The Refracting Crystal and One’s Relationship with the Gods

Photograph by Alberto Ghizzi Panizza.

This post has come about from a couple of starting points. One is in a comment to a friend’s post regarding godspouses, and then again in conversation tonight when speaking of the nature of the gods as it pertains to how we worship and establish relationships with them. The gist was an idea established earlier by Plutarch that when we interact with the gods we are in actuality perhaps interacting with a spirit that a god sends to interact with us on their behalf. And while this may very occasionally be the case in perhaps the most informal of communication, such as perhaps when a person who has an undeveloped relationship with a god is giving up an offering to the god and asking the blessings of a god among other gods invited to the banquet or occasion, I overall disagree that this is a common case. Rather I have my own perceptions on the matter.

When it comes down to it, the gods as far as I can tell are beyond what our limited perceptions have the ability to cope with, see or even understand. They are huge and immeasurable, and have an entirely different state of existence than us. I would liken this to, say, something vibrating at a higher level, moving faster than we can grasp. The word theoi (for the gods), is directly related to the concept of running. This is a great metaphor I think for how the gods are ever moving, ever running, and ungraspable by us as being who can neither move as fast nor to such heights. But as they are so much bigger and fast than us, that we are incapable of true perception of them, the gods themselves can become multiple as they would desire. A god is one, but at will can divide himself into particulars. We find this particular in the Hellenic religion where we focus at a given time on different perspectives of the god rather than the whole of the god. Any body of art is presented at a given time to a certain form, or in poetic form may deal with specific mythic subjects one at a time. While some scholars say that when a god possesses this many names that it may point to a god absorbing different gods that they come into contact with, it seems more likely to me that these are just refractions of the same being.

The god in this case is as a crystal. Perfect and unblemished, but refracting at so many angles and directions that every time he moves you see something different in each refraction of light being emitted. And then another refraction again where that is too reflected. This can happen in a larger sense as we find with epithets, and in many more tiny precise moments as we find with individual relationships with the gods. A Greek poet Yannis Ritsou wrote of this a bit in his poem Marpessa’s Choice.

“It wasn’t by chance that Marpessa preferred Idas over Apollo,
despite her passion for the god, despite his incomparable beauty —
the kind that made myrtle tremble into blossom as he went by. She
never dared raise her eyes above his knees.
Between his toenails and his knees, what an inexhaustible world,
what exquisite journeys and discoveries between his toenails and his knees.”

It speaks of the full presence and beauty of just the smallest glimpse and smallest portion of the god that an inexhaustible world could dwell between his toenails and knees. And this would be so even with the god not coming in his full glory, for we know that this does not happen. Greek myth when dealing with Semele tells us that the Greeks did not think that ever did the gods come in their true forms to the women that they love, but rather in a smaller proximity form of themselves. Like a shard of light from the massive crystal that is the entirety of their being. A refraction of a refraction of light coming to us, giving us a beautiful image of the god, that is full of the innumerable parts of the god, in touch with each of those portions through the refractions of their own light, but by the choice of the god, presented to us in a smaller way that we may personally communicate with us. It is still our god that we are speaking to and giving worship to, yet never while being the same of the whole, never appearing the same way or having the exact same kind of relationship develop in each way he manifests to each of his devotees.

At the same time his crystal catches the light of other gods nearest to him, and that too can draw our awareness of other closely related gods. I who so love Apollon may catch a reflection of Dionysos in a particular angle of the refraction Apollon shows to me, and through my love of Apollon may show adoration and appreciation more for Dionysos, and perhaps that light of Dionysos too had the reflection carried within it of Aphrodite, and so mingling her essence in my worship to bring her necessity into my life and bind her to how I understand the god I serve. I understand and appreciate the other gods through my devotion to my god, and all of this through the smallest portion, a sliver of his being, that he presents to me.

There is no way, even as immense as the gods appear to us in their fractional selves that they present to us, that we really know how immense the gods are. There is a Hindu image I particularly love of Krishna and how he presents himself to Arjuna that I am attaching to the end of this post in which the god presents his innumerable multi form. For we cannot ever know or comprehend how vast and in how many forms the god has within in his entirety. How many refractions for his divine crystal. And even if we can see numerous face at a given time….we can never see the entire scope of the god and he manifests to each worshiper and devotee. The gods are that limitless and multiformed in their singularity.

Or so I believe it to be.

I would like to note that the concept of the gods as refracting light in crystal is highly influenced by the philosophical-religious concept of Indra’s net in which the gods are like drew drops reflecting light on a net, and each dew drop carries within it the reflection of all those near it from whatever angle you look at it. I took this and isolated it and asked myself what I would see of the dew drop of itself suspended in space refracting light in numerous hues and expressions. So while these are ideas are not completely related it was a significant groundwork for this understanding I developed in my own experience.

— Lykeia

The Destroyer With a Kindly Face

“Apollo, Holding a Lyre”, by Onorio Marinari.

For a god whose domain is largely focused on the natural forces which demolish life and form, it may seem odd that he is often portrayed looking beautiful and often kindly faced. I saw a lovely photo shared of the remains of an archaic statue of Apollon from Delphi, in which the person who originally shared it commented on how sweet his expression is. A person who is familiar with the sweeter and kinder images of Apollon may find it more appropriate for Apollon as known as a god of civilization and the arts than what they would think to associate with a god of destructive natural forces. Yet if we understand Apollon who is a god of civilization and the arts by his compassion and love to hold back and protect civilization from his harsher forces that it may flourish we can see very well how the god of nature’s destructive forces could have come as a being of beauty and infinite kindness and compassion.

This is more poignant when we understand Apollon as a god who has twice been exiled (once by his own means and once again into slavery by his father) and of the gods knows well concepts of suffering and tears, especially given spending a term in human existence which few gods have experienced in myth outside of Dionysos. Thus the myth brings revelation of Apollon as a god in contact with human experience. And yet unlike Dionysos, he is not a dying god. In fact he never matures beyond the transitional point between youth and manhood, eternally young and beautiful like a serpent with which he is intimately associated and form he has often taken that sheds its skin that it ever appears to be youthful and unchanged in the height of its beauty.

