The global tradition of blowing out candles which adorn a birthday cake to be shared with well-wishers might be rooted in an ancient Greek votive ritual to honor the goddess Artemis, the female archetype associated with childbirth, wildlife and the moon.
The Ancient Greeks started making cakes that were modeled after the moon as tribute to Artemis, the goddess of the moon. The cakes were made as circles, then lit with candles to shine like the moon notes Columbia Daily. Tradition tells us that a long-lost connection with devotional cakes to Artemis may survive today as part of the most popular celebratory habit in the Western world — and beyond.
The goddess of childbirth
Although referred to as a consecrated maiden, like fellow goddesses Athena and Hestia, Artemis was worshipped as one of the primary goddesses of childbirth and midwifery, among others.
Deaths during pregnancy were attributed to her and dedications of clothing to her sanctuaries after a successful birth were a common habit in the Classical era, according to Susan Wise, PhD, the author of “Childbirth Votives and Rituals in Ancient Greece.”
The Greek poet Callimachus, in his “Hymn to Artemis,” recites how the young goddess asked her father, Zeus, among other things, to offer her the ability to help women in the pains of childbirth.