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

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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)

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)

Arrows

Flying
High over the trees
And striking
Clean through the hearts
Of the young boys

Running
They are running
Screaming in terror
Confused by the wrath
Of a God

Tearing
Straight through
And ripping
The flesh from soft bones
Not yet hardened by life

Falling
Hard upon the ground
So warm
Red and pooling
Soaking in deep

Wailing
Throaty and rasping
Keening to the sound
Of bodies thrashing
And convulsing their last

Silence
Quiet and still
Red eyes
Soaking in a red scene
Everything lost to hubris

— Columbine

All Shall Prosper, In His Name

leto-junto-a-apolo-y-artemisa-1861

“Delos, if you would be willing to be the abode of my son Phoebus Apollo and make him a rich temple –; for no other will touch you, as you will find: and I think you will never be rich in oxen and sheep, nor bear vintage nor yet produce plants abundantly. But if you have the temple of far-shooting Apollo, all men will bring you hecatombs and gather here, and incessant savour of rich sacrifice will always arise, and you will feed those who dwell in you from the hand of strangers; for truly your own soil is not rich.”

Leto ~ The Homeric Hymn to Delian Apollo

~

Many of us spend much of our time challenging our own self worth.  We put ourselves down, thinking that our current skills in any particular thing are below some level that has been lauded by society or community.  We look at the things we accomplish and compare them to the accomplishments of others.  We take our shortcomings into ourselves in such a way that they begin to harm us, rather than provide a starting-place for improvement.  I too am guilty of this.  Although I am able to keep it together most of the time, some days just do not seem like I am getting much of anything substantial done, in regards to the facilitation of my Lord’s worship.

This is because, like Delos Island, I am not rich in the things which are commonly desired by society, nor am I exceptionally skilled in any areas of societal worth.  However, also like Delos Island, I have agreed joyously to host the temple of Apollon.  But, as I am not myself an island or a plot of land, I must keep my Lord’s temple safely within my heart.

And this is the secret of Apollon’s attention and love; those who keep Him always within the core of their being will never be abandoned, for He takes care of His own.  When you shine outwardly the light of Apollon from within, you will naturally attract that which is needed for your day to day care. Trust in Him is the key.  He is the Provider, and you are the one He provides for, out of love, and the duty to protect.

Like Delos Island, we need not be beautiful in a traditional sense, for our Lord sees the beauty of our souls, and the unique ways in which we all express our inner selves.  His love is not always predicated upon what we can do for Him, but sometimes is given simply because He wishes to see us prosper, in His name.  Because we all have jobs to do for Him, whether those jobs are related to spiritual facilitation, or are of a more domestic association, our first priority will be to keep our own hearts happy, and filled with the love He has shown us.  All else comes later, and in many ways, is superfluous.

When we are truly joyous in our worship of Him, we no longer worry about how we are seen by those standing on the outside of our relationships.  We no longer waste our time with comparisons or jealousies.  With trust in Apollon comes freedom from the pettiness which so frequently inhabits our minds, and the world around us.

Within the Hymn itself, we see these thoughts, and others, echoed by Delos Island, as She speaks:

“Leto, most glorious daughter of great Coeus, joyfully would I receive your child the far-shooting lord; for it is all too true that I am ill-spoken of among men, whereas thus I should become very greatly honoured. But this saying I fear, and I will not hide it from you, Leto. They say that Apollo will be one that is very haughty and will greatly lord it among gods and men all over the fruitful earth. Therefore, I greatly fear in heart and spirit that as soon as he sets the light of the sun, he will scorn this island — for truly I have but a hard, rocky soil…”

It is true that our Lord Apollon is very haughty.  It is true that He often lords Himself over us mightily.  Yet, those traits that He possesses are the same traits which inspire Him to defend those who are His, without question, and without fail.  The insecurities of Delos Island are highlighted here, as well. She fears that He will scorn and abandon Her once He has seen what the world has to offer Him, in comparison to what She Herself can give.

