Gods and Goddesses

Artio Goddess of Bears: 9 Ways to Work With Her Primal Energy

Have you ever hugged a bear? Has a bear ever taught you how to love and heal yourself? How to protect yourself from negative, intrusive energy? Artio Goddess of Bears, Queen of the Celtic Forest and Mountains, is just the bear deity to have in your life. But who is she? Where does she come from? Learn of Artio’s origins, history, lore, and how to work with her in your daily life and spiritual practice today.

First, Who is Artio?

Artio is an obscure (meaning lesser known) goddess whose cult was once widespread in the Alpine region of Europe, namely in the region of modern Switzerland. In fact, the city of Bern, Switzerland is names for bears and its museum houses one of the only known artifacts depicting Artio. She is a goddess of Celtic origin. If you can picture what the country of Switzerland looks like today, with its vast sloping, snowy mountain peaks and lush green hills, you’ll begin to understand why a goddess of bears was once so prominent a force. Because, once, there were bears populating this beautiful country. Sadly, not many pagans or witches have heard of her, much less work with her in their practice. We should change that!

Artio and Bears in Mythology and in the Human Heart

Artio’s name translates to “bear”, specifically the “art” syllable. Interesting that this same syllable can be found in the goddess Artemis’ name, as well as for King Arthur of the Arthurian legends. Both of whom have been linked to bears. Some scholars believe Artio might be a Celtic forerunner to the Greek goddess of the forest, Artemis. Anything is possible.

Sadly, much of the mythology surrounding this ferocious yet loving deity has been lost in time. What we do know comes from the artifacts we’ve found bearing (see what I did there?) Artio’s likeness and name? First, there have been about a dozen or less inscriptions with Artio’s name found across Switzerland, Germany, France, and Luxembourg. There is some speculation that Artio may be on a few inscriptions in Spain, as well. Most of these inscriptions simply mention her name and the person who venerated her.

The most popular (and only) depiction we have of Artio is a statue housed in the historical museum in Bern, Switzerland where it was originally found. The statue is made up of a bear with a goddess holding a basket or bowl of corn and fruit that is spilling over in her lap. In addition, there is a tree arching over the goddess. And it bears the inscription “Deae Artioni / Licinia Sabinilla” (“To the Goddess Artio” or “Artionis”, “from Licinia Sabinilla”). Obviously Artio’s cult survived well into Gallo-Roman times. The seated goddess has been called a Vegetation Goddess, meaning a goddess of the harvest and of prosperity. The Tree represents the other realms and the cycle of life-death-rebirth.

Artio statue
The actual Artio statue in Bern.

The Bear’s Powerful Sacred Significance

Bears have walked the earth for the last two million years. And, as they are awfully human like in their ways, have been worshiped and revered since the first human laid his or her eyes on their first bear. In some indigenous lore, the Bear is considered an ancestor of man…specifically a female bear. I automaticall think of our label Mama Bear, a term of endearment used to describe protective, powerful mothers. In addition, the words childbearing and keeping your bearings can be attributed to these majestic beings.

Some say Bear medicine is potent medicine. I can’t help notice that our word for crafted designs like paintings and sculptures is called “art”, though scholars claim no connection to the Bear. Although, IMO, some of the first paintings on cave walls depicted our friend the Bear. There has to be a connection there. I just know it! Bear worship boils down to a few things: a. that bears taught humans how to survive long Winters and no doubt kept us warm and fed (ancient man used their pelts and ate the meat). They embodied the sacred cycle of the earth and of life itself – retreating into caves during the Winter (like death) to re-emerge from the Earth’s belly in the Spring (rebirth).

Bear worship, called arctolatry, dates back as far as 70,000 years ago. We have evidence that neanderthals revered the Bear – bear bones and altars with their images were discovered in a cave in Switzerland. Further supporting the idea that Artio goddess of bears stems from a long line of bear cults in the region.

Artio will watch over you like a Mother and her cub.

What Does Artio Goddess of Bears Look Like?

Interestingly, in my encounters with Artio in both dream and in the Otherworld, she has not manifested in human form. But always as entirely a Bear. In my recent dream, Artio appears as a large, beautiful bear surrounded in magic. She is glowing and full of otherworldly energy…and emits a vibration unlike any other deity I’ve met in my dreams! According to Andrew Anderson in his book Artio and Artaois: A Journey Towards the Celtic Bear Gods, he also had the same experience with Artio. She seems to prefer to appear in all-bear form. But…who knows? Maybe you’ll see her in her Harvest Goddess form.

