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 Theoi.com 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)

Changes, Transformations and Purifications

“The Birth of Diana and Apollo”, by the Workshop of Giulio Romano.

There are many gods which I think fairly should be recognized for changes and transformations that occur in life. We experience many such changes as we go along from the moment we enter into the world, beginning our days with a small collection of deities that address the welfare of the young, with an ever expanding number of deities getting involved at different life stages as if through a sort of evolutionary progress of one’s life. Yet the key deities almost always involved consistently are Apollon and Artemis (and to a degree their mother Leto) which I consider, in connection to my post regarding their domains as gods of the action of nature as destroying and nurturing forces. In many ways this links to their very real historic cult associations with significant life changes. As I have many new changes coming into my life, with another new baby on the way, and moving into our new (and more permanent) home, has made this kind of a fixture in my mind lately in my relationships with them.

Apollon and Artemis are the premier deities of the newly born. Whether this be the newly born month (Apollon Noumenios, and some have also taken to calling Artemis as Noumenia), the newly born child over which the guard and care-take from being taken prematurely into death during its most tender days, as well as the significant changes of maturing into adulthood and the marital rites (which participation during their youth in the cults of these deities were blessed by marriage as adults). Even their positions at the doorway enters into this, as we enter and exit into new states of being every time we pass our threshold with the very different environments of being within one’s home under the protection of the household gods, and outside interacting in the world outside of the household which had more threats to one’s well-being. To enter into one’s household was a kind of purification itself before these gods who guard the doorway (usually by means of offerings to the gods of the doorway and even possibly washing oneself at the entrance), just as we find the gods of the gates acting similarly in a larger scale with cities in which armies were not permitted to pass through the gates until they were purified. This applies to the processes of death and spiritual evolution.

In a sense, with Apollon as a guardian god of the gates of transformation/apotheosis/etc and Artemis as the goddess of the energy which sustains and drives all to these ends, we can see how and why Apollon and Artemis would be significant deities present in any momentous changes in one life….even those changes which are by necessity determined by the Fates for a purpose of impact to our beings that we may not always find individually favorable when they are experienced as painful. Growth and change is often in fact painful or at very least uncomfortable. There is a sorrow of a new bride who has to leave behind the things of her child just as she presented momentos of her childhood to Artemis, and leave behind too the familiar gods and spirits of her household to occupy that of her husband’s. There is the pain of bringing new life into the world, even pain and anxiety of bringing any kind of new creation forth from our minds as Zeus labored greatly in his head to bring forth Athena, by the tools of Hephaistos (another significant god of transformation as the god who enables/gives form to the new forms taken to which I would say Eilethyia almost matches as a goddess of labor pains as being another part of the process…which may be telling as to why between Apollon as the father of the Korybantes and Hephaistos as the father of the Kaireboi we find them as fathers of gods who oversee the most divine change in the arrival of the savior god whether that be Zeus or Dionysos, and the close connection between Eleithyia and Artemis).

Apollon and Artemis remind that that one of the most important things with the come of significant changes and transformations in our lives, that purification is a very important part of the process. Not only does it remove any pollution that we may otherwise taken into our new existence (extra baggage need not be brought), it also allows us in many ways to start fresh and newly born. A home is to be purified before the gods are welcome into it when a new home is established. Purifications are done upon the household, mother and infant after the baby has successfully survived its first seven days of life. Purifications following the allotted period necessary after death of a family member in residence (usually 30 days). Even the rites of passage into states of youths and maidens by children were themselves purification rituals in form….in varying degrees of aggressiveness depending on the place (the rites on youths at the temple of Artemis Orthia is a great example of particularly violent forms of what could be considered purifying rites. Even those who practice some form of magic or spirit work will often begin and end with varying degrees of intensive purifications depending on the deities and spirits concerned.

It makes sense that under any new change in one’s life that a sensible spiritual act would be one of purification, to even approach these gods (at the doorway if you have them established enshrined no where else within your house) and engage in purifications in preparation. Often the simplest and most common means when not dealing with serious transgressions that require purification, is by water although some people also utilize incense smoke into it as well. This can be considered of the same nature as the purifications that are undergone as part of  Hekate’s Deiponon and the Noumenia for the well-being of the household as the new month changes round. Really it is the same principle. I myself engage in regular purifications that includes daily bathing and fumigations with smoke as part of my devotions.

