Happy Karneia!

I have been really amiss this year with blogging about festivals…usually because I forget to write something before hand or directly after and after a few days I decide not to bother with it. But as Karneia is one of my favorite festivals of the year I have been watching the fullmoon approach with a sense of excitement, especially as the weather has been cooling down and autumn starting to turn its way round into the pattern of the year’s dance. Today was perhaps the first really autumn day weather-wise. The sky was crystal blue and the sun shining down, and yet there was a definite nip in the air, and a smell in the air of plant life ripening and breaking down into decay. Autumn always has a rich smell to it, and so the beginning of this wonderful smell always delight my nose.

Even though Karneia was celebrated over several consecutive days, as it culminated on the fullmoon that is when I celebrate it as a solitary worshipper. So for those who are planning on celebrating, it is coming tomorrow after sun down! This actual is great timing for my household since we will be spending the afternoon at the state fair, where there will be goats, and sheep, and cattle, as well as giant Alaskan cabbages and pumpkins (not to mention the funnel cakes, cotton candy and other tasty fair foods to gorge oneself with). It takes a feast of the beginning of autumn to an entirely different level this year, one that exemplifies the beginning of the season for my household just as the Karneia, with its harvest of immature grapes and special-raised rams, marked the beginning of its own particular harvest. And while I will be honoring the plentitude of gifts that Apollon brings by staying the foul weather and in a year that spends so much time encased in ice and snow, recedes the temperamental weather just long enough to bring new life to the landscape however briefly, I will also be honoring Dionysos of this festival time, who laughs and dances with the Satyrs among the whirling Doric maidens, and Apollon is honored with the Shepherd’s cloak as flowers are poured into his boat in offering.

I actually rather wish  I had some basket making stuff this year. I have woven a basket in years but I would love to make a special Karneia basket with a wide bottom that can be worn on the head in festive dancing for the gods before Apollon Karneios and in the company of Dionysos as those afore-mentioned dancing maidens….filled with those sweet things of autumn harvest. Whereas it is likely that these baskets, if they contained anything, would have held the tender grapes of the harvest, as we don’t have grapes this far north and it represents the initial harvests in general it would be more appropriate to have an assortment of things of that nature to have up here….that and the horn of a ram I think (considering that Zeus comes before Dionysos in this particular role and is himself the ram, and so was perhaps similarly honored, and Apollon honored as the shepherd). Maybe next year if I think about it far enough ahead of time rather than last minute…..especially since I would have to order basket making supplies.

Still I am looking forward to the high celebration that Karneia will present this year as it is occurring late enough in the year this time to coincide with local festivities. It is certain to make the occasion a grand time and one which can be happily followed by offerings to Apollon Karneios and to Dionysos. So to all who are celebrating….a very happy and blessed Karneia to you!

Apollon, Artemis and Action of Nature

I remarked in a conversation with a friend yesterday that it seems to me if I were trying to simplify the domains of Apollon and Artemis that it would not be a boxy sun god musician/healer and moon goddess huntress bit that is typical, but rather when examining their domains that they seem to fall along two very distinct activities within nature, that which is cyclic that involves timely death and then again to generation, and that which is life sustaining and nurturing, which includes concepts of food provision.

While both Apollon and Artemis have characteristics of the other, generally speaking Apollon takes the former part, the god of the action of nature which is cyclic which is the biggest part of the Orphic hymn to him. Roles which indicate the god as nurturing are usually linked to keeping back banes (attacks of famine inducing critters and hostile weather for crops, beasts of prey for livestock, and premature death and illness towards humans) which would produce untimely destruction. He is that which ripens all things for the time of their destruction by means of protecting it from those very forces of his which  would destroy it. In Euripedes Aclestis there is a great quote in his confrontation with Thanatos that I frequently use in which Apollon challenges that death should only come for that which is ripe for it. This is part of the harmony of his divine song. He ages and matures things until they are ripe for their destruction, just as he holds off foul weather for the fruits to ripen to plant new seeds.