But, the Island has nothing to fear, even without Leto’s pledge that Her Son would hold Delos as the heart of His future cult sites.  She need fear nothing because Apollon always accepts the sincere gift of oneself generously.  If you would only love Him, He will return your love a thousand fold.

Delos was the first to honor Him thus, with a place to call home, a place to rest and to administer to His people.  Delos was the first to open Her heart to Him completely, and the first to be held up in honor, as an example of the devotion that we too must display.  Delos Island is truly a marvel of selflessness, trust and compassion for all Apollonians to emulate.

By the example of Delos, we see that we are enough, that our contributions to Apollon’s honor are enough, that our skills, though always improvable, are enough at the current time, in their current state.  Improvements should be made not because we believe that we are presently unworthy, but because we strive to be better.  Knowing that one may always improve upon their life and situation does not mean that one should first consider themselves lowly, because the truth is that we are enough.  Indeed, you are enough.

— Columbine

Misconceptions of Apollon

This post is entirely inspired by a similar post on Hera that can be found here.

Understandably I will not be able to touch on each and every single thing that I have come across, but I will give it a go to touch on some of the biggest misconceptions that bug the hell out of me. This is developed from my own studies and devotion to Apollon.

1) Apollon is a god who has never married and is unfortunate in love

This is usually inspired by such myths as Daphne, Hyakinthos and a number of other myths in which those loved by Apollon die. However, this seems to not take in account that Apollon is effectively “married” to all the Muses, which is explained mythically that Apollon chose to not marry any of the Muses because he could not decide which to marry over the others (my paraphrase). In a sense this leader of the Muses is the spouse of all nine, which also reflects in the number nine that is sacred to his domain. This statement also tends to forget that Apollon did marry, he married the Thessalian princess/nymph Kyrene. Aphrodite prepared their marital chamber in Libya where he carried the maiden off to, and in her arms she was said to have bore three sons, the most notable of which is Aristaios, the divine shepherd who is often regarded as an offshoot of Apollon in that he is called by a cult title “the shepherd Apollon”. the fact that many of his lovers die has more to do with the function of his domain, that he is a transformative king who purifies through death. In such cases we have Daphne immortalized and cherished in the form of his sacred tree, and Hyakinthos in scenes in his Amyclaean cult which depicted him, on the throne of Apollon, ascending to the heavens upon his death. This hardly seems like Apollon is unfortunate in love, nor that his lovers are unfortunate themselves either. Rather it seems quite the reverse.

2. Apollon is all sweetness and light, a proverbial angel with his lyre.

The boy band image of Apollon is amusing at best. This was mentioned to me and I do agree that this is somewhat popular misconception. This goes to the extreme of ignoring some of the traits of his domain, particularly those which concern death and destruction….which is funny considering his name refers to “destroyer”. This is often done by those who like to divide a polar contrast between Dionysos and Apollon, ascribing the more passionate, dangerous and destructive features to Dionysos and rendering Apollon in some whimsical tame light that is all sobriety and intellectualism. the fact of the matter is that Apollon is uniquely connected with death and we see in Euripedes Aclestis a conversation in which Thanatos states that the law of death is that which is under the government of Apollon (and thus ironic to him that Apollon wished to act against it). Likewise we know from Pausanias that Hippocrates dedicated a bronze figure of a rotting corpse to the god. Not to mention several cult functions which are addressed to slaying and burial.