The most important thing that has been highlighted in myth regarding Apollon as a god for nature’s destructive forces is that while he can be violent and appear to be cruel in some instances if myth were taken literally, it rather highlights the distinction between organic and natural death/destruction by way of nature and that of murder. Apollon is represented in both instances at once. When he is exiled he is a murderer and thus he often penalizes murderers who come to him for purification in cases of accidental death especially and sentences them to travel afar in exile to form new colonies in penitence. He understands murder as one who has committed murder in the company of the gods, and as such he represents the understood distinction between murder and organic death/destruction. Apollon is presented in literature I believe as undergoing murder because this distinction of understanding is essential for his role in nature. For a distinction between natural death and murder myth is used to illustrate the differentiation as being fully formed in the domain of the god. Although Apollon has murdered and understands murder in myth, he himself abhors murderers and sends them abroad for their purification to remove the stain of their presence. Euripedes in his play Aclestis emphasizes this understood distinction in the domain of Apollon by his confrontation with impartial Thanatos (a distinction between the god which turns time into maturity and to the appropriate time of their death for when they are ripe for it as a god of the forces of nature that include time but also storms and ravages that consequently may take human life due to their fury, and the god who is death itself and is impartial fulfilling his duty to cut down life whenever he is sent to do so regardless of the means of the death). Here Apollon laments against the cruelty of life taken before its time is ripe. In some ways we can see Apollon as a god preserving civilization as an kindness to give humanity the fullest of time to age and die of the most natural causes rather than quickly slain by hostile environments within nature and predators.

Given this his role thus is with organic natural destruction that is a product of nature only it is reasonable that he would not bear a fearsome form as say Typhon does (it is a curiosity too, one that has been remarked by at least one academic at the closeness of the names of Typhon and Python/Pythios but usually with the regard that the myth of Zeus and Typhon was meant to parallel that of Apollon and Python. Nevermind that the whirling wind of Typhon bears links to Apollon’s similar role as a god of wind storms. The biggest difference however is that Typhon is entirely represented as a malevolent being of fearsome visage (despite being the offspring of Hera). It may be a distinction between Apollon as a god of organic and natural destruction and Typhon as being of wholesale destruction without compassion or pity? I have remarked in the comments of my previous posts that there are some strange mythic things occurring with Typhon and his relationship with Delphyne in myth (who resembles Echidnae in many instances in her form) and the odd line up with Delphic myth and the Homeric Hymn to the Pythian Apollon. If Apollon slew her when he was days old and yet he is said to have fled with Typhon emerging as a power with the other gods, to what purpose would Delphyne have been one to hide the sinews of Zeus and why would Hermes have retrieved them with Cadmus when it would be more logical that as a local daemon following Apollon’s rule at Delphi that Apollon would have had potential authority to retrieve them but is not present. It makes some odd things going on in the literary body regarding Delphyne and Apollon, and what possible relationship he may or may not have had with Typhon, especially with Apollon’s later alignment with the sun and it being mentioned to me that Typhon was too associated with the sun. Yet all the same the distinction that appears to be present between Apollon and Typhon as destructive beings is one that is controlled by the confines of nature and one that is absolutely uncontrolled devastation.

In this respect Apollon, unlike Typhon, does not appear in a form that is fearful and monstrous. He would be the exact opposite of such a form, and as such his kindness could be seen as the kindness that death brings to end suffering, and that decay brings to release souls into the next world as well as make fertile grounds for new life, and the harvest of flesh that humans slaughter even as they take too the harvest of grains. He cuts down all things at their ripeness. Yet it is to natural and benevolent purpose, rather than unkindness or any concept of evil. That is not to say that he was not understood as harsh. Organic destruction is harsh, and cannot be bargained with or changed. You cannot stop a storm from breaking, or water from breaking down stone and thus releasing important minerals even as it corrodes the land. Myth reveals this by speaking of the one time he tried to halt death for his favorite, king Cadmus which called of heroic means and thereafter divination of Aclestis by her part in bravery and Herakles for bringing her back from the gates of the underworld. Yet otherwise we do not see Apollon acting against the means of his own natural law, and one particular translation of Aclestis I had even had Thanatos translated (perhaps erroneously but still an interesting translation for these purposes) of Apollon violating his law. Regardless, the grievance of Thanatos for the interference of Apollon tells us a lot about what is expected of Apollon functioning within his domain. Same could be said in regards to the hostility of the Erinyes against Apollon in the Oresteia as a god who does not condone murder and yet directed murder and protected the murderer. Even though in myth these serve very important illustrations for other spiritual things going on that often involves apotheosis, it also highlights by example of what is abnormal by remarking upon it in the most extreme terms of hostility and grievance of that which was not considered part of Apollon’s function or nature.

In this case I cannot see Apollon as being represented with any other visage than expression of kindness or thoughtfulness. Even with his bow flexed he is often with a relaxed countenance and pleasant expression rather than appearing to be in any way moved by anger or aggression. His entire being is of benevolence, as is appropriate for a god of the passage of time in the harmonic movement of all celestial bodies and god of organic natural destruction. For he does not destroy life out of hatred or anger, or even in opposition to life for which he safeguards himself by withholding his destructive forces. In this respect I do not think he can be represented any other way except with expressions of serenity and kindness without moving off target. This is not to say that Apollon doesn’t anger and can’t be violent against transgression of natural/divine law. He is as much a protector of these laws as he rules a domain within it. Even in the instance of the murder of Clytemnestra we do not find him openly dispute that murder of kin is against nature and as such in punishable, rather arguing where the line has be drawn for accurate punishment as he also demonstrates that murder of mated/wedded pairs is also against nature. As a protector of these laws and as a protector god in general can be very fierce, but it is not what I would consider his primary state of being when it comes to destruction as it is not foremost an act of punishment but rather nature.

— Lykeia (8/31/2015)

Leto: Death and Motherhood

“Apollo and Diana Slay the Children of Niobe”, by Jan Boeckhorst.

