Goddess of the Month – Themis

By Tinnekke Bebout

Guest Author

Mystic Crystal Gazer by Lynne French
Mystic Crystal Gazer by Lynne French from ArtCardsWanted.com
Who Is Themis?Themis is a most ancient Goddess. One of the eldest children of
Gaia and Ouranos, Themis is cited as one of the first prophetesses and
givers of law.Her name literally means “Law of Nature”, and She is
considered one whose decrees could sway even the most powerful of the
Olympian Gods. She is also the Goddess of Assemblies, and She was
invoked at every assembly in ancient Greece and called the Gods
themselves to assemble on Olympus when needed. Themis also presided
over the functions of the family as part of the greater populace as
well as the fair and proper function of the courts. Because of this,
judges were called themistop’loi, servants of Themis. Some of Her other titles include:
Euboulos – Well-Counselled
Orthoboulos – Straight Counselled
S’teira – Saviour
Hiera – Holy
Aidoios – August
Eugen’s – High-Born
Worship of ThemisThemis did not have one town that honored Her more than any other
with a special temple that was a place of pilgrimage. Rather all cities
had temples to Themis, either by Herself or in conjunction with other
Goddesses such as Nemesis. Themis also had a special shrine to Her on
Mount Parnassos because of Her connection to the story of Deukalion and
Pyrrha where She tells the survivors or the Hellenic flood to “throw
the bones of their mother (Gaia) over their shoulders as they leave Her
temple” to recreate the human race.
According to several poets and playwrites or classical times,
Themis was one of the earliest brides of Zeus, with whom She is parent
to the Horae or Seasons, and the Moirae, or Fates, as
well as the Goddesses Dike (Justice), Eunomia (Good Order), and Eirene
(Peace). Thus it was said that through Themis did come all things that
made harmonious living possible. In some accounts the Hesperides, who
guarded the grove of golden apple trees which conveyed immortality to
those who ate of them, were also Her daughters with Zeus.

Representation of Themis circa 5th Century BCE
Contrary to some belief in modern times, statues of the Blind
Justice are not statues of Themis. Themis was never depicted that way
in classical times. Rather She was shown as a young woman seated on a
tripod looking down at a dish holding either lots for drawing or the
sacred smoke of the Oracle, and Her face is contemplative and serene.
Themis was also depicted as a woman seated besides Zeus, advising him
on the precepts of divine law. The blindfolded Justice that we are
familiar with was the Roman Goddess Justicia, who was not to be
confused with Themis in role or function in society as She presided
over the courts only.

The Story Deukalion and Pyrrha from the Metamorphoses of Ovid- (trans. Melville, circa 1st BCE)There a great mountain aims towards the stars its double peak,
Parnasos, soaring high above the clouds; and there [during the Great
Deluge that destroyed mankind] Deucalion, borne on a raft, with his
dear wife [Pyrrha] beside, had grounded; all elsewhere the deluge
whelmed. Praise and thanksgiving to the Mountain gods (Numina Montis)
and the Nymphae Corycidae they gave, and to the prophetess, Themis,
then guardian of the oracle . . .They wept together [for the
destruction of mankind]; then resolved to pray to Powers above and
heavenly guidance seek in oracles; and quickly, hand in hand, went to
Cephisus’ stream, whose current ran not limpid yet but in his wonted
course, and there, in ritual due with holy water sprinkling their heads
and clothes, they turned their steps towards the holy shrine (a pale
scum fouled its roofs; the altars stood without flame).They reached
the temple steps and then, prostrate, with timid lips both kissed the
cold wet
stone and said : `If righteous prayers may move and soften the Powers
divine, may turn their wrath away, tell, holy Themis, by what art our
race, now lost, may be restored: in they great mercy hear and grant
succour to a world submerged.”The goddess, pitying, gave her answer : `Leave my temple, veil
your heads, loosen your robes, and cast behind you your great mother’s
bones.

Long did they wait bewildered, until Pyrrha, breaking the silence
first, refused assent and asked the goddess’ pardon, not daring to
offend her mother’s ghost by violence to her bones. In vain they sought
the hidden meaning, searching to and for the baffling words blind
coverts. Then at last Promethides [Deukalion] calmed Epimethis [Pyrrha]
with words of cheer : `Either my reasoning misleads me or in truth
(since oracles are holy and will never counsel crime) the earth is our
great mother and the stones within earth’s body surely are the bones
the oracle intends. These we must throw over our shoulders as Themis
directs.’

So he interpreted, and Titania’s [Pyrrha’s] heart was warmed, but
still hope wavered, such distrust oppressed them both; and yet what
harm to try? They leave the temple, veil their heads, ungird their
robes and, as the oracle commanded, behind them, past their footprints,
throw the stones. Those stones (who would believe did ancient lore not
testify the truth?) gave up their hardness; their rigidness grew slowly
soft and, softened, assumed a shape, and as they grew and felt a
gentler nature’s touch, a semblance seemed to appear, still indistinct,
of human form, like the first rough-hewn marble of a statue, scarce
modelled, or old uncouth images. The earthy part, damp with some trace
of moisture was turned to flesh; what was inflexible and solid changed
to bone; what in the stones had been the veins retained the name of
veins. In a brief while, by Heaven’s mysterious power, the stones the
man had thrown were formed as men, those from the
woman’s hand reshaped as women. Hence we are hard, we children of the
earth, and in our lives of toil we prove our birth.”

Orphic Hymn 79 to Themis (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.)

To Themis, Fumigation from Frankincense. Illustrious Themis, of celestial birth (Ouranopaide), thee I invoke, young blossom of Gaia (the Earth).All-beauteous
virgin; first from thee alone prophetic oracles to men were known,
given from the deep recesses of the fane in sacred Pythian Delphoi,
where renowned you reign.From thee Phoibos� [Apollon�s] oracles arose, and from thy power his inspiration flows.
Honoured by all, of form divinely bright, majestic virgin, wandering in the night.

Mankind
from thee first learnt perfective rites, and Bakkhos’ nightly choirs
thy soul delights; for the God’s honours to disclose is thine, and holy
mysteries and rites divine.

Be present, Goddess, to my prayer inclined, and bless thy consecration with favouring mind.

Tinnekke Bebout is a Dianic Witch, Priestess and Nurse, women’s spirituality and feminist writer and longtime moderator of Z Budapest’s  women’s spirituality e-mail list. She co-founded Michiana Pagan Alliance and The Lake Area Goddesses Society. You can join her Goddess of the Month Newsletter  and find more her writing and creative endeavors at her blog, Tinkalogue.  Tinnekke is also longtime moderator of Z Budapest’s Sisters In Goddess, women’s spirituality e-mail list.

 

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