Nemesis: Winged Goddess Of Justice And Revenge
When we hear the word Nemesis we think of an opponent or enemy that is very difficult to defeat. If you are a Star Trek fan, you associate the name with the episode Nemesis in which Captain Picard meets his most dangerous adversary.
The word Nemesis originally meant the distributor of fortune, neither good nor bad, simply in due proportion to each according to what was deserved. In Greek mythology, Nemesis was a winged goddess of justice and revenge. Often called “Goddess of Rhamnous”, an isolated place in Attica, Nemesis was remorseless and her name means “to give what is due. She was also known as Adrasteia, meaning “the inescapable.
Who Was The Goddess Nemesis?
Nemesis has been described as the daughter of Zeus, but, according to Hesiod, she was a child of Erebus and Nyx. She has also been considered the daughter of Nyx alone. Her cult may have originated at Smyrna, an ancient Greek city located at a central and strategic point on the Aegean coast of Anatolia.
A festival called Nemeseia was held at Athens. Its object was to avert the vengeance of the dead, who were supposed to have the power of punishing the living if their cult had been in any way neglected. This evolved into a festival giving homage to Adrasteia/Nemesis. Sacrifices were made to her in the hopes of avoiding her gaze and judgment, or in an attempt to invoke her aid for a perceived slight. In Rome, she was considered the patron Goddess of Gladiators & the Arena, and sacrifices were offered before every bout.
Nemesis is usually seen holding a sword, but in some images, she can be seen holding balance, scales or measuring rod. She has enormous wings and travels in a chariot drawn by Griffins, which were beasts with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion. In the classic Greek tragedies, Nemesis appears chiefly as the avenger of crime and the punisher of hubris (arrogance before the gods).
How Nemesis Punished Narcissus
One Greek myth tells the story of how Nemesis punished, Narcissus, a hunter in Greek mythology, and son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. Narcissus was a very beautiful young man who was also very arrogant and disdained those who loved him. One day, while he was hunting in the woods, the Oread nymph Echo spotted him and immediately fell for him.
When Narcissus sensed that someone was following him, Echo eventually revealed herself and tried to hug him. However, he pushed her off and told her not to disturb him. Echo, in despair, roamed around the woods for the rest of her life and wilted away until all it remained of her was an echo sound. Nemesis, the goddess of retribution and revenge, learned what had happened and decided to punish Narcissus for his behavior. Nemesis led him to a pool, where he saw his reflection and fell in love with it. Unable to abandon his reflection, he died there.
Nemesis believed that no one should ever have too much good, and she had always cursed those who were blessed with countless gifts.
Today, many Hellenic Pagans, still hold celebrations in honor of Nemesis, acknowledging both her power over the living and as a goddess of the dead. In the Orphic Hymns, Hymn 61 is a prayer to honor Nemesis:
Thee, Nemesis, I call, almighty queen,
by whom the deeds of mortal life are seen:
eternal, much revered, of boundless sight,
alone rejoicing in the just and right:
changing the counsels of the human breast
forever various, rolling without rest.
To every mortal is thy influence known,
and men beneath thy righteous bondage groan;
for every thought within the mind concealed
is to thy sight perspicuously revealed.
The soul unwilling reason to obey,
by lawless passion ruled, thine eyes survey.
All to see, hear, and rule, O power divine,
whose nature equity contains, is thine.
Come, blessed, holy Goddess, hear my prayer,
and make thy mystics’ life thy constant care:
give aid benignant in the needful hour,
and strength abundant to the reasoning power;
and far avert the dire, unfriendly race
of counsels impious, arrogant, and base.