As I (Lykeia) am getting closer to the conclusion of my pregnancy, Leto has been on my mind a lot as she was during my previous pregnancy. I have been trying to find a way to work her into the domestic calendar of my household just because she is such an important goddess, and then it occurred to me, given her associations with the underworld and with motherhood, it would be the most appropriate to honor the goddess just prior to the sunset signifying the beginning of Noumenia as the goddess of the previous period that has died and gone and mothering the new month brought forth by Apollon Noumenios even as she mothered him. It would be akin too to a birth of a new day via the night shroud of the goddess who herself has been described as being darkly garbed in a very concealing and obscure manner.

In some ways the close association with motherhood and the dead is kind of an odd one, but yet in other ways it makes sense, especially given just how dangerous of a time child birth was in the life of a woman. So much so that the clothes of mothers who died in childbirth were offered to Artemis at Brauron. Likewise the transmission of new life into being is so like that of death that it requires a certain period of miasmatic influence from the presence of the spirits and beings associated with death as would a person upon dying (but perhaps less so since the purification period is considerably shorter than the 30 days following the day of a person). Still the very real link between birth and death as having a common access is one that really indicates strongly the nature of Leto as both an underworld goddess and a mother goddess. Especially in cults that believed in reincarnation, we could see this exemplified as a return of souls via the mother as portal. In some ways this may also be linked to an association with Demeter in which the grain goddess in some versions is also the a mother of the god Iakkhos in the netherworld, Demeter herself regarded at times as a mother of the dead likely in a similar manner in which the stones of the earth are linked to the bones of one’s ancestors. The dead and the tomb is intricately linked to the advent of new life. As a goddess linked to the tomb and underworld she is thus the ultimate mother of life. Even her mild, often sweet-tempered and calming disposition (when not riled into anger) is very suggestive of her underworld connection as a kindly being that brings rest and comfort to the souls of the dead even as she grants forth the souls of infants to inhabit the wombs of mothers.

It is of little wonder that creatures that go beneath into the hidden realms of the earth are largely sacred to her, such as bees (creators of sweet elixir) who build hives in the roots of trees, in the earth…and in the myth of her grandson Aristaios in the carcass of bulls, frogs which multiply in great numbers beneath the surfaces of ponds and are intimately connected with the underworld as we see in the play “Frogs” where they keep the nursery of Apollon’s reeds (another teasing connection of birth place and the underworld), earth-denning wolves, as well as serpents and shrew (especially in connection with her syncretism with the Egyptian goddess Wadjet) that likewise nest within the ground and spawn numerous offspring from these recesses. Symbolically then it may seem that the earth itself is spawning the young of these creatures from deep within.

As this makes her even more so a great candidate as the mother of Noumenia, even as her niece Hekate closes the month. This will be a great continuation of what I am already doing at the doorway in which she is the deity I address first in my prayers, as mother of the underworld, mother of mothers, mother of the portal and sacred gates. This has become such a significant part of my understanding of the nature of this goddess and it has had a profound impact on the way I am building my relationship with her and her presence in my oikos. Hail Leto!

— Lykeia (1/21/2016)

The Brides of Apollon: Reflections of Artemis for the Apollon-Artemis Unity

“Diana, the Huntress”, by Guillaume Seignac.

The unity of Apollon and Artemis, quite easily explained by those orphic hymns which call Misa (clearly derived from the name of Artemis as a daughter of Demeter) as the double Euboleus (Apollon as the swineherd son of Demeter fulfilling his character elsewhere in connection with this mysteries as a herder/leader and of a nature parallel to that expressed by Diodoros Siculus as the chorus-leader of Dionysos/Osiris) expresses the nature of Apollon and Artemis as deriving from the same source…mythically the womb of Leto. As such Apollon and Artemis have naturally reflecting features of their domains, which likewise carries over into a great number of shared or closely related epithets. Though they have distinct functions and personalities, they are inseparable and cosmically linked for that even as Artemis drives the prey in her hunt, Apollon receives what she had hunted. Thus establishing a never ending pattern of energy and the effect of the energy under control. Artemis hunts forth, and Apollon destroys. Even in their cult centers it is difficult to find the presence of one without the other.

Of course the masculine-feminine dichotomy is presented here a bit different than it has been presented with other such cases in which you have myths of a divine source being separating into another, usually the case of a male separating himself into a female. She is still part of him, and he is still part of her, but they are at the same time separate. Usually in such cases when this arises in which you have a male and female deity of the same source they will be bonded together in a marital or procreative relationship. However in the myth of Apollon and Artemis these twins fall into a different relationship that follows its cultural expression. Romans seemed to have attempted to modify the tones of the relationship a bit in the retelling of the story of Orion in which Apollon, jealous of the relationship between his twin and the hunter, tricked his sister into shooting him in a contest. Yet such jealousies in regards to the twins rarely crop up, though they are quick to defend each other and act for each other, as Artemis struck down Coronis.

Yet, there is something that ties into their relationship that reflects a reaffirmation of their unity in a vein similar to the procreative elements, and that lies mostly on the part of the maidens loved by Apollon. This is particularly the case when we see his first love, Daphne. This nymph was for all intensive purposes identical to the nature of Artemis. She too was a huntress who hunted with a band of fellow nymphs throughout Peloponnesius. Likewise, the wife of Apollon, Kyrene is also a double for Artemis in her persona and character. She too is a huntress/shepherdess who disdains the womanly arts to tend to the wilds. In fact, she was so closely associated with Artemis that she was said to have been given dogs by the goddess for her hunt. Of course there are figures who are less like Artemis with whom Apollon carries on a brief affair, but these two maidens figure prominently in his myths in Hellas, and Kyrene is the only marriage that he has had in myth, with full honors by the gods via the presence of Aphrodite creating for them their marital bed.

For Artemis there is a case, retold my Apollodorus in his the Library, in which according to an alternate version of the story of Callisto that the maiden was seduced by Zeus not in the form of Artemis, but rather in the form of Apollon. Herein we have the form of Artemis being replaced distinctly by that of Apollon. That Callisto would permit herself to be embraced by Apollon in substitution for Artemis suggests that the lines are easily blurred between what Artemis is doing, and what Apollon is doing and that for one of her followers to be embraced by Apollon was of quite a different nature than the same action being performed by another god.