One of these easiest ways to conceive of the necessity of purifications is in a philosophical understanding of Artemis. Artemis herself is connected to rivers in very significant ways and is associated herself as being a holy river that brings forth the blessings of the gods. This can be most notable in her role as Artemis Eurynome in which she oversees the purification of the infant Zeus following his birth (perhaps the only significant after birth purification myth that I have found aside from the travel of Leto to Xanthus to purify and bathe her twins. The fact that Artemis and Apollon have many strong river cult associations is relevant to this purpose. The water itself is pure and the purity of its nature is that which carries away the stains of miasma. This is perhaps because water itself has the observable ability to dissolve and carry away particles that gives it such strength. Therefore the purification by water is a kind of release, and unblockage as water is unhindered and one is left open to receiving the blessings of the gods and spirits. The agency of the purifying water itself becomes the first expression of divine blessing…in the cases of rivers purifying gods the blessings go both ways with the deity being purified likewise blesses the body of water such as we find in the case of Xanthus, or even in the case of the river Peneios who offered to withstand the anger of Hera to offer shelter of Leto for the birth of her son (Peneios who incidentally was the father of Daphne who herself underwent a massive transformation into a laurel tree but was also the purifier of Apollon later after slaying Delphyne).

Therefore, like a fount of water or living stream, purification allows access to us to begin a new way, and at the forefront we find Apollon and Artemis there who are the god who are first to bestow their blessings as gods of the purifying agent and gods who preside fundamentally (although not exclusively) over transformation and changes.

— Lykeia

Music of Apollon: Healing, Sight, Harmony and Destruction

Apollo Playing the Lyre. 1825-30.Charles Philippe Lariviere
“Apollo Playing the Lyre”, by Charles Philippe Lariviere.

The *Orphic hymn has a beautiful line in it to Apollon in which it addresses the god as one who turns the seasons by his song, reminding us of the cyclic nature that is so very much a part of his domain (or exit out of the cycle in myths of deification such as in the cases of Marsyas, Hyakinthos etc) as we see the end always beginning again the new. This concept is perhaps best understood in the passage of time in Hellenic thought wherein the final year of a cycle was also simultaneously the first year, and Apollon Noumenios, begins too the new lunar month in every monthly course. The close dance of death and birth are always present together, even as in both cases certain miasmatic presence is accrued with both the release of death and the hazards of the first days of an infants birth after which Apollon and/or his twin are typically lauded. It is a harmony of nature, which appears to have foremost appreciated by Socrates in Plato’s Cratylus wherein he speaks of the meanings inherent in the names of the gods. Thus this keeping of harmonic movement of the cosmos in balanced score is perhaps most profoundly represented by his attribute as a player of the kithara or lyre. As most may recall, this was not an invention of himself but rather of Hermes. Given that Apollon has a more archaic nature as a pastoral deity he likely had related associations with music that were more organic, such as that of singing which can certainly demonstrate such a fondness in myth for the kithara that gave him an accompaniment to his voice. This point has been reinforced in myth by the contest between Marsyas with his pipes and the superiority of the abilities of the kithara that allowed Apollon to sing in company with the plucking of the strings.

This singing feature is probably also closely related to the prophetic nature of the god, for not only is he a god who oversees cycles making him a god who sees patterns of all things that have been and to come, but the close relationship between poets (who typically sang their work with a lyre of some kind) and seers is one that has been made also by Socrates as noted by Plato as a source of divine inspiration coming through similar channels. Certainly the Pythia’s oracles in metered verse (probably done singing or in a sing-song manner) lends a very thorough connection between the two. Therefore it is quite natural that as a god whose personal power comes through his vocalizations (albeit with the company of his stringed instrument to his liking…enough so that he bargained with Hermes for it). In some ways it is amusing because when we think of the music of Apollon we do not imagine his music being the power of his singing, but rather attached directly and solely to an external instrument whether it is kithara or the flute that he also attained from Hermes in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes. Yet it seems that his abilities as song-master and vocalization is perhaps the most important key to understanding Apollon’s music as he sings forth the intricate dance of the cosmos and the delicate weave of moving bodies therein by his lyrics. That by this he is Logos as truth, a golden unbreakable song. And by which too that Lycurgus, when given instruction from Delphi, used a poet to sing of the laws to coax people into following them by delivering in the most perfect form the persuasion of truth to their minds and souls. Or by relation, the belief that Thrakians had that singing to the soul of an individual could aid in curing their illness by restoring the order and harmonic balance to the soul via song.