3. Apollon is a polar contrast to Dionysos

This is connected to the previous post and perhaps one of my biggest pet peeves. These will be people who say give wine to Dionysos and nothing but water to Apollon because Apollon is a sober god. This appears to be most drawn from a statement that I came across in the past regarding the prohibition of wine in the Pythian games. In actuality Apollon has been described anciently as the ivied, and the bacchic, alluding to a closer relationship with Dionysos then this perception would give credit to. There are also descriptions I have come across in scholarly articles which discuss portrayals of Apollon and Dionysos drinking together. Evidence goes also that Apollon is not hesitant to wine to drug the Furies who are pursuing Orestes. All this taken together, and the absence of any mention in ancient literature that Apollon has an aversion to wine, and rather a loose correlation in the opposite with Aristaios mixing wine with honey, certainly indicates that Apollon enjoys a particularly close relationship with Dionysos. This idea carries further with Apollon being leader of the chorus for the mysteries of Dionysos and leader of initiates in this fashion. Rather than being an opposite of Dionysos, or any concept of Apollon and Dionysos being polarities, Apollon plays a strategic part in the development of Dionysos mythically as the first to greet the young god and within his mysteries. The Thyiades are a great example of this as these women are named after Thyia, the first worshipper of Dionysos at Delphi, who is also ascribed as being a lover of Apollon. More so the division of Apollon as a god of civilization and Dionysos as a god of the outlaying places that is a popular form of this idea of polarity is also ridiculous in concept. Dionysos isn’t absent from the cities, and Apollon, while part of the creation of civilization, is very frequently associated with places in far outlaying areas as many of his holy places are located high in the mountains, in swamps etc. In fact he has many epithets which state a very rustic character as pastoral and shepherd god, and like Dionysos appears horned (though with the horns of a ram typically). Apollon and Dionysos also share iconography of serpents, goats, bulls etc. the close relationship between the gods is also indicated in the Karneia which is a festival of Apollon celebrating the first harvest of grapes, the beginning of the season for the sacrifice of Dionysos, and images of Apollon from Rhodes that I have read about in which Apollon is a winged figure with grapes hanging from him. This goes well with the function of Apollon Smintheus in which Apollon in the summer slays the mice that feed on the young fruits. In Rhodes Apollon and Dionysos are said to work together in this. Here we see the true form of the relationship between Apollon and Dionysos in which Apollon is a protective and nurturing figure toward Dionysos.

4. Apollon is a “young” god, and usurper.

Though Apollon is depicted perpetually as a teenager and is concerned with transitions of youth, and is best known in his incarnation as the son of Zeus, the idea that Apollon is a young god who usurps the powers of other gods is rather curious. This is based on a literal take of the myths that Apollon, in the most popular accounts born of Zeus and Leto, is of the younger generation of gods who is given reign over things that properly belong to other gods by his father. Even those who are happy to embrace ideas of Dionysos, Pan and other gods having a more archaic root, will frequently still regard Apollon in this light of a more junior deity. However Pausanias tells us that this is not the case in that in Arcadia, in a temple whose practices a mirror of those at Eleusis, Apollon and Pan are hailed among the eldest of gods. Apollon also appears in Samothrake as father of the Korybantes who cared for the infant Zeus. The idea of Apollon as usurper tends to be placed in relation to his worship at Delphi, which has a history of previously belonging to Ge, Themis, and Phoebe, and in regards to his relationship with Helios that he has been periodically confused with Helios in later periods. This idea I find to be a tragic misunderstanding of the function of Apollon in these cases. With Helios they share a close relationship because Apollon’s domain is that of the light, which carries both dangerous and beneficial properties, and Helios as the entity of the physical sun, is himself producing light. The sun falls into the company of Apollon by this association. Apollon is a higher governing force of light bearing bodies to which the sun belongs, and is thus perhaps the divine being who has the closest relation to Apollon among those gods that fall into his company of his domain. Meanwhile, Apollon’s place at Delphi is a development in relation to his cosmic function in relation to logos, specifically though as the part of logos that functions as truth. This makes him, in his incarnation as the son of Zeus and Leto, the perfect deity of the oracle, a job that cannot be assigned to any other as Apollon tells Hermes (who also functions in a different form of logos) in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes. Apollon thus is acknowledged in the myths associated with his rearing, with the knowledge of the earth and also by divination via the bee nymphs of Parnassos. Therefore the presence of Apollon at Delphi represents a shift from the dream-oracles of Ge, which we know of in a version of myth that Ge had prophecies sent through dreams when Apollon took over the oracle. Apollon with his profound connection with the earth, which is expressed in epithets which celebrate him as being of Ge (described by Pausanias) and imagery of Apollon libating to the earth, is the evolution of the arcane hidden knowledge of the earth (something Zeus also knows during his foster period) as the voice of truth delivering directly the will of Zeus and the gods. This represents an evolution of the form of knowledge and how it is received and transmitted. In this respect, in this higher form of transmitted knowledge we also find Apollon closely connected with education in general.