I would like to reiterate that this post is not intended to say that Apollon and Artemis are one and the same in all ways, but rather that they are a male and female components of a whole for which we see too Apollon also called hunter like his twin, and Artemis as Despoina carrying on her lap the staff, likely of the kind which a shepherd would use that is aligned to the staff of Apollon Karneios. So they dance together in their cosmic actions. They do not need to be procreative, and in fact it is not necessary for their actions. Apollon is the destroyer at the boundary/gate, Artemis is the nurturing lady of the portal/doorway the huntress who drives forward all things through life. They do not need to be procreative together to do their parts harmonically as twin lights of the same function. Just their unity is brought home between the points of their twinship, and the character of the bride of Apollon. It is merely illustrated in this fashion through myth.

— Lykeia

To Kyrene

Relief: Kyrene, overpowering a lion, is crowned by Libya. © 2019 Trustees of the British Museum.

Maiden girl, strong of heart, upon the mountainside,
Had Artemis taught the huntress’ art in your tender youth?
To brave the untamable wilds where men dare not,
To wrestle the bright-maned lion to the rocky sloping stone,
Strong of arm, strong of spirit, to protect the tender flock,
To draw the fated blood from the lion’s tawny neck,
With not a weapon in your shapely hand!

Strong-limbed, bright-browed, were you a nymph in her company?
Delighting in the spear and flashing arrow to bring the beast to ground,
And how many hearts of gods did turn to see racing girls,
With wild cries and dancing steps across the mountainside.
Artemis prepared the way, rearing you in her wild arts,
Producing a spirit that would stay, to not be hindered by dreaded fear,
To not take to the wind and flee away, but to know the game of hunt,
And the fortune to which it ends,
This dance between hunter and hunted.

Why would not a god, when seeing your valiant spirit bright,
Not have the heart within his breast beat for you his bride.
He caught you from the mountainside, to tangle with a greater hunt,
Danger never sweeter than that loving hunter who draws in quick,
To capture his maiden huntress bride upon that high windy cliff.

To Apollo Creusa bore Ion,
And sprung a fair granddaughter, Chlidanope,
And she in grace bore you, lovely nymph,
Born to capture a golden heart.
For Apollo to love you upon windy Pelion,
And he loved you in the flowered bed,
Arranged so artfully by the pillow
And by the bloom of Aphrodite’s blessed hand.
And there the bright-haired women in joy
Did dance to your marriage crown.

Hail to you most blessed among women, fire-sparking heart,
To you born a great generation, nurtured at the breast of the Earth.
Fortunate woman in Apollo’s loving embrace, mortal-born nymph,
Apollo’s tender gifts ran plenty for his love, his bright-eyed bride,
To your honor and affection
The nymphai dwell in company at your side.

— Lykeia (Published in Hymns from the Temple, 2010)

Apollon and Apollo

“Apollo”, by Anne Louis Girodet de Roussy Trioson.

I will be the first to admit I am not terribly well versed in Roman Religion, or at least it has been quite some time since I looked at it, but I doubt that fact is of huge importance to this subject because Apollo was altogether directly borrowed from the Hellenes. The Romans simply didn’t have any god that they considered the equivalent of what Apollon was. Thus all you see as a modification of the name in a Latinized form…and really a very slight modification at that. This is unlike other deities whose myths and attributes were conflated by the Romans with their own gods, which usually produced cults that had distinct differences from the Hellenic ones, but this was simply not the case with Apollo. Unlike the relationship Apollon enjoys with Helios, I have never particular come across anything like that in regards to the Roman Sol. The Roman philosopher in his book On the Nature of the Gods, does says that Apollo is the Greek name of Sol, but I hadn’t previously come across this statement elsewhere and as Apollo’s temple was not part of the city proper, as where would be any gods native to Romans, it seems like a dubious statement in regards to actual belief and practice. There was one scholar I had read some time ago who said that the Romans gave little attention to the features of Apollon’s cult which resembled features already in place with their own native god Sol (my paraphrase). I have no idea how accurate that particular idea may be though it is my general impression that the Romans didn’t make a particularly strong association between the sun and Apollo in their cultus to him, given the Latin epithets that we have don’t even address light much less a specific light-bearing body.

However, he was at one point associated with Luciferos who, though a light bearing god, has no association with the kind of solar light and was rather associated with the morning star, perhaps inspired by Apollon’s epithet Phosophoros. That Lucifer/Phosophoros was connected with the evening star and philosophical statements stated that the evening and morning star were the same it may allude to how the Hellenes and in turn the Romans perceived part of the relationship with the sun, as the star followed before the dawn and after the sunset in the twilight hours which are particular to Apollon Lykeios. That is to say that a recognition of this period between night and day, during the twilight hours, in which the planet Venus shines the most brilliantly. Whether or not either the Hellenes or Romans believed Phosophoros or Luciferos to be directly Apollon or Apollo is debatable, but the concept of the light as being in a related dance with the sun but not being the sun seems to be a common expression in both cases. However, it is possible that at least with the Romans they may have taken a more direct association between the morning/evening star and Apollon, if we consider Diana whom they conflated with Artemis and to whom they attached all of the latter’s myths and symbols. Not only was Diana called Lucifera, but also the philosopher Cicero attributes a particular manifestation of Diana as moving through the heavens as a wandering star. However we do find some divergence artistically as they seemed to have incorporated many elements of a solar idea, more to the point in expressing Apollo’s connection with the sun to illustrate the passage of time or as a vague kind of solar cross halo behind his head in mosaic portraits of the god. Typically though most images of Apollo were, like so many statues, copies from those made by Hellenes. The exception being Etruscan work, such as the statues which made the scene of Herakles and Apollon of Veii contesting over the golden hind. The Etruscan Aplu, or Apulu, is thought to have been borrowed from the Hellenes at a much earlier date and while he never had much presence in Etruscan myths and cosmology he had a popular cult with numerous votive statues among the Etruscans.