And then there are the Kleidones, who were attached to his Delphi cult as well as at another location that escapes my memory at the moment. At Delphi, during the time of the bronze temple in that location according to myth, these Kleidones, described as being akin to Sirens) would perch at the pediment of the temple and sing their prophecies there. The close relationship they bear with Sirens can probably draw the relationship of Sires more acutely with Apollon, especially given their relationship to the Muses who are beloved by Apollon and are part of his divine company. The Sirens, prior to the Muses taking the position, were believed to be original divine beings of the celestial spheres. These duties were taken over by the Muses, and yet we see the Sirens in myth trying to take over the duties too of the Muses by challenging them to a contest of singing (which the Muses won and as penalty the Sirens had their feathers plucked to be worn as headdresses by the Muses in their triumph). Sirens are in myth, however, also embody the most dangerous form of music, that which can lure and entice men from their purpose (which is why Plato wanted public music to be ideally only of a certain type and without such threats) as we see in the Odyssey in which their songs lead directly to death. If Muses are one part of Apollon’s company as embodiments the perfections of civilization, I would consider the Sirens to be their shadowy sisters in his company….and a kind of natural harmony occurring between then. I do at times wonder if the adorning of the Muses with feathers could be seen as a direct relationship between the identify of the Muses with the Sirens…. perhaps in a less civilized and more violent type of being that has less to do with the civilized arts that better the soul and more with their place in the natural world in which song not only creates but is part of the cycle of the seasons between birth and death. The would certainly make sense in the context of song in the cult of Apollon.

For Apollon, the most beautiful singing was so attached to his nature that death of that which was most sacred to him was credited as possessing the most beautiful songs moments before their death. Swans (one of his heraldic animals and creatures that were known to pull his chariot to Hyperborea) particularly were spoken of in this manner, that before their death it was only then that they would beautifully sing. This idea to passed to humans who belong to him as well as exhibited by Cassandra in Ascheylus’ play Agamemnon in which laments before her death where characterized as such beautiful funerary singing that it is addressed as her “swan song”. It is not hard to imagine why laments, accompanied by the keening of the flutes, would be part of his musical sphere, even if it was banned at Delphic contests for a time because it was considered too depressing of a subject to be fit in honoring the god, even though it had an ancient tradition in place as an offering to him, and he was said himself to play such laments at the funerary libations he gave to the Python. After all the paean is known not only as a song in honor of the god for a victory (as indicated by the myth of the paean in relation to the slaying of Delphyne by the village men), but also as a lamenting song (as per the paean in the myth of Hyakinthos). Obviously someone eventually saw sense because after a number of years it was permitted back into the Delphic contests.I have may times said that if Dionysos was the god of theater and the masks of men acting through the passages of their lives, then Apollon is the leader of the chorus who brings revelations in their laments and praises.

That said, even though I belong to Apollon I sing like a raven, but I take it to heart that ravens for all the cawing are beloved by him too, and hold the song for myself as a more spiritual thing that comes across in a different way…through poetry and art primarily. So while great singers and poets are beloved and especially gifted in this manner by him, possessing enormous singing ability isn’t strictly a requirement of those who are his thankfully! Besides as I have indicated above his song is so much more vast in his domain and nature than simply putting together beautiful narratives in musical form. It is the very mechanism of the functions of his domain.

Lykeia (8/20/2015)

Painting: “Apollo visiting Admetus”, by Nicolas-Antoine Taunay.


