Fierce, beautiful, and untouchable, she still today brings with her a breath of Ice Age mystery. With minor variations, she is Athena, Joan of Arc, Marianne of the Barricades, and Rosie the Riveter. We tie together evidence from the Ice Ages through ancient Greece, Rome, and the Middle Ages, right up to modern times, showing that her cult has been around as long as mankind, and endures today. More
The Athena archetype (virgin hunter, female warrior 'promachos,' Fights In Front) is a glorious mystery in several ways. Why did the Athenians name their capital after her, and dedicate the sanctuary atop the Acropolis (the Parthenon) to the Virgin?
The Ionians worshipped her from at least Neolithic times. When the Greeks founded the Attica's capital city during the Iron Age, they named their city after her: Athens. Atop the city's high hill, they created a sanctuary dedicated to her, and named its chief temple the Parthenon, which means Temple of the Virgin.
Why are figures like Artemis (ferocious, untouchable, feral girl-goddess who hunts with animals) and Athena, or a more modern virgin warrior like Joan of Arc, deeply embedded in the myth-making of humans?
She develops a muted Neolithic identity in, for example, Korē (lit. Maiden), the virginal daughter of Demeter the earth and grain goddess. While picking flowers in a meadow with Artemis, another virginal deity, Korē is kidnapped by Hades and taken to the Underworld, where she is deflowered and made his wife. Ultimately, she is allowed to live above ground during spring and summer, but must return to be Hades' wife in the Underworld. Her infernal (underground) persona is the Greek Persephone (lit. She Whose Name Must Never Be Spoken), and the Roman Proserpina. This is a Neolithic tale, reflecting the miracle or mystery of the grain, which dies, goes underground, and is ultimately reborn when it sprouts. Before humans settled down, became farmers, and pastured livestock, humans were Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) or Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) hunter-gatherers. They did not yet understand the miracle of planting, but gathered wild grains, fruits, and vegetables. They did not yet control or fence in herds of cattle and sheep, but migrated symbiotically with the animals.
This article suggests that the virginal huntress is an archetype dating to Paleolithic times. She is far older than the deities of Classical mythology. In a way, she is the best memory we have of the Ice Ages, when our race reached the modern intellectual and cultural capacity that still characterizes us today (albeit with farming, pasturing, cities, kings, priests, scriptures, dogmas, wars, and much else).