From my understanding much of the nuances related to Apollon’s domain among the Hellenes were pretty much stripped away down to a more simple presentation of the god, and one that probably colors how people perceive the Hellenic god today rather than embracing his complexities. There is no evidence of Apollo carrying over any of the characteristics of destruction, death and tombs that Apollon has, as well as his involvement with orchards, roads, pastures, herds, etc. Instead, we find Cicero dealing with some of these parts of Apollon’s domain as entirely separate gods.If that is how the Romans perceived them philosophically then that may explain why so many various functions of Apollon get neglected. That is to say that aside from Latinizing his epithet Phoibos into Phoebus and bringing it into use during the Imperial period, his epithets among the Romans are few and rather straight forward. These are: Articenens (who carries the bow), Averruncus (who turns away evil), Coelispex (who watches the heavens) which is most likely an oracular/divination  association, Medicus (doctor), and Culicarius (who drives away midges, a small two winged fly). Thus you have Apollo as an archer, oracular god, a deity that turns away unpleasant and evil things, and a healer (the latter associated with the former if you consider turning away disease in association). In the later case the Vestal Virgins were known to pray to Apollo Medicus by chanting his name. Apollo Medicus in association with the Vestals is perhaps the most well known forms of Apollo in Rome. It was primarily as a healing god that it has been speculated that he was brought into Rome and until the Imperial period during which Augustus identified himself with Apollo and brought his worship to greater prestige, including the building of the temple on the Palentine hill…outside of the original city limits as befits a foreign god.

It was mostly out of the interest of this emperor that Apollo was established further in recognition and popularity in Rome from what I can tell, who then instituted the gods place on the Palentine Hill separate from the Apollinare on the Flaminian fields. This of course should be distinguished from any temples that may have existed in southern Italy that were founded by Hellenic colonists. This is in a huge contrast to the numerous temples of Apollon of great antiquity scattered through Hellas and Ionia which is quite telling of how important this god was perceived in the two different cultures. Likewise, as far as I have come across the Romans only had one event that was especially for Apollo, the Ludi Apollinares, a series of games in honor of the god to celebrate his coming to Rome and relieving the people of the plague. This is in stark contrast to the numerous festivals held for Apollon throughout Hellas that honor mythical events and specific functions of Apollon’s domain rather than an event. However, poems seem to be largely inspired by Hellenic hymns, though the Roman ones seem to focus more on Apollo in association with transition of boys into adulthood than anything else from what I recall. Though many of the poems otherwise have a carry over from Hellenic poems and myths to the god. But the most celebrated of poems focused primarily on the successful maturation of boys.

As far as myths regarding Apollo, these were directly borrowed from the Hellenes though often retold in modified forms. For instance it is from the Romans that we find the instance of the death of Orion being attributed to a passion Apollon held for Artemis. This is a version of the myth that for all I can tell is distinctly Roman. Likewise the most well known version of the transformation of Daphne is from the Roman poet Ovid, and this is the only version in which I have read of Daphne being struck by a lead dart. In Hellenic versions of the myth she, a chaste maiden, runs as natural instinct would bid her and needs no prompting from a dart. In fact the whole lead dart thing I find utterly silly, especially considering that Daphne became his most sacred medium as his sacred tree. Seems hardly right for a myth to suggest that she was repelled by him by some negative juju. These are just a couple of examples, but certainly there are many others out there.

Another really distinct difference between the Roman Apollo and the Hellenic Apollon is that the former did not possess a domestic cultus. In Hellas Apollon is well connected the household as a protective deity in the form of a black phallic stone before the household entrance. This same image has been found on a plaque from the Palentinian temple but aside from a scene in which a youth and maiden are honoring the phallic stone draped with arrow and lyre to clarify its association with the god, there is no evidence of Apollon being associated with the roman household in this manner. Apollon has no presence as god before the doorway, lord of the gate. Likewise the beginning of the month, an important occasion among Hellenic households, did not honor Apollon Noumenios or any form of Apollo associated with the new month. Rather the new month was auspicious to Iuno. This completely alienates their Apollo from the most primary protections he provides, the protection of the household, which leads me to think that the protective element of Apollon’s nature was possible either ignored and given less importance. Of course Romans had many of their own gods, numerous actually, associated with every part of the house. That said, it seems strange that this form of Apollon that is so vitally important in the daily life gets forgotten aside from a small plaque on the Palentine temple.

In short I would say that Apollo in the end is more like Apollon-light, a watered-down version of Apollon that was suitable for the Roman needs, and as such is perfectly fine, but lacks the beauty, complexity and depth that Apollon contains within himself in my opinion. That is not to say that during the Imperial period that Apollon’s cult didn’t enjoy a great expression of beauty in Rome, but in the end it just doesn’t come across as being quite close enough to Apollon in Hellas.

— Lykeia

Of Lycia and Hyperborea

“Landscape with Aeneas at Delos”, by Claude Lorrain.


I have written often of Apollon’s term in Hyperborea. Of course when it comes to the cycles of Apollon in Hyperborea there are scholarly discussions of the god traveling to Hyperborea only once every 9 years, thus uniting it with the 9 year cycle of the original organization of the Pythian Games. This would be before the games were later reorganized in four year periods like those of the Olympic games. Now if these scholars are correct and the games were synchronized with the departure and return of Apollon to Delphi then would have his absence in Hyperborea been moved by the Delphians to coincide with the new date of the games? I don’t think anyone has successful answered this to my satisfaction.

Largely among modern worshipers we honor it as a yearly event, which seems to be inspired by a departure and return which we have from Delos. At Delos we have a mingling of the Hyperborean myth with that of the Lycian myth in which Apollon both returns from Hyperborea, with the maidens, and the Old Man of Lycia is paramount, who not only returns Apollon from Lycia to Delos, but also attends to the building of the temple of Apollon at Delphi with the Hyperborean men (at least one of whom, Agyieus, is Apollon…but quite likely both are used symbolically to represent different manifestations of Apollon as the builder of Delphi). For as most are probably familiar, Leto, after birthing her children on Delos, proceeds to carry them to the Xanthus in Lycia. This journey is also bound up in the tale of the Lycian frogs, as well as the unification of Xanthus with Apollon, Artemis and Leto in the forces preserving Troy in the Iliad.

