Cafe in Athens, Greece, I invite you to appreciate this amazing temple where once that transition was honored, where Artemis was honored, and where the young girls could come. They were called “little bears” and they came here to not just worship Artemis, but to receive the protection that she had to offer as they transitioned from girlhood into womanhood. The ancients understood, you see, that at a time of great transition certain rituals needed to be performed to protect the one going through the transition as strong forces start moving through them.
If you think about menarche, and how girls with hormones coursing through their bodies need to be contained through ritual, so that these forces do not become disorderly, so that they could be protected from the nonsense of the outside world. The idea of ritual was to create a container strong enough, so that they could make their way through the transition without their powers leaking all over the place, and also without interference from outside sources.
When you come to places like this, it doesn’t take much to imagine. Imagine what it would be like to be a young girl who was brought to this temple to go through the transition from girlhood to womanhood. Imagine. Imagine being a young girl on the cusp of womanhood … you were taken to this sanctuary, to this temple, to Artemis, where you knew that this transition was bigger than you … that it had its place in the cosmos … that it was being honored and recognized … that there would be others to assist you and to create ritual to show you how to respect this new body of a woman that you were coming into. Imagine. Imagine how your life might have been different.
Imagine. Imagine if we in our culture provided that kind of protection for our girls as they were going through this very, very, (probably the most) profound transition a woman’s body goes through: that from girlhood to womanhood. Imagine if we honored it the way in which the Ancient Greeks did. Imagine if we understood that ritual was necessary. Then, perhaps we wouldn’t have the disorders that we find so prevalent today in our girls as they become women.
Because when the hormones and all of those forces start moving through them, they would have something, some way of recognizing the power of this transition, some kind of ritual, some kind of container to hold it.
I think we have something to learn from these Ancient Greeks and appreciate what Artemis really brought to the girls and the women, as they transitioned from one important phase in their lives to the next.
I would love to hear what you think, share a comment below!