Her Spiritual Powers

Artio’s spiritual domains are akin to the earthly bear’s abilities. This goddess will first and foremost offer you with indomitable strength and courage. If you’re going through a difficult time, she will lend her endurance and strength to you. Here are the rest of her spiritual abilities:

  • Strength
  • Survival
  • Patience
  • Rest and relaxation
  • Self care
  • Protection
  • Medicine and learning to heal oneself and others naturally
  • Ferocity
  • Nurturing and nourishment
  • Motherhood
  • Prosperity
  • Connection to Earth, specifically through the mountains and forests
  • Shapeshifting and transformation
  • Shamanic journeying (the bear and Artio are often guides to the Lower realms)
  • Childbirth (childbearing)
  • Death and rebirth (think hibernation in Winter and re-emerging in Spring)

Artio’s Symbols and Magical Correspondences

HerbsSymbolsOfferingsDomainPlaces
BearberryCeltic SpiralsHoneyLife & DeathMountains
OshaFruit/CornFishHealingCaves
BerriesTree of LifeWaterShapeshiftingSwitzerland

How to know Artio is calling you

When Artio calls to you, it’s typically gentle at first, then grows until you finally listen. She first came to me through a shamanic journeying session. My shaman told me that there were bears all around me during this journey, and one in particular that was guarding and guiding me. That night I dreamed of a book with Artio Goddess of Bears on the cover. How you hear and heed her call will be unique to you. Here are a few ways she will try to reach you:

  • You’ll start seeing bears everywhere: on TV, online, in books, etc.
  • Someone will randomly gift you a teddy bear or bear figurine (or anything with bears on it)
  • You’ve felt drawn to the bear your entire life or just recently
  • People call you a “Mama Bear” or “Teddy Bear”
  • You have ancient Celtic ancestors from Continental Europe (namely Switzerland, France, Germany area)
  • You meet Artio in a dream, meditation, vision, etc.
  • Her name will show up randomly in your daily life
  • Someone might gift you a book with Artio in it
  • Bears appear in clouds, in patterns in sand, soil, etc.

Ways to Work With Artio Goddess of Bears

How you work with Artio is entirely up to you. And at what pace you take on your studies and practice is up to you. Here are a few of my suggestions, as I have worked with Artio, that you can try:

1. Study Artio and Bears

There isn’t a lot of information specific to Artio the goddess. But there is a plethora of info on bear cults, bears in mythology, archaeology, and history of bears in general. I recommend Anderson’s book Artio and Artaois (Pagan Portals), as well as The Sacred Paw: The Bear in Nature, Myth and Literature by Paul Shepard and Barry Sanders. To get you started.

2. Sacred Space for Artio

Carve out a small space (at least) dedicated to working with this ancient but beautiful deity. An altar with bear figures, sun and spiral symbols, candles, and jars of herbs is perfect. Include a bowl or jar for offerings.

3. Offerings

What do the bears in your local area enjoy eating? Research is key. We know most bears eat honey, fruit (berries in particular), fish, and drink water. Try these as offerings to Artio, as well as any you might come up with in your research. Weekly offerings will suffice, no need to go all out everyday (unless you want to).

4. Shamanic Journeying and Shapeshifting

Some of my most powerful spiritual experiences I’ve ever had were during shamanic journeys. Two of which were facilitated by Artio and/or my bear guide. Learn how to enter the other realms and consider shapeshifting rituals, as well. Bears are frequent guides to the Otherworld for many practitioners.

5. Bear Conservation

Consider getting involved in a Bear Rescue or Conservation group or network. According to Bear Conservation.Org in the UK, it’s also helpful to “avoid bear products, campaign to end bear-baiting and bear dancing, bear farming and hunting.” You can also donate money or goods to certain organizations. Do this in Artio’s name to honor her.

6. Visit Mountains and Caves

Mountains, forests, and caves are typically the most beloved of places to the Bear and to Artio. Visit nearby mountains, caves, and forests in your area and ask Artio to bless you while there. She will send you a sign or a magical, natural gift. And, if you happen to be visiting a place where there are REAL bears, be sure to bring a boombox and bells and use while hiking to let the bears know you are there. It’s best to make lots of noise to warn them. You don’t want to creep up on a bear unknowingly and scare it. That is a dangerous situation.

7. Flow with the Bear’s Cycles

Study the cycles of a bear’s life. Try to emulate those cycles in your own life. For instance, emerging from Winter in the Spring anew with a purification ritual. Plant seeds in the garden then harvest and consume in the Fall in preparation for the Winter. Foraging is also appropriate all Summer and Fall. And when Winter comes, spend those cold months resting, healing, and rejuvenating…ready to be reborn next Spring like the Bear! Like Artio.

8. Natural Healing Methods

In my vision, Artio (Bear spirit) was carrying a root in her paw. She handed it to me and I had to figure out what the root was first, then how to use it to heal myself. Bear is known to be a medicinal spirit. One that many indigenous peoples have learned from. Consider studying natural healing methods i.e. herbalism, Reiki, and energy healing, etc. to align with Artio’s healing energy.

9. Wear an Amulet for Artio

If you decide to walk the path of Artio Goddess of Bears, wear an amulet dedicated to her and the Bear spirit. This could be one of her symbols, a honeycomb pendant, beehive pendant, Celtic spiral, Triquetra, bear pendant, bear claw (humanely collected), etc. Ask Artio to bless the amulet and wear it proudly as a symbol of your dedication to her AND as a protective charm.

More Bear Gods & Goddesses:

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