Although he is the destroying force in nature, it is to a purpose, just as his warding the living from his destructive forces is to a purpose. Destruction is necessary to breed life. Compost is a rich fertilizer that brings the healthiest and most prolific plants. The decomposed flesh of Python created the sacred ground of Delphi from which the holy fountain rose. The natural death of beasts frees up resources for the young (anyone who lives in an area with high numbers of prey animals that lack significant numbers of natural predators know well how problematic this can be). And let us not forget the number of plants that are given room to spring to growth after a forest fire, or even those seeds which require seasonal fires in order to germinate.

As a destructive god (and preserving god by warding off these forces) he is the god of every natural force which destroys life. He is the god of locusts and mice which can bring plagues of famine. He is the god of wolves. He is the god of the winds which when they are not doing their mild functions of natural corrosion can be just as dangerous of blight on food stores and shelter when storms get out of control on land and sea, and his is the fire which consumes all things even as fire within the earth warms his thermal springs therapeutically. As such the nature of the benevolence of the destructive forces within nature we find him loosely paired with the symbolism of the sun, whose heat could destroy with terrible droughts and heat and bring forth life in the spring. Naturally we find him too then linked with carrion eating creatures (which wolves can be at times….they are opportunity eaters), and ravens.

Artemis as the sustaining and nurturing part of nature is the energy of the natural world. She is the food provider through the hunt and through lactation of the nurse, or even in connection to the welfare of crops. As such she is connected to powerful females of the animal kingdom such as the fiercely protective maternal bears, and the huntress lionesses, as well as dogs who not only lovingly care for large litters but exemplify the protective and loyal part of her nature and as hunting dogs as providers too for mankind. Other creatures which represent wealth of food, especially those species which generate quickly such as rabbits and hares, are reasonably sacred to her in association. Ultimately she is that which is always propelling life forward. If Apollon is the dance and the path, then she is the dancer and the one hunting prey down the forest trails. She vitalizes that which he orchestrates from the moment she receives the new life, and pursues forward each living being into growth as an bow launches and arrow. As she slays the beasts she is part of that which is instrumental and connected into the evolution and natural progression of life as one things yields to another form. In such respects she is connected to the moon which increases and decreases (even as Apollon is associated the cyclic nature of the moon) in which the growth of life is aptly symbolized.

Together the divine twins play the most important and principle parts of nature, and that is how their domains are best summed up to me when put to more general forms, but this makes far better sense to me than the standard summation of their domains that are common.

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The Apollon of My Childhood and Youth

Although I often speak of Apollon and my relationship being established with him at a later age, he is actually one of the earliest deities present during my childhood. However at that time he was the least recognizable of all the gods of this earlier part of my life. Poseidon whom I more often than not called Father Sea before I came to understand Poseidon as his identity was a distinct divine being to me, especially as an island child. Artemis in my youth was very much fully formed in my awareness with her presence in my life. Apollon was ambiguous until much later. He came to me in a wholly unhuman form. He came as a wolf first, a white wolf with burning blue eyes, whom during the period that I was terrified of my closet, would come from the closet and rest his comforting presence at the foot of my bed during the night  between my body and the closet so that I could rest peacefully (along with an army of stuffed animals that I also inserted between myself and the closet). As I grew older I started to understand him in a more anthromorphic wolfish form, although he still regularly appeared as a wolf. I had dreams in which he would stalk through them as a wolf. In one such dream I was a woman in white accompanied by a silver wolf and a black wolf through forest as he observed from a cliff above as I made my way towards him. In another dream he took the form of a man called Raven (funny allusion there to the close relationship of wolves and ravens) who was actually a wolf in the form of a man who was chastising me for not staying where he left me. I can’t even pinpoint when it dawned on me that this was Apollon, but I do recall when I was in my early twenties and made the decision to start worshipping Apollon due to my devotions to Artemis and for this purpose I made an icon painting of him as a anthromorphic wolfman with a silver and black wolf to either side of him. This was the image of my lord of the period when I was living in New Orleans too and was something lost to the Hurricane Katrina’s appetite.

