The Hunt and the Hare

I was so tempted for a moment to title this post “Lucky Rabbits Foot” but that was so far abroad from the topic that it seemed that it would be completely misleading. This post is not about good fortune that the rabbit may or may not bring (not so lucky for the rabbit as they say), but rather the little know importance of the rabbit in the cult of Artemis and Apollon. In fact, it was something that I was a bit unaware of to. Oh yes I know that a particular vase painting of Artemis Bendis, the Greo-Thrakian syncretism of the Thrakian Bendis with the Greek Artemis, depicted her holding a hare as she stood before her seated twin. And I did know too that rabbits were depicted with Artemis on particular vessels in Thebes according to Pausanias, so I was not completely ignorant on the matter. I just didn’t understand the relationship.

The hare or rabbit is pretty universally among pagans revered as a symbol of fertility, given the large litters of young they have and rapid manner in which they multiply, and yet its association with Artemis seems to have little direct to do with fertility in any direct way. I discovered this when I came across a reference of Xenophon when researching the hare which states that from Apollon and Artemis came the sport of dogs and game, the art of hunting that they taught Chiron in order to honor him, and he and turn taught it to his own students. This would certainly explain the scene of the great hunt tapestry that was described by Euripedes in a scene at Delphi in his play Ion. Like the deer, a game animal closely connected to the divine twins, the hare can be considered  a kind of substitute for the deer…a lesser more common substitute. Here is the loose connection to fertility, that unlike large game beasts, owing it is rigorous breeding habits, hares are typically plentiful wherever they are found. It is of no wonder that Xenophon would designate an entire chapter to hunting the hare with the use of dogs and net. I was always confused on how the net, attributed to Artemis directly in an epithet, was used in hunting…indeed he describes the process in which nets were set for hares and dogs drove the quick beasts into the net. Of course the hunt begins, as Xenophon tells us with a prayer to Apollon and Artemis and a promise of tribute to the gods for a successful hunt.

Like the hunting of big game that we see in heroic exploits (such as Meager, Atlanta and a host of heroes hunting the Calydonian boar, or Herkales’ hunt of the Ceryneian Hind) that exemplifies the hunt of nobility as a spiritual exercise, the more common rabbit serves similar purpose that is accessible to anyone armed with a hound and a net. The relationship of Artemis to the natural principle of energy (as a nurse that which is sustaining, and a huntress that which propels forward) the hunt of the hare is an almost perfect example of the goddess hunting forth beings on a spiritual level from one state of existence to another as the soul progresses, the hare fleeing  before the dogs entering into the net that entraps it until it is ready to move on again. Apollon as one who receives the hunt of Artemis, destroyer god and god of the divine gate is the natural other half of this process for which he too is called the hunter and for which Xenophon states that tradition attributes the gift of the hunt from both deities. The hare, which like the deer, moves swiftly is a further mark of spiritual movement. The theoi are those who run, and therefore the pursuit and hunt of Apollon and Artemis is one of spiritual progress to apotheosis, to the liberation of the noble soul. Although Artemis protects all young, nurturing them until they are of the appropriate maturity for the hunt, images with the goddess with rabbits I would suspect indicates not so much the goddess protecting the rabbit, but that she is presenting it.

Unlike the deer of the progressed soul, however, the rabbit is like the common man, he is small and vulnerable with no resource against predators other than hiding. He is prolific to be sure, numerous in his environment wherever he lives like men across the other, and like the souls of men, he a lot a period of time sleeping away from the world before he comes again in the spring. The  hare is the very symbol of the souls of men in their relationship to the cycle and their  relationship with the twins, even as the flesh of the hare in more practical worldly terms satisfies the hunger of men who subsist on it as deeply entrenched as it is  the cycles of death and life. Hares and rabbits of various breeds are plentiful, and from which many may erratically be driven in common with every push. Many enter at a time through the large mystic gates, but through the narrow mystic gates that leads to liberation of the soul, fewer at a time reach that destination. The hare is like the first phase as the deer is for the second stage. And it is of interesting note that the dogs are more expertly interacted with in the hunt of hares than what Xenophon discusses with the hinds and the  boars. This could suggest that the dogs of Artemis particularly gather up the younger less progressed souls. The rabbits are like all of those charioteer souls as Plato describes entangled together near the surface of the other, in contrast to few that briefly get to rise near the god that it adores.

It would seem that Xenophon classifies hunting in three levels. Whereas he spends much time regarding the virtues undertaken in the hunt of the hare which requires superior handling of the dogs, the hunt of the hind requires greater personal skill on the part of the hunter, and the hunt of the boar is the most dangerous and most manly of hunts which lauds the boar hunt as the most noble form of hunting and one that is quite rare. Therefore we have the common rabbit of Apollon and Artemis, the deer which is somewhat more associated with Artemis and is the  beat of her chariot, and lastly the boar which is typically contacted almost singularly with Apollon, the boar of which has been depicted pulling his own chariot and the kingly chariot of Admetus that Apollon  procured for him, and Artemis to a lesser degree.