5. Apollon is a “woman-hater”

I don’t come across this very often but when I do it irritates me more than I can say, this is often paired with Apollon being presented as a violator of women. A good part of this is represented in how people perceive the myth of Daphne, usually because of a literalist interpretation of it. He is then viewed as nothing better than a rapist. This represents one of the biggest problems of taking the myths literally, because what should be a beautiful symbol of the transformation of the soul, and most holy symbol of his work in the cosmos, becomes perverted in such a tragic manner. the fact we are speaking of the gods, who are not people, means that we must take into account that their actions have to do with more than inter-human relationships. And when it comes to this action upon mortals, the divine seizing and penetration is something which can be alarming, fierce, and descend upon one without warning. Thus we see Cassandra, when caught in her prophecy, appealing to Apollon who embraces her fiercely. It a most holy matter, and not one to be tarnished with an overlay of mortal inter-relationships and morals….because it is not a moral matter but a deeply spiritual one. Of course the idea of Apollon being a woman hater is also used by many folks who are deeply committed to the idea of “herstory” as explanation for the myth of the dragoness Delphinia. Of course whenever this comes up it is quite erroneously accompanied with statements that this was a goddess of Delphi rather than a guardian dragon (very much not uncommon in Hellenic myths for several important things had guardian dragons and Delphinia was not only guardian of the oracular water of Castalia, but also in the war with Typhon guarded the sinews of Zeus when Typhon cut them. Her destruction is part of the divine myth of Apollon and part of the sacredness of Pytho, the land of Delphi. I have my own ideas about the connection between the serpent Delphinia and her relationship with Phoebe in comparison to the heavenly serpent whose eye is the polar star which is associated with Phoebe’s husband Koios. Apollon inherits the axis of both the earth and the heavens from these his grandparents, and the sacrifice of Delphinia (whom he does pay funeral respects to and is revived in iconography as being eternally present at Delphi as a divine serpent of Apollon) plays an important part of this. This would then logically be shown in the idea of Apollon being given Delphi as a birthday gift by his grandmother along side the common myth of the dragoness Delphinia. As with all myths one is not more “correct” than the other but rather should be taken as different expressions of the same spiritual idea. It is thus hardly female-hating. But again because Delphinia is a female dragon and because Apollon slew her, this breeds some problems in literalist readings.

6. Apollon and Artemis are polarities

Umm no. Just as in the case of Dionysos, this is not true either. In fact Apollon and Artemis share a number of conjoined functions, far more than polarities. There are those who try to say that Artemis is a huntress and Apollon is a sportsman archer, and yet this is not factual because Apollon has epithets which call him a hunter and had dedicated to him in his temples shields of hunters, as well as weapons of hunters (such as the spear which slew the Calydonian boar). Though Artemis is acclaimed more as a huntress than Apollon appears as a hunter in popular literature, in cultic evidence this is not the case. Apollon and Artemis are also both dancers, and both players of the kithara. In many cases we see Apollon was masculine forms of the names of Artemis, and Artemis with feminine names of Apollon. Both are deities associated with nurturing young, and both associated with life transitions, as well as being leader deities and gods of light. The division of Apollon as sun and Artemis as moon as an example of polarity is quite popular too, and yet Apollon has several major points of connection with the moon itself, particular as Noumenios, lord of the new lunar month and many festivals which culminate on the fullmoon in the Doric calendar. Whereas Artemis also has several associations with sunlight. Therefore rather than opposites it is more constructive to see Artemis and Apollon, born of the same womb, as cooperative divine units in the cosmos on par with that of Zeus and Hera who are also expressed as divine twins as air that accompanies aether. They also enjoy many of the same symbols in the horned deer, the goat, the bow, the laurel, the arrow, the torch etc.

— Lykeia