My relationship with Apollon through most of this time was through wild jubilant dancing, howling as a wolf to his honor, burning tobacco for him (which is a practice I have long since stopped doing after my forced departure from New Orleans as I found better things to burn that he prefers more so).  I understood him as a god of appetite, voracious spirit, a god of liquid fire and billowing winds that roared and would steal my breath when I tried to walk through them. This was Apollon as I could understand him best in my far northern origins and homeland in Alaska. In New Orleans I started experience more complicated and varied manifestations of himself that was more appropriate to his Hellenic nature, but his wolfish nature was always foremost. Even in my childhood when I chased after Artemis through the woods he was present like a flash of brilliance or sudden rustle of leaves, consuming fire and heat. He was present in the raw nature of everything I experienced growing up in Alaska, ever watchful and vigilant. He was present in the brush of wolf fur across my cheek the first time I touch a scrap of wolf fur as a child. He was the hunter, protector and loving companion through much of my youth, until I developed my relationship with him as an adult and it took on a different kind of relationship than that which was there during my childhood.

Even now as Karneia nears, he is the wolf beneath the goats clothing, the wolf watching restless beneath the vigilance of the herder. The first stirrings of autumn are in sight, a wind rustling gently across the land, a chill in the night air. The wolf is preparing to shed his domestic guise, to run wild through the winter as Hyperboreia receives him. Like a werewolf of lore splitting his humanized “flesh” and form. During the winter I see him most clearly again as this first form of Apollon I have known so long, during the winter I see Lykeios who dwells ever within Karneios. The wolf who is the goat and the goat who is the wolf. He becomes in the winter very much the bard singing in the comfort of the hearthside. The predator and protector against predators. The guardian of all gateways, beloved Prostaterios who was born in the time of lambs. Apollon who is the god of the wild woods who paves the way for civilization to be born, burnishing the illumination of truth and knowledge for the spiritual progress of mankind. Yet even as he comes in the kindest, most beautiful and gentlest of forms, a songster, a poet, a golden archer, a god of youth and beauty, the wolf is always present, natures destroyer and culler of herds and flocks…of men and beasts, a twilight god destroying both darkness of night and light of day. Yet the wolf is familial, devoted, loyal, a feeling creature rather than a heartless cruel feeding machine. He loves all those under his care, and although he destroys, he is compassionate and loving towards us all, else he would not take the herder guise, the leader of Muses, the lord of civilization. He is a wolf at heart, providing the best for his family, human that we may be.

Apollon, the wolf god, and the autumn harvest

Inspired by a conversation elsewhere, I want to take a minute to speak about the wolf god Apollon as related to this seasonal time of the year as summer is winding down and autumn is on its way. I have said before that Apollon typically acts as the destroying (and also in contrast in the preserving) divinity in nature. As such he is the god of (and repeller of) such harvest/crop destroying creatures as mice, locusts and even wolves who prey on livestock. Yet as a seasonal god at this time of the year I have spoken more particularly about Apollon Karneios as the god pastoral god who holds back the autumn storms for the ripening of the vineyards (and likely orchards etc). As someone who lives in a very northern climate which most fruiting crop doesn’t work because of how quickly the autumn weather moves in and lack of long periods of warm dry weather necessary for fruit to adequately ripen. Thus Apollon Karneios who allows the crops to ripen is not a solar god, but rather a god of the winds, who controls the stormy weather to permit the ripening and successful harvest of crops. The connection between the averting of harmful winds/storms can also been seen in Rome with the Nemoralia which served a secondary purpose of averting harmful storms from the fields. This is very much the key in understanding Apollon as the ruler of mild half of the year, in which he tames the destructive winds to allow life to flourish, even as a deity of the wild places permits civilization to rise from the wilderness, which is very much how I see Apollon and Artemis in relationship to civilization as typically both deities prefer abodes outsides of the city limits.

