To honor all Olympians

I thought that this cannot be stressed enough and so I wanted to address this specifically…just how important it is to give due worship to all the Olympians at minimum. There are people who get so caught up in their attraction to a given deity, or a given small selection of gods, that others get ignored. I can’t really fault getting caught up, since I think that is natural and it is something we are all prone to doing. But I do think that there is a difference between getting “caught up” and focusing a large amount of one’s religious activity on a particular deity, and having an entire worship focus that entirely revolves around a singular deity in what would seem to be an almost monotheistic style.

For most of us coming out of monotheism that we were raised in, our first inclination may be to gravitate towards a specific deity, or specific pair of deities, that we are attracted to. We may even spend time investigating how other cultures saw this god, or what gods this god was historically linked to. I do think that this is a natural transition from the monotheistic to a polytheistic life. Many of us need that introductory deity(ies) to help us orientate towards worshiping a pantheon. The problem, as far as I see it, tends to be when a person gets more or less stuck in this state and fails to extend to worship to all of the gods. Naturally I am not saying that one must know each and every god that was worshiped in ancient Hellas, but I specifically refer to the 12 Olympians plus Dionysos and Persephone along with other significant deities that had widespread cultus.

But when we do this we fail to recognize just how important of a role each of these gods play within our personal lives, our spiritual development, the world we live in, and the social and familial lives that we have. Not only that, but each of these gods…particularly among the Olympians, have very closely entwined roles and domains which makes it positively essential for us to recognize their part and their relationship with the other gods. This also tends to be the case that when one studies more and more they will find just how this intersects as gods that normally wouldn’t be offhandedly associated together, do enjoy specific cults derived from mythic history.

For instance…(and the following shall be produced from my own analysis as a follower of Apollon but it can be taken as inspiration to look from other angles in accordance to what god one follows) for myself it seemed natural that Apollon and Artemis went together. They are holy twins and the integration of two facets…the huntress-nurturer who drives forward all living even as she nurtures and cares for its wellbeing upon the road of her brother. This is particularly seen in the labor of Herakles where the hero chases her hind all the way to Hyperborea, and upon its capture he is approached by both gods who for all purposes appear to reproach him to gain his promise to not kill the deer. Likewise Artemis and Apollon share many epithets and essential functions including providence associated with light, healing, far-shooting via arrows etc even thouh their personas are depicted as quite different at other times regardless of apparent closeness (which is clear in the dressing-down she gives Apollon in the Iliad wherein he deigns to not take up arms against his uncle Poseidon), a god with whom he shares considerable other crossovers, as does Artemis via her cultus as a daughter of Poseidon and Demeter, as god of the harbor and his providence over ships and association with dolphins. Even half of Delphi, the half that was owned by Poseidon, was traded for an island of Apollon. But this part of the equation herein is something I discovered much later in my reflections.

Typically I never would have given much attention to other gods entering into this close relationship just from a modest glance. Yet in my mid-twenties I found myself realizing that I had to give worship to Aphrodite…and later in my research noticed that Apollon’s domain is intimately connected to that of Aphrodite’s and this is also expressed in the myth of Theseus in which the way through the labyrinth (which as I have said in another post is connected to Apollon of the road) is guided by Aphrodite…and this is significantly tipped off my Apollon who advised the hero to let love guide him for which Theseus dedicated the statue of Aphrodite made by Daedelus to the god upon his arrival at Delos…and the Delians celebrated the Crane dance in honor of both Apollon and Aphrodite. One can not successfully navigate the sacred way without entering into the domain of Aphrodite.

Hermes, comparatively seems like a no-brainer. This is a god who exchanged his flute and lyre that he created to Apollon for his whip and wand thus indicating a cross fertilization of their domains in which both take part and interact in each other’s functions. If Apollon is intimately connected to the divine and immortal, Hermes is the god who receives the divine infants born for the union of the gods and addresses them to their nurses/caretakers. And whereas Apollon is the god of the road, Hermes is the guide and companion of the soul…meanwhile we know the importance of the offpsirng of Hermes and Aphrodite…the greatness associated with hermaphroditos who is honored on the seventh day of the lunar month as is Apollon which does seem to be anything short of coincidence.

Then there is Ares the god of war who is complimented by Apollon as marshaller of the host and god of the paian which is described in The Persians as being a song terrifying to the enemy. Even as Apollon’s lyre is attributed to soothing the fury of Ares, he is also the provoker of Ares…which can be seen in the Iliad wherein he gains Ares alliance against the the Aegeans in favor of Troy and spurs the god on. And likewise in instances where Apollon is at the lead of the Trojan army bearing his father’s aegis.

