Today is the celebration of Apollon’s birth in the Boeotian and Delphic traditions. In the Boeotian tradition it takes it’s name from Apollon Prostaterios, the Lord before the doors, who ushers in the newness of things, and it is said that He was born on a small island near Thebes, between two rivers, during the lambing season, as Lykeia has touched upon in her own article today.
This event has a special place in my worship of Him, if simply because of where I happen to live. My house sits at the edge of a bay which is fed by two nearby rivers. And yes, we live between those rivers.
I awoke this morning with the intense feeling of Apollon watching over me. This is not altogether unusual, especially considering the day. However, there was a pressing need for me to do something that I had yet not done in all the times I have celebrated His birth, and after a little bit more mental prodding from Him, I walked the single block which separates my land from the bay, and went out onto the long pier.
Gazing out into the water, which was sparkling in the Sunlight and crystal clear, I could hear Him whispering to me to complete the task He had sent me for. So, after honoring Him a bit more, I went down the stairs onto the little platform that I see the fishermen using, occasionally. Down there I was closer to the water, which was my goal.
I had brought with me a small container that I had previously used to carry khernips. It was empty and I was told to fill it with the moving waters of the bay, on this particular day, in which the liminal and purifying qualities of the rivers would be enhanced.
I had to climb down the ladder to the very bottom rung and stretch myself down even further, risking a splash into the cold and shallow water, in order to fill the container. Afterward, when I had climbed back up, I offered a bit of honey, first to Apollon, and then to Poseidon and Amphitrite for allowing me to partake of their waters.
I am Told by my Lord that this water will become an ingredient in our home-temple’s new purification formula, which Apollon is slowly revealing to me. It certainly makes sense, for the sea is a potent purifier.
After that romp in the Sun, I went home and honored Him further before my shrines, and the pleasure with which I was received has stayed with me throughout the day, and especially while I prepared our simple feast of baked chicken, corn, cranberry sauce, and homemade bread. Later, while the household sleeps, I will complete my worship of Him for this honorable day, by dancing for Him and stomping my feet to reawaken the land. Only then will I retire to my bed, and to the dreams of Him that shall surely come.
May He be pleased by all of the devotion He receives this day/night, from all of the people who love, cherish and honor Him. Hail to our Lord, Apollon on this day of His birth.
First, you just gotta love how dysfunctional Hellenic calendar systems are. I am celebrating this month what is usually called by the Hellenic name Anthesterion but I call by the Boeotian name Prostaterias, whereas others celebrated Poseidon II this year and are a month behind in Gamelion. So perhaps this post (and subsequent post I may make tomorrow) can be of some use then for others who come along into that month.
It is hard to imagine, where here it is cold and icy, that in other parts of the world this is the lambing season. That Dionysos’ grand festival, the Anthesteria, takes place amid this very early spring atmosphere as winter is ending and the activities of spring are coming in. Yet, as widely known as the Anthesteria celebration is, Plutarch also reminds us that Delphi and Sparta recognized and agreed with the Boeotian birth of Apollon at the Theban Delos (a natural island created between two rivers named Olive and Palm) that also occurs this month. In fact it occurs at sundown tonight.
Unlike the Thargelia which takes certain distinction in the role of Apollon in the ripening grain that gives his birth in May, this early spring birthday of Apollon seems quite appropriate for the herding lord that he is in a sense being born among lambs. Those that see a certain continuity between the cults of Poseidon and Apollon can probably see how this may symbolically echo alternative myths of Poseidon in which he was not swallowed by his father but, as an infant, hidden among lambs. Although there is nothing known of anything dealing with herding beasts in the Boeotian birth of Apollon (really little is known about it other than this information shared by Plutarch) it is easy to grasp upon these theme, especially given the shepherd feasts to Apollon at the end of summer as the god who is born at the time of lambing is the appropriate god to deliver sacrifices to when the spring lamb has been well fed and reared.
