Ilithyia was the goddess of childbirth and labour pains.

Residence: Mount Olympus
Symbols: Torch, weasel and polecat
Parents: Zeus and Hera
Siblings: Aeacus, Angelos, AphroditeApolloAresArtemisAthenaDionysusErisEnyo, Ersa, Hebe, Helen of Troy, HeraclesHermes, Minos, Pandia, Persephone, Perseus, Rhadamanthus, the Graces, the Horae, the Litae, the Muses, the Moirae
Roman equivalent: Lucina/Natio

Amphora birth Athena Louvre F32.jpg
The birth of Athena from the head of Zeus, with Ilithyia on the right.

Her name means “she who comes to aid” or “relieve” from the Greek word elêluthyia.

When Alcmene was in labour with Heracles, Hera sent Ilithyia to stay the birth and so kill mother and child. However, Alcmene’s handmaiden Galinthias spied the goddess seated before the door with her arms and legs crossed, and cried “a son is born.” The goddess leapt up in surprise, releasing her magical grip on the womb, allowing the child to be born. Ilithyia was furious at being tricked by the woman and transformed Galinthias into a polecat.

Ilithyia and the birth of Athena. Athenian black-figure amphora, 6th c. BC. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. (c)
Eileithyia, Tethys and Oceanus. Athenian black-figure dinos, 6th c. BC. British Museum. (c)

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