Diana/Artemis and Actaeon

In brief:
Actaeon, while out hunting, sees the virgin huntress goddess Diana/Artemis bathing naked. As punishment she changes him into a stag and he is ripped to pieces by his own hounds.
variants:
1-The goddess throws a deer skin over him with the same outcome.
2-he brags about seeing the goddess naked and is punished for doing so.
Interpretation
A person filled with lust, desire or misdirected/mishandled sexual energy (stag) is torn apart from within.
Taking this a stage further, we could say that any desire, or lust, for something unattainable or unavailable causes us to tear ourselves apart psychologically. An unfulfilled longing, lust or desire that can not be resolved or satisfied will, eventually, destroy us. We internalise that which we “hunt” (stag) and are torn apart as a result of not being able to satisfy the desire (hounds).

be careful lest, like Actaeon, thou too perish miserably, torn to pieces by
                                                the ban-hounds of thine own passions.

from “She” by H. Rider Haggard.

Read in this way the mythological story  contains an almost Buddhist concept of desire being the cause of suffering.

A deeper, more Jungian interpretation would be to read it as the male psyche being made aware of, and confronting, the inner feminine aspect of his nature, unclothed and as nature intended. If psychologically or spiritually unprepared for this bare revelation the male risks having his male identity (stag) torn apart by his own conflicting thoughts, feelings or self-perception; by his own beliefs (hounds) concerning his self-identity. Perhaps, ultimately, it is an initiation all men must go through. This confrontation and acknowledgement of the inner feminine aspect of his nature: to risk being torn apart and reformed into something new and, thereby, gaining a more integrated and balanced inner persona. In our society, a modern Actaeon is conditioned to, either, hide his eyes and turn away in shame, or leer lewdly at the goddess and only perceive her nakedness in an overtly sexual way. Too timid to gaze directly upon the revealed nature of what the goddess really represents, lest he be ripped asunder. In being unable to approach the naked goddess correctly he never receives the wisdom and growth that exists within the opportunity presented to him.

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2 Comments

Filed under Greek

2 responses to “Diana/Artemis and Actaeon

  1. Kay March

    This is very good reading… one of my fav subject: myths, no matter really what kind, some of these things I remember, some I did forgot, I like the thoughts and associations to other esoterical material… can always make us think, using the grey cells for that matter… I sense my memory and the capacity for retaining knowledge less and less – vague in the mist.

    • Hi Kay. Thanks for the comment. I think you would like the books of Robert A Johnson. He, certainly, inspired me to look at mythology in the context of my own live experiences.

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