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Paradoxical Virgin-Priestess-Mother

from Pantheon: Archetypal Gods in Daily Life, Iona Miller, 1983

Anima Mundi, I. Miller

In the Tarot, Artemis is corresponded with both the Path 'Art' in her huntress nature, and 'High Priestess' in her solitary role as Virgin-Mother.  In both cases she is associated with the Moon or Lunar Consciousness.  She is Queen of the Night.  In Rome she was Diana, in Egypt Isis, for the Jews Shekinah, in India Shakti, Prakriti and Maya, in Scandinavia Disa.

Artemis as Virgin-Mother expresses the archetype in its most exalted form, the Anima Mundi, or soul of the world.  Paradoxically, she is Great Mother and simultaneously Immaculate Virgin, containing the entire cyclic process of nature and its relationship to time.  She transcends time, living constantly in a co-temporaneous eternal Now.

This goddess is a variation of the Celestial Queen mythical motif, embodying the deepest mysteries of nature.  She represents our oneness with the universe, our essential "be-ing."  That is why her paths up the Middle Pillar exemplify the Way of experiential discovery of these truths.  Her way is through symbolic and meditational means -- through the senses and transcendence even beyond the mind, essentially through soul travel.  Her Way is the Middle Way, in tantric philosophy the opening of the Sushumna channel and the raising of Kundalini toward the Crown.

Union with her is consciousness of primal our existential self, and our deepest ecological self.  Beneath the layer of alienation from nature which our culture has created lies a deep resource we can tap which is fundamental wisdom about the unity of life, and our embedding within the seamless fabric of Cosmos.

In ancient times she was known as Isis, who exemplified her impenetrable mystery by reiterating that "I am Isis; no man has lifted my veil."  She is bathed in the Light and concealed by it.  Thus she alludes to herself as Solitaire, to her virgin nature, that sense of wholeness within oneself, which is the Feminine source of wisdom.  She is the secret powers of nature.  This wisdom is deep ecology which reveals the way of living in balance through intuition.  She is the dark of the Void and the natural Light of the Soul--illumination.

This archetype has reverberated down through history as the sublime matriarch known as the Great Mother.  She is the possibility of bringing creative ideas to birth, to manifestation.  She contemplates the possibility of various manifestations.  The matriarchies of ancient times reflected societies intimately in touch with seasonal cycles and natural rhythms.  We all yearn for "the mother."  For some, this yearning takes a regressive self-destructive turn, which seeks a return to the unconscious oblivion of primal unity through drugs or insanity...in most cases certainly not a conscious choice.

The Great Mother is the All-Merciful one, who understands everything and forgives everything.  In our fantasies at least, she always acts for the best, living only for others.  The goddess embodies our idealizations, our cosmic projections of the universe as mothering womb.  The narcissistic personality wants her to exist only for him.  And, of course, her great love is never truly understood.  If we transmute our personalistic dependency on this archetype to a higher octave, we can access the spiritual dimension of this mystery.

Artemis is the goddess which represents the moon in its crescent phase.  The crescent shape of the waxing moon symbolizes increasing power, the 'horns' represent growth and fertility.  Her chief attribute is that she is a virgin, complete within herself.  Likewise, the mystic remains chaste or virginal in the sense of never being swayed by the events of life to give up spiritual aspiration--all other loves are secondary to this dedication, this spiritual vow.  This is the root of the notion of souls as the "brides" or consorts of God.  Her growth is seen as the potential of fulfillment and fertility through fantasy or "fertile imagination."

There are two distinct forms of the goddess operating at different octaves, so to speak.  As the High Priestess, Artemis as Virgin Mother is the mediator of the highest mystical experiences.  She is the way to true initiation.  In mystical meditation we become receptive to divine grace.  Her path reaches through and beyond the great Void, the Abyss, to the highest unitive states of consciousness.  Mystical experience connects self-actualization with god-realization.  She is the link between the archetypal and formative worlds, the matrix of eternal patterns with unique manifestations.