In closing there is no small symbolic attachment to the hare/rabbit in the cult of Apollon and Artemis and especially in regard to the mysteries. The hare calls for a certain level of spiritual appreciation. The association of the rabbit in Vedic mythology with Chandra the moon recalls to mind that strong lunar association that these divine twins possess that may or may not be incidental  and could point to a potential Indo-European  foundation in cult.

The Mystery of Delphyne and the Tears of Apollon

Apollon came to land in the cradle of Mt Parnassos, and there he set up his temple. The first temple of myth was made from cuttings of laurel branches, the second incarnation of the temple of beeswax and feathers that was said to have been born away to Hyperborea by a wind, the third of Bronze which was said to have been swallowed by the earth. Two more temples are attributed to Apollon of human construction. Yet Apollon set the foundation of his own temple, and in doing so it said in myth that he came into confrontation with the dragoness Delphyne. The Homeric hymn stated that she was a bane to herds, a predatory creature, thus as the nature of the dragon. Yet Apollon is named Delphinios that is not only related to the dolphin in the form of which that he brought his priests to Delphi (although ancient images of dolphins look a bit sea-dragonish to me) but also likely to Delphyne as much as he is called Pythios after the rotting action that he inflicted on her for which she is called Python. This is an important feature as whenever we have shared epithets between Apollon and Artemis it is due to obvious clear shared features playing off of each other. We see this is terms of Daphneios and Daphnaea in which they are both of the laurel, in Kitharados and Kitharadia (warning I always butcher the spelling here for some reason) in which both are players of the kithara, with Artemis we see this particularly in Sparta), Lykeios and Lykeia, Hyakinthios and Hyakinthia (where Artemis is portrayed bearded), and a host of many other names..including Delphinios and Delphinia, and Phoebus and Phoebe which are of a particular feminine root mythically rather than the usual masculine mythical root in their shared epithets.

While Artemis and Apollon share a relationship through their maternal heritage with Phoebe, Leto’s mother, it is quite probably that Apollon is called this more in relation to his twin who would be considered the heir of Phoebe as much as Apollon appears to be as a heir of Koios (in the hymn to Apollon by Kallimachus this seems most apparent as the implements of Apollon are hung on the great pillar representing the pole of Koios which may also have a link to one reason why Apollon is represented aniconically is an erect upright stone). In this sense we see why Apollon is called Phoebus, and why Phoebe is said to have given to Apollon as a birthday gift. Do we mean Phoebe as in the maternal grandmother of Apollon or Phoebe as in Artemis who proceeds Apollon in birth. The connection between the former Phoebe and Delphi has been strongly related to the connection of Phoebe and Koios as a pair of the axis. Phoebe at Delphi at the axis of the earth of the dragon Delphyne, and Koios at the axis of the heavens with the great heavenly dragon which the polar star represents the eye of such dragon. Phoebe and Koios then can themselves be seen as great guardian dragons of the axis themselves, which would go a long way  to demonstrate the importance of serpents in the cult of Apollon and Artemis, as well as the naga-like representation of Delphyne. The association with Artemis directly with Phoebe (descent from her in myth) implies that Artemis Phoebe could be very well seen mystically as the slaying of the huntress (the allegory of the hunter turned into game is prominent in her own myth via the myth of Actaeon who in one version is a suitor of Semele and in another myth seeks to be a suitor of Artemis). The hunter prey dicthotomy is very  strong in the cult of Apollon and Artemis. Artemis who is Lykeia is the goddess of the hunt and of the hunting dogs  that would be trained to attack wolves, and Apollon Lykeios who is at once wolfish and slayer of wolves. This may be somewhat behind Plutarch’s analysis of Apollon and Dionysos at Delphi as a singular god in which Apollon represents that form of the god which is destroying of the self. But I digress.

The tears and grief of Apollon  and his self imposed exile otherwise is way over the top if it was nothing more than a dragon that he killed. So would be the elaborate funerary customs of Apollon libating to the  Python if she was not symbolically linked to Artemis. Certainly other versions attest to the twins killing the dragon together but this is more likely a variation playing on the confusion of two different Pythons of Delphi, Delphyne and the son of Gaia, Tityos, who was slain by Apollon and Artemis for his attack on Leto and for whose death would account for their joint departure for purification intended at Crete but without exile. This confusion between the two myths brings Artemis more actively into the Delphyne myth cycle where she is otherwise not clearly present. This may very be intentional as a way to indicate to the mystical nature represented in the allegory of the slaying of the dragoness.

