Further Thoughts on the Stepteria

The Stepteria has three principle things going on…set aside the whole fighting a dragon/monster scenario. Really that has little to do with it. Dragon is what nature designs its nature to be. Being harmful to people is a side effect of its massive territorial nature in western myth (as would be the consuming of livestock). Delphyne is neither a god nor a man. Typhon, whom she reared at the request of Hera, was evil, because he was not a dragon or a creature of such innate nature. As the child of god, while the way he reared may have ruined him in many ways instilling in him  a destructive lifestyle, he was of a higher state. He was of the divine stock, whereas Delphyne was a creature of the earthen stock. The Erinyes are not exactly pleasant and are considered pretty baneful but they are not considered evil as the do as their nature dictates that their role in the cosmos is. Dragons do as their natures dictate that they do. So set Delphyne more or less aside in the specifics of being a monster (something which distinguishes her from the other Python who looted pilgrims to Delphi). Apollon slaying her was not personal, but a matter of just what he did…as was the purpose of decaying her on the ground.

This leads me to the first point. Delphyne in many ways represents the purpose of Apollon as Pytho, the decayer. He frees the spirit from the miasma that has attached to it simply from life. He frees the soul from the burdens of its life and form. The most expedient way to do this was by burning (hence we see early practices too of funeral pyres being used). However painful it is for us, it is a liberation. And how liberating it is for us, it still instills grief among those who are left behind. Why would the residents of Delphi have funerary rites for Delphyne if not to appease her and a sacred relationship with her that they benefit from. Her bones and flesh literally becomes the sacred precinct. She is transformed into a guardian spirit of the precinct by all of this. But all it carries certain ramifications….and his own purifications for having to deal intimately with it is part of his cycle. I would say that Delphyne allegorically takes the place of every innocent life he slays out of his natural role.

This is the second point. Apollon exacts nature’s laws in which Thanatos operates, in that which is born and lives must die, that which is miasmatic must be expunged for the welfare of all. Stepteria ought to make us deal with very harsh realities about our own natures and that we have our own “impure” inclinations that are just part of being living beings. And that at the end of our days we will have to lay down to rot in order to be freed and progress. As such this cycle with Delphyne purifies Apollon by the river Peneios and by Daphne for his duties in nature. There is a reason why Apollon is associated with so many purifying agents…..it is often because he himself is need of their use prior to anyone else having their use available to them.

Lastly, it is a recognition of transformation and change. It is unyielding and always eventual. There is nothing evil in the act of destruction but it is a necessity with its own consequences within nature. We cannot find against it, but ought to celebrate it even as we mourn for it. Change is hard, but it is a blessing even if it doesn’t appear so. That Delphyne’s bones and ashes were used to make the foundation of the sacred precinct of Delphi we can not a punishment (and while Apollon did punish Telphousa in myth, there is really no indication that his battle with Delphyne was a punishment but rather the movement of forces.

By celebrating the Stepteria, we see that it is aptly named….the crowning festival. This may seem at odds with the rather downer mythic component of exile. In reality it stresses victory. victory of the god yes, but also a kind of spiritual victory. We ask that the god crown us, that the god slay  us, destroy us, and remake us by cleansing us. The boughs that were gathered likely to crown heroes from the Pythian games probably has the same emphasis. The proof of worth, the remaking of the self to be crowned heroically to dwell among the blessed. Stepteria is a most holy sacred festival of our lord even as we grieve and purify as we await to celebrate his return. We identify with Apollon and with the serpent..  

Blessed Stepteria

Following the birth of Apollon during the Delphic Polythousia (or the Theban Prostateria) that occurs on the 7th day of the Delphic month Bysios (derived from Pythios) or the Theban month Prostaterios (Anthesteria to people who are only familiar with the Attic calendar lol) in the this month following (reminding you all that I am a  month ahead of most people by my calendar since I celebrated Poseidon II last year) this month (Attic Elaphebolia) honors the slaying of the dragoness Python and the narration of the myth of the return of Apollon next month.

For those who are not familiar with the myth, Apollon following his birth, arrived at Delphi. There are two variations of this myth. One in which he has come as a grown man, and another in which he and Artemis are carried to Delphi by their mother. There he encounters to the guardian of the stream Castilla. In the Homeric hymn to Pythian Apollon we find a description of Delphyne as a great bane of a creature who is a plague bringer and devourer of flocks. Apollon slays her either with his golden sword or with his bow, either alone or with the aid of his sister (as all of these versions exist). He (or they in the case of Artemis as well) departs Delphi in sorrow, weeping in his exile. Myth has it that as he leaves for Hyperborea that his tears fall as amber on the earth.

