Diana was the Roman goddess of the hunt. Her Greek counterpart was Artemis. Diana’s father was the Roman god Jupiter. Her mother was her father’s mistress named Latona. Diana was born with her twin brother Apollo, who was the god of light. Their mother gave birth to them on the island of Delos. Diana was born fully grown. It is said she was a tall girl with youthful and beautiful looks. She is often portrayed as a young girl who appears to be between 12 and 19 years old.
Diana is often recognized as the goddess of the hunt, but she was also thought of as the goddess of the woods. Some think of her as the goddess of wild animals, children, and childbirth as well as the moon, fertility, and chastity. Those who worshiped Diana believed she did speak with woodland animals. They also believed Diana could control the movements of animals as well as their behavior.
In artwork, the Roman goddess Diana is often shown holding a bow while on her shoulder is a quiver of arrows. Frequently Diana is shown wearing a short tunic and wearing buckskin foot coverings. She is also often shown barefoot. This is the typical dress of a Roman huntress. Diana is also depicted as being accompanied by a hound, deer as well as maidens. The sculptures made of Diana display her hair as swept up and out of the way. This was something common Roman women did when they were tracking and hunting. Some Roman sculptures made statues of Diana with three heads. They were a horse, dog, and boar. This is because Diana was so strongly associated with hunting, the moon as well as woodland creatures. Some Romans referred to Diana as the Triple Goddess.
In Roman society, Diana was often referred to as a protector of plebeians, which were members of the Roman lower class. She also is considered to have protected slaves. They were often granted sanctuary in Diana’s temples. Her temple in the city of Ephesus was presided over by a high priest who was at one time a slave and had run away from his owner. It was possible for a slave to reach the elevated position of being a high priest. Doing this required the slave to break off a branch from one of Diana’s sacred oaks. The slave would then have to fight the current high priest to death.
The festival of Nemoralia and the Festival of Torches is when the goddess Diana was worshiped. These festivals happened each year during the beginning of August. The followers of Diana would wash their hair and then adorn them with flowers. They would then go to the sacred Lake Nemi which was known as Diana’s Mirror. Once here, the worshipers would have torches and process around the lake. Their torchlight would be seen with the moonlight reflecting on the surface of the lake’s water. This was a day of rest for women and slaves. There was no hunting permitted on a festival days honoring Diana.
Honored By Women
The goddess Diana was considered a symbol of purity. Women who wanted to become pregnant and have a family would pray to Diana. Women who wanted an easy childbirth would also pray to Diana. There were times when mothers would refer to Diana as Lucina. She was known for her ability to protect mothers and children. Women held Diana in a special place of honor.
Those who worshiped Diana said she had an unpredictable nature. There were times when the goddess could be quite vengeful. There is a myth that talks about Actaeon who was a hunter. He came upon Diana when she was in a river bathing. The goddess was upset the hunter had seen her without her clothes. It is said she turned Actaeon into a stag and then made the hunter’s hounds go after him. Another myth talks about when the giant huntsman named Orion won the heart of Diana. Apollo was very upset about the love affair between his sister and Orion. He challenged his sister to a shooting contest. Diana was tricked by Apollo. The far off target was Orion’s head. Diana won the contest and killed Orion. Overwhelmed by grief, Diana turned Orion into a constellation. She made certain the hunting dogs he loved so much named Canis Minor and Canis Major were close to him.
The goddess Diana’s persona is considered very complex. She is identified with a specific subset of celestial gods known as frame gods. These are the type of gods that kept their original features associated with celestial divinity. They could never be ruled by worldly matters. They were known for having transcendent heavenly powers and more. These gods did not share the fate of other celestial gods. They were believed to have a certain amount of influence when it came to the world of mankind, but their influence served no practical purpose.
Diana was a complicated goddess with many different sides. She embodied many different characteristics. Diana was a huntress as well as protector and more. She is often described as the original mother goddess. Diana is considered a powerful symbol that represents strong matriarchal lines. She is often depicted in film, art as well as literature and is considered one of the most enduring mythical goddesses.