This would also be pertinent to the symbolism of the amber tears of Apollon. The only other myth of Amber that we really find is in regarding to the Heliades, the daughters of Helios and sisters of Phaethon who became poplar trees that wept tears of Amber for the death of their brother. I was asked a short while back to discuss the connection between the death of Phaethon (whose name means shining) and the death of Python, aside from the similarities in their names. Here we find Phaethon representing a disruption in nature, he drives the sun chariot out of balance creating chaos and catastrophe on earth, and is slain by Zeus in order to correct the balance. Even though we do not find these tears being shed by Helios, but rather by his daughters in his place perhaps, it is linked to the sacrifices necessary for the harmony and balance of nature. Death is a necessary process but memory is eternal even as amber is a somewhat permanent transformed form of organic sap. Death is transformative, and so the myth of Phaethon demonstrates this clearly with the transformation of his sisters, and the eternal amber, a substance closely associated with other earth deities perhaps in a chthonic association. Similarly we find in the slaying of Delphyne a keeping of balance. Predators are necessary, but predators have their own predators and nature corrects over populations of predators to prey resources. Malevolence, regardless of anything suggestion of it that may be attached in the course of story-telling portion of the myth, is not a factor. Nor is it a factor of good versus evil, or of god versus goddess as is popular among goddess-spiritualist retellngs of the myth. Rather it is a grief over the necessary of sacrifice, the fruit of destruction, and the cycles of life and death that are so much part of Apollon’s cult (and in a manner Helios cult as well). Delphyne remains as a benevolent daemon at Delphi under the guise of Python and her representations around the omphalos, and the celebration of her sacrifice at the end of each divine year, and Apollon’s grief for slaying that which is representative of his other half, his twin Artemis, and the taking of the name Pythia by his oracle brides. The close relationship between life/light (which we see in Phoebus and Phaeton’s names) and Pythios/Python is something that contains symbolic weight of the balance of life and death.

Although carrying mythic differences, the association of Apollon’s tears over Delphyne is remarkably similar to the rudraska tears of Rudra upon the death of Sati/Shakti. In myth Sati immolated herself, who had already been grieving for her separation from Rudra/Siva and then suffered insult and non-presence in the company of her father (who neither acknowledged her presence in either her literal presence or even her presence via her connection her husband by refusing offer Prasad to Rudra/Siva. This sense of separation is being out of harmony in my view, a sense of imbalance or a state needing correction. At her death Siva brought forth destruction, calmed only by Visnu dividing the body of Sati (thus the body wasted away like we find with the myth of Delphyne) as Siva wept tears that became the rudraska that is most holy. Siva afterwards paid penance by retreating into the mountains of the Himalayas, a self imposed exile which led to unity again with Sati when she came again as Parvati. Separation unity, life and death, harmony and balance that is all one.

The amber tears of Apollon carry the full of the weight of the mystery of Delphyne and carry an honored status in my view that is not dissimilar to the rudraska, and I know many devotees of Apollon who wear amber for him or find amber to be a highly important devotional item in his worship. To this ends I plan on, in my own personal worship with the  unified shrine of Apollon, Siva, Parvati and Artemis, to string the rudraska beads (from a strand my baby broke) with amber beads to wear during worship to so honor this one sameness element.

Honey, Preservation and Immortality

Today I was reading about how honey has been used as preservative for embalming, and this clicked something in my mind. I have often tossed around the connections that may exist between gods who are associated with bees (and honey) but there never seemed to be a really strong definitive relationship regarding the symbol of the honeybee that was a unifying feature. Yet this feature made perfect sense when I put together the historic practice of using honey for embalming in association with gods who have a strong connection to the dying process and apotheosis, a process in which the soul of a mortal is deified that it may join the gods.

The association with honey and the dead can be found mythically in the tale of Glakos, son of Minos who fell into a jar of honey and there died. The honey within embalmed and preserved him, rendering a kind of immortality as the flesh did not dissolve and the soul depart upon release from the flesh (as I have noted is the chief connection with Apollon and the remains of the dead, the process of destroying the physical form in order to release the soul to the service of Hermes). A seer, whose service belongs to Apollon, restored the child to life. Apollon’s domain seems to be the boundary, the gate the determines  the destination of the soul after death. Will the soul retain form and be able to be liberated from the flesh to join the gods, or will the soul  be stripped bare and sent to the court of Haides to drink of Lethe. Apollon features in several apotheosis myths which clarifies this role and strengthens this importance of his domain.  Not only for the apotheosis of Hyakinthos, but also for Marsyas who was transformed into a river god, and even Sarpedon whose body he was appointed to anoint. Nevermind the corpse of Dionysos whose charge he was given over which he tended to and buried on Parnassos, the same mountain where Apollon was nursed by the bee-nymphs, the Thryae to whom he sent Hermes to learn basic divination. The connection here of the bee to divine mind, to foreknowledge is perhaps hand in hand with  the association fo honey with immortality, and why Apollon himself, given his associations was also significantly pared with prophecy serving a connection of mortals to the gods. And tge Pythias have been called Melissae (honeybees) as well, not to mention that Glakos’ own daughter served as sybill at Cumae . Divination inspiration was construed as a kindof honey  when given whether that be prophecy, or its close kin, poetry. Pindar was said to have had drops of honey dropped on his lips by the Muses in order to gift him with such great poetic vision. This is not to forget that the quality of raw honey was used as an antiseptic for the purpose of healing. It is pure, gold, and divine.

