I've been thinking about the bonds of family a lot lately. Not surprisingly, considering the circumstances, I suppose. I've found myself inexplicably drawn to Artemis, and I have spent more time sacrificing and praising Her in my daily prayer rituals than I usually would. I suppose I've never truly considered how great an influence She has on my life as a Goddess of women and the patron of the transition from girlhood into womanhood.

I have considered myself a woman for many years. I have made conscious efforts to correct people who would call me a "girl" for just about as many, both out of a sense of feminism and honest belief that I was an adult woman and knew what came with that title. I think I am currently realizing that there is more to adulthood than just moving out of the home of your parents, especially if it's a toxic environment to be in. You carry the roll of "child" with you for a long time and I doubt you ever truly shake it, but I'm coming to find that letting go of some of the ties that bind is a process that takes part in stages. I have reached a new one, and I naturally reach out to Artemis for comfort.

In ancient Hellas, a girl's coming of age ceremony was linked to her wedding day. As soon as she got married, she would move out, into her new husband's oikos, and commit to the task she was born to fulfill: gift her husband legitimate offspring--boys, preferably. It won't come as a surprise that in preparation for this entirely new role in life, a girl's coming of age ceremony was focussed almost entirely on ending her own childhood, and petitioning the Gods for help in her life as an adult. As such, fertility and womanhood were big parts of the rituals.

Young girls rarely had a role to play in household worship. The family only had them with them for thirteen to fifteen years, on average, after that, she joined her rightful place at the oikos of her husband, where she carried more (religious) responsibility. There were religious roles young girls could fulfill outside of the home, however, most notably as 'Arrephoros' (Ἀρρήφορος)--year long handmaidens of Athena Polias (Πολιάς)--in Athens, and as 'Arktos' (αρκτος), bear, a service in the following of Artemis Brauronia (Βραυρωνια) at Brauron (Βραυρών).

During the Arkteia festival, celebrated every four or five years alongside--or as a part of--the Brauronia, named and in honor of the epithet of Artemis. Every Athenian girl, as well as many other girls from all over Attika, had to take part of the festival before they could marry. The girls were brought to Brauron, a temple of Artemis with a rich history in both myth and history. Some versions of the myth of Iphigeneia have her taken from the sacrifice and dropped in Brauronia, where she established a temple to the Goddess in gratitude. Otherwise, an oracle might have told the ancient Hellenes to build a temple to the Goddess at Brauron after a terrible plague or famine plagued the land following the killing of a bear by two hunters.

The symbolism of the bear might refer to the bear which was slain by the hunters, or the clothes Iphigeneia might have left at her 'sacrifice'. It's also possible that the bear reference refers to Kallisto, who was transformed into a bear by the Goddess.

During the festival young girls, and it seems that on occasion young boys, would gather to celebrate Artemis Brauronia with races, and dances. They would don bear masks and dance a dance known as the 'Arkteia', which was made up of slow, solemn steps meant to imitate the movements of a bear and was performed to a tune from a diaulos (double flute). They might have carried baskets of figs. Up until as far back as the 5th century, the girls might have worn actual bear skins, but bears soon became scarce, so they wore yellow dresses called 'krokoton', which they 'shed' instead of the skins to signal their coming adulthood.

The actual reason for the 'bear' ritual has been lost. It's possible that the ritual served to exorcise 'the wildness' out of little girls, but it's more likely that it was simply a way to procure kharis for the young girls who would soon call on Artemis during childbirth. In the same spirit, young women on the threshold of marriage made an offering to Artemis of their childhood toys and other paraphernalia that represented childhood, as with an offering of one drachma (roughly $ 60,-) at the temple of Aphrodite. Most likely, the bride also honored Hera Teleia and Zeus Teleios in some way.

A young woman came of age during her wedding and the subsequent wedding night, but became a woman when she gave birth for the first time. Especially during the latter, they desperately needed the support of the Goddess Artemis. Aphrodite and Hera Teleia would support her through her marriage, and help her make it a success. With the help of the Gods, a girl could become a woman.

I am not a mother. I don't know if I will ever become one either. I am also not married, but I have been with my girlfriend for thirteen years, and we've lived together for eleven. I consider myself married in the eyes of the Gods. I present myself as a woman, but I am in need of a new Arkteia, of a new blessing from Artemis Brauronia in order to break more chains that shackle me to the past. I suppose that is going to be a focal point of my worship for a while.