Eileithyia

Eileithyia is the ancient goddess of childbirth, midwifery, and birthing pains. Eileithyia is believed to be a Minoan goddess assimilated into the Greek pantheon as Hera’s daughter. She works very closely with Hera and is Hera’s weapon in her struggle to prevent Zeus’ other wives from giving birth and threatening the sovereignty and statues of her own children. Without Eileithyia’s cooperation, labour cannot go well and perhaps cannot occur at all.

Eileithyia was venerated by pregnant women and those in labour to provide safety success and to lessen pain. Although comparatively little attention is paid to her in mythology books, she was actually subject of great popular veneration; she had many shrines and was considered an extremely significant deity.

Also known as:

Eleutheria; Ilithyia; Genetyllis

Origin:

Crete

Favored people:

Midwives

Iconography:

A woman bearing a torch or with hands upraised, as if beckoning. Some times there is one Eileithyia, but sometimes she is portrayed as a pair of spirits.

Attribute:

Torch

Spirit allies:

Eileithyia may be venerated alongside Hera and/or Artemis.

Sacred site:

The Cave of Eileithyia near Knossos, Crete, is allegedly her birthplace and was an important pilgrimage site; she is associated with caves, in general. Eileithyia was a widely venerated goddess with shrines throughout Greece.

Offerings:

Ex-votos (milagros) in the shape of breasts; incense; water

See Also:

  • Artemis
  • Hera
  • Leto
  • Semele
  • Zeus

Source:

Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.

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