The honeybee is, for me, one of the strongest links between Dionysos, Apollon and Hermes. Dionysos, the liberator of the soul, Apollon as god of the cemetery/destroying/freeing god, and Hermes as escort of the soul who either draws up the deified soul as he lifts the newborn Dionysos or escorts them to the halls of the dead. And then there is Zeus, the first mystic god, and father of all three brothers.

This given, Zeus is perhaps the best place to start, and his sister Demeter. Zeus is foremost connected intimately with the earth and her mysteries, this is part of his mystic character. Gaia raising Zeus, nursing him and caring for him (and teaching him) is quite involved, probably starting from his very birth in the cavern in Crete where the Kouretes, the escort of Rhea, are likened to angry wasps clamoring about in the cave where they dwelt with Zeus (and the Cretans believing that wasps continued to reside within and protect that sanctuary). That Zeus has also a Chthonic form and has been likened to Haides, there is probably something to be said regarding the connection between the living, the divine and the dead that is very much ingrained in the honey/bee symbolism. Demeter  too, often serves as a kind of mother of the dead and goddess of the saving initiation, by whose mysteries  the mortal soul is released, nourished , perserved and given over to the blessed state. It is of no wonder that  hers were also called, like the Pythias, bees of the goddess. The same can be said of Rhea and Cybele who are the most clear predecessors to the  domain of Demeter, earthly mystic mothers, mother of Zeus and all the gods on one hand, and initiator of Dionysos on the other hand.  Artemis’ powerful association with these goddess, and as a favored daughter of Zeus, and her prominent role as Kourotroph, a great nurse goddess, likely has much to do with her own strong associations with  honeybees. Of course her other ole as a huntress which drives forth life to its end is perhaps also very much connected here, she, in many ways provides the means for which new life may mature. Like the honey that is created by bees for their own larvae to feed upon. This may be an important point of her  relationship  with Demeter as her mystic daughter. Although bees are not hunting creatures as one would imagine being associated with Artemis, they are nurturers and protectors which are just as siginificant to her cult as that of the huntress.

The sacred mystic nature of honey, however, is most  clear in the myths surrounding Dionysos. Milk and honey, offerings to nymphs and to the dead, spurt from the thyrsus of  the god and his maenads, and comes from the ground wheresoever they strike. If honey is that substance which is a gift from other gods, Dionysos, as a kind of  younger Zeus, is the bestower of honey, he is honey-sweet. He is the essence of the realized divine state. And Hermes is the god who receives  it , who delivers it forth. He is one who has received the divine gift and knows how to utilize it. If other gods oppoitimize raw honey and mead, Hermes I would call the candyman….the refined product of a most sacred  substance of divinity

In any case , regardless of which of these above gods you are devoted to, the honeybee is an important and  significant symbol that is appropriate to honor them with.  I, myself, have a  honeybee pendant  that is gold, citrine and diamond that I wear chiefly for Apollon but also for these other gods as well who share this close relationship with my lord.

Spring Return

In the past, Apollon’s return in the spring has been part of the highlight of my year, as spring approached this year I came to certain epiphanies about Apollon in this region (I say this region because it seems that even in Hellas you do not find widespread joint belief about a departure of the god….and in Delphi it was originally every 9 years rather than yearly, whereas Delos had yearly departure to Lycia for half of the year. But there is no other literature from anywhere else in Hellas regarding this matter specifically, with the exception of Apollodoros Rhodios who only says that in the Argonautika that the Argonauts met with Apollon passing by them on his return to Delphi without further specifications about where the god is returning from and what the context of his return is set. In Alaska, Apollon’s just doesn’t strongly express any kind of return and departure. Part of this may be because there isn’t a huge agricultural tie (such as Apollon bearing the wheat ears from Hyperborea.. ie bringing the return of the ripening season with his own return. In fact his agricultural roles are fairly minimal around here, whereas he is more prominent in a more nomadic hunter/herder role that is highlighted by his influence over civilization and some slight agricultural roles around here.

I am personally becoming of the opinion that Apollon himself doesn’t quite fit the settled civilized role. Although he has Delphi as the historic seat of his worship, Apollon’s myths are characterized by a sort of wandering nature of the god, as he delights in the peaks of the high mountains and the deep valley, ceaselessly moving as all things move him with him in harmonic accord. This is the very nature of the nomadic god, changing round the seasons. This doesn’t negate the importance of civilization, for even nomadic cultures are civilized and fit the definition as we find that the ancient Hellenes categorized the qualities of civilization to be based on just a few mandatory principles usually involved with production, such as the ability to make cheese, something which in ancient observations classified the “barbaric” Scythian nomaidic peoples as being among the “civilized”. Herein too lies the real value of the divine musician too, as a god who can settle and calm his herds  in even the worse of conditions, soothing and bringing peace, but also the tempo of life ever moving and changing with the seasons, and the unity of the tribe on a social level in the highest importance. Harmony and unity.