Both The High Priestess and Art lie on the vertical axis of the Tree of Life.  This vertical axis, known as the Middle Pillar, represents the quickest, most equilibrated Path to mystical attainment.  Artemis inhabits the extreme middle position, where the "medium" and the "amazon" represents poles of a single archetype.  She is equivalent to the alchemical Anima Mundi, or World Soul.  She bridges our perceptions of the world by stimulating the imaginative faculty.

Only a particular facet of woman plays this role of mediator (or medium) to man concerning the mysteries of his own psyche.  There are very few women of this inspiratrix type.  That woman has a role to play which is inherent in her nature.  It is not necessarily the role of sharing his intellectual interests or providing his meals on time.  It is also not becoming the mother of his children nor even being his sexual partner.

The Artemisian role is to be a mediator to all of creative inspirations, a channel where the riches of the unconscious can flow more easily than if she were not present.  For women, she inspires also, from a depth beyond that of the "masculine" ego consciousness.

It takes a high degree of focused consciousness in a woman for her to be able to observe what she is in fact doing instinctively -- to realize the effect she has on others. It is vitally important for a woman who is handling these images from the collective unconscious to have a strong ego to withstand the regressive pull of the unconscious.  If she does not, she herself may be lost in the maze of the transcendent imagination, attaching to and promoting illusory information causing confusion to herself and those around her (sorceress apprentice syndrome).

The mediumistic woman is an initiator.  If she becomes devoted to a religious creed or spiritual science, she will put herself in its service.  Alternatively, she may find herself expressing the spirit of an epoch.  In every event, the spiritual woman is mediating archetypal images to consciousness.


Biologically, Artemis might be seen as corresponding with the endocrine functions of the pituitary and pineal glands.  As a master gland, controlling the others, the function of this gland is to regulate sex, reproductive cycles, and lactation.  It also secretes serotonin, an important "trigger" to the diverse states of consciousness. Serotonin interacts with noradrenalin in the "pain-pleasure" cycle mediated by neurotransmitters in the brain.

Artemis is that element which allows images or visions from these altered states to be brought back into a daily context.  She may be imagined in the symbolic relationship between the pituitary and pineal glands.  Her "magickal son" is the light-sensitive pineal body or "Third Eye.  This gland is implicated in the production of endogenous MDA, dubbed the Spirit Molecule (Strassman); it is responsible for the intrinsic perception of Light.  This third eye is also implicated in the raising of Kundalini, the serpent power, responsible for awakening inner sight or in-sight.

The mediumistic Artemis is archetypally the wise old woman of menopausal age--the crone.  With lowered estrogen levels and an increase in proportion of testosterone, she experience a more masculine development of consciousness.  She is released from the reproductive cycle to be more spiritually productive.  As such, she becomes more androgynous in her sex hormone chemistry.


Experientially, Artemis symbolizes Lunar-consciousness--that diffuse kind of awareness that works with reflection and is nonlinear rather than using direct logic or analysis.  It is a consciousness that notices similarities and unifies, rather than separating and fragmenting.  This state of mind manifests as a deep ecological connection with the universe, a merging of the environmental self and the transpersonal self.

Modern women have reflected the split in consciousness fantasized in our contemporary work-a-day world.  With society emphasizing the superiority of logical (or masculine) forms of consciousness, women experience a tension.  The tension is between the opposites of feminine thoughts and its values, and the more dominant paternal style.  Artemis reminds us of the values of the "natural mind," or being-in-soul and thereby suffused with spirit.

Artemis is the connection which mediates between the personal and collective aspects of life, between actualities and the beyond.  She bridges the individual conscious horizon and the primordial realm of the imaginal with its images, ideas, figures, emotions, and beliefs.

The feelings which are developed through this "soul-making" are more impersonal.  There is a detailed sensitivity to the specific worth of psychic contents and attitudes.  She keeps women in touch with the innermost core of their being, and does the same for mystical man.  Artemis can act as a soul-guide for men through the anima, his feminine component. She relates him to the Superconscious, like a muse.  If a woman can live up to the promptings of her masculine side, she can become a very spiritualized and developed person by balancing the opposites within.

