I have written often of Apollon’s term in Hyperborea. Of course when it comes to the cycles of Apollon in Hyperborea there are scholarly discussions of the god traveling to Hyperborea only once every 9 years, thus uniting it with the 9 year cycle of the original organization of the Pythian Games. This would be before the games were later reorganized in four year periods like those of the Olympic games. Now if these scholars are correct and the games were synchronized with the departure and return of Apollon to Delphi then would have his absence in Hyperborea been moved by the Delphians to coincide with the new date of the games? I don’t think anyone has successful answered this to my satisfaction.
Largely among modern worshipers we honor it as a yearly event, which seems to be inspired by a departure and return which we have from Delos. At Delos we have a mingling of the Hyperborean myth with that of the Lycian myth in which Apollon both returns from Hyperborea, with the maidens, and the Old Man of Lycia is paramount, who not only returns Apollon from Lycia to Delos, but also attends to the building of the temple of Apollon at Delphi with the Hyperborean men (at least one of whom, Agyieus, is Apollon…but quite likely both are used symbolically to represent different manifestations of Apollon as the builder of Delphi). For as most are probably familiar, Leto, after birthing her children on Delos, proceeds to carry them to the Xanthus in Lycia. This journey is also bound up in the tale of the Lycian frogs, as well as the unification of Xanthus with Apollon, Artemis and Leto in the forces preserving Troy in the Iliad.
In Delian tradition, despite its early history with the myth of Hyperborea, we have a yearly departure of Apollon to Lycia, where Apollon had his winter oracle. Thus the year was divided equally between Delos and in Lycia on the division of the year by the equinoxes. I think that this seasonal abode of the god for half of the year is also what is chiefly tied to the idea presented by Pausanias from Arcadia, of Apollon being one of two seasonal gods. This, from spring equinox to the autumn equinox, is the time of the year in which Apollon’s domain is acting in nature the strongest. If I remember correctly the Delian calendar differed from the Attic calendar in that it began its year on the Noumenia following the equinox, whereas in the Doric calendar it followed the autumnal equinox. With the case of Delos this makes particular sense as the year begins with the return of Apollon from Lycia.
Lycia of course has an interesting place in all of this. Like what is speculated of Hyperborea, Lycia is a very real place, but also serves as a kind of spiritual place as well. Apollon when called the one who is born in Lycia, the Lycian lord, refers perhaps less to the physical place Lycia, but rather to that Apollon is born in light (as Lycia, refers to wolf, from which we get the myths of Leto being led to Xanthus by wolves, and light just as much as Apollon’s epithet Lykeios). In all regards we see Lycia being accounted as sacred to Apollon as much as Hyperborea has been attributed. In the Iliad the people of Lycia were considered particularly those people of Apollon in a manner I find common with the views regarding the Hyperboreans.
This is not to suggest that Lycia and Hyperborea are the same place, though descriptions following the Orphic Argonautika and academic studies does suggest a possible link of Hyperborea with eastern Europe following along the Danube river to the North. So it is *possible* that there may have been an idea of a relationship between the eastern Lycians and the Hyperboreans who were said to have traveled initially to Delos. That we have the Old Man of Lycia appearing with the Hyperboreans in Delian myth does give a certain strength to this, as with the arrival of Apollon with the Hyperborean maidens, knowing that Apollon has traveled to Lycia in the Delian cycle. So perhaps it was conceived that Hyperborea was located in close proximity to Lycia, or within reasonable distant to each other that would bring the Lycians and Hyperboreans in company together in their legendary arrival to Delos.
Whether Delphi eventually picked up this yearly calendar of Apollon’s movement from Delos is rather unknown, though most modern worshipers tend to experience and worship it as a yearly event rather than following the Delphic calendar in which Apollon was gone for a year once every nine years. It is possible that Delphi, after the movement of the games, altered their celebrations of the movement of the mythos. I have suggested before that people who want to incorporate both Hyperborea and Lycia in their worship of Apollon can do so without any problems. Either by observing yearly trip to Lycia and then every nine years a Hyperborean trip, or by linking the concepts of the travel to Hyperborea and Lycia. If there is anything in any probability of a relationship between Lycia and Hyperborea then it may make further sense to do so.
We can thus celebrate Apollon who is in abode of the light, where the gardens of Hyerpborea flourish, where the swans sing, where gold deer graze, and there dwelling people beloved by Apollon, in a land abundant in fruits and holy grain in this glorious land. Which has less to do with geography and more to do with ongoing spiritual symbolism and the kingdom of Apollon in general. And as scholars have been confounded by the lack of evidence in the geographical regions that are ascribed to Lycia, or rather a lack of early period evidence of the kind that would back up such a physical transmission, it is quite plausible that Lycia was treated in terms much like that of Hyperborea. Mostly conceptualized in a spiritual direction, inspired by a place and people rather than Apollon literally taking up residence every winter in Lycia. Thus his oracle was therefore probably viewed in the same concept of being “away,” without it actually being moved to another physical location. As such the symbolism between what is going on with Hyperborea and that going on with Lycia is united in its ideology.