In Delian tradition, despite its early history with the myth of Hyperborea, we have a yearly departure of Apollon to Lycia, where Apollon had his winter oracle. Thus the year was divided equally between Delos and in Lycia on the division of the year by the equinoxes. I think that this seasonal abode of the god for half of the year is also what is chiefly tied to the idea presented by Pausanias from Arcadia, of Apollon being one of two seasonal gods. This, from spring equinox to the autumn equinox, is the time of the year in which Apollon’s domain is acting in nature the strongest. If I remember correctly the Delian calendar differed from the Attic calendar in that it began its year on the Noumenia following the equinox, whereas in the Doric calendar it followed the autumnal equinox. With the case of Delos this makes particular sense as the year begins with the return of Apollon from Lycia.

Lycia of course has an interesting place in all of this. Like what is speculated of Hyperborea, Lycia is a very real place, but also serves as a kind of spiritual place as well. Apollon when called the one who is born in Lycia, the Lycian lord, refers perhaps less to the physical place Lycia, but rather to that Apollon is born in light (as Lycia, refers to wolf, from which we get the myths of Leto being led to Xanthus by wolves, and light just as much as Apollon’s epithet Lykeios). In all regards we see Lycia being accounted as sacred to Apollon as much as Hyperborea has been attributed. In the Iliad the people of Lycia were considered particularly those people of Apollon in a manner I find common with the views regarding the Hyperboreans.

This is not to suggest that Lycia and Hyperborea are the same place, though descriptions following the Orphic Argonautika and academic studies does suggest a possible link of Hyperborea with eastern Europe following along the Danube river to the North. So it is *possible* that there may have been an idea of a relationship between the eastern Lycians and the Hyperboreans who were said to have traveled initially to Delos. That we have the Old Man of Lycia appearing with the Hyperboreans in Delian myth does give a certain strength to this, as with the arrival of Apollon with the Hyperborean maidens, knowing that Apollon has traveled to Lycia in the Delian cycle. So perhaps it was conceived that Hyperborea was located in close proximity to Lycia, or within reasonable distance to each other that would bring the Lycians and Hyperboreans in company together in their legendary arrival to Delos.

Whether Delphi eventually picked up this yearly calendar of Apollon’s movement from Delos is rather unknown, though most modern worshipers tend to experience and worship it as a yearly event rather than following the Delphic calendar in which Apollon was gone for a year once every nine years. It is possible that Delphi, after the movement of the games, altered their celebrations of the movement of the mythos. I have suggested before that people who want to incorporate both Hyperborea and Lycia in their worship of Apollon can do so without any problems. Either by observing  yearly trip to Lycia and then every nine years a Hyperborean trip, or by linking the concepts of the travel to Hyperborea and Lycia. If there is anything in any probability of a relationship between Lycia and Hyperborea then it may make further sense to do so.

We can thus celebrate Apollon who is in abode of the light, where the gardens of Hyperborea flourish, where the swans sing, where gold deer graze, and there dwelling people beloved by Apollon, in a land abundant in fruits and holy grain in this glorious land. Which has less to do with geography and more to do with ongoing spiritual symbolism and the kingdom of Apollon in general. And as scholars have been confounded by the lack of evidence in the geographical regions that are ascribed to Lycia, or rather a lack of early period evidence of the kind that would back up such a physical transmission, it is quite plausible that Lycia was treated in terms much like that of Hyperborea. Mostly conceptualized in a spiritual direction, inspired by a place and people rather than Apollon literally taking up residence every winter in Lycia. Thus his oracle was therefore probably viewed in the same concept of being “away,” without it actually being moved to another physical location. As such the symbolism between what is going on with Hyperborea and that going on with Lycia is united in its ideology.

— Lykeia (12/26/2012)

Apollon and the Minotaur

Asterion, the Minotaur. Found via Google.

I have often wondered at the image on Apollon’s throne in which Theseus leads of the Minotaur bound in chains. Pausanias apparently was also curious about this since he remarked specifically on it being a curious matter since myth usually has Theseus slaying the Minotaur. That it is something specifically depicted on the throne, and I find that the decoration of the thrones of the gods—like that of Zeus at Olympia as well as that of Apollon at Amyclae—are very specific towards the domain of the gods and their influence in the cosmos that plays out in myth. So I thought it would be appropriate to share some of my thoughts on the relationship between Apollon and the Minotaur.

First we know that Apollon is connected to bulls, though perhaps not as strongly as other animals that are a part of his cult. In fact his relationship with the bull seems to come from a very specific role he plays in his interaction with the earth. There are many examples of him being honored with bulls or oxen, being depicted with ox skulls, as a herding god etc. We also know Apollon as the son of Zeus, the great bull of the heavens. That Zeus provided a bull for the sacrifice to Poseidon we see a connection between the divine bull connected to the welfare of the people. Pasiphae, who herself culticallly is connected to lunar oracles and a daughter of Helios, became enamored with this bull, however, and was able to achieve union with the bull. Thus moisture and light mingled to create the Minotaur, the bull of Minos, also named Asterion (starry one).

Now Asterion/the Minotaur was, according to associated specifically with the constellation of Taurus, which is aligned to Aphrodite. This is hardly any surprise to see this coming into play as Aphrodite did play a rather large part in the tale of the Minotaur and of the trial of Theseus in the labyrinth. However the bull here, in relation to her domain, represents the harmonic order that is achieved. The hero, through the love of Ariadne, wins the freedom of his people and the restoration of balance from the human tithing to Crete in myth. As a spiritual journey of Theseus he comes to bull at the center of the labyrinth, defeats it, and emerges again from the depths remade. The harmonic alignment between Ariadne and Theseus made this possible, for it was her aide that aided him through her dancing floor. Aphrodite led the way to the Minotaur, she was his guide. He passed through and achieved the state of harmony. Thus the bull is an important symbol of Aphrodite here in this sense because she is what allowed him to overcome the bull. Or in the case of the throne of Apollon, to yoke the bull and master it.

