Apollon’s Mastery

Since posting yesterday there was a point I had left out that I wanted to revisit today. I have said in a tweet on twitter that Apollon, as a master, isn’t ruled by fear, and this is what makes him a god of excellence in using fear. Thus as Paian he banishes the fear from those who invoke him before battle, and in such capacity he is acting as the Marshaller of the Host, and drives fear into the enemies. He is able to use and direct fear, and is himself not ruled by fear or really any passion or feeling. Therein lies much of his mastery. He is not a god who gets carried away with, or ruled by his emotions. There is just one exception in myth which speaks a great deal of the necessity Apollon’s mastery in that it highlights an instance where the god is without control. And that is the myth of Daphne. There we see the god in the first brilliance of his youth, probably shortly after slaying Python (for which we get the god traveling to his sacred laurel in the festivals of Stepteria in the Tempe valley) who encounters Eros, and being young and not yet in the knowing of certain things, mocks him for his small bow. Apollon is effectively mocking the power of love. Because of this mockery Eros stings him with his arrow causing Apollon to fall in love with the nymph Daphne. She, however, flees from him and ends up transforming into a laurel tree (in some versions of the myth it is because her father transforms her, and in others Gaia receives her as the ground swallows her and a tree sprouts from the spot where the earth parted beneath her. Apollon, embraces the tree and takes the leaves of the laurel into his keeping as his most sacred symbol which we see in association with him in hands of his oracle, the Pythia, as well as in any scene of purification.

It is from this point we can see the manifestation of the god who does not distain tender feeling and emotion, but by recognizing its power he is able to achieve mastery over his emotion rather than having it rule him. And we certainly see no real instance in myth with the god getting carried away like this again. He loves and cherishes, but he is not ruled by it. Nor do we see him particularly ruled by any other passion. One might say that his struggle with Herakles over the tripod, which the hero attempted to steal from the god, and only by the power of Zeus were Athena, Leto and Artemis able seperate the pair from their struggle. But I would say that the quarell displayed in the myth really doesn’t strike me as the god being swept up in some rage, but rather brutally refusing to allow what is a part of his rule, really a part of himself to be stripped from him. Certainly Apollon seems quite agreeable otherwise towards Herakles, which also indicates that whatever kind feeling he may have does not negate his retaliation when a wrong is committed…which leads up in turn to why Herakles attempted to steal the tripod because, due to the murder he committed, Apollon (via his priest) refused to speak to him. That not even his mother, Leto, nor his sister, Artemis, both of whom he is very fond, could cajole him from his struggle, adds to that unswaying focus of his. What was being committed way at the heighest level of against divine will, for we see in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes that Apollon says to his brother that he cannot give him his prophecy because this was something imparted on him by Zeus and essentially that none other than he may have this office. Therefore that Herakles was attempting to steal it was a direct offense towards this. And Apollon is a god who acts swiftly towards offenses towards law, injustice, oath breaking, lawbreaking etc. He acts towards necessity, and what is decreed by Zeus, the king of the heavens. Which we also see in the Iliad that Apollon could not be moved, even with the mocking of his twin, to fight his uncle, Poseidon, for all that he fought on the side of Troy it was not for any great particular personal reason, but rather that it was the will of the heavens (the will of Zeus) that he do so. Apollon effectively seperates himself from taking sides for any personal agenda, but rather does what is deemed as right. Even his actions against the Aegeans which riddled them with plague for the offense towards his priest were less about personal resentment, and more about punishment for following with traditional proceedures of ransom for one man’s vanity and self-glorification. And when the situation was corrected, the torment ended in following with his impartial relationship. The thing is, that though he is a god who is sympathetic towards humanity, which we see when Zeus was determined to start over and Apollon petitioned on our behalf with his music, he is also a god that is distant. We must go to the mountain, or the swamp, or across the sea (so to speak, I am not saying literally go), to seek him. He loves, but is not ruled by that love. We have to come to him, and as we approach and spiritual absorb his essence, we come to a likeness of him through the love of devottee and god.

However, he is rarely swayed by tenderness of feeling…and those few who he has gone out of his way for in myths are those who have earned by being exempliary figures..such as Admetus who was a wise and fair king loved by his people, and Creousis who was taken from Libya to Hyperborea. But this expliary state is a spiritual state, that as we are enlightened and become more spiritual evolved, that we too will be blessed in the end. For, althought Hyperborea is considered rooted in a physical place and people, it is also a spiritual place, the blessed garden of Apollon to which the swans of Apollon (the divine musicians of the god), upon singing their swan’s song at the end of their mortal existance, I consider to be then as Hyperborean swans. Just as Hyakinthios, the deified prince beloved by Apollon, was depicted carried upon a swan. It is appropriate then that this far place is the second home of the god where he is said to spend half of the year away from humanity….and yet I have also found these winters to be a time of profound personal connection as I too move on another level mentally , emotionally. I am in a sense internally across the far mountains. Winter is often a time of profound internal spiritual work for me, whle during the summer I tend to be less internalized and connecting with the world around me more.

Thus the mastery of our own spiritual songs of our evolving soul is aligned to the domain of the god which is all about the mastery of the self. And thus we see with the myth of Herakles, who, through his labors after a bit of a clumsy beginning in life, achieved such high mastery that he joined the gods. It seems of little wonder that the temples of Herakles and Apollon in Thebes were directly across from each other, and I can just imagine the daphnephoria carried out every spring in celebration of the god who receives the victor, just as he receives the victors of the games. For he or she who achieves mastery is the victor…the victor of the self in the contest of the lives that we pass through.


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