She is the "patron saint" of the meditative, philosophical, or deeply religious personality.  Artemis mediates wisdom by urging participation in the realm of mythical perception.  These metaphors of perception are always images.  She stirs up the imagination to quest, chase, and muse.  She inspires the interpenetration of soul and intellect.  Mystical experience is remembering ourselves, most perfectly.  In self-realization there is blissful merging of the personal consciousness with the Universal.

As a medium, Artemis is psychic, like an ancient sibyl or pythia, because her intuitive faculties are strong.  Her subjective experience of time is discontinuous.  She has the ability to experience possibilities as being more real than the present moment.  She glimpses the future and manipulates the present toward that vision.

The importance of the present depends on its effect in the realization of a specific future.  An experience is important if it suggests or fulfills visionary sight.  Time is not as important to her as the bright picture of possible futures, from which to draw inspiration.

As a moon goddess, Artemis symbolizes the instinctual nature which works through emotional reactions.  But the High Priestess represents a spiritualization, purification, and refinement of the powers of the instinctual nature.  The instinctual movement is toward the spirit in ourselves--the mystic quest.  The great feminine principle in all of us is receptivity.  In this sense we are each our own Holy Grail.

Our irrational, changeable nature is expressed as emotional moods.  Moods may be destructive but if understood can lead to a better and more productive life.  Understanding and dealing with the rhythms of nature, knowing how to live with them, and deal with them is essentially feminine.  Both sexes can become aware of polarities within themselves and understand their behavior and functions so they can be channeled toward higher spiritual aims.

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The High Priestess is an inner experience.  She is intuition and inspiration and kindred experiences.  These come from a hidden, inner world an the aspirant must be receptive to their whisperings and visionary states.  If a person loses this ability for receptivity, remaining enmeshed in the veils of the conscious, egoistic mind and the material world, then She cannot be realized.  We must learn to be quiet and meditate so that the light shines through her influences.  At the last moment we must give up our aspiration, becoming receptive and quiescent, so the Light makes its way through us.

The feminine aspect of nature brings forth a child through the mystery of birth. This child may not be human, but the result of a creative conception -- a brain-child.  It may be the result of a moment of genius -- a poem, painting, idea or discovery.  The "child" is incubated in the silent womb of the goddess, protected until the moment of emergence.  First comes a union of opposites, then a period of quietude and gestation, nurturing and withdrawal.  This process is enacted ritualistically in sex magick and other tantric rites.  It gives birth to genius, the result, the child.

When an individual has undergone to required initiations, or gained a proper relationship to the feminine principle, Self mediates the flood of imagery from the unconscious.  Artemis gives it value and meaning from her perspective the the High Priestess of inspiration.

This is the highest incarnation of the feminine principle in its function of spirit, or divine knowledge.  In Christianity, this role is filled by the Blessed Virgin mary, in Gnostic sects by Sophia, in Qabala by Shekinah, in Tantra by Shakti.  She is an inner daemon whose acquaintance brings awareness of the ultimate reality of our own natures.

She bestows an experience of immortality by lifting us from the daily time frame into a sacred realm of metaphorical perception.  This adds a sacred dimension to life's events.

The moon goddess, in her crescent phase, is Virgin in the psychological sense of the world.  In ancient times, the virgin was distinguished by the fact that she was not dependent on what others thought.  She was no slave to conventional behavior.  Rather, she was motivated by contact with her core Self, the well-spring of her being.

Being true to herself, the Artemesian woman feels no need to capture, posses, or conciliate a husband.  Even in marriage the role she plays expresses her own fierce individuality.  She bears her divinity in her own right, not as merely counterpart to man.

Virginity is an inner attitude which may seem unconventional, but it is traditional since it is concerned with gaining a right relationship to the goddess.  There is nothing new about love of solitude, emotional self-sufficiency, sexual and personal independence.  Its values come from our deep interior processes, not external dictates.  Motives are misplaced if the only result is development of a headstrong egocentricity.