Now I have spoken of the labyrinth before, and its connections to Zeus and Apollon in different coinage. The labyrinth being called the dancing floor of Ariadne is something specific in the mysteries when it comes to Apollon, because he is the leader of the mystic chorus, just as his sister is specifically referred to in title. Pausanias, when speaking of the beautiful dancing floors of Panopolis in Phocis, says that while there was little of Panopolis to literally warrant this description, states that it comes from the Thyiades who performed their dances all throughout the countryside. Now the Thyiades are called after Thyia, the first worshiper of Dionysos on Parnassos, but also a lover of Apollon. As Apollon instructs and leads the chorus, particularly in the mysteries as pertaining to Dionysos, it is reasonable that Delphic versions that made her the mother of Delphus are particular in indicating that she likely performed the mystic dance on the instruction of Apollon. Likewise the dance, the so-called Crane dance, was performed in Delos by Theseus and taught to their people was an imitation of the inward and outward movements of the labyrinth, and was performed specifically for Apollon and Aphrodite, who in the myth, led the way through via Ariadne. The connection between the domains of Aphrodite and Apollon on Delos was enough that they say that Theseus left the statue of Aphrodite that Daedalus had made for Ariadne, as a votive gift to Apollon. Apollon there receives Aphrodite on his sacred island.

So when we take a look at the Minotaur. We see that the bull is achieved by Aphrodite. But the Minotaur itself becomes a symbol associated with the domain of Apollon. I guess here now I can see why perhaps the bull was aligned to Apollon as his sacred beast previously. The Minotaur is the guardian of the labyrinth, he is acting as Apollon acts as the god of the boundaries. Theseus must overcome the Minotaur in order to pass through this immortal gate and ascend as a greater soul. Just as Marsyas won against Apollon in the musical contest. He wasn’t slain by Apollon for the daring, but was rather transformed, though rather brutally in the myth, for matching against Apollon. Theseus matches against the Minotaur and because of the harmonic guidance of Aphrodite, he is able to yoke the Minotaur. Of course on Apollon’s throne, as the Minotaur is a symbol of Apollon’s domain, a”monster” of his domain as much as Medusa is linked to Athena, the Minotaur would not be depicted as slain, but rather indicates to divinity of Theseus by mastering the primal nature of Apollon in contest against his soul. Apollon, after all, is quite serious about the boundary which is guards as we know from a number of myths!

Thus we establish the Minotaur is the sacred monster of Apollon, bright, just Apollon is bright, the son of the sacred bull, whom is the creature of his domain as represented mythically as this spiritual barrier the soul must cross. If Pasiphae was indeed an early Cretan representation of Selene, it seems to me that it makes a stronger connection between the death and renewal associated with the moon in symbolism with the labyrinth and the story of the labyrinth, and that which plays in the cult of Apollon wherein Apollon is a destroyer and also connected to the Noumenia, as god of the new month reborn. In a sense Theseus’ emergence from the labyrinth is much akin to the nature of the Noumenia in this fashion. In a sense we can see the Minotaur either identified with Apollon to a degree, or as a servant of Apollon on earth.

— Lykeia

Of Fish, Dolphins and Frogs

“Latona and the Frogs”, by Francesco Trevisani.

Since I have been speaking recently of liminal animals, particularly that of goats, dogs, and wolves in recent posts, I thought I might take a moment to address another that is perhaps often overlooked…and that is the aquatic animals and their relationship to various gods. Poseidon as the god of the sea (and thus also the space in between the extremes) is most notable for being associated with such creatures in everything from fish and dolphins to mythological creatures such as seamonsters and hippocampi (seahorses in the most literal sense). These creatures are as such associated with the boundary between the world of men, and the unknown world as expressed by the unfathomable depths to which men did not (and still to some degree do not) have access. As such we see also dolphins carrying Proserpina in Italian art depicting her return, and we have images of Aphrodite riding upon a dolphin as she emerges in her birth from the sea. And we have Apollon who takes the form of a dolphin as a guide and is honored as Delphinus in respect to his dolphin form that he takes. This similar idea can also be expressed by the fish oracle of Apollon at Patara, Lycia. The presence of the dolphin in the cult of Apollon is fairly well known, and it is unsurprising that a god connected as he is with ports/harbors, mariners etc would not have strong aquatic associations in the means of sacred animals and even oracular forms if the sea is the liminal point between between worlds and Apollon is a god which traverses them both easily and illuminates the unknown. And then we have goddesses who take finned forms themselves such as Aphrodite Syria, and Artemis Eurynome of Arkadia.

Though Pausanias expresses some doubt as to how Artemis Eurynome can actually be Artemis, he does remark that the people of the area are quite firm in their belief that this is Artemis, and thus we can see that the name Eurynome is an epithet of her in this capacity which assigns attributes of the sea goddess specifically to this inland cult of Artemis where two important streams met. Euyrnome is by and large associated with the parallel functions of Artemis at the aquatic level over “pastures” as well as functions as a kind of divine nurse wherein Eurynome literally receives and nurses the infant Hephaistos after he was flung from Olympos. This daughter of Okeanos may compare in some fashion with the version of myths in which Artemis is attributed to parentage of Demeter and Poseidon…which though most strongly attested at Eleusis, is also evident symbolically by the close association with the horse that the goddess enjoys through the Pelponnese and her close association with particular rivers and springs in myth can reflect this alternative parenthood that clearly serves a very strong symbolic purpose. Thus it is of little surprise that she is thus honored at the meeting place of the Lymax (After-Birth…the source of which is the place where the infant Zeus was delivered and Rhea was bathed after his birth) where it falls into the Neda. Though Artemis is considered mythically a daughter of Zeus, we often see Artemis and Apollon, and Athena too in some myths, attributed to pre-Olympian manifestations…thus Apollon as a father of the Korybantes who cared for the infant Zeus it is not difficult imagine Artemis, the divine nurse, associated with the river related to the birth of Zeus. Especially as the Okeanid Neda was specifically one of the nymphs who cared for Zeus, which likely made this spot where the worship of Artemis Eurynome carried related to this connection of receiving and “nursing” the god. Kallimachus specifies how Neda secreted the infant Zeus away  to place him in the care of the Melian nymphs and the Kuretes that would raise him. Overall this place is then associated with two things…the delivering of Zeus after his birth and the purification of the mother by bathing.

