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Writing means different things to me. I'm a storyteller, a book editor, and a songwriter. For me, it's like breathing.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Monday Musings: Bears in mythology and in relation to Artemis

Due to their strength and dominance, bears are the rulers of the forest. Fast, big and powerful hunters, they are one of the most feared and respected of the woodland animals.

In mythology, since bears hibernate in caves, and caves are associated with the goddess’s womb, they appear to die in winter and are reborn in spring. Because of their association with death and rebirth, they are believed to have the ability to communicate and travel to other worlds, the dream and spirit realms.

In her aspect as Bear Goddess, Artemis is fierce—queen of the forest—protector and destroyer, nurturer and hunter. Of all the animals in the forest, she-bears are fiercely protective of their young. Just like the bear, Artemis is a protector of mothers, children and those giving birth—human and animal. She rules her forest, defending what is hers and destroying any threats. She is mother, hunter, and guardian.

In The Bear Goddess, one nymph is chosen for the honored position of Bear Goddess. She safeguards the barriers surrounding Artemis’s forest, can travel in the dream realms and acts in the goddess’s stead when she is away. All nymphs can take the shape of forest animals, but only the Bear Goddess can take the shape of a bear. Just like in the original myth of Callisto, a bear plays an important part in my story.

Bears are awesome, magical creatures. It’s no wonder Artemis has a close relationship with them.

Excerpt from The Bear Goddess:
The bear roared, this time an enraged growl, and paced from side to side.
Kasin’s grip tightened around the end of the spear, his body coiled, ready for the bear to charge.
The bear remained in the same place, growling at him in an unusual way. He must be going mad because he was certain the bear was yelling at him.
And then he remembered: Callisto had told him only the Bear Goddess could change into a bear.
The bear stopped growling for a moment and stared hard at him.
He lowered his spear. Using caution, he took one step forward, keeping his gaze on the bear, prepared to throw his spear if necessary.
The bear calmly watched him.
Taking a deep breath, he took another step forward. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, calling on his faith, hoping it was Callisto standing before him and not a hungry she-bear. He also prepared himself for a deathblow to his head from a swipe with one of her huge sharp-clawed paws.
He looked the bear straight in the eyes. There was no emotion or other sign in its beastly gaze indicating the bear was Callisto. He had to believe it to be true or he knew he would die. I am either a fool or I have a death wish. He dropped his spear.
He could feel the heat of the bear’s breath, and he could hear the animal’s ragged breathing. Closing his eyes again, he imagined Callisto, her quiet beauty, her compassion. Slowly, he reached out to stroke her head. He waited for the pain of the deathblow. The pain never came. His fingers touched soft hair, not animal fur.
He opened his eyes. “It is you.” His voice came out sounding rough with emotion.
Her sorrowful eyes glistened. “I almost killed you. If you had not said my name…”
He pulled her against him. “You are quite frightening as a bear.”

Kelley Heckart, Historical fantasy romance author

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