However in the Stepteria we have the program of the slaying of Delphyne acted out in which the youth, standing in for Apollon, slays the dragon. It has been suggested by scholars that this may have either been by throwing a live serpent or effigy of a snake into a structure to burn to death as Delphyne was consumed. So doing, he would flee immediately, taking no part of food or comfort. There he would be at the mercy of strangers as he traveled from town to town with his attendants, acting the role of an outcast in exile before finally arriving at the Tempe Valley. There he would be purified by entering the laurel grove and would cut branches from the sacred laurel at the side of the river Peneios to return with them to temple around the time of the spring equinox to the temple with great celebration.

For this ritual, unless you have a sacred river and laurel trees to act out the exile on a small scale (or the means for roughly a month of camping) the best way I have found to celebrate this ritual is to praise Apollon, the slayer of the serpent, to invite him of the golden sword to liberate and free, to destroy the miasma that infects our homes and cities and regions. Invite the shooter from afar to pour out his arrows as he begins the season of his return. From paper make a small serpent (or out of any other flammable substance) and set this in a fire safe bowl upon your altar, as you do so lighting it on fire as you praise Apollon as purifier and averter of evil, praising him for being Pythios, who causes things to rot and pass away to release all things for new rebirth. You are welcoming here too the dawn of spring as you destroy the fortifying wintry dragon. I then follow this with grieving for the exiled lord Apollon, and grieving for the death of the dragoness as was carried out in Delphi. I pour offerings upon the earth for her even as Apollon does to appease her spirit as he flees.

The ritual should be finished with a simple meal, the fair of exiles without friend or shelter, relying on what little they could manage. A humble meal  should follow. Tonight we are having some chicken and roasted potatoes. Simple fare without extras or indulgences. For seven days then I pray to Apollon for his return. On the 21st day of the month that is sacred to him I enact my own ritual that I call the Daphneaia which is about his entrance into the holy grove and his purification by the river Peneios and Daphne. Until then it is a time of reflection, awaiting purifications of the Daphneaia.

Post Ritual Update:

This year I did something a bit different. I had burned the paper serpent in a brass incense burner bowl and watched her dissolve into dust from the flames even as I prayed to Apollon. I had forgotten to mention above that it is appropriate to read from the Homeric Hymn to Pythios, which I did reading the segment of her destruction. Following her destruction I pray to Apollon that that which is miasmatic, that which breeds evil is not in and of itself evil in all entirety and that he cleanses and purifies all things to release us from the bonds. I lamented for Delphyne and lauded her place that she gained as guardian spirit of Delphi as upon her bones the precinct rested. I poured the libation, not directly on the earth this time, but upon her ashes (which will be disposed of upon the earth at some point this evening), lamenting her death as I did so. I then followed as my usual lamentation for his exile that he shall not be among friends, that he departed for the far lands and left all bereft of his presence as he attends to his blessed cleansing.

I then played my wooden flute for Delphyne. In Delphi the youth representing Apollon would as Apollon play the flute for Delphyne as Apollon was said to have done. Its long mournful tones singing to her passing and mourning too his banishment from the company of men.

In the end there are many ways you may come up with to celebrate this festival that will all be spiritually fulfilling and meaningful.

 

Reminder for Submissions for the Spring Ed. of the Journal of Apollon

Reminding folks that the deadline is approaching for the spring edition of the Journal put out by the Order of Apollon. I will need submissions by March 7th at the latest for a spring equinox release date. I highly encourage all those who are devoted to Apollon, or who otherwise give adoration to Apollon to submit their entry for the journal.

Participants are encouraged to submit a variety of things. Really only your imagination is your limit. Prayers, poetry, essays, art, reviews, new original translations, rituals, divination methodology, healing methodology etc. The preference is for material to keep mind to  the season of growth and fruition, but for some topics season is unlikely to be pertinent at all which we completely acknowledge.