I never really saw it before until this winter past when I saw him as some sort of wintry Shamanic god coming down from the Steppes region, bristling with animal furs and a wolf cap lined with red wool, dark, shining, golden, with the bones of prey hanging from necklaces around his neck as he swayed to some rhythm like a heartbeat of the earth itself. A flute at his hip with which to summon winds and to lull the herds with melancholy songs of winter. Adorned with the feathers of swans and ravens, and heavy brassy bells. Fire exudes from him, reflecting off of the ice and snow, even as ice hangs from his curling horns. Timeless. This is how he came to me in a vision in the winter. Not of some linen-clad youth in  paradise garden but of a god who exists ever between seasons (Hyperborea existing simultaneous with him in between time). He exists at once in this blessed place and roaming the wide earth. His nomadic nature however won’t permit him to be contained, hence you find at such prominent temples as Delphi and Delos that the god needs to depart, not that he is leaving the world, but that he is unable to remain fixed continuously. To  stay fixed , to be as stagnant water, is not fitting with his nature, the serpentine ever renewing lord.  He merely sheds away time as he passes, the slayer and announcer of the dying god. He is the wolf, the creature of twilight standing between the  night and day, belonging to both and neither.

This is not to say that I hold no purpose for his  departing, temple manifestation. Temples served a purpose not only for honoring him but at specific temples also to serve for an oracular spot to serve the region to which people could gather. . The complex mythologies of his return highlighted the important relationship Apollon had with these given temples (and in the case of Delos and Lycia, the relationship that these temples had to each other) at which he served very particular purposes, confused with his seasonal presence among crops during the fruiting season. I suppose there is a certain logic to the season of the temple oracles to be unified with the fruiting season of Apollon, which would make his  departure from the temple and the wane of the warm dry season corresponding in a sudden epiphany of movement. I suppose it may be easier to think that the blessed place of the god exists separate of himself and is a place to which the god himself must retreat to rather than a state that  is with him wherever he goes. Therefore when he is not at the temple  the  temple ceases its function, the blessed doorway is closed, the way is guarded by griffins and without access.

And so it has dawned on me that in my worship it is best to not see him as a coming and departing god to some nether region hidden and obscure, but that he himself is obscure except when he wishes to reveal himself. He is as ambiguous by his nature as he is by his oracles…but always ringing truth. Therefore he is always “present”  but present in different ways. So my solution is this to my practice as he has revealed, and something that I have meditated on during his return this year rather than with any lavish festival.

I am to seek him out where he reveals himself, in some hollows of the wilderness and set for him a monument to which I am to visit in recognition of him as herald of spring, bringer f the warm fruiting months, giver of harvest, fattener of beasts maturing beneath his watchful eye. Here I shall give offering to him at the beginning of this season and at the last day of his season, to honor he who provides and nourishes even as he destroys. He who is both the life giving day, and the destroying night, he who tends the fields of summer and hunts, driving aloft great herds, in the snowy drifts of winter. Provider of game, warder against famine.  By this measure I am to honor him, and at that site I will address him by his ancient names, and by that name which  is given by the nature of the site to honor him as god residing at that monument.

So now I just have to find it.

Servant of the Gods

Today I saw posts from friends talking about the yearly salary of pastors and my brother announcing the finding of his church home, and it is striking to me, yet again, how very different this is from polytheistic religions, whether you are talking about Vedic, Hellenic, Germanic etc. It is this concept that worship and service to the gods is something external that is done on your behalf by another, and that those who serve the gods have these positions to minister, council and be an overall support system for the masses. In reality, when we look at religions such as Christianity, we find that their clergy has a different focus than that of polytheistic religions. Namely, that the clergy person is acknowledged as a leader and moral compass. They are chiefly responsible for their “flock” and spiritual guidance of those in attendance.

I have said before that there is a distinction that should be made between ” a leader” and a “priest”. Christianity melds these two concepts and so many polytheists try to follow along this model as being what they are accustomed to. We are used to have authoritative religious supervision over every facet where it has really never existed before. We have had leaders who lead in rituals as a kind of civic head of the family kind of way, but generally their service to the gods is fairly on par with that of other worshipers. With the combination of clergy and leadership roles in Christian (and similar) clergy it makes the worshiper as nothing more than an observer witnessing the rites being undertaken on their part. This necessitates for them having a “church-home”, because the spiritual religious life is dependent on this religious witnessing rather than performance, whereas for their polytheistic counterparts their church-home is quite literally the home with the head of the household performing leading the rituals with their families in attendance and taking part in the  worship activities.

