- Names: Eleutheria, Ilithyia, Genetyllis
- Origin: Crete
- Favored People: Midwives
- Attribute: Torch
Eileithyia is the ancient goddess of childbirth, midwifery, and birthing pains. Eleithyia’s name translates as “Fluid of Generation,” giving her strong fertile aspects, and she also has a hand in personal fate.
According to myth, Eleithyia was the midwife of the gods and even birthed Eos, the creative force behind all things. When Eleithyia’s hands were closed, birth was delayed. When Eleithyia opened her body, a child arrived effortlessly.
Eileithyia is believed to be a Minoan goddess assimilated into the Greek pantheon as Hera’s daughter. She works very closely with Hera and is Hera’s weapon in her struggle to prevent Zeus’ other wives from giving birth and threatening the sovereignty and status of her own children. Without Eileithyia’s cooperation, labor cannot go well and perhaps cannot occur at all.
Eileithyia was venerated by pregnant women and those in labor to provide safety success and to lessen pain. Although comparatively little attention is paid to her in mythology books, she was actually subject of great popular veneration. She had many shrines and was considered an extremely significant deity.
Iconography: A woman bearing a torch or with hands upraised, as if beckoning. Sometimes there is one Eileithyia, but sometimes she is portrayed as a pair of spirits.
Sacred site: The cave of Eileithyia near Knossis, Crete, is allegedly her birthplace and was an important pilgrimage site. She is associated with caves, in general. Eileithyia was a widely venerated goddess with shrines throughout Greece.
Offerings: Ex-votos (milagros) in the shape of breasts; incense; water