I say Pagan. What do you say?
Pentacle. Nature worship. Zeus. Odin. The Goddess. Hippies. Spells. Free love.
Probably not waiting until marriage for sex.
After all, why would anyone with pagan beliefs – let alone a Hellenic polytheist – choose to remain a virgin until their wedding day? It seems hypocritical, when you worship a God who liked to stick his thing in anything that moved (it’s not for nothing Zeus is called the “Father of Gods and men”). And it just doesn’t seem like a very pagan thing to do – most people who wait tend to be Christians or Muslims.
Yet there are some Pagans who wait, too. I’m one of them, and in this post I’m going to tell you how I came to make this choice.
Back when I was twelve years old and new to Hellenismos, my history teacher gave us a handout on the Greek Gods. The classroom buzzed with discussions about which God or Goddess was the “coolest” – Aphrodite was popular, as was Apollon, and Zeus of course. I was the only one drawn to Artemis. Maybe it was her connection to wild beasts and nature, or to young maidens like me, or to the moon I always loved – or maybe it was her skill at arrow-shooting, something which I aspired to learn. In any case, I felt a strong pull towards her, and she became, after Zeus, the Olympian I prayed and made offerings to most often.
Interestingly, when I began my Hellenic journey, I was at that age when your body changes, your hormones kick in, you have your first serious crushes and you start to understand what sex and marriage is all about. I remember being confused by that last idea – I’d been taught that my body was a sacred, special thing, but suddenly it was okay to share it with somebody else? What if that somebody didn’t treat it how it was meant to be treated? How could I take that risk, knowing that I was about to share my most precious possession? It was all very scary to me.
I don’t remember the day, and I don’t remember the circumstances, but the time came when I sought Artemis’s guidance. I’m your child, I said. You watch over little girls and maidens, so watch over me. Keep me safe. I asked her to make sure I was treated correctly and that the person I gave myself to deserved it. I must have been only thirteen or fourteen at the time, but I pledged that I would not have sex until I was sure he was The One.
Years went by, and I kept looking for that One but he was nowhere to be found. When I was seventeen, I entered my first serious relationship. Most of the time, we were long distance; he lived in Australia, and back then I was in Switzerland. He planned to visit me over the Christmas holidays, and that thought both excited and terrified me. Excited me, because I would see him again; terrified me, because I knew we would end up getting intimate, and somehow that didn’t sit well with me.
It wasn’t because I didn’t love him – I did for sure. But I kept thinking of my promise to Artemis, and I was nagged by the possibility that he might not be The One. It turned out that he wasn’t: we broke up before that Christmas, and I never did lose my virginity to him. Still, I was left with so many questions it made my head hurt.
It was as if I had a beautiful gift, the most precious one I had, and I could give it to as many people as I wanted – but it would never be as beautiful as when I gave it for the first time. With time, it would become tattered and used… Was this the gift I wanted to give to The One? Definitely not. But how could I know he was The One if I didn’t give it to him to try?
Then it struck me. The One was my husband. If he asked me to marry him and have the closest relationship two human beings can have, then I would know it was him. It made sense: if he was willing to be united emotionally and spiritually, then we could be united physically as well. Not before, and in no other way.
It took me a while to decide that waiting until marriage was for me, but Artemis was with me every step of the way. And this year, I finally mustered the courage to speak to her again.
You’re a virgin Goddess, I said. In ancient times, you used to watch over young maidens until their wedding day… So watch over me. Until I marry, I hand myself over to your care.
And I think, though I can’t be sure, she was proud of me for making that choice.
So next time you think that Hellenismos is all free love and no-strings-attached… Remember that Artemis is a Greek Goddess too, and that she inspired me to wait until marriage.