Like Hermes as Logos is the Voice of the Light (The Magus), Artemis is the Soul of the Light (The High Priestess).  Her favorite incarnation in Jungian literature is the Black Madonna, so beautifully delineated by Marion Woodman in various sources.

This archetype is the source of worldwide legends of Virgin-Mothers.  In recent years there has been a neo-pagan revival of the cult of the Goddess, yet She has always been with us.  Her worship survives in the cult of the Blessed Virgin mary, Kali, and a multitude of other sacred names.

This feminine receptivity is the path of the mystic in relation to the Divine.  Artemis joins the mythical to the causal, a path from self-realization to God-realization.  On the path of the High Priestess, we learn to untie the knot between the mind and the soul, through meditation.

Artemis, as the High Priestess, is the bridge across the Abyss of the transcendent imagination.  Without her as guide, the soul's immeasurable depths yawn wide, threatening to swallow us in the Void.  We only perceive personifications of gods and goddesses through the anima-bridge of imagination.

She mediates between the known and the unknown, she mystifies and insists upon uncertainties.  As archetype of psychic consciousness, Artemis bridges awareness of our unconsciousness.  She reflects a reality of ambiguity, indecision, and uncertainty.  She reminds us of the "dark" side of life, the rhythms and oscillations of life..

The Artemesian woman maintains and serves psychological faith.  She is convinced that psyche and its fantasies are as real as matter and nature, as real as spirit.  She has the ability to convey this experience to others.  Artemis, as anima, transforms events which are impersonal and only natural reactions or only spiritual ideas into psychic experiences.

Consciousness arising from soul derives from images of myth manifesting in dreams, fantasies, and life patterns.  In "soul-making," to be conscious means that we are aware of these fantasies which underlie and motivate daily life.  This "fantasy world" is not separate from "reality."

In myth, the Virgin is associated primarily with her son.  This son is conceived through her relationship to Spirit.  She is frequently the Mother of God.  He is born through virgin-birth (parthenogenesis).  He is the magickal child, the son who is symbolically the sun.  Spirit will be reborn whenever we are in touch with soul.  The son represents the woman's development of masculine, or solar consciousness.  Together they represent the fulfillment that wholeness implies.  Their relationship suggests we illuminate imagination with intellect, and refreshen intellect with fantasy.

Diana at her Bath


We seek contact with our internal sense of wholeness, independence, and psychological well-being.  We seek this through balancing our masculine and feminine potentials within ourselves.  Contact Artemis as the midwife of your psychological rebirth to greater awareness.

Also seek Artemis as the psychic Wise Woman, who we can ask for nourishing counsel, as well as creative inspiration.  Approach her with awe and reverence.  Sit quietly, breathing deeply until you are very relaxed and in the twilight imagery state.  Clear your mind of the day's activities and contemplate some exalted aspect of the archetypal Feminine, such as Mary, Sophia, or Shekinah.  Feel her warmth embrace you as you move in and around her imagery.  She move in you and you move within her cosmic imaginal body.

You may be too awestruck to speak, but you can begin a dialogue in true humility.  She may speak, or merely make her comforting presence known.  She leaves an aura of purification or cleanliness.  Record any images, impressions, events, or conversations you experience with her essence.  Then return to stillness.  Record your feelings about this profound encounter with the Virgin-Priestess-Mother.  Seek her comforting arms time and again, especially when you feel "wounded" or in need of spiritual nourishment.

Waxing Moon Meditation:  Ground and center.  Visualize a silver crescent moon, curving to the right.  She is the power of beginning, of growth and generation.  She is wild and untamed, like ideas and plans before they are tempered by reality.  She is the blank page, the unplowed field.  Feel your own hidden possibilities and latent potentials -- your power to begin and grow.  She her as a silver-haired girl running freely through the forest under the slim moon.  She is Virgin, eternally unpenetrated, belonging to no one but herself.  Call her "Virgin" and feel her power within you.