The Fumigation from Manna.
Blest Pæan, come, propitious to my pray’r, illustrious pow’r, whom Memphian tribes revere,
Slayer of Tityus, and the God of health, Lycorian Phœbus, fruitful source of wealth .
Spermatic, golden-lyr’d, the field from thee receives it’s constant, rich fertility.
Titanic, Grunian, Smynthian, thee I sing, Python-destroying, hallow’d, Delphian king:
Rural, light-bearer, and the Muse’s head, noble and lovely, arm’d with arrows dread:
Far-darting, Bacchian, two-fold, and divine, pow’r far diffused, and course oblique is thine.
O, Delian king, whose light-producing eye views all within, and all beneath the sky:
Whose locks are gold, whose oracles are sure, who, omens good reveal’st, and precepts pure:
Hear me entreating for the human kind, hear, and be present with benignant mind;
For thou survey’st this boundless æther all, and ev’ry part of this terrestrial ball
Abundant, blessed; and thy piercing sight, extends beneath the gloomy, silent night;
Beyond the darkness, starry-ey’d, profound, the stable roots, deep fix’d by thee are found.
The world’s wide bounds, all-flourishing are thine, thyself all the source and end divine:
‘Tis thine all Nature’s music to inspire, with various-sounding, harmonising lyre;
Now the last string thou tun’ft to sweet accord, divinely warbling now the highest chord;
Th’ immortal golden lyre, now touch’d by thee, responsive yields a Dorian melody.
All Nature’s tribes to thee their diff’rence owe, and changing seasons from thy music flow
Hence, mix’d by thee in equal parts, advance Summer and Winter in alternate dance;
This claims the highest, that the lowest string, the Dorian measure tunes the lovely spring .
Hence by mankind, Pan-royal, two-horn’d nam’d, emitting whistling winds thro’ Syrinx fam’d;
Since to thy care, the figur’d seal’s consign’d, which stamps the world with forms of ev’ry kind.
Hear me, blest pow’r, and in these rites rejoice, and save thy mystics with a suppliant voice.

Hymn found at  https://www.theoi.com/Text/OrphicHymns1.html

Leto Between Worlds

I find Leto absolutely fascinating, and not jut because she is the mother of the divine twins Apollon and Artemis, but rather her power and honor despite what appears in this age to be utter mythic obscurity. In reality I making this post in continuation of my thoughts in my earlier post here. Yet we have really very little in literature regarding Leto. She makes an appearance in the Iliad in the company of Artemis, in all appearance attending to her daughter. Her myth of her pursuit and union with Zeus is a footnote (some says was impregnated as a wolf, some say as a quail. Really what she is known for is bearing her children and her labors therein in which she travailed for 12 days and nights in searching for the place where she could bear her young in her own Herculean journey. Some says she made this journey from the far region of Hyperborea to Hellas., with Athena in her company according to some sources, helper in quests. Another well known myth is her transformation of the Lycian villagers into frogs when they offender her by not permitting her access to their spring.

Yet aside from these myths, not much is apparently known about the goddess, other than that she was highly honored and enjoyed an esteemed repute among women particularly. Yet there is some fragments of evidence that can suggest what her larger nature was, one that was certainly complimented and linked to her offspring, but possessing its own great power which I touched a bit on in my previous post. Certainly her syncretism in Ionia with a local Anatolian goddess Eni Mahanahi, a local name for Annis Massanassis (who is identified with Kybele) indicates that Leto may have been considered as bearing much of the same character and power of this local deity, which provides us with an interesting insight on how Hellenes viewed Leto overall. That she was depicted veiled and seated on a wooden throne at Delos, as well as possessing her own sanctuary there as she did in Lycia makes clear that she was more than just honored by convenience as mother of Apollon and Artemis. The speculated honeycomb décor of her temple at Delos may allude to Leto being of such high quality as a queen bee dwelling hidden in the depths of the cavernous beehive. As Leto was believed to come from Hyperborea, and has two major temples between Delos and Lycia were by Delian tradition Apollon traveled between, it could almost be considered that Apollon himself is traveling among the houses of is mother.This may be especially important when considering more otherworldly character that his travel takes during the winter. Even at Delphi Leto has a presence, even if in the temple of her son rather than her own temple, but may bear mythic link to the region via her parentage by Koios (the axis of the heavens) and Phoebe who according to some Delphic traditions inherited the axis of the earth, Delphi, from Themis which I discussed in the above linked previous blog post.

Given the plausible link of Leto with certain fresh water dragon cults, and her own syncretism with the Egyptian Wadjet (again see previous article where I discuss all of this) we see a clearer character of Leto as a goddess who dwells between worlds, who herself is a state ever becoming and renewing. Unlike Wadjet, who is fiery and light emanating, Leto does this in a more subtle fashion. The dark hidden goddess, emits her light through her continuous generative nature. She is by her fashion the eternal mother, blessing wombs of women with life, as her womb issues life and light. When people talking of Apollon and Artemis as Lycian as in terms of being born in light, I do not think that this is to be taken literally as in a designated place of light, but that they issued from their mother’s womb in an array of light. As such in can be considered that the light that they bear originates and comes from within their mother and is her eternal manifesting light. As such Leto appears to designate as a power generating goddess from which light eternally springs even as Leto is said to take on the character of being pregnant leading up to the birthday of the twins at Delos. This would certainly make sense given her underworld cult connections, and any loose associations she may have with Rhea, Demeter or Persephone as life manifesting from the within the recesses of the earth.

