Who is Eileithyia, the Greek Goddess of Childbirth and Labor?

The goddess of childbirth known as Eileithyia (or Ilithyia) in Greek mythology revered the cow and the peacock as sacred creatures. She was the offspring of ZEUS, the supreme ruler of all other gods, and Hera, his sister and seventh and last wife.

In Book 19 of Homer’s The Odyssey, a cave in Knossos, Crete, where Eileithyia was born, is described. The goddess Eileithyia made this cave her main location of devotion. She was highly revered at Olympia, where a temple was built in her honor. The stalactites and stalagmites inside the cave in Crete seem to represent the goddess’s contradictory deeds of hastening and delaying labor.

The cave itself is a metaphor for the womb’s darkness, and the exit from the cave connects to the birth canal.

Eileithyia, also known as Eleithyia or Eilethyia. Her name is derived from the word eleuthein, which the ancients believed to denote the goddess who comes or helps. She was the goddess of birth, assisting women who were in labor. When she was kind-hearted, she accelerated the birth, but when she was furious, she prolonged the labor and postponed the delivery. But subsequently, both roles were ascribed to a single deity, and even in later Homeric songs, only the Cretan Eileithyia is mentioned.

Carved Statue of Eileithyia by Wil Sheperd Courtesy: www.wilsheperd.com


Mythology of Eileithyia

Eileithyia linked with women giving birth whereas her mother Hera devoted herself to the care and protection of married women. Eileithyia has a connection to human midwives, or women who help in childbirth, as a result of her closeness to women giving birth. Eileithyia did not, however, always assist with birthing. As she did when Alcmene was giving birth and laboring, she occasionally averted or postponed births.

Statue of Eileithyia at The British Museum

Hera, her mother, had given the command to do this. Hera sent her daughter Eileithyia to stand outside the bedroom where the lovely Greek woman named Alcmene, whom Zeus had made pregnant, was giving birth because she was angry and resentful of her husband Zeus’s behavior. The birth of a boy was magically delayed as Eileithyia sat with her legs crossed and her fingers tightly wrapped around them.

In Greek mythology, Eileithyia was the Greek goddess of childbirth and labor. Her name refers to the goddess who assisted women in giving birth to offspring and comes from the Greek word for “helper” or “bearer.” Despite being viewed as a beneficent goddess, she still stood for misery. 

Eileithyia is typically described as the child of Hera and Zeus in mythologies. Eileithyia followed her mother and was always closely affiliated with her because her mother was the patroness of married women.

Courtesy British Museum

Because of her matriarchal position in Greek mythology, Hera is sometimes referred to as the Queen of the Gods. Ares, Hebe, and Hephaestus were the three offspring whom Zeus and Hera had together.

Hera Symbols, Sacred Plants and Animals
Greek Goddess Hera by Rudall30


Hera’s Children

Hera was a very old goddess, maybe even older than Zeus, based on the number of her cults. It’s a given that we don’t even know what her real name was. In actuality, “Hera” is a title that is typically translated as “Lady” or “Mistress.” The Roman equivalent of Hera was Juno, the goddess who gave the month of June her name. June is still the most popular month for marriages.

The Olympian goddess of marriage and Zeus’s wife, Hera, is also known as the ruler of Mount Olympus. She is the deity most closely linked to the wellbeing of the family, women, and children as a result. But because Zeus had multiple relationships, their marriage was sad. Hera made sure to treat each of his consorts harshly out of resentment and vengeance.


Who are Zeus’s Children?

According to Greek mythology, Zeus is the sky deity. Zeus, the foremost Greek deity, is revered as the king, guardian, and father of all other gods and beings. Zeus is frequently pictured as an elderly man with a beard and is symbolized by objects like the lightning bolt and the eagle.

Zeus had numerous offspring. The most well-known of these are Athena, the goddess of battle; Perseus, the hero famous for killing Medusa; and Persephone, the daughter of Demeter and wife of Hades. Outside of his marriage to his wife and sister Hera, Zeus is renowned for his numerous sexual (and sometimes nonconsensual) affairs.

Demeter Symbols of the Greek Goddess, Her Sacred Plants and Animals
Demeter the Greek Goddess of Agriculture, Harvest and Fertility by Nnnmmm

The Hindu sky god Dyaus, who is recorded in the Rigveda, and Zeus have names that have similar etymologies. Numerous proto-Indo-European myths, such as the Greek, Hindu, and Norse, are thought to have many parallels and may have had a common ancestor.

Zeus was notoriously promiscuous and had several relationships with both mortal and immortal women, which caused him to be in constant conflict with his wife, Hera. Zeus often adopted animal forms in order to carry out his amorous plans, such as a cuckoo when he raped Hera, a swan when he raped Leda, or a bull when he abducted Europa.

Famous among his descendants were the twins Apollo and Artemis, born from the Titaness Leto; Helen and the Dioscuri, from Leda of Sparta; Persephone, from the goddess Demeter; Athena, who was born from his head after he had swallowed the Titaness Metis; Hephaestus, Hebe, Ares, and Eileithyia, from his wife Hera; Dionysus, from the goddess Semele.

As a result, the goddess of childbirth and the patron saint of midwives in Greek mythology was known as Eileithyia. She could provide relief in the form of a quick and painless delivery, but she also stood for the inescapable suffering and great risk of childbirth. Thanks for reading with us!


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