So then what is the purpose of the priest? Unlike the leader whose duty it is to serve the people, the priest merely serves the god. This doesn’t necessarily put them in positions of leading rituals (although they often took leading parts in processions) but rather an observation of certain taboos, and a rigorous depth of religious observances and prescribed Work on done behalf of their deity to please the deity in question. This can take the form of education, many servants of the gods take to writing informational material, or by offering very specific services and skills. Regardless, the focus is continually on the god that said person serves, and each action is performed in devotion to the deity. A priest may choose to lecture or answer specific questions, but overall their focus is not on the activity of the worshiper, nor is it in acquiring converts or expansion. The service to their god is the whole of their experience and dedication. We can look to Rome to actually very well illustrate this for the  priests were elected into the position and  were expected to observe the protocols due to their position, which rarely had anything to do interacting or serving people or even their personal inclinations. It was all about their service to the gods, even if this served to earn them other forms of prestige.

This  is parallel in Hellas, wherein at temples priests who served there were often selected  by officials to conduct certain sacrifices and observances for the temple, but that this did not negate unofficial priests and sibyls who did their part in their service. But none of these took on the responsibilities that you find in Christian clergy…and for very good reason. When you get right down to it…it is a conflict of interest.  Whether you are on behalf of the people or  working on behalf of the gods. This is not to say that leaders can’t be highly devoted individuals. It is just different specializations and foci. By combining and merging the clergy and leadership roles creates the kind of relationship between priest and worship that you find in Christianity and decreases the influence and value of home worship in which the family  would lead its own worship. In  polytheistic religions where the home is by tradition the center of  the religious life this model  is then highly incompatible and one we should not be trying to mimic.

In short, we need both gifted community leaders AND devoted priests, but in recognition that these are very different kinds of service roles that preserve the integrity of the worship community rather than stripping from it. We also need to acknowledge the benefit of the lay worshiper. Not everyone has the time, energy, or desire or perhaps even devotion to devote so much of their life to either of these. When we realize that our religion is not a theocratic body and that the real value of worship rests within the individual and home with priests and a support system and community leaders for guidance, then we may find that more people will find this far more rewarding spiritually in their own responsibility for the spiritual welfare of themselves and their households. A division of responsibility empowers the individual householder and preserves their autonomy when the priests do not desire to take charge of the lives of the worshipers and the leaders do not desire to meddle in the worshiping activity of their community.

An Exceptional Understanding of Apollon in Siva Nataraja

I have written before regarding Apollon and Siva, but as I am continuing my studies with Saivism this has been becoming more profound in insights I have gained. The cultural Hellenic understanding of Apollon is beautiful and profound in itself, yet when I see him through Siva, my understanding gains new depths of himself in a greater form that is beyond cultural understandings of the god in all his forms. The most striking moment for me as of yet is when I was reading Dancing with Siva and I came to the portion on the symbolism of Siva’s dance. Apollon as a divine musician and dancing god in his own nature, the lord of the weaving Crane Dance of Theseus at Delos, the excerpt on the dancing form of Siva shows itself to be the most relatable for a worshipper of Apollon when it is broken down.

Perhaps the only lack of real clarity is the drum of Siva. This is because as far as I have seen, drums were not significantly important to worship of Apollon. In some ways I can see where some folks would see Siva as containing both Apollon and Dionysos within him, as drums were significant in the worship of Dionysos, as well as in the worship of Rhea/Cybele from whom he likely inherited the drum. It is unfortunate that we do not know more about the Apollon of Crete, or really very thorough information of the Doric Apollon (as it is believed that the Doric people brought his cult to Crete) as there may be significant thing to this father of the Korybantes, this son of Korybas, that was not commonly shared through other parts of Hellas. What is apparent is that despite the lack of the drum, the harmonic vibrations of Apollon’s domain serves much similar purpose as the drum operates….provision of rhythmic order….this in itself can represent the issuing forth of creation as the drum of Siva represents. That creation itself is an act of order from chaos as we find in the illumination of Phanes who divides the substances that creation is born in the cosmic egg. This brings me greater understanding here in which my lord, who is lord of the axis, is central dance of harmony and order. A lord of the gateway through which life passes into new life….an ever renewing cycle. For as the drum, or rather the vibrations of lord of Apollon which is more commonly represented as the lyre, reminds us that as he is directs harmony, nothing ends or stops. Everything is always in motion. Energy doesn’t just die and disappear. It continues on its movement, transforming and changing, but unceasing. Apollon as lord of the tomb doesn’t represent then end, for the lord of harmonic movement there can be no true end. It is just a series of death and life. He turns all the seasons around as the Orphic Hymn says.

