the bow and the lyre

On my shrine to Apollon I have set two images. One is the lord Apollon holding up his bow preparing to fire an arrow, and him I have bedecked in the a string of amber chips, which he was said to have wept when he was first exiled to Hyperborea for slaying Python (though other interpretations say he cried the amber when he was exiled to mortal form as caregiver to the herds of Admetus for slaying the Cyclops in retaliation against Zeus for the death of his own son Asklepios). Therefore the beauty of the amber, the result of a great number of spans of time in order to produce this fossilized substance is appropriate to set upon a god who destroys in order to transform. But beside him is another image, somewhat smaller, of the god holdng his kithara upon which he plucks the harmonic chords that turn about the seasons of life. Both of these images are set beside each other and hold a very important emphasis to me as this interconnecte function of Apollon who is destroyer, but whose name also means (if we go by Plato’s Cratylus) harmony. This just demonstrates something that I have said again and again in this blog, but I don’t mind repeating it lol, that the function of destroyer and god of the harmonic balance is inseperable.

They cannot be called two different manifestations, though they are portrayed in art usually very seperately…the god either holds his bow or he holds his kithara, you will not see both represented in the image, perhaps because there is no good way to show him with both since our artistic renditions of the gods of Hellas gives them only one set of hands in a very human limitation. Therefore our artistic representations are even further limited. There have been exceptions to this of course, such as the four eyed statue of Apollon of Sparta, which I believe is attributed to the god’s all-seeing ability that he can peer in four directions. But such samples from Hellenic art are rare. It is more common in our art to represent the gods in the limited fashion of our own mortal forms. In such cases though I wish it was otherwise the case to best show the god holding all interrelated symbols of his office all at once. Because it is not an either/or situation. He is not dependently a god of the kithara who plays sweet music, and then an entirely different manifestation with the bow. The bow and the strings of the kithara are together.

Look at it from one direction. Turn the bow so the draw string of the bow is raised upwards and what do you see? You see a plane (albiet a curved one) with a raised taunt string. When then string is plucked between your fingers it vibrates and hums. It is just not built with the acoustics that instruments have. But we know from music study that stringes of different width and stretched at different lengths makes their own tones. In instruments this is just amplified by the acoustic chamber. Therefore the string of the bow and the each string of the kithara all sing with their own clear notes.

The kithara now is usually an instrument that has, traditionally either five (the number of the sun…and therefore associated with the powers of the sun) strings or seven (an altogether holy number and one greatly associated with Apollon who was born on the seventh day). But it was considered improper to surpass this number of strings. Each string provides a different purpose. We know from the orphic hymns that the chords (the playing of specific combinations of strings) issues forth the different seasons, but through my research I had discovered that each string was a daughter of Apollon. Therefore we see the strings working in unified purpose but also being slightly independent of each other. Each sends forth its own energy which has a different wavelength and different function. Therefore when the bowstring is drawn what is the energy that projects from it? Is it not the energy the propells the arrow. Not for a god who doesn’t have a literal physical form nor a literal physical bow and arrow (or a literal physical kithara) woud it not be unreasonable to suggest the the arrows the bow is propelling is the destroying light/energy of the god resonating on a level that destroys the pollution, darkness, or other illnesses that might attach itself to the soul. It is therefore not seperable for the harmonic balance of the music of his kithara, but is rather an essential part of it.

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3 thoughts on “the bow and the lyre

  1. A further not that could be made is a possible link between the seven strings and the seven notes we use in our modern day (do, re mi, fa, so, la, ti). I don’t know owever in how much this can really be tied to Hellenic thought, as they usually divided music in types like Mixolydian, and Prhygian, and such things. Or perhaps there were either five or seven of those types that existed in Hellenic thought, symbolised by the number of strings…

    • I am not sure of the origins of those notes in modern music but I guess it could be possible. It seems that ancient music though was arranged in chords in the manner in which you speak. It seems like you don’t have a great change in notes (other than making some flat and others sharp in the arrangement by loosening or tightening the string to a certain degree) but rather in how they are played in chords. Justa thought though. I dont consider myself very educated on the topic of ancient music and is just my observation from a small article I once read 🙂

      • I believe the modern note system is Islāmic in origin, though we could make it a modern connection 😉 But I woner if perhaps something like it may have existed in Hellenic antiquity as well.

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