Apollon in the North

In a previous post regarding Poseidon, I had briefly mentioned Alaska as being a land greatly associated with a small handful of gods, namely Poseidon, Apollon, and Artemis…with some agricultural works that makes it necessary to include Demeter in there despite the fact that our growing season is very very short, but alot of plant foods that we enjoy the most are those which are wild rather than cultivated, especially wildberries that grow plentiful and are preserved easily in various forms. However, ecause of our short growing season, if we didn’t have regular access to grocery stores our diets in this part of the world would be ones that rely largely on animal bi-products mixed with what summer vegetation could be preserved. And sometimes mixed together. And this is certainly the case in more far-flung villages that rely on sustinance. In such regard our relationship with certain deities can be a bit different.

One of the most profound deities though, aside from Poseidon, is most certainly Apollon. This is the land of the midnight sun…certainly not refering to winter,  but to the fact that our seasonal division is less agricultural based and more sun-based. It is a bit less extreme in the more southern parts of Alaska, especially in the southeast which has a climate more like that of the Washington area, but in Anchorage where I have spent most of my life I have witnessed here a drastic shift of season by the light where night ruled the winter and the sun ruled the summer…so much so that in the winter when I awoke and went to school it was dark, and then the brief appearance of the sun would be gone again by the time I was out of school for the day. And in reverse the same is true during the summer where the light is shining in sleep and waking. The further north you go, however, the more extreme this case is, so much so that in the arctic circle at the furthest northern landscape of Alaska, the year is literally divided into two solar season….those which are utterly absent of light and extend on as a long unending night, and then those which are filled with the light of the sun. But where I am living in a less extreme version of this. All the same, the idea follows through that this is a land that is seasonally linked specifically the cycles of light, and is something which people feel keenly, especially those inhabitants who experience seasonal depression because of the long dark winters (something I thankfully never suffered from). And I can see the difference even here and now..the changes in only a month that have occured, that at seven pm the sky is as blue and bright as if it were the afternoon.

And I can see the reflection of Apollon everywhere. There are the wolves (the artic wolves, who transition in the color of their pelts with the season, that live in the far northern reaches and the timber wolves of the more southern reaches), the large ravens that call out to everyone throughout the long months of winter. There are the snowy white mountain goats and sheeps that cling to the high cliffs of the mountains (recalling that Apollon enjoys a close association with goats and sheep). And there are the deer-like species that Apollon favors in connection with his twin..the deer of the south, the moose of the interior, and the caribou in the arctic. But most especially there are the swans…the trumpeter , large birds who sing beautifully with a sound reminiscent of a french horn. Every year at the end of April and in May they travel through this part of Alaska on route to their more northernly breeding grounds in the marshlands. And so, even with snow still clinging to the ground, you will see the swans drifting through the icy marshes feeding from the richness that exists in the Alaskan habitat which makes it the perfect location for their summer homes. And so everywhere, all of my life, I have seen the signs of Apollon, even as I followed Artemis in my youth. For Alaska is place loved by Artemis too as it is teaming with life, and is full of animals and wildspaces, that allowed me as a child to rush through the woods in joyful celebration of her. It should be of little surprise that there are native cultures in Alaska who honor a kind of divine huntress, which is seen among the Inuit for example. Aside from a small dairy farm it is generally not really a place of livestock. The exception would be bees for many people favor raising bees here. And so Alaska is tied to her, but we turn our minds and hearts to Apollon and to the light, and to the rising and setting of Helios and the play of Aurora, and all the starry goddesses for in few other places do the stars shine quite so brightly!

That Alaska is sun/light and sea centered we can see primarily from the native myths of the land. The most wellknown of which is that of Raven stealing the sun, or rather stealing light which became the sun, moon etc. This is common in all parts of Alaska and the raven (a bird also sacred to Apollon) is perhaps one of the most important mythical creatures, though the native Raven’s wily nature seems more akin to what we would expect from Hermes. Regardless this focus on raven as the bringer of light and illuminating the darkness of an eternal night is very revealing about Alaska’s cultural relationship with light. Something which is possessed by the natives particularly but also becomes part of the understanding of those who settle in the state. Raven is also of the spirits the most sympathetic towards humans and has almost Prometheus character for those who care to examine the diverse Raven myths from the different cultures in Alaska. Some examples can be found here. Aside from the Raven we also have the Eagle, who is essentially as a fisherman and via catching fish was believed by some groups to deliver from famine..by provision from the sea and streams. Alaskan native totem images can be very telling about what was considered important within the culture and is an interesting component of study to get an understanding of what kind of divinities are associated with this land. And the most famous of them is Raven who brings gifts to humanity and light to the world.

Even in the darkest depth of winter Alaska is blessed with the brightest of lights. What a beautiful garden of Apollon we have here, that even with the long stretches of winter snow it is like a crystalline garden of white, in which under the sun the snow reflects a prismatic shimmer of color upon it (something so subtle that I have yet to successfully capture it with a camera). It is a crisp and cool garden of purity and moisture. A land of winds too over which Apollon Telchinus who masters the wind storms delights. For we are the land of Boreas, and yet every five years the southern wind via El Nino comes up, and I associate it especially with an almost spring-like warmth in the midst of January, and generally is a warmer period lasting for 7-9 months, and occassionally as long as 2 years of warmer weather. That, of course, is not something that is being experienced this year as the weather is wetter (much more snow) and colder this year than it has been in recent years. But still the interaction between the north and south winds is an interesting thing, and we often get strong wind storms here that bring down trees (such a windstorm doing some damage to my brother’s car when a tree and brushed it). This may be no Hyperborea, but it is definently one of his beautiful gardens in the world!

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