The lower right hand of Siva is raised in blessing, bringing preservation. Apollon is the preserver and protector. Not only of humanity in general as we have seen on many accounts, but also more commonly of children for which he is honored following safe birth after they survived 7 days, even as he is honored at the release of the soul on death for a period as it releases its bonds until the soul is escorted from the earth by Hermes. As Apollon is connected with agriculture and herding, we know that he is closely associated among the living with the preservation of humanity through the civilized arts. He is the ripener of crops preparing for harvest, and the rearer of beasts to feed men. His blessings, even as his nature is as a destroying god, is the blessing of nurturer and preservation until the moment which life is ready to be plucked. The preservation of life serves purpose, but even still it is a blessing and gift to us. On a more symbolic level, preservation also serves when we look at the god as oracle announcing religious and spiritual obligations, the will of the gods…..or even the institution of education and the arts which feed the soul in its development.  Part of his preserving grace is illumination of the path of progress to apotheosis. This is perhaps one of the greatest symbols of the throne of Apollon resting on the tomb of Hyakinthios. Not merely out of love and affection but also an indication of the grace of Apollon by which our ends are accomplished. This would certainly make sense why scenes of certain mythic victories (such as Theseus over the Minotaur) was inscribed on the throne. The throne lies upon the tomb, exactly completely measure over the process of life into the apotheosis and liberation of the soul.

The upper left hand of Siva holds a flame, which is destruction and dissolution of form. This is the balance to the drum. This is Apollon as the destroyer of which we know him. He who is the law within nature which renders all things into dissolution. Apollon as Pythios, the god of rot. Apollon as lord of the tomb in which the form decays and releases the soul within (or more anciently with funeral pyres was probably lord of the pyre with the devouring flames before burials became more common). He destroys form, with his serpent arrows (which were likely envisioned as fiery arrows by this description…fiery and venomous). Unlike ideas that Apollon’s association with the sun were by his arrows significant of light, this is not the case so much I think. Apollon when he has provided illumination he merely holds aloft his bow and light issued from it. Now his arrows are destructive fire, which is also possessed by the sun by which association here may be based.

The position of the legs of Siva Nataraga as described by Satguru Sivaya Subrahmuniyaswami is perhaps the most relative as his role as gatekeeper, god of the boundaries. For one foot is placed upon an earthbound spirit confused by its sloth (or unevolved soul) while the lifted foot is promise of liberation. If the processes of life and death are a symbol for the journey of the soul then we can see the liberation of destruction of form itself and the release of the soul is also a symbol of the progression of the soul into apotheosis, into unity with the gods rather than trapped in the human cycle. Apollon as the charioteer has a direct link to the chariots of the soul described by Plato in which each soul has a chariot which attempts to rise to be near the god it adores, but undisciplined, without spiritual progression, they cannot sustain nearness and are ever falling. Close to the earth are great masses of soul chariots. I have long said that the contests of Apollon and the liberation by destruction (the myth of Marsyas in perhaps a rather important one that combines both of these themes) are ways of explaining Apollon as the gatekeeper. As I said above he is enthroned upon the very process of apotheosis, which indicates that he is the god of the gateway of apotheosis which only souls can pass which are proven. Apollon being enthroned on the tomb of Hyakinthios serves purpose similar to the gesturing to the upraised foot by Siva Nataraja with his lower left hand.

The end of the passage is summed up very well, that I think all followers of Apollon can benefit from in understanding Apollon’s greater transcendental being:

“The birth of the world, it’s maintenance, its destruction, and the soul’s obscuration and liberation are the five acts of his dance.”

I am just touching the very utmost tip of Saivism but so for it has been very profound for me.

Apollon’s “monsters”

There is no lack of monsters in Hellenic myth. We have numerous dragons and beasts that in myth plaque cities and represent challenges for noble heroes to defeat.  The drawback is that this colors the perceptions of the monsters themselves. Often they get characterized as being “evil”  or in some sense truly malevolent due to their juxtaposition with the heroes. What seems to be ignored is that usually these monsters are employed by the gods for their tasks, they serve a purpose in myth as a form of testing the heroes. This can be true to of heroic gods, or gods who have considerable station attributed to them from the defeat of a monster as a model for the demi-god heroes to come. In such cases in Hellenic myth we have Typhon for Zeus and Delphyne for Apollon. Although Typhon seems to be a special case of being a progeny that threatens the rule of the gods, and so, like the titans, was imprisoned we find that the control of Typhon is related to Zeus’ control of the order of the cosmos and its wellbeing. Now Typhon by Echidna had many offspring, and the literalist would say evil evil evil of Typhon, evil evil evil of Echidna, and thus to their offspring too. Nevermind that one of the most loved monsters…Cerebus, is one of their offspring. All in all the monsters are in themselves daemons who serve the purpose of the gods.