She is thus is the shrew goddess and the serpent goddess who dwells within the cavernous earth as they are observed slipping within their dens. Or the wolf who likewise den within the ground. Even the frog which is associated with her in its travels between the seen and unseen worlds as it slips within the water and nurselike tends to the reeds of Apollon rooted in the underworld. Even the imagery of the beehive is fitting as bees naturally make their nests hidden away whether inside a tree or hole, or even as a round nest like a stone. Even apiaries resemble hills. Naught is really seen of life except the bees issuing from out of it and returning to it, the divine nectar, the honey, is hidden deep within as the queen is. I would imagine that the quail and rooster who cries with the transition of night and day is perhaps a later association that developed as Apollon and Artemis became equated with the light of the sun and moon specifically. Even these tie in well with the essence of the becoming and manifestation of being as comparable with night rather than the underworld specifically. Although her contest within the text of the Iliad in pairing against Hermes further supports the earlier underworld characteristic that was the prevalent. Her association with springs and rivers such as with the river Peneus and the river Xanthus certainly carries this further as rivers are often linked with travel between worlds even as the sea and any other body of water tends to be. Water is by it natural liminal.

In this manner we can understand Leto further as a manifesting, tending, and life giving divine being, that which is life giving and nurturing, yet of fierce temper, aggression, and unpredictability. She is overall queenly and primal, goddess of the golden spindle like her daughter. She is the cavern from which the winds of life and transformation emit.

— Lykeia (11/15/2015)

In Honor of Leto, the Mother

As one who loves Apollon, Leto has an important place my in home. I am not sure how much worship she gets in modern Hellenismos. It is clear that she had a significant following historically. It is pretty clear though that her worship was inseparable from that of Apollon and Artemis as she is typically depicted in the company of her children, and in one case from Lydia she was represented too with the nymph Ortygia. Her accompanying role to her children in much of Hellas is contrasted by Lycia where her cult may have had a stronger position than in many other places, as her name seems to have translated into meaning “woman”, inferring that Leto may have been considered a goddess of prominence. However, the alternate translation of her name (“Unobserved”)  is also revealing and not unassociated with her role in Lycia and other parts of Ionia as a goddess associated strongly with the underworld. This name suggests a hidden nature of the titanide. As the sister of Asteria, it is quite possible that there may have been some contrast between the bright Asteria, and her darker hidden sister Leto, both of whom were desired by Zeus..one who married him and the other who fled into the sea to escape him and became the island Delos. Such darkness may very well aligned Leto both the underworld and to the dark envelope of night from which light is born. It seems as a matter of coincidence that Leto was said to come from Hyperborea, a land beyond the furthest north (which is in itself connected to long seasons of darkness).

In such respects we can, for the purpose of reconstructing her worship, can probably infer some commonalities between Leto and Persephone, or her niece Hekate. Indeed if we consider for a moment the role that Zeus takes as Chthonic god as her position as one of his earlier “wives” (for which the suggestion on theoi.com that her name Unobservable or To Move Unseen, we may regard this to refer to modesty that is associated with the lives of married women), there may be some early parallel to Hades and Persephone. In the Theogony Leto is specifically addressed as a goddess who is always mild and kind to the deathless gods, which implies to me that she is of such character as one would expect of a hidden underworld goddess…one who is kindly by nature as would be a goddess who receives the dead. Of course that she is poetically often described as being present on Olympos, particularly in the poem of Hesiod in the Homeric Hymn to Apollon, this only seems to imply a retention of her power and esteemed position, as she is the one who receives the bow of her son and unstrings it. She is the receiver and bearer of light. In this fashion I imagine Leto as a beautiful woman, garbed in black or gray, with a sympathetic and kind face. An obscure goddess illuminated only by the presence of her children in whose company she delights. For she never appears where they are not. In the Iliad she is inseparable for the side of Artemis.