So what has this to do with Apollon as the wolf god you may ask? It is really a very simple play on symbolism that we find in common with Pan, Zeus and Apollon, that the pastoral god who protects the herds from the wolves is also the wolfish deity. The god is quite literally the wolf in the sheep’s (or goat’s in the case of Pan and Apollon) clothing! He is identified with the herds and represented as horned as the very beast he is aligned with. As a herding god for Apollon it is more commonly goats whom the Dorics used as flock leads for their sheep. This doesn’t replace the wolf god, but rather delivers another aspect to him. He is both the wolf and the god who holds back his very nature from consuming that which is under his care. Therefore the honoring of Apollon Karneios, regardless of his horned imagery, is very much the honoring of the wolf god Apollon, as he is giving honor for preserving the herds even as he perserves the crops from famine and storms, and is so honored with sacrifices of goats and sheep.

Therefore as the god of the approaching autumn he is very much the howling wolfish god as August storms threaten to roll in with gusting winds. In my mind, as I don’t put much emphasis on later solar cult associations, I consider Apollon’s Hyperboreia retreat in the autumn and through the spring, during the stormy season, as being an unleashing of his own tempest. Apollon is not a god who seasonal dies but one who brings around the seasons himself. I have stated before that in my locality I don’t see Apollon as departing but rather released from his civilized duties back to the wilderness, running as a wolf with ravens flocking around him. The winds making the doors and walls of the house shudder and groan….and in the winter creating potential white out conditions from snow. His restraint during the warm dry time of the year when his heat can be felt most keenly felt and his illumination is most apparent with his restraint is no longer present as the purpose has been done. He is as the wild hunter with his twin, of same spirit together unbound. He is the one who slays the seasonal dying god, the bull Dionysos, as the Thyiades of his own Delphi rave and tear the bull as Apollon, the wolf god (as he was so represented at Delphi) is the sacrifice of the bull. His are the winds unleashed destroying ever vine and shriveling every greenery by their blasts. The Dioskoui, wind gods in their own right, so hail him their king! For this purpose too he has been identified in some cases with Iakkhos, the boy of the winds.

Karneios and Lykeios are one, and elements are both are present in the Roman cult of Soranus, Apollon is foremost the wolf god, and from him issues the flames bringing warmth and illumination like flowing magma, whereas his the divine exhalations, at Delphi the mingling of the essence of the earth and the air. Even as he is the winds billowing the seas surface, and the god is the heavens axis about whom the heavens turn to predict the periods of fair and foul weather for  prosperity of farmers and seafaring men. He is Apollon Telchinios, the storm and wolf god of Rhodes who destroyed the storm sorcerers, the Telchines. He is also the wolf-light, the god of the interminably periods between the movement and change of seasons just as the wolf light of the day, the twilight during which wolves were believed to be especially active and prowling, divides the transitions between night and day. The light, just as the civilization, is issued by his grace. He opens the doorways for the sun for which Helios lauds him. His winds are the movement of the cosmos, his divine song issuing from his breath, pushing and drawing all things forward. His winds carry one through the gates on the wings of a swan.

These same ideas can be applied almost entirely to Rudra too who was petitioned to preserve people and herds etc, and who had wide mouthed howling dogs (or perhaps more in the likeness of wolves than real dogs considering how non domesticated this god is), and who sons were said to be as voracious wolves.

Hail the wolf god of the wind, preserver and destroyer of life!

Music of Apollon: healing, sight, harmony and destruction

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 Agamenon 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.

Apollon, the wolfcult, and werewolf monster

This is just a post I am writing more for the fun of it, because as a kid one of my favorite monsters was always the werewolf. It wasn’t until later that I got pulled in an utterly fascinated by the wolf cults associated with Apollon, as well as with Zeus and Pan. Although not portrayed to my awareness with an anthromorphic wolf form that was popular in medieval werewolf depictions, these wolf gods exhibited the organic predatory cycle within nature often connected with themes of death. This is a far cry from the violent bloodthirsty werewolf legends of the medieval period which is separated from nature and spirituality into something monsterous and unnatural. Yet these werewolf legends of later periods likely had root in the wolf cults of various deities of Greece and Rome that were likely demonized and feared in ages of ignorance and superstition. For make no mistake, the wolfish characters of these gods were often attached to destructive forces in nature and often to the realms of death, burial and the underworld, however even in this cases it did not associate with them with evil.

