light and dark, seen and unseen

Something that I can appreciate about Apollon, something I had to learn from personal experience in my relationship with him, is that he cannot be painted with a flat brush. That is to say, one cannot pin something so simple as a string of attributes and call it good. He is more than the god of light and all that it signifies, but aslo the god of utter darkness. None can master the light without being in intimate terms with darkness. Just as he is bringer of health, just as well as bringing plague. He can build a throne in the darkest cave, and yet even without visible light he is there. Perhaps more poinantly because you have to percieve him without limitations like a blind person trying to understand the world robbed of a sense most of us take for granted. We exist in a world where our perceptions are based on what is visible, what is tangible, and literaly before us. We often believe what our eyes tell us, whether it is a trick of light, a mirage, or something “real”. People tend to panic when they are devoid of this simple crutch of reality, they are afraid of the dark. Afraid of what the night brings and lets loose the imagination from its hidden corridors.

What we often fail to understand is that there is no absolutes. No absolute light, no absolute darkness. Will not a cat expand its pupil to absorb light that is completely unperceptible to us, when the world is pitch black, yet there is light enough for the night-time creatures. The light lends different interpretations of our world, in its varying degrees. On the brightest sunny day we can look about the world and see such vivid colors to stun the mind and imagination, and yet when the rain drizzles down and the clouds fill the sky with their heavy load, the world becomes a landscape of dreary gray. Yet our very health of body and mind is so often dependent on light in its variance. Sometimes we get so fixated on being able to *see* the world, that we lack the appreciation of the hidden and darkness. The shadows of such vagueness that it can trick our minds into believing the impossible, which often is a very good thing. Apollon knows the ins and outs of the corners of the world, he knows every place that light, even in the slighest unpercieved degree, touches. And he knows all that which the shadows and darkness hide. As an oracular god we can appreciate quite thoroughly how he is able to touch the most hidden recesses. At the same time possessing all of the fluidity, and vagueness of the most hidden shadows.

When Apollon retreats to Hyerpborea the world is muted, in its restful winter state, it is secured in shadows. In generations past how many families took advantage of these nights in the long hours of darkness, before cable tv and electricity, to sit by the fireside and spin tales of ages gone by and render puppets on the wall born of shadows. Even in my childhood shadow puppets was the perfect way to spend the darkest hours before sleep claimed us for the night. This is why I so often call the Hyperborean Apollon the fatherly fireside bard, because in these days I feel him close, like a shadowy figure, singing softly. He is not the burning light, but soft shades of shadows and touches of colored light almost unpercievable (like the aurora borealis that I connect him to during his Hyperborean retreat). But then he returns again and assumes his bright crown, at the same time it does not dismiss his shadowy visage in the long winter months. His light is muted in subtle northern tones, but he is still here beside us as he has retreated to Hyperborea.

Marsyas understood well the shadow portion behind the wall of light. As a Selini figure he can be accounted as opposite of Apollon’s dignified manifestation. Lacking the grace and beauty that is so apparent when we see represenatative images of the god. He pitted his pipes against the kithara and voice of Apollon (according to Plutarch), the flow of music so connected with the turn of seasons, the approach and retreat of light. By contest he is rivaling the gods power. By winning the first part of the contest he intimately steps into the fire of Apollon’s light, as such he is apart of Apollon. It some versions here it ends, but the conclusion still remains becaue the ultimate end is an apparent loss…death. We regard death as the final extinction of light and life. Yet Apollon has shown little fear of death, and even confronts it in Aeschylus’s Aclestis. He delivers death frequently. A devouring and consuming that is behind the light, the darkness that rests on the other side where life has been rendered extinct. Marysas is flayed in sacrafice to the god in order to join with the god in this finale. The tears of Apollon contribute to the river of Marsyas, as if he is reborn through Apollon.

In my relationship with the god I have felt the heat of fire, I have been momentarily blinded when I have gazed too intently at the light, and recieved in turn splendor in the shadows before the world comes again to focus. There is the ultimate death upon the deserts from the blistering heat, the killing sun. I still plan on doing some devotional paintings for Apollon in grayscale with touches of pales hues of light.


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