Apollon and Demeter

While later Hellenists revered Apollon directly associated with the sun, this is not something that plays a great importance in my worship of him. Yes I recognize he has connections to Helios and favors Helios, but he also has significant connections to the moon in his cult outside of poetics and to the stellar bodies of the heavens, certain heavenly events being ones that were said to indicate the seasons for his festivals (as well as important agricultural and husbandry themes). For instance there are scholars who suggest that the rising of certain stars (likely Gemini, a sign that he has been astrologically linked to anciently in his worship, perhaps sharing alike certain connections with the Dioskouri who represent said body) was the actual start of Thargelia…around the 21st of May. And as for his return to Delphi, that this was signified by the rise of the constellation of Delphus (which was visible later in Delphi due to the mountains). Combined with certain festivals that were focused on fullmoons (such as Hyakinthia and Karneia among the Spartans) it is no wonder that we have a very convoluted heavenly array associated with Apollon that cannot be narrowed down to “sun god” but is often done due to historical precedent of this occurring during the Hellenistic period.

Rather, I would say that anciently Apollon had more to do with the weather. We find in the Iliad that Apollon is directly responsible for the winds with which he uses paired with the rains of Zeus and torrents of Poseidon to break down the wall of the Hellenes that had been erected without tribute to them. The association Apollon and Poseidon have with walls (and foundations) is probably due to the volatile nature of weather and to secure safe haven by their mercy and grace behind fortifications as we build our homes and dwellings. On a larger civic level this takes us further into walls and gates as fortifications against possible hostile forces. Certainly the destructive tendencies of Apollon and Poseidon when dealing with the nature climate was probably very closely tied to this. Apollon as a god associated with the weather could be destructive or he could be kind and merciful and provide the right growing conditions in a balance of moisture and dry heat to ripen grains and fruits. I have written before of my associations of Apollon with Iakkhos, as a son of either Demeter or Persephone (as we have it both ways) and clarified by Diodoros Siculus’ narration on the origin of the mysteries in Egypt with Apollon as the child of Isis and Osiris. Perhaps it is through this association that we see the real firm stirrings of a solar identity of Apollon through his loose Egyptian associations. However, my perception on this is that Diodoros made this an example for explaining how the mysteries operated in Hellas rather than making any real parallels with Egyptian religion. Apollon as Iakkhos is the companion/child of Demeter, the announcer of the mysteries of Dionysos, reveler in those mysteries (as the Orphic hymn calls both himself and Artemis as being Bakkhic…likely for good reason here), and proclaimer of Persephone whom we see rising in the Spring on a Delphic vase greeted by Dionysos, Pan and Apollon.

Certainly the Doric station of Karneios with his pinecone, a natural barometer, indicates a god who is foreseeing and attending to the season of growth while keeping his gaze on the rainy season to come. In fact this plays a very pivotal point with Apollon’s nature as a prophetic god if we consider that Apollon is attending to weather patterns that would ideally lead to a ripening of grain and plant life to provide seed for the next year’s crops as well as be a form of sustenance, we can see that planting and harvest would be very much in keeping with his foresight. It may have originated agriculturally. When should I move my herds to different pastures? When should I harvest the grains? It would all play out, probably in part by the movement of the heavens which priests would have kept a strict eye on. As agriculture is very closely tied with civilization (after all we find earth goddesses from Gaia, to Themis to Demeter all attributed with crafting laws) it is not hard to see how things would extend from the cultivation of the earth to a cultivation of spirituality and humanity (via the arts). He is the leader of the Muses as well as the leader of pastoral nymphs for this reason….it is interrelated. Health and wellbeing being another facet to this overarching compass. He is destroyer…and provider. He is sustainer and keeper of harmony and balance. He is a guardian of laws as we find at Olympia, those same laws attributed to goddesses of the earth. That is because his role impacts all the way through….and this makes his relationship with Demeter and Persephone so vital.

Other factors of course indicate his weather associations, aside from being called their king by the Dioskouri in the play Elektra, he is also considered one of few gods permitted to use the thunderbolts of Zeus (along with Athena), which would account for comments about prophets searching for Pythian lightening to indicate that they begin their journey from Athens to Delphi. His winds can bring in the abundant rain clouds of Zeus or push them away, he can howl with the winds or calm them. The very presence of the winds in relation to him mythically puts further weight behind this that the winds would be acting in his myths and cult, notably the two extremes (the two original seasons as Pausanias tells us) Winter and Spring….the winds of those seasons being Boreas and Zephyr.  We also know that in Hera’s temple in Argos that in a hall Pausanias notes the presence of four statues facing each other…Demeter and Kore at one side facing the statues of Apollon and Artemis. This is not to mention Apollon’s seasonal presence in the temple of Demeter and Despoina in Arkadia.

