Athena is the ancient Greek Goddess of war, wisdom, and crafting. She had many different names, from Ergane as the patron deity of weaving, to Polias as a palace goddess and defender of cities.
Where did she come from? How do you know if she’s calling out to you?
Athena, known to the Romans as Minerva, was born from the forehead of her father, Zeus. In the most commonly told version of this story, Zeus has a wife before Hera named Metis.
Metis is the goddess of wisdom and cunning, and is as invaluable to him as a counselor as she is as a partner.
Unfortunately, Zeus receives a prophecy that Metis will give birth to two children — the first, a daughter even wiser than her mother. The second, a son even more powerful than his father. This second child would eventually overthrow Zeus.
Needless to say, Zeus isn’t thrilled by this news. It also comes at a bad time, since Metis’ first pregnancy was already well underway. Zeus frets over the prophecy before coming up with a solution: a shape-shifting game.
Both gods challenge each other to change forms. Finally, Zeus turns himself into a tiny mouse and proclaims that Metis could never become smaller than that. Metis, in response, turns herself into a fly. Thinking quickly, Zeus swallows the fly.
Metis’ pregnancy continues within her husband. With so much time on her hands, she takes the opportunity to sit down and craft a beautiful shield, spear, and armor for her coming daughter. She gives birth to the baby and begins raising her inside of Zeus.
Finally, Zeus develops a splitting headache. Desperate to relieve the pain, he allows Hephaestus to crack open his skull and ease the pressure.
A fully-grown Athena, radiant in the armor her mother made her, emerges from his forehead to take her place among the other Olympians.
There are several versions of this story. In one, Zeus births Athena without the involvement of a mother.
In another, he rapes Metis and she changes shape to avoid him as he pursues her. In still another, the Brontes (one of the Cyclopes that forged Zeus’ thunderbolts) fathers Athena.
Athena is a counterpart to Ares. Where Ares is the embodiment of strength, brutality, and bloodlust of war, Athena is the strategic side.
She represents the intellectual aspect of battle, whereas he represents the physical. Athena is often portrayed as superior to him, but this may be because Athenians regarded Ares as a foreign deity.
Athena was responsible for the creation of Medusa. Medusa was originally a beautiful priestess in Athena’s temple. Poseidon raped her in the temple, and Athena transformed Medusa into a Gorgon in response.
Whether this was intended as a punishment or protection is debatable — a protective amulet known as a Gorgoneion prominently features a Gorgon’s head, suggesting that Medusa may have been given the ability to turn men into stone in order to defend herself.
As the Goddess of Handicrafts, Athena could also be jealous. When she invented the plough, a girl named Myrmex attempted to take credit for it. In retaliation, Athena transformed her into an ant.
A conceited weaver named Arachne claimed that she could weave better than Athena herself. Athena disguised herself as an old woman and warned the girl to watch what she said, but Arachne just laughed.
The two had a weaving contest, during which Arachne wove an elaborate tapestry depicting all of the gods’ infidelities. An offended Athena struck the girl and destroyed her work.
A broken-hearted Arachne hanged herself, after which Athena took pity on her and transformed her into a spider.
Athena was also involved in the Trojan war. Alongside Hera and Aphrodite, she was one of the three deities who competed for a golden apple marked “To the Fairest.”
Paris, the judge of the contest, chose Aphrodite over her. An angry Hera and Athena sided with the Greeks against Troy.
Though she originated as a protectress of cities, Athena’s role grew over time. The Panathenaia, a festival of athletic contests, worship, and cultural demonstrations, was held in in her name. This took place in the middle of summer and was the most important holiday in Athens.
Symbols & Associations
Athena is associated with crafting, battle, strategy, and wisdom. There are several different symbols connected to her, all drawn from her mythology:
- Owls. It’s uncertain why Athena is associated with owls specifically, but some scholars theorize that it may have to do with her origins as a city protector. Athens, the city that gave her her name, has an abundance of owls.
- Olive trees. In one story, Athena competes with Poseidon for Athens. Poseidon gave the city a spring, but the water was salty and useless. Athena offered an olive tree, which supplied food, oil, and wood. The people of Athens judged her gift to be better than his, so she became the patroness of Athens.
