Click to enlargeAthena

Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, was the daughter of Zeus and Metis. Her symbol is the clever owl.

Fearful that Metis's children might overthrow him one day, Zeus swallowed her when she became pregnant. Nine months later, he developed a headache. To relieve the pain, Hephaestus, master craftsman of Olympus, split his skull with an axe. Out sprang Athena, fully-grown and clad in armor. She became Zeus' favorite child, a real Daddy's Girl.

Athena was always partial to men, though she remained a virgin. She helped Greek heroes. Thanks to her, Perseus defeated the snake headed gorgon, Medusa. Athena fixed the monster's severed head to her shield to terrorize enemies.

As goddess of war, Athena was undefeated. Her strategic skills outstripped those of the male god of war, Ares. She fought only to defend the state or to protect her father. She confronted the monstrous half-serpent Typhon when he challenged Zeus. Because of her courage and zeal for justice, Nike, winged victory, made her a winner.

But Athena was more than a warrior. She was goddess of agriculture and navigation for men, and of domestic and ornamental arts for women. She taught spinning, weaving and needlework. She invented the bridle and the flute. She protected the families of Greece.

Her patience with mortals had limits, however. Proud Arachne challenged her to a weaving contest that she boasted she'd win. When she lost, Arachne hung herself in shame. Athena turned her into a spider so that she and her arachnid descendents could weave forever.

The city of Athens was named for Athena because of her gift of the useful olive tree to the city. (The tree provided food, oil for cooking, and wood for building.) And the world's most beautiful temple, the Parthenon (Room of the Maiden) was built for her worship on top of the Acropolis.

Athena is a role model for women who still live in a man's world. Her ability to operate brilliantly in a patriarchal society, while remaining grounded in her woman's wisdom, is an inspiration. (Story on back of card.)

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