It is for all these reasons and more that I consider the relationship Apollon has with Demeter to be one of the more important ones among the gods, and a reason why Demeter’s presence is on the upper tier of his shrine on the other side of Artemis from himself. This actually adds an interesting dimension to Thargelia celebrations in which in Athens on the sixth day of Thargelion, whereas we find no references to Artemis, we find that Demeter was honored as Chloe (the green) likely part of the festivities of the harvest of the green ears of grain at the nativity of Apollon.

I would wager to guess that this is part of why Apollon when adopted by the Etruscans and Romans did not carry significant solar characteristics. Most scholars have suggested it was because of popularity of a local sun god Sol, but it is plausible that it had more to do with being adopted before his associations with the son in the Hellenistic period got a good foothold. In fact, his appearance in the company of various scenes in Etruscan art indicates more of a supportive role, as a weather/season-related divinity would have versus that of a solar god. Such as present at the birth of Fulfuns (Dionysos), and the suckling of Hercle (Herakles), or even prophet activity of other Etruscan deities. As being paired in direct mirroring with Artemis is quite likely that Etruscans when they adopted Apollon viewed Aplu and Arteme as being mirroring each other and having directly to do with similar activities….usually involved with nature and the translation of the activities of nature into the welfare of civilization.

Apollon Karneios Card finished

I now have finished painting the first card for Apollon’s Oracle Deck that I am putting out via the Order of Apollon. This of course can also be made available as a prayer card too. Apollon Karneios represents the fruition of life, that he has sustained living things into their maturity, the beasts and plants for harvest (the harvest of the grape in particular). Fruits are ripe for harvest with many blessings provided, it is the culmination of the cycle and preparing for a new cycle to come again. All-generating Pan and the Nurse/Huntress Artemis stand before him celebrating the bounties of life, happiness, and seeing success and reward for your hard work.

Karneios

Plans for the next two Apollon’s Oracle cards

As I am finishing up the Oracle card of Apollon Karneios, I already have sketch drafts prepared for Apollon Parnopios (of the locusts) and a card for Daphne. I also have designs for prayers cards I am donating of Juno Sospita and Diana Nemorensis. And now I have blank canvases. As I don’t really have the funds to replenish my clay supplies (and the back of five canvases was pretty cheap) due to the whole family being ill with the flu for a week and the hard hit it took to our pockets, I am guessing I will be spending a lot of time over the next two weeks painting lol. Hopefully it will see some interesting things to come of it! So that is four plans for five canvases. I have not solidly settled on what I will do with the fifth canvas yet.

Ethnic Fraud And Cultural Appropriation In The Spiritual Communities

lykeiaofapollon:

This is an excellent article regarding culture and spiritual appropriation. As a Caucasian person of generally hodge podge ancestry I can appreciate that while many of us are looking to belong somewhere spiritually that we need to be aware of our intentions and how we approach other cultures. Even in the event that we may be accepted to be part of a cultural or spiritual community does not give us privileges of authority over indigenous people who have accepted us. Those who are wanting to stand on the backs of the culture and spiritual heritage of others and appropriate it for their financial gain or benefit their personal status are an embarrassment from people who want nothing more than to genuinely be part of a spiritual community. We must be very aware of where our intentions rest and to also know our place within cultural spiritualties. Being a part of something is enough without having to try to greedy grab it and make it your own backed up with false claims and bullshit.

Originally posted on Fortune Teller Lisa Boswell:

In the spiritual community, ethnic fraud and cultural appropriation is a huge problem which only seems to be getting worst. I have noticed that Romany Gypsy, African and Native American cultures are defrauded the most. However, there are others and to which extent depends on trends. I’m sure that if Polynesian magic becomes a ‘thing’ then there will soon be many people claiming Polynesian ancestry selling their “Authentic Polynesian Guardian Angel Spray” on Facebook groups.

I should state I do not have a problem with people whom are interested in my culture. If anyone has questions I will answer them.

What I do have a problem with is people whom think they know more about my culture than I do then try to ‘educate’ me on it. It is not the place of someone outside of a culture to tell those inside of it what they think.

What else I…

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