Apollon has a very rich wolf cult mythology. Myth references wolves as being important cult creatures prior to his very birth. In some versions Leto takes the form of a wolf in her pregnancy (a goddess who has a significant underworld cult) , and in others she is led by wolves following the birth of the twins into Lycia. As wolves were known in Greece as creatures of the twilight hours between day and night there is a presence of Leto’s association being those very points before the dawn and after sunset where they sky is still faintly grey or dark bluish from the receded light. Apollon’s own association as bearing the wolf light as we see in Apolldoros Rhodios’ Argonautika profoundly follows this illustration of the association of this divine family with the hours between day and night when predators roam by the faintest light. The wolf becomes at the same time synonymous with light in his cult, in which he bears forth the light which some also take into meaning that he is born into light even as he is the wolfish god. The wolf thus is associated with the very kindling of light, and a hazardous time, just new beginnings and last hours are as we understand from Hellenic birth and death rites which are surrounded by miasma, where by death a soul is being relinquished into the next world through the decay of the body and is therefore at the boundary, and with birth that the first several days are of such fragility with the other world so near with the possibility of the newborn slipping into death. The Hellenic tendency to depict Apollon Lykeios as a youth with his hand upraised over his head in a crowning gesture is a kindly image, and is likely invocative of the god’s protection during these early periods of life even as he presides at schools for the young as they are gaining education for their transference into adulthood. This kindly Apollon is as the pastoral Apollon who protects the herds from predation in order to stave away famine and preserve the community. He is master of the wolves.

Yet he also takes a wolf form, as does Zeus and Pan. Not anthromorphic but a form that is described as simply being a wolf, or at other times sends a wolf as his envoy for which a massive wolf was erected before his temple at Delphi. As a wolf, for instance he destroys the Telchines of Rhodes by which he is called Telchinios, associating the wolf further with violent winds/storms that can be just as damaging on crops (with other creatures that are his such as mice and locusts) as wolves are to livestock. Apollon as the wolfgod is the god of the destructive forces of nature, but also the god who is merciful when it comes to those forces as the wolflight leads into day. As such Apollon’s role in death and destruction is a measured one and natural one that is necessary too for preserving life, one that is not ominous, but rather cyclic and representing perhaps a completion of a cycle which would not be out of step for Apollon in which his Pythian festivals were originally every nine years representing the conclusion of a divine cycle/divine year. Similarly as we also have Apollon as Noumenios in which one monthly cycle has concluded and another cycle begins with the first light.There is, of course, a lot of speculation about to what lengths any local wolf cults may have taken in regards to Apollon and other wolf gods, or if there were any devotees of wolfish character to the god. Although a friend of mine from Hellas has asserted that the original werewolves in Greece were the children of Apollon. In Tarsus, which was colonized by Argives, the the wolf cult of Apollon was of particular important and may indicate the importance of the wolf cult among Dorics particularly. In coins from Tarsus Apollon was depicted holding two wolves, which is especially interesting in one coin scene in which Demeter approaches Apollon with his wolves as she is looking for Persephone.  One later poet Lycopron, said the two wolves were the hounds of Apollon and represented his two prophets. That is as close as we come to a direct identification between the wolves and one who serves Apollon in ancient literature so far as I have found. Looking at Apollo Soranus and the implementation of the Hirpi Sorani, the wolf priests of Apollo, after his conflation with Soranus, is perhaps even more telling about such wolfish servants of the god.

Apollon’s connection in Italy to Soranus seems to have largely been based off these wolf cult connections between the native god and Apollon. While the wolf priests seemed to have arisen after his conflation with Soranus which suggests a possible previously known mystic wolf cult of Apollon with wolf priests prior to the identification, Soranus himself was perhaps as close to Anthromorphic as we get, sharing similarities with the Roman god of the underworld Dis with his wolf cap. Although depictions in regards to the wolf cult of Soranus with anthromorphic wolf men could easily be equally representations of Soranus as much as possible representations of the Hirpi Sorani. Although Apollo Soranus on coins were typically represented as a youth crowned with serpents, what appears to be a pick ax possible for carving out tombs which was an important feature of the cult of Apollo Soranus, and a star by his head. Yet images associated with the Hirpi Sorani has a wolfish man who appears to be coming out of the ground or urn before people who appear to be participating in a rite. There is a definite sense of religiosity with this images which is a contrast the devious werewolf monster sneaking around looking to main and attack.