Full Moon Meditation:  Ground and center, and visualize a round full moon.  She is the Mother, the power of fruition shining brightly.  She nourishes what the New Moon has begun.  She her open arms, her full breasts, her womb burgeoning with life.  Feel your own fertility, the power to nurture, to give, and manifest what is possible.  She is the sexual woman; her pleasure in union is the moving force that sustains all life.  Feel the power in your own pleasure, in orgasm.  Her color is the red of blood, which is life.  Call her "Mother" and feel your own ability to love.

Waning Moon Meditation:  Ground and center.  Visualize a waning moon's crescent, curving to the left, surrounded by a black sky.  She is the Old Woman, the Crone who has passed menopause, in tough with the power of ending, of death.  She is the High Priestess, the Reverend Mother mentor.  All things must end to fulfill their beginnings.  The grain that was planted must be cut down.  The blank page is destroyed to write the work.  Life feeds on death and death leads on to life.  In that knowledge lies wisdom.  The Wise Woman carries the indefinite age of infinity, of an eternal quality, of one in touch with the timeless realm.  Her memories stretch back into deep time, cosmic time. Feel your own age, the wisdom of evolution stored in every cell of your body.  Know your own power to end, to say good-bye, to lose as well as gain, to destroy what is stagnant and decayed.  See the Priestess cloaked in black under the waning moon and feel her power in your own death.


1.  Describe your relationships with your grandmothers.

2.  How do you express your mystical, or androgynous nature?

3.  Have you ever had the experience of being a midwife either for a physical birth (human or animal), or as a spiritual midwife for someone's psychological rebirth?  If you have had a personal rebirth experience can you identify how this archetypal power influenced that event?

4.  When you were young did you form a strong attachment to a wise older woman, one associated with psychic or spiritual power, perhaps?  How did she figure in any personal choices or transformations you underwent at this time, (for example, did she provide nourishment, encouragement, support, counseling, etc.)?

5.  Transpersonal aspects of the Virgin include meditation and spiritual midwifery.  Do these, or other aspects of Artemis have an important place in your life.  Are you anyone's spiritual mentor or advisor?

6.  Did (does) your mother embody any Artemisian qualities, such as intuitive or psychic tendencies, exceptional independence for a woman of her generation, or goal-oriented, single-pointed behavior?

7.  How do you see Artemis affecting your behavior, feelings, thoughts, and belief system?

8.  Have you ever had an inner vision of a female wisdom figure?  Explain the life circumstances surrounding this event.

9.  Describe your closest experience of the mystery of birth, either your children's birth or one at which you were present.  Describe your feelings, especially any glimpse into another state of consciousness than "normal" reality.

10.  What is your attitude toward Mother Nature and deep ecology -- the environment, plant and animal life, vegetarianism, conservation, nuclear waste, etc.?

11.  Artemis is also responsible for bringing creative ideas to birth.  Have you ever had an idea or project that seemed to be "born" in some preternatural manner, and take on a life of its own?

12.  Have you ever noticed the cycles of the moon having an effect on your overall well-being or moods.  Do you ever notice, in particular the Full Moon or New Moon?  You may want to watch your feelings over a lunar month and see how they fluctuate.

13.  What are your beliefs concerning the soul and its immortality, resurrection, karma, and reincarnation?

14.  How do you feel you could express the feminine archetype of "receptivity" more effectively in your daily life and in your spiritual path?  What does spiritual "surrender" mean to you?


Goddesses in Every Woman, Jean Shinoda Bolin
The Goddess Within, J. and R. Woolger
Anima, James Hillman
Woman's Mysteries, M. Esther Harding
Knowing Woman, Irene de Castellejo
The Moon and the Virgin, Nor Hall
Facing the Gods, James Hillman, ed.
The Meaning of Aphrodite, Paul Friedrich
The Virgin Archetype, John Layard
The Goddess, Christine Downing
Alone of All Her Sex, Marina Warner
Dragonflies 1980, "The Net of Artemis"