For Apollon he has a few of his own monsters. Delphyne I mentioned above is perhaps one of the most central and important monsters. Although often depicted just as a serpent, she is also known as having the upper torso of a nymph which has led to her being confused with Echidna in source material. Perhaps as an echnida-type of “monster” then, as *the* Echidna, spouse of Typhon, was slain by Argus and should be distinguished from Delphyne, the Echidna-like dragoness of Delphi who nursed Typhon and in whose layer guarded the sinews of Zeus which had to be retrieved by Pan and Hermes that Zeus could be victorious in his battle with Typhon, the offspring of Hera. Although she is caused a bane to shepherds, I wonder if this may be a confusion due too with another “dragon” of Delphi, a man, son of Gaia, who looted pilgrims and whom Apollon killed for assaulting Leto with the aid of his twin. Delphyne  then presented the obstacle to Apollon in his “heroic journey” that he had to overcome her to win his seat at Delphi. There is suggestion that Themis and Phoibe were titles of Gaia. If so this would concur with Apollon’s “grandmother” posing an obstacle forth for him to overcome, as we find Hera often doing for her own children and step children. There are ideas out there that I feel go too far extreme in denouncing the heroic journey of gods and their fights with certain daemon-monsters as patriarchal culture over a native matriarchal culture. I find this a huge stretch of imagination, and also a misunderstanding of the allegorical nature of the myth. This interpretation would be nothing more than another literalistic kind of interpretation.

Literalist interpretations would say one hand that the dragon is an malevolent force that Apollon has to conquer and is as such evil. The feminist-matriarchal interpretation on the other hand says that these is really a myth revealing an old regional goddess being overcome by an invading god. Allegorical interpretation says that both of these are not the best way to view the myth. After all we do find Delphyne present in artwork as a kind of guardian spirit that is not directly addressed to her slaying myths. Gaia/Themis/Phoibe set her as guardian of this spring of the oracle. Apollon defeats her, gains his laurel crown, is purified (which suggests blood guilt debt particularly given his exile and purification requirements) and returns to his oracle, is said tho to pour libation to her and thus would seem to be honoring her as a daemon of the place. She is allegorically purified by his fire and resides as a local protective daemon attached to the oracle thereafter. Her presence can be seen on a vase painting in which Apollon is approaching the Erinyes at Delphi and we see a figure that is often mistaken I think for an Erinye above the tripod which I believe is actually the daemon-guardian Delphyne as she gazes down on the Erinyes unkindly as Apollon approaches one. The serpent in her hair is quite alike the full half serpent images of the “monster” facing off with Apollon.


apollon battling python

Delphyne is not the only instance where we see a woman-serpent type of daemon associated with Apollon. Apollon on occasion for punishing Argos sent another echidna-type dragoness as a plague. I find these to be almost like nagas, and as such are particularly connected with the cult of Apollon as nagas are connected with the cult of Shiva. Edward Butler was kind enough to point to me that nagas too didn’t always have shiny reputations especially among followers of Vishnu. This reinforces this association for me of being that serves the purpose of the gods that may not be wholely doing awesomely kind wonderful things…but as a daemon doesn’t necessarily need to either. They serve the direction of the gods and purpose there put. It just depends on what god you are looking at, which may affect how you perceive the daemon and its role, and also how you are looking at the purpose of myth as I mentioned above. So in a positive sense this daemon type is associated with Apollon but also I would say with Hera.

Another popular “monster” associated with Apollon are griffins. I have spoken of griffins numerous times on my blog, so I won’t go into too much depth other than to say that griffins tend to act as guadians and mounts for Apollon. As such they represent the guardians not only of his blessed guardian (or rather the passage into) but also carry him back over the mountains upon his return with the blessed grains from Hyperborea. Griffins are creatures that are naturally shared with Zeus, wherein they are called the hounds of Zeus, and in some sources also with Dionysos wherein we find references to griffins being leopard spotted rather than having the body of a lion. Griffins are the divine combination of both the royal lion and the swift bird of prey, both of which are sacred to Apollon and Zeus particularly.


The last “monster” I want to include here are the Kledones/Sirens. I lump these together because the Kledones at Delphi were the “voices”, and I believe were also associated with another temple of his mentioned by Pausanias but the city of which I cannot recall offhand. The Kledones were said to sing prophecies from the roof of Apollon’s temple in its most earliest incarnations and enchanted visitors to the temple. The Kledones are treated almost wholly benevolently (and whose title Apollon has as an epithet as Apollon Kledones), whereas the Sirens tend to be a mixed bag but doubtlessly have an association with the Kledones and may be another form of the same creature (which in my opinion they are). Sirens are believed to the predecessors to the Muses. They were believed to rules the seven harmonic spheres prior to the muses, and their contest with the muses is perhaps one of the best known (following which the muses adorned themselves with the feathers of the Sirens, perhaps symbolically assuming the cosmic spot of the Sirens). It is not surprising perhaps to find a “monster” associated with beautiful entrancing music or sounds being connected with the cult worship of Apollon. Music as persuasion was well understood among Hellenes on a spiritual and practical level, so the concept of a creature who can sway men with her song either to accomplish certain ends, or giving forth prophecy would likely well fit in. Unlike modern interpretations of Sirens as mermaid type creatures, they were typically represented as bird like creatures.


Now why I am discussing all of this? Because as they are connected with aspects of Apollon’s cult and his divine functions I have started including their imagery in pairs on my altar. I have the griffins in place, but will be adding a pair of Echidna-like “dragonesses”/nagas as well as a pair of Kledones/Sirens.