Apollon the swine-herd, boars and Adonis

In a previous post I had written a bit about the relationship of the boar with Apollon here, but I decided that I wanted to continue more specifically in the relationship of Apollon as the swine-herd, as per his role as the leader of the mystic chorus/initiates, and in versions of his involvement in the death of Adonis. I feel I am writing this post a bit out of season since it is still some months away until Adonia, but all the same I write when inspiration grabs me, even if the topics are far afield of seasons and celebrations that they are related to!

Though frequently Euboleus is confused with Dionysos, usually via Iakkhos. Observations that had been made in antiquity that there were two Iakkhos is likely referring to Euboleus in the second context. One thus being a child of Dionysos, and the other a son of Demeter and “twin” (in a loose mystic sense as she is called in her Orphic hymn as being the feminine double) of Misa. These are the torch-bearers, leader of the mystics and initiates. Euboleus is also in the Hellenic text of the Orphic hymns the child who accompanies Demeter in her travel. I have made a great many references in the past in regards to the relationship between Apollon and Demeter as per the growing season, season in general, that it would be a bit laborious to put links up to them all, but I am working on condensing this in my essay for the Demeter devotional. In any case you have here Euboleus the swine-herd, and the god of the ploughed earth, the earth-clod, which rings a certain familiarity in context of the mystic relationship between Admetus and Apollon, for Apollon herded the beasts and tended to the lands of Admetus.

The symbolism of the boar in the myth in which Apollon aided Admetus (who incidentally was one of the heroes who participated in the hunt of the Calydonian Boar) in yoking a boar and lion to his chariot in his effort to win Aclestis for his bride (the same Aclestis who returns from the dead in the play of Euripedes by her name) is rather telling in my opinion. I have spoke in a previous post about the context of Apollon in myths of divine brides (here), this is a similar myth in construct. Thus we see Apollon as herder in effect, not only of cattle, or goats and sheep which are normally connected with the divine by their horned nature, but also a swine-herd with its chthonic symbolism. This also explains reasons why during the Proerosia that Apollon is twice offered sacrifice, once of a goat (or ram, my memory is confusing them here) and a second time with a boar. This same formula is also followed with Zeus during this festival interestingly enough, but I think that it is dealing largely with Apollon as Euboleus, his relationship to the leader of the initiates/leader of the chorus (which is directly attributed to Apollon, even by Diodoros Siculus when describing the roots in the Egyptian mysteries calls Apollon the leader of the chorus for Dionysos/Osiris), and the substation of the pig for the person in their initiation sacrifice at Eleusis. For it is well known that all that was required for initiation into the mysteries was the cost for the piglet, a creature also sacrificed to Apollon Noumenios as protector of the domestic household.

In such respect if we consider Apollon as swine-herd in the sense of initiate-death/sacrifice then we can probably see how versions of the myth of Adonis feature Apollon as being responsible for the boar. In a mythic sense this can be that he is acting on part of his twin’s ire, which is not uncommon in the myths of the twins to do so for each other as we see Artemis doing the same against Coronis. For there are myths that attribute the death of Adonis occurring in the end because Aphrodite, by her arts, robbed Artemis of the youth she loved, Hippolytus. Yet if we step away from that construct, which is important but isn’t really pertinent to this particular post, it is the relationship of Apollon with swine that is perhaps the strongest here, for it is as swineherd that he is sending forth the boar (which can just as much be associated with Ares on a different level) to destroy the youth. Of course Apollon is said mythically to have changed himself into a boar out of anger against Aphrodite for killing his son Erymanthus, but as the precinct carries his name it seems more like a mythic device which connects the myth to the geography and the Erymanthus river and mountain. Adonis himself is mystically sacrificed. That the Adonia celebrating the death of Adonis occurs in the summer we have a kind of link being played out which preludes the descent of Kore as he dies in the time of the wheat harvest, and parallels the death of Hyakinthos, who also dies with the summer heat. In both cases we have the hero-youth who dies prematurely (before the season) and is deified, just as Aclestis too is cut down before her season and returns wearing the crown of Persephone. The deification of heroes by sacrifice I feel has some connection to the idea behind the initiation practices that by their own symbolic sacrifice they are elevating themselves to enjoy the blessed fields of Elysium.


One thought on “Apollon the swine-herd, boars and Adonis

  1. Pingback: PBP: E is for Eleusis and Elaphebolia | Beloved in Light

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