Why Potnia Theron as an Epithet?
Boeotian amphora, Hekate/Artemis as Potnia Therōn, detail Thebes, 680 -670 BCE National Archaeological Museum, NM 220, AT 119
A Mistress, Queen, or Lady of the Animals deity has most likely existed since prehistoric times all over the Mediterranean and the ancient Near East. The word itself, Potnia, means mistress or lady, and was a Mycenaean Greek word inherited by Classical Greek. Theron, I think, means ‘hunter’ which explains well why Artemis is often depicted as Potnia Theron, as she is the Mistress of the Hunt. The name Potnia Theron is used when discussing any Potnia Theron depiction in various ancient cultures, despite the fact it is of course, not the name those cultures would have used.
Any Goddess flanked by animals may be titled Potnia Theron, be they huntress goddesses or not. My use of the epithet of Potnia Theron for Hekate in this sanctuary is not as a huntress, but as a Goddess that simply walks with animals in a partnership. My favourite images of Hekate are the ones where she is animal- headed, or is pictured with animals. And so a title of 'Mistress of Animals' seemed right to me. Though I was inspired to choose this epithet as the name of my sanctuary, I am still myself only just learning about it, and I hope to have more reflections about it to share here as the years go by.
The information I've just shared is merely the basic stuff you find on Wikipedia, Wikiwand, and various other sites. Anything else I found seemed to recycle the same information. If you, dear reader, have come across Potnia Theron in books or in research papers, I'd be grateful if you could reach out to me and share the information.
I hope to do some deep dives into research and find out more about this epithet, as well as learn more about the individual depictions of Hekate with animals, and the depictions of herself with animal heads.
A few images of goddesses as Potnia Theron:
Seated Woman of Çatal Höyük, from approximately 6000 BC. It was unearthed by archaeologist James Mellaart in 1961 at Çatalhöyük, Turkey. The head is a restoration, Museum of Anatolian Civilizations
By Sefer azeri - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=133117394
Mighty mistress of animals (Potnia theron) and nature. Pithos with relief, from the years 625-600 BC. National Archaeological Museum of Athens, NAMA 355.By Zde - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://ommons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31151144
Imprint of a Knossian seal discovered by John Arthur Evans. Representation of the Minoan Great Goddess, in Potnia Theron, at the top of a mountain, in front of a sanctuary or a palace, in the presence of her consort or the dedicant.
By Bujomar - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75116555
Winged goddess with a Gorgon's head wearing a split skirt and holding a bird in each hand, type of the Potnia Theron. Probably made on Rhodes. From Kameiros, Rhodes.
circa 600 BC
I believe this image came from Sorita d'Este.