Certainly the sacredness of white wool as an emblem of purity would be an interesting association to Apollon as the herder. The same white wool that adorns doorways at the birth of girls in honor of Artemis, Apollon wears in the locks of his hair. Why not, wherein at the Ionian Delos, Leto departs of Lycia to purify her babe that instead his swaddling that the Homeric hymn makes brief mention of was made out of the pure white wool from which he leapt made in full vigor whereas the Ionian myths of Lycia has him a helpless babe until arriving there (contradicting other myths in which the babe at just a few days old went to construct his temple at Delphi. This takes us to two threads regarding Delphi. The Ionian thread in which Apollon, after returning from Lycia grown arrives at Delphi as an adult. And another in which Apollon and Artemis arrive at Delphi as small children/babes with her mother which would reasonably align more with the Boeotian birth of Apollon and the events of the Stepteria at Delphi in the following month in which Apollon slew Delphyne which was celebrated with a child acting as Apollon both in slaying Delphyne and in acting out the exile). It is possible that the Homeric Hymn blends these two elements of his births in its narration of the birth of Apollon making it relatable regardless of the audience. It never mentions the whens are other specifics really. But that is just my personal thought on that.
Still in the question is, what possible relationship did the lambing season and Apollon’s birth have? This is about the time of the year where the moose and reindeer are preparing to drop their calves, so this is not entirely insignificant for me. Up here, long before there are flowers we see the return of migratory critters and the dropping of calves. Here may lay a distinction in view of a migratory god such as Apollon who is associated with such creatures, and vegetation gods who dye yearly and are reborn with the spring (of course Dionysos is an interesting difference here because he is born in the winter still when the ivy grows abundantly which gives him a somewhat distinctive difference from other vegetation deities who adjourn for the winter in the underworld). Remember too that Apollon, as serving as a slave to Admetus, was said to have blessed the herds with bearing twins. This certainly points to an importance of Apollon in the calving/lambing season, that he was conceived as being born among them as one who is caretaker and herder, overseer of the lambing season and the rutting season in the autumn before he himself adjourns away.
So at sundown today and into tomorrow until sundown, I will honor Apollon Prostaterios, lord before the doors, lord of the renewal of life, herder god. I will honor him who was born between the rivers.
Apollon is in Hyperborea, dwelling among the blessed in his never dying, eternal, garden. To imagine this is to see the god in his eternal, changeless, ageless face. Like a flower that never yellows or wilts, ever in its vibrancy of youth and beauty. In some way this seems to be a strange vision for a god who is a god who presides over the passage of time, particularly the flow of the seasons for he, himself, is without season of life. He is not typical of other gods of fruition and harvest which are often characterized by themselves undergoing cycles of dying and birth. But the distinction that should be made here is that he is not the god that is traveling through the passage of the seasons giving his own vitality to the growth. He it outside of it, he is the steward of the passage of life and death for which he is adequately named the Destroyer. He is not a slain god, nor does he bare the mysteries poignant of a slain/sacrificed god. His journey to the other world is independent and on his own power and means rather than transported by an outside agent (ie slayers, guides, abduction etc), in fact he has more than once served the purpose of being the action upon the slain vegetation god. In some mythic variations he is responsible for the death of Adonis, and he can be viewed as a slayer of Dionysos in his position as reaper of the vine as the vineyard harvest begins with Karneia.
He directs the passage of time as we understand from the Orphic hymn in which he conducts the movement of the seasons, even as he himself expresses the season of growth and fruition (or rather that his particular power holds particular sway at this time of the year as opposed to the power of fertilization and sowing of seed that is particular to the season of Pan. As such he provides the necessities for the sustainment of life (through light, harmony, healing, purifications, provision of plenty etc), as well as the passage from life for which he is, as we see for example in the Iliad, the embalmer kindly wrapping the body in linen in respect of the life that once was contained within, the perfumer who anoints the flesh of the deceased to ease the passage of the soul in preparation of its journey, and the guardian of the cemetery where he guards the place of rest, the physical connection of the deceased to the living world. Here too then we see he provides for the soul of the living.
This certainly makes him an appropriate god at the Noumenia every month as the month renews again and a new cycle begins, and for the introduction of the New Year (regardless of what time of the year one celebrates). The Celebration of the New Year commonly on the Noumenia following a particular stellar or solar occasion (ie the Athenian New Year being the Noumenia after the Summer Solstice) would have been naturally presided over by Apollon regardless of whether he was among us or in his Hyperborean garden. This fulfillment of beginning and ends at once and the keeping of the passage of time in his vigilance and under his caretaking for the furthering of life and abundance, including the guardian of such (but as averter of evil and as protector of the tomb) is reasonable that aside from his domestic worship as Apollon Noumenios he is also the god before the road/door. We can understand something almost Janus-like in his nature (although lacking an aged face), and with the new year we can see his presence as one that is purifying and bestowing blessings for a prosperous new year.
Lord of the doorway, lord of keys, turner of time, lord of life (both protector and destroyer), hail to Apollon in the new year’s dawning.