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Statue of Athena in the Louvre Museum; first-century Roman copy of Greek original from fourth century B.C.E.

Athena is the Greek goddess of wisdom and warfare, as well as handicrafts such as weaving. She is probably named for the Greek city of Athens, since her Hellenic career began as a personification and protector of that place. She is known by several titles: As Athena Promachos ("she who fights in front"), she led soldiers into battle; as Athena Parthenos, she was the patron of virgins; the poet Homer referred to her as "bright-eyed Athena," and as Athena Hippia, she invented many of the accoutrements of cavalry warfare -- the bit, bridle, chariot and wagon. Her title Pallas Athena probably means "youthful or young woman," but when that meaning was forgotten, there were stories telling of her taking the name to honor her dead friend Pallas, daughter of Triton.

There are varied accounts of Athena's birth. According to those who venerate the deity Zeus, she was born "fully formed" from his head. Another theological tradition relates that her mother was Metis, Zeus's first wife and an ancient goddess of wisdom — whom Zeus swallowed because of a prophecy that his child would be wiser than he, and that is how she came to emerge from his head. This same origin story, including the identity of Metis as her mother, the chief male deity of the local pantheon as her father, and her birth as a mature woman from her father's head due to a prophecy that led her father to swallow her mother alive, was later adopted as the origin of the similar Roman goddess Minerva. Through her father, she is the half-sister of the Sun god Apollo. Born as an adult, she was assigned the domain of war, which the war-god Ares then shared with her. His power was that of blood lust; Athena brought tactics, strategy and engineering to the military prowess of Athens. She was also the patron and helper of many heroes of Greek mythology: her adopted son Erichthonius, co-founder of Athens; Perseus, slayer of Medusa; Heracles, the Greek original of Roman Hercules; Bellerophon, who tamed the flighted horse Pegasus; and Jason, who found the fabled golden fleece.

The Parthenon in Greece was Athena's principal temple in ancient times, though there were many other temples and monuments wherever Greek culture spread. She is often shown wearing a helmet and a protective amulet featuring a Gorgon's head, and carrying a spear. She may be portrayed with olive trees, snakes, or owls -- specifically the Little Owl, Athene noctua, which was common in Athens and appeared on the city's silver coins. Thus the owl, often seen as a symbol of silent death in tribal cultures, became an emblem of bright-eyed wisdom through association with the goddess. Athena is a popular goddess among those who practice Hellenic Paganism in the Neo-Pagan traditions and under the name Pallas Athena, she is venerated as an Ascended Master, a Chohan of the Fifth Ray. by many in the New Age Tradition. Hoodoo psychic readers, spirit workers, and root doctors who petition the Greek deities on behalf of clients may work with Athena when there are pending spiritual and magical issues regarding psychic and physical protection from enemies, the application of wisdom, and the need for strategic and tactical guidance.


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