Myth, hunt and sublimation. The Gestaltwandel of the goddess Artemis and the hunter Orion interpreted from a psychoanalytical perspective

This paper tries to demonstrate that psychoanalysis can not only distill fixed and unchangeable meanings from a myth, but that it can also throw light on the dynamic forces that modify myths such that they can function in the society in which they are communicated. A case-study of the virgin goddess Artemis and the hunter-hero Orion shows how their love affair diachronically undergoes an increasing degree of sublimation, which can be explained by two parallel evolutions. Artemis, on the one hand, changes from an ancient mother goddess into a chaste huntress, indeed like many other mythological women; Orion, on the other hand, becomes a mortal human being and a less important player in Greek mythology, as hunting becomes less necessary or even superfluous as a source for food supply, but instead remains in use as a rite of passage for young adolescents instead. By adapting Artemis’ and Orion’s story to these historical and psychological changes, the male narrators of the story made sure that the myth would remain relevant and meaningful for their contemporary audience.