- The Gorgoneion. As mentioned above, Athena turned Medusa into a Gorgon. She was also depicted wearing the Gorgoneion.
Like all Greek gods, Athena has the ability to:
- Transform people and things.
- Appear wherever she pleases.
- Create objects, like the olive tree at Athens.
- Remain eternally youthful and strong.
She is also exceptionally wise and skilled in the art of battle, weaving, and crafting. She protects cities and is both exceptionally physically strong and an unbeatable strategist.
The best offerings for Athena parallel standard offerings for most Greek deities. Consider things like:
- Olive oil.
- Fancy olives.
- Beef or mutton.
- Hand-woven textiles.
- Handicrafts of any kind.
- Images of owls.
Signs Athena is Calling You
Athena may be calling you if you’ve developed a sudden interest in her. She’s a very intellectual deity, so her call may be something as subtle as an insatiable curiosity.
You might also find that you repeatedly encounter owls, whether in real life, art, or even songs and stories. Owls are one of her most prominent symbols.
She may appear to you in dreams or visions, typically as a young woman wearing armor and carrying a shield and spear.
Athena may also be calling you if you develop an interest in weaving, making crafts, or even inventing things. This is the deity who created the plough, so she’s full of creativity and very good at bringing her visions to life.
A sudden interest in military history or strategy can also be a call from her. While Ares is more commonly regarded as the God of War, Athena represents the mental aspect of battle.
Crystals Associated with Athena
The best crystals for Athena are ones that represent the virtues that are important to her. These include:
- Lapis lazuli. This is a stone of truth and clarity.
- Azurite. This stone is associated with communication and honesty.
- Celestite. She is often called “gray-eyed Athena,” and these blue-gray stones evoke the color of her eyes.
- Gold. White not a crystal, Athena is associated with the color gold. Statues of her were adorned with gold, and she was said to wear golden or bronze armor.
- Topaz. Athena is also associated with the color saffron, a shade of yellow. She was said to wear a yellow chiton trimmed with purple.
- Citrine. See topaz.
- Carnelian. Though Athena is a Goddess of military strategy, she’s still a war goddess who wields weapons. One unique image of her was a red-robed terracotta figure. Carnelian is a vibrant red stone said to increase physical strength and endurance.
Herbs Associated with Athena
Athena is connected to a variety of herbs. These can make wonderful offerings to her, or even be used in offertory incense:
- Cinnamon. Cinnamon is a nice addition to incense.
- Cypress. Cypress is a fragrant evergreen (with the exception of bald cypress, which sheds its needles annually) that is a wonderful ingredient in incense and oils.
- Cedar. Cedar is associated with strength and vitality, and produces a beautifully fragrant oil.
- Dragon’s blood. Dragon’s blood is widely regarded as a “power” ingredient for magical preparations. It’s a deep red resin that produces copious amounts of fragrant smoke when burned.
- Olive. Athena gave the city of Athens an olive tree. This is the plant she is perhaps the most mythologically connected to. Olive oil, branches, and fruits, or even objects made of olive wood, are all good offerings for her.
Working with Athena
The best way to begin working with Athena is to read about her. This won’t just give you a stronger background in her origins, mythology, and worship, it’s also pleasing to her as the Goddess of Wisdom. This will give you more ideas about how to set up an altar to her, conduct offerings, and live according to her principles.
You also may wish to make a worship space for her. A small table works well for this. Set it with a candle or two, a bowl for offerings, and an incense burner.
You can also add whatever adornments you like, like images or statues of her, depictions of owls, a bonsai olive tree, a picture of the Temple of Athena Nike, and so forth.
Visit this place frequently to make offerings to her. Don’t let it become cluttered or dusty, and never let food or beverage offerings become moldy or buggy.
Since Athena is a warrior goddess, you can also work with her by donating your time or money to veterans’ organizations or rescues that specialize in owls and other birds of prey.
Athena is a complex figure. She’s the Goddess of Wisdom but is shown to be just as prone to jealousy and anger as the other gods.
She’s a virgin Goddess of weaving and handicrafts but wears a type of armor traditionally associated with men.
She’s Zeus’ favorite daughter, and also the reason Hephaestus had to split his skull open. Her strength, skill, and wisdom are legendary. If she calls to you, consider it a privilege.