Actually when it comes to the Iliad I think we can learn something from the manner in which the gods are paired in the war of the gods that reveal something. Some gods we see nothing if (such as Demeter and Hestia…Hestia perhaps because she never leaves the hearth of Olympos, and Demeter perhaps because she is unaffiliated in such concerns). The lot of gods in whom they are combating is certain quite purposeful. Apollon and Poseidon (whom Homer reminds us worked cooperatively before in Ilium) and have associations with the traversing of the sea and harbors are matched against each other in the quarrel. Athena takes part against Ares, both gods who are esteemed in the art of war. Hera and Artemis are set against each other in which we have the queen of gods and men being challenged by a goddess who is often called queen in her own right and is ascribed as the daughter of Hera by the Thracians. Hephaistos’ fire is countered by the streams of Xanthus. And Leto is set against Hermes, a god whose functions lay in the traversing between the world of the living, that abode of the gods, and the underworld. So for me this pairing is rather significant, even as it is amusing by the fashion in which Hermes yields the contest to Leto refusing to raise hand against her.

I would suggest even that the strange scepter which she is often depicted as bearing resembles both a young plant shooting up, and with its spirals, a labyrinth type pattern of a kind, as a goddess who issues forth the light which returns to us every spring and a goddess of the hidden way. Certainly she must be associated with some kind of road or passage as she herself was made the journey from place to place (in the company of Athena apparently) until she arrived on Delos. This almost chthonic vision of Leto is rather complimentary in fact to versions of myth which assign Artemis’ parentage to Demeter (as another chthonic goddess) and Poseidon. There seems to be a certain assigning of the earth and the new upwelling of streams in the Lycian account of the birth of Apollon and Artemis (as revealed by Quintus Smyrnaeus in his The Fall of Troy) that speaks of the Xanthus appearing when Leto, in her labor pains, tore up the earth of the plains with her hands.

I also find it curious that in the relating of the gods (with the exception of Athena and Zeus) fled into Egypt from Typhon, that Leto become a shrew-mouse. Interesting the mouse and the mongoose snake (the mouse representing night and the snake representing day) were both directly associated with the Egyptian Wadjet who was revered as a goddess of childbirth, protector of children, a goddess associated with justice, and eventually considered the protector of kings. She is also a nurturing goddess as the one who helped Isis nurse Horus, and was associated with plant growth–specifically the papyrus. For a general overview on Wadjet you may wish to read further here. If we consider that there was some alignment in Hellenic thought between Leto and Wadjet we are seeing a goddess associated with divine rulership, law, death, and growth…all of which is compatible with my vision of Leto, and my theories on the relationship between Leto and Themis who bore such similar sons, and the latter who nursed the son of Leto on ambrosia. The early association between Wadjet and Isis just makes it all the more convenient too.

Therefore if we thought the mouse was an appropriate symbol for Apollon as Apollon Smintheus, we must consider the shrew mouse (the most common species of mouse in Alaska–much to my amusement) to be a sacred symbol of Leto. Likewise this draws some interesting comparisons when we consider that the heavenly axis of her father Koios was the eye of a stellar dragon, which paralleled the dragon of Delphi, the serpent of the oracle last in holding of Phoebe prior to Apollon, and the associations with the serpentine Wadjet, we see a goddess associated with two animals that burrow within the earth, and the latter of which is a creature associated with immortality, it presents us with an interesting chthonic deity.

Yet among the  birds Leto is strongly associated with the stork, as we understand from Aristophanes’ Birds. It is a mute bird, clattering their beaks for communication rather than any kind of song. The clattering sound is rather eerie from what I have heard in their nesting grounds when I visited Morocco, like some primitive primal noise that rises on the air and makes the hairs on your arm raise ever slightly. And like the swans associated with Apollon, the stork is also attached to its mate (and to its nest for that matter). To back up whatever chthonic nature Leto has, the stork has been associated with bearing wealth (which reminds us of Plutus) by some Germanic peoples, and with the underworld by Estonians, and in Baltic mythology has been associated with killing insects and reptiles. Of course sacred birds make an interesting mix as the swan is also associated with Ares and Zeus, so too is the stork also associated with Hera. Overall the stork is representative typically of nurturing parenting that tends to be common of earthly goddesses.

So for a shrine to Leto here is what I recommend. A representation of the mouse and the serpent, perhaps something related to the stork (I have a stork’s feather myself), an image draped in darkish fabric to represent that which is hidden.  I would even add a pair of lights to her shrine to represent the twin lights that she gave birth to for the world. Any imagery related to infants and mothers would also be appropriate. Leto is by far the earthly goddess of mothers, she who receives and gives forth life. Her worship is, and shall ever remain, and important part of my oikos, and it would please me know others are also giving her active worship!

— Lykeia (3/09/2012)