Ahhhh but the aegis is often also weilded by his sister Athena, another god who shares a similar close relationship with Zeus similar as to what Apollon shares, though whereas Athena never really falls out of favor with her father due to her alignment directly to his nous, Apollon dinstinctly has myths of rebellion and occassions of punishment from his father. Athena also seems inherently more forgiving towards her favorites, typically the favorites too of her father, whereas Apollon is less forgiving towards transgressions which is noticeable I think in his relationship with Herakles towards whom Apollon seems to go hot and cold depending on Herakles behavior, and especially when Herakles and Apollon fought over the holy tripod and it took Zeus to seperate them (with Athena calming Herakles while Leto and Artemis calmed Apollon). Their inherent dissimilarity sometimes blurs where they interconnect. Really, this was a connection that had never even really ocurred to me until I did much research and pondering over it was able to connect some dots and ended up writing an entire chapter about it. First Athena appears on Apollon’s behalf as she does in Euripedes’ Ion (not Artemis…though Artemis has acted on his behalf when she slew Coronis), and though Artemis and Leto were highly honored in Delphi, so too was Athena who had followed Leto in her wanderings during her pregnancy and likewise accompanied Apollon to Delphi. Athena engages in the more practical arts than those of her brother, which are more mystic in nature as it were as arts that involve influence and inspiration, as a goddess associated with pottery and weaving for which she enjoyed a close cult relationship with Hephaistos. But even these simple arts involved the beauty of inspired visual arts that can be attributed to the world of Aphrodite and Apollon who both engage in the concept of perfection, harmony and beauty. Meanwhile Athena is particularly known at first glance in her engagement of warfare, for which she acts in war in accordance to the will of Zeus, though the Iliad also seems to show some level of unity between Athena and more militaristic activity of Hera.

Now for Hera I can’t even say that there isn’t any connection between her and Apollon, though it is more vague, but there is instance on Crete where Apollon is addressed as a punisher of adulterers in which he is depited with an axe, and apparently the Thracians believed Apollon and Artemis to be the offspring of Hera and where depicted with her in art. This seems to likely play out also in later syncretic Hellenic visions of Egyptian myth in which alternatively Hera and Demeter are both linked with Isis, and Artemis as Bastet and Apollon as Horus are her children. Certainly there is no evidence of real discord between Apollon and Hera, and there is only general friction between her and Artemis which seems natural for two very diffierent realms that have a meeting point of intersection.

Even Demeter enjoys a beneficial relationship with Apollon, for which Proclus follows a remark attributed to Demeter if memory serves me correctly, in which she is advising her daughter towards the fruitful relationship with Apollon as her heir. Certainly light plays a pivotal role in agriculture, and the two mystagogs, the light-bearers in the mystery procession to Eleusis bear a great resemblance to the light-weilding functions of Artemis and Apollon. Likewise Apollon has been depicted in more chthonic aspects with a chariot pulled by dragons not unlike that of Demeter. And even Hestia who is said by some to have wandered with Demeter in search of Persephone, enjoys a certain interesting relationship with Apollon.

Hestia is not only honored in the temple of Apollon, which is not all so strange because the goddess may have been honored in a great number of temples to various gods…though the Romans were to point out there her home at Delphi was nearly on par with that at Olympia. This is the same goddess for whom Poseidon and Apollon vied for marriage before she gained the support of Zeus to remain unwed. If Apollon is light, and is the turner of the axis and the harmonic dance of all things about the axis, then Hestia is she who holds the spark in the center of all things and this intimate relationship between the two can be realized by the fact that the light of the sun delivers the sacred fire with which the altars were lit and the Olympic torch at Olympia (and a process which is still carried over today in Olympic ceremonies for the torch that is passed) at the altar before the temple of Hera. And Hephaistos is not too far away as the god who shapes the fire and changes it into something constructive, which may also have some weight in the fire which springs from sources such as lightning of Zeus (which both Athena and Apollon have been addressed as weilding too) and the direct light of Apollon’s radiance which produces effects of germination and production of life.

So in effect I maintain worship to at minimum all Olympians because it is reasonable. I may not maintain shrines to them all, but this is why I place representations of all of them on my domestic altar (or rather I am working up to that goal) an address daily prayers to them all, as well as monthly on the Noumenia, because I do feel it is important to keep this in mind and remember it. But it was still fun going over the points very briefly from the point of view of a follower of Apollon 😉

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4 thoughts on “To honor all Olympians

  1. I love the idea of having representations of all of them on a main altar. It seems pretty simple now that you mention it, but I have been struggling to find ways of bringing some of the gods I don’t frequently worship to my attention more often and that somehow hadn’t occurred to me.

    I like what you wrote here. Worshiping Apollo over the past year and a half has helped me to understand other gods and bring them into my practice as well. For me, it’s not that I was relating to him in anything like a monotheistic perspective, but rather before I limited my focus to one, I quickly became overwhelmed in trying to remember everyone right away. Starting with a single deity as a center point and branching out as I found those connections made it much easier and more natural and meaningful. I’m still very new to the religion and sometimes it seems my progress is too slow, but it’s getting there and I think seeing the sort of connections you describe here helped me to move along much faster.

    • Quite so! We are not perfect, and so we shouldn’t expect ourselves to be. I think only a handful of Olympians have actual regular shrines in my household, and many that I don’t particular give any personal worship to outside of what I do at my altar on a daily basis. And I did start out from a similar place which is one of the reasons why I wrote this, because there is nothing wrong with such beginnings and I had hoped it may show an examples of just how connected the Olympians all are to each other to encourage a broader thinking…and also to show that one doesn’t necessarily need to be connected to all the Olympians personally, but if we see how they are connected to what god/dess a person follows, it brings things into place alot easier.

  2. Pingback: Book Review: The Ancient Guide to Modern Life « Writ, Ritual, and Revelation

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