I don’t often talk about the product of the early Church’s demonization of cultural gods that they came into contact with, I tend to leave that for folks who are more passionate on that subject. But I wanted to take a moment to discuss something that has been floating around in my mind for the last several months. Previously I have refrained from blogging it because it was nothing more than loose random thoughts, however in light of a conversation that I had today I decided it was time to address it because with many converts coming from Christianity into the worship of the gods there is often, especially among those who are coming as adults, a kind of influence that plays a part, even if on a sub-conscious level, which may influence how we are understanding and building our relationships with the gods. So it is helpful to be aware of where some negative impressions one may have of Apollon, can come from.
I am rather convinced that a lot of problems that some folks have with building a relationship with Apollon and giving him worship has to do with the fact that Apollon is one of the gods that has been the most brutally demonized by the Church. Not only is his name used for a demon who ruled one of the circles of Hell (Apollymi, from which Apollon’s name is believed to have sprung even in classical times), though this is largely unknown, but what is most apparent is the blatant commonality that Apollon shared with the Christian concept of Lucifer. There is no doubt in my mind that a new worshiper when exposed to the myths and cult of Apollon is being influenced subtly by these associations which can cause a rather averse reaction. Whenever I speak of Lucifer I have give a pause for a moment so I don’t confuse myself. You see when I think of Lucifer I don’t think of him in the Christian sense. I think of the roman god of light as Lucifer in Latin was equivalently of the same meaning of Phosophoros, it refers to the Light Bearer. This being an epithet of Apollon, Hekate, Artemis and Helios. Thus Apollo, when Romanized, was referred to as Apollo Luciferos and his twin as Diana Lucifera. The name of Lucifer has no other pre-Christian origins other than as a name from the old Roman Religion, but was one that was clearly quite intentionally adopted by the Church in their creation of the evil opponent of their god. This Lucifer, and the idea of hell, is entirely an original Christian concept that worked as an effective tool. How better to gain a significant footing against the native religion where they sprung among the Hellenes, then by turning one of the most noble gods, a god of Truth and Light, into their Father of Lies. Certainly to preach that the oracular god was a liar and that no truth was to be had from the oracles would have had, over time, an impact on the oracles themselves until they finally closed their doors.
That is not to say that Apollon is the only god that was consumed into the persona of the Christian Lucifer, but rather he is the most prominent one, and I shall explain why. First and foremost, aside from being a light-bearer, we have to acknowledge that among the gods Apollon is the only one who, on his own, dared open rebellion against Zeus, the father and king of gods. Though Apollon is also a king in his own right, Zeus is the highest king and has authority, and though Apollon is credited as being perhaps the closest favored child of Zeus, Zeus did not hesitate to cast his son from the company of the gods. Sound familiar? A favorite son rebelling and being cast out of the heavens? However in the Hellenic myth this is a temporary punishment. Zeus was going to throw his son into the depths of Tartaros, but Leto intervened on their son’s behalf and curbed his anger so that Apollon was only exiled for a period of one divine year (that would be 10 mortal years), which he spent as a slave of King Admetus serving as his shepherd.
And though we also have Pan, and Zeus, who bear resemblance to rams and goat, this too is common in depiction of Apollon among the Doric people where the worship of Apollon Karneios was widespread. Indeed, unlike Pan, Lucifer in medieval woodcuts doesn’t often have the lower torso of a goat, but rather a monstrous face bearing horns, often with the resemblance of those of a ram, though winged (despite the fact that they are not bird wings typically) and bearing talons like a bird. It may be merely coincidence that Apollon was highly aligned with falcons and ravens/crowns, but it seems a great coincidence to have this particular iconographic stylization widespread in medieval woodcuts featuring the devil. Also, when it comes to iconography, Apollon is likewise on many occasions depicted as taking the form of a serpent, perhaps one of the more famous biblical images that children are familiar with in regards to the corruption of Adam and Eve when Lucifer takes this form. Usually such iconography doesn’t deter pagans…in fact typically it is quite the opposite as the idea of “reclaiming” is a popular one.
Another factor is the part of Apollon with initiations into mysteries in which he is the leader of the initiates, leader of the “chorus” rather, that bears something of a twisted similarity with ideas of the witches sabbats with women coming to gathering in unholy communion of worship where they are often assembled around the devil, who is both who they give worship to and also in the form of an instructor. There are of course also images that are typical in which the witch is carried off by Lucifer on his horse. The emphasis tends to be that the witch trades her soul in order to gain unholy knowledge from Lucifer that she uses to perform her malevolent acts.
It is of course striking that the emphasis on Lucifer often begins with the corruption by the acquisition of knowledge. This is of course contrary to anything that would have been idealized in Hellas and among Hellenes. Apollon as the god of Truth, the right word, would have a pivotal for acquiring knowledge, and that education and understanding the will of the heavens was a blessed thing….and thus his association with philosophy as a love for wisdom is perhaps best understood in this context, as would have been anything in relation to the sciences as he is the leader of the muses who govern the arts and sciences. Yet all of these things were treated by the early Church with a measure of paranoia. Science had to agree with religious text, there was no thinking outside of the box, thus it is of little surprise that Lucifer became equated with those who pursued liberal thinking outside of the confines of scripture. It became another manifestation of Lucifer’s rebellion, and perhaps why he was eventually embraced by some as a symbol for freedom, for the realization of the divine potential of the self. He was liberation from the Canonical laws of the church, and a doorway into knowledge of the world and of the self.
This idea is not unlike the function of Apollon for he is a god of the boundaries and it is through him that we may escape the mortal cycles and its confines. Apollon is also a god of the principle of freedom as in this same manner he frees and through death he purifies, and leader of the Muses he extolls the exploration of the world and the acquisition of knowledge. For he himself is a bringer of divine knowledge and via the Muses he sends forth divine inspiration. Apollon Phosphoros/Apollon Luciferos is the bringer of light to the mind, the bringer of enlightenment. Something which likely terrified the early incarnations of the Church, and probably still does. This nature is not one that is adversarial against the heavens, truth, order and nature. The early Church tried to make it one, and some still fall under that delusion that there is something of an adversarial thing going on, and perhaps against the superstition there is for I greatly admire a French Revolution period statue which depicts Apollon, as reason, crushing superstition, shown as a representative of the church. This sums up the reality of it as far as I understand it. What the church extolls as Lucifer has nothing to do with Apollo Luciferos or Apollon Phosophoros, or any other god of Rome or Hellas, but is rather a creation designed to play upon fears.
These fears, and negative impressions, are only enhanced when encountering some of the more brutal myths of the gods when read literally. Certainly a god who skins his competitor alive looks like a page right from a medieval illustration of some form of Hellish torture rather than a deep spiritual myth. And in following there are those who find in his Light darkness and cruelty that is not part of the god’s nature. Of course then there are those who go entirely the opposite direction. Those who desperately want to keep Apollon as nothing more than a god of oracles, music and light, not wanting to set a single toe in the deeper waters of Apollon’s domain that deal with boundaries, death and decay.
I may expand upon this later but this is what I wanted to address for the time being. Let us leave behind the preconceptions influenced by Christianity, and when experiencing a negative reaction perhaps examine closer the root of this reaction. And moreover let us greet our bright lord ever in celebration that he cannot be conquered.
Hail Apollon Phosphoros!