Yet we also find in Rome Lupercus, a god particularly of note during the Lupercalia (although without a very clear role that is known about other than the festival  being connected to his name, and more specifically the Lupercii, the priests of the festival who sacrificed a goat in the sacred lupercal cave, and used the strips of flesh to whip women as they roamed the streets to encourage fertility. This festival which occurred during the month of purification before the start of spring follows with the above observations that have been made in regards to the wolf cults of Apollon. The sacrifice of the goat in the cave certainly as boundary/underworld characteristics which may infer that the wolfish god and sacrifices to whom, allowed the passage of spring and fertility to rise from the underworld as an acting boundary deity between the two worlds. This does not invalidate associations of Faunus with festival which has also been put forth in scholarship in While Lupercus has only vague associations with Apollon in historical identification, like Apollon, he is depicted as a youthful male and particular attractiveness. A pastoral relief panel of Lupercus in connection to Lupercalia quite likely shows the youthful god with staff (like Apollon) observing the she-wolf suckling the twins Romulus and Remus while Mars (to whom the wolf is sacred) stands behind them facing Lupercus.

In a sense we get this idea of the wolf priests as being boundary responsive roles, whether at the predawn of spring during the month of purification or in funerary cult associations with Soranus. As Apollon was associated with both of these things in Hellas with his own Boeotian/Delphic/Spartan birth in February likely in association with the come of spring, as a tomb god, we can see how the wolf cult may have manifested as a mystic cult of followers of Apollon in Hellas as well as in Italy. The role of these individuals often concerned with volatile, aggressive, fertile and deathly features lays fertile ground work for demonization of any linger traces of wolf cults in early Christianity, and may have inspired the fierce werewolf monster which is ruled by animal passions and appetites (and thereby its viciousness is also attributed to its insatiable appetite for flesh) and thus looses the civilized humanity to the monster possessing them, often for the purpose of devastating the flocks and herds of neighbors.

As such, despite the werewolf lore, the wolfish cult and people of the god may be an inspiration to those who belong to Apollon, that as being of his, that the wolves of Apollon may have a place in the world honoring this liminal pastoral god who brings forth civilization by his grace, and in honoring his place in the cycles of nature as destroyer and god bringing the first light. Although werewolf lore may have been corrupted and descended from such cult activity, we can reclaim the symbolism of the werewolf while acknowledging that we are not defined by what it became in any sense while embracing what it means to his cult as we are not fearful of his mysteries.

Maybe Someday

I mentioned on my facebook just now that there is a little known fact that when I moved back to Alaska I had grand dreams of putting together “Hyperborean” retreats to honor Apollon and Artemis. Despite the name these would have been summer retreats were people could escape to the cool far northern climate and get involved in a woodland series of mysteries and programs for about three days to a week (depending on how ambitious I was and attendees were) to have a focused worship period for Apollon (who despite being a god often intimately linked with civilization was a god that was often honored in out of the way places such as in swamps, outside of cities and in the mountains particularly. I liked the idea of having a kind of esoteric thing which focused on getting to know the twins in a very primal way. Alaska it self has a very primal quality to its surroundings once you leave Anchorage, which really makes it ideal I think for connecting to the twins in such a retreat and workshop series.

Of course when reality struck that as expensive as travel is to get up here that it would high limit people’s ability to come up here for such retreats I never went into full planning phase, still it was never removed from the burner so to speak. There is still that niggle there that it is something I would like to do, an emphasis on the compassion of the gods so connected to the wild spaces that brings forth civilization to flourish by their grace. So I put it out there as a “maybe someday”.