One thing that doesn’t nearly get very much attention is the connection that Apollon has to the sea. In a previous post, here, I discussed connection that Apollon has to dolphins, frogs and fish…all aquatic animals. Not to mention his numerous associations with various rivers and streams that leaves us with a strong aquatic element present in his worship that cannot be ignored…and one that makes sense in the terms of a god of light as light moves in a fashion similar to the movement of currents and waves of water. The nature of light, and sound (which is also associated so strongly with Apollon as a god of music), is mutable and fluid.
The waterways is also perhaps the first imagery of journeying as we see gods on boats that travel between worlds in various mythologies that likely predate the use of roads. The boat on the water is a great symbol for the journey of the soul, one which is echoed in images of Dionysos in the pirate ship and the heroic journey of the Argonauts etc. This is particularly evident in the tale of the Cretan sailors that Apollon guided in the form of a dolphin and established as his priests at Delphi, and the purpose that the dolphin serves heavenly with the coming of spring on which the Delphinia may have some loose connection. As a god of boundaries, and a god who presides over the law of death and is a god of new beginnings, it is natural that Apollon has a close relationship with the sea, or perhaps more specifically its fertile and destructive movement, and its creatures (though more often as in the case of the dolphin, the frog, and even the turtle which he took the form of in the case of one seduction, are creatures that do not live in the depths but rather the the shallower coastal waters and freshwaters where they have access to the surface and where the sea-life is richer where the sunlight penetrates to the floor.)
This reaffirms Apollon’s association with water to be very fertile-based and evolutionary growth which is part of the journeying. The image at Delphi of Apollon holding the prow of a ship (which was dedicated to him after a naval victory) is quite meaningful in many levels as the god who travels through the sea, and a god who shares a particularly close relationship with Poseidon. It is Poseidon with whom Apollon was supposed to war against in the Iliad, it is with Poseidon that Apollon cooperatively worked with in the building of the walls of Troy, and it is with Poseidon that Apollon mythically traded sacred vicinities. They share an interlocked domain between the god of the vast depths of the seas, and the god who moves as the seas fertile and destructive forces.
Apollon as Telchinios refers a great deal to this, even though I have written of Telchinios in the case mostly referring to wind storms which I more often think of it in the context of, in a more accurate context in our knowledge of the Telchines as those beings that had powers over the winds and seas, we must include the powers of the sea connected with the epithet Telchinios. On a personal note, as someone who experienced Hurricane Katrina I can say I have a strong appreciation for this forces that began in New Orleans the first time I walked home during a tropic storm. But Hurricane Katrina gave me true respect for this awesome power. And I would certainly like to think that Apollon, who I first began to truly establish relationship with during the period I lived in New Orleans, I can give thanks to for our safe exit out of New Orleans as someone just happened to wake up (despite how late we were all up the night before) to hear the mandatory evacuation alert, and when our car broke down in Mississippi we were fortunate enough that the police just happened to past by as at that moment in their final sweep to give us a ride to a hurricane shelter…happy coincidences that make me give thanks to Apollon Telchinios still today). Light, wind, and sea….their movement is common and within their movement (and their combination with each other) lies their power.
The sea becomes an accurate symbol of Apollon’s creative and destructive movement, and his action on the world in the same vein as the symbol of the sun’s light which nourishes the world and destroys and rots. And rotting is an important part. It is the decomposition part which links to Apollon’s protection of the cemetaries. Decay is necessary to release the soul from the physical bonds…and both light and water hurries forth decomposition. I have often liked the image of the sun rising, or setting, over the sea (and from what I can tell many people out there do too) because it touches something in my mind and heart. Myths of the sun and moon bathing in the sea as the sink into the west and prior to rising in the east reinforce this feeling. They are a powerful link to each other, and both together an important visual symbol of Apollon’s domain.