During my recent interview with Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen about the Greek Goddess Artemis, “Mistress of Animals,” I related a story demonstrating how this goddess spontaneously rose up in me.
Jean tells us that Artemis was a “daddy’s girl.” I too was the light of my father’s eye. I grew up with three other siblings, and we were so close in age that three of us were in high school at the same time. My older sister was the scholar and beauty, my older brother was the wild one with a protector spirit, and my younger brother was an absolute angel with the most loving temperament of us all. I was the one most connected with our pets.
There were several occasions when I stood up to my father in defense of animals. I recall a special riverboat trip from Chicago to New Orleans that included navigating the Mississippi River. I traveled with my mother, father, and little brother, as well as another couple and their two kids, and a river pilot. I, at eleven years old, for once was the oldest child. It took us a little over two weeks to go down the river.
At one point on the trip Daddy took out his shotgun and aimed at a flock of ducks flying overhead. Although he taught all his children how to shoot at clay pigeons, I’d never seen him kill anything. I was in shock when I saw one of the ducks fall into the water and start to swim toward the boat for safety. Daddy then blasted it right there in the water before it reached the boat. With my adult eyes I rationalize that he killed it to put it out of its misery. But, at the time, I was hysterical. My tears and rage at this harrowing event brought my father to his knees. He came to my side, broke down his gun and asked for my forgiveness saying, “Justine, I will not bring this gun out again for the rest of the trip.” My father was over six feet tall and I was a wisp of a girl. However, in that moment, I was the big one. My energetic body loomed enormous and was without fear as it stood up to the “enemy” of ducks.
When I told this story to Jean Bolen, she helped me to understand that it was the archetype of Artemis that spontaneously rose up in me to create such a powerful experience. It is my prayer that this defender of activists, environmentalists, animal rights people, and feminists remain ever present in our midst and rise up with such power whenever needed.
—Justine Willis Toms