Lewis Farnell in his The Cults of the Greek States talks briefly of the cult of Artemis under the Lacodaemons which honored Artemis as the nurse of the hyacinth, for which we may also see a parallel worship with the festival celebrated by the nurses of boys in secrecy in the same land every year…which again connects with a liquid, fluid nature of the goddess which nurtures even as she is the goddess of the wooded pasturelands. Likewise as a goddess of mariners she bringer of all to haven, or port (something which is specifically attributed to Apollon as god of ports) even as she may hunt her prey through her woods…she brings all to their destination. Therefore there is likely some very important association with the destination of these two meeting of springs that is being here honored which is connecting with the fluid nursing character of Artemis. And yet a nod to her woodland aspect as cypresses planted all about the temple to Artemis Eurynome, the mermaid formed Artemis wrapped in golden chains. Such similar associations between the woodland and the aquatic realm is the device of the net which is used to secure both prey hunted on land, and fish hunted from the depths of the sea for which have other associations of Artemis with epithets of Dictynna and Britomartis.

And that finally brings us to the frogs. Aristophanes has a chorus of frogs, caretakers of the reeds, that praise in their song the following liminal gods: Artemis, Pan, Apollon and Dionysos from where they dwell in the underworld (perhaps another association of frogs inhabiting lower levels of water that may be associated with the underworld). These are the same animals which are renowned in myth in which Leto, in her travel through Lycia, transformed shepherds (or in some version villagers man, woman and child all) into frogs for rejecting her attempts to bathe her children there in their waters. This bathing of Artemis and Apollon by this myth is of particular importance, and we see it too in that Xanthus, in whose water Apollon is bathed is held in high esteem and all of Patara is honored. As Leto also has strong associations with the underworld in Lycia and Asia minor it carries a strong portal symbolism too between life and death, which brings to mind the Egyptian frog goddess Heqet who presided over births. Likewise the symbolism of the bathing carries further in which we see both Artemis and Athena exacting punishment for being spied upon in their baths, for in which case for Artemis is one of her most commonly known myths that it resulted in the death of Actaeon whereas for Athena the blinded violator was given the gift of prophecy. Therefore we see the watery realm symbolism further associated with this idea of foresight (for which we can understand Poseidon’s oracles as well), purification (on the part of the goddesses in myth), and transformation as typically the water is what is used as the vehicle of delivering the punishment. Frogs are very important to this transformative nature of water because it is in the water that this transformation occurs that allows them to go from living solely beneath the water to be able to emerge from it. This naturally brings to mind Plato’s Phaedo I believe it was in which our heavens are described as being like the sea of a higher world (my paraphrase here)…and therefore this transcendence can also imply emerging into a higher state too. Which may explain in part the importance of the frog symbolism that it was carved on the doors of Delphi according to Plutarch.

Thus whether it is possessing a fish’s tail, or taking the form of a marine creature, as symbolically related to specific aquatic animals, it delivers a wealth of meaning potential within it.

— Lykeia

Apollon, and Owning Your Own Shit

“Apollo Belvedere”, Roman copy of bronze Greek original, by Leochares.

It may not have escaped the notice of many devotees that those who belong to Apollon reflect our god, just as you find with other devotees to varying degrees. As such, while we can be great listeners and healers, we aren’t your crutch or going to give you platitudes to please you. Apollon is the lord of truth. Part of that is frankly owning your own shit/personal accountability for your own behavior and being. You are expected to act like a responsible adult, not lie, whine or emotionally blackmail. If you need help and ask for it he will be there to give some comfort and support. If you expect him to step in and coddle you and bend over backwards to protect your feelings, you are in for a disappointment.

Cassandra broke her vow and had to deal with the shit storm of consequences. When Cruesa breaks down and goes into a temper tantrum, Apollon distances himself from it. He sent Herakles to serve a term of slavery to resolve a blood debt. Frequently exiled murderers. Apollon brings all that you plant into fruition, so the word of advice is watching what you sow because you will be reaping it. It is not his job, or that of those who are his, to be your personal champions or knight in shining armor. He is not a knight. He is a mirror. What you see is not always pretty, but it is something that can help you grow and develop if you choose to accept it as such.

Myth has a history of people blaming Apollon because they don’t like how shit turned out when near him. Orestes blamed Apollon for the truth of the Oracle given to him. Cruesa blamed Apollon for the loss of her son that she chose to abandon. The Erinyes blamed Apollon because they were loosing influence in favor of his domain. Apollon is a destroyer god. Herakles had a tantrum and tried to steal the tripod because Apollon was going to make him deal with his own shit storm he created for himself, and not going to make it easier for him by giving him an oracle. He burns out the infection so that one can heal. That means labors and trials. That means getting dirty and facing shit you don’t like to face. To face your own vulnerabilities and shadows. He will even give you a hand and light it up so you can get an even better glimpse of that stuff you don’t want to even look at.

He won’t protect your ego or sensitivities. Rarely will one who is devoted to him do so either… it seems to be a trait fairly commonly passed on to those who are his. It is not personal, anymore than a storm is personal. That said, if you are having trouble coping with these things you are presented, reach out a hand and ask for help. He is generous and kind, even if it may not be the exact response that you wanted.

I have had to rub elbows with owning my own shit in my relationship with him for some time now. My life, my spiritual growth and welfare, my identity as a person, keeping my word and honor… all of these things and more I am responsible for, even when it is not easy. Especially when it is not easy. Friction is necessary.

— Lykeia (5/03/2018)