PBP: F is for Fire

There are several Hellenic gods connected intimately with fire, and therefore I thought this would be a nice subject for this Pagan Blog Post.

Apollon and Artemis:
I have already spoken of this a bit in my post on Apollon and Ge, but I will summarize the main points. Apollon and Artemis are by their nature fiery deities. They are torch wielders, illuminator and destroyer of darkness, and bringer of revelations. This is not only in the oracular sense with Apollon but by the nature that light of fire reveals reality for which we have the Orphic hymn praising Apollon as a god who reveals the forms (not to be confused as a creator of forms like Hephaistos) of every kind in the world. In this same sense we have Artemis as goddess of the portal in its correlation to the opening of the womb who by her illumination reveals the world to the newly born infant who first opens his eyes at birth. Likewise Apollon Noumenios serves a similar function at the opening of the month, the Noumenia, in which the first light of the moon reveals the beginning of the new month as the moon appears to be born anew. As torch bearers they are connected with the torches of Demeter, Artemis figuring strongly in this as Despoina in the temple of which she was prominently represented as a torch bearing divinity, and in the case of Apollon as the youth who with torch in hand aided the search of Persephone with Demeter. Thus their light illuminates the mysteries to mortals. They are also the destroying principle of fire, the ravenous mouth of flames which devours indiscriminately, as both Apollon and Artemis slay the male and female forms of every kind of life. With Apollon the association of fire directly to this predominant part of his nature is quite expressive in his myths and in poetic narratives about him. He is a god who wields fiery serpent arrows, and is a god who rots, destroying material substance, by harnessing the pure rays of the sun. To read more about the fiery nature of Apollon I would advice to read the post on Apollon and Ge.

Much of what can be said of Artemis in association with fire can also be addressed to Hekate in terms of light of new birth, which is reasonable because she shares many common characteristics with Artemis. However, the primary form in which we see fire connected to her is as a guide. There are those who would also say revealer saying that she reveals the arcane, but as this doesn’t figure much into my understanding of her, I say that her torches serve dominantly to guide of gods and souls, as we find her with her torches guiding Persephone from Hades, and concept of her at the crossroads with her torches where she keeps company with the spirits of the dead.

As I said in my post on Apollon and Ge, I don’t so much as associate her directly as being a fire goddess, but fire is hers by the manner in which she is the sustainer and tender of the fire, she is the hearth, the oikos, sustaining the flaming heart. She feeds the fire constantly as we find her described as dripping oil from her locks of hair. It is thus reasonable to connect her more to the earth which holds within its arms ever churning flames and Hestia as associated with such containing structures as the hearth and oikos is. This is perhaps what brings about her relationship with both Apollon and Poseidon in the myth in which both gods pursue her hand. In one sense a fiery god Apollon, a god of cosmic and terrestrial magmatic flames, who is attracted and seeks union with the goddess of that which loving contains and vitalizes the flames. Given her relationship to the earth via her structural, nurturing and sustaining nature, there is Poseidon who seeks to wrap his arms ever around the earth which encircles the seas (as he likewise mate with Demeter to breed Artemis/Despoina). The saltine nature of the sea also possessing a fiery purifying quality, for which we can also understand how Apollon is likewise connected to the sea.

As said above the sea possesses by its saltine nature a fiery quality, as well as transformative movement of energy. I have often connected Apollon specifically with this aspect of the seas, via the currents, but it is obviously, as being part of Poseidon’s domain, something which must be ascribed to Poseidon. Add to this that Poseidon himself possesses the raw seismic energy as a god of earthquakes, and like Apollon possibly also associated with thermal springs in addition to his associations with various forms of sweet water (fresh water). The closeness of the relationship between Poseidon and Apollon is hinted at in the Iliad, and it seems natural as possessing different kinds of manifestations of fire within their domains.

Zeus is also a fiery god, as nothing can speak so clearly of than the myth of Semele in which his mortal lover burst in flames when she spied upon his true form. The closeness of relationship between Apollon and Zeus not only as father and son, but also as kings, probably rests on this nature of fire and light. Zeus’s fire and light manifests primarily through lightning born of aether….aether being the initial source of light according to texts. From Zeus manifested the first light and the first fire, and from him consequently in myth, Apollon in many versions, is his son. That Apollon is one of few gods who has handled the lightning of his fire is quite telling of this relationship (the other being Athena). In fact the philosophical idea of Poseidon, Zeus and Hades being the three Zeus can relate to this concept of fire as a primary and central element of the cosmos…it is thus found in aether, found in the liquid material of the seas, and within the earth which would tap into the chthonic nature of Hades who himself possesses the riches of the earth which are born from arrangement of elements in the cooling of fiery liquid rock. That Zeus’ foremost enemy Typhon was buried beneath the weight of a volcano can potentially align both Zeus or Typhon with the violent destructive outbursts of the volcano, and yet the creative side of volcanic activity would not be something we would ever associate with Typhon but more likely with Zeus. In a sense when it comes to fire the natures of Apollon and Zeus are closely entwined, something which becomes apparent in the association of Zeus and Apollon with Helios in the Orphic hymns and likewise in their more chthonic guises.

Hephaistos and Athena:
I am addressing Hephaistos and Athena here together for a reason, and that is that they have a particularly unified front when it comes to a particular form of usage of fire: that used by potters. Both Hephaistos and Athena were honored by these artisans. Hephaistos is naturally understandable. The fire has often been called his for the clear reason that among all the gods he most effectively wields fire to a purpose, and has all manner of methods for controlling the output of fire. This is seen in the Iliad when he used his billows to cause such a fire rage at Xanthus that the god suffered painfully as his waters began to dry up beneath the onslaught. Aeschylus in Prometheus Bound likewise calls fire the bright flower of Hephaistos, which seems to refer to the positive application of fire within the hands of the god. As I mentioned in my post in regards to Apollon and Ge, Hephaistos takes fire, even raw fire in the form of magmatic fire, and from the fire fashions every form in nature. Whereas Hestia can be related as much to the kiln as she can be to the hearth, Hephaistos utilizes all the tools at his disposal in order to bring about good things….for which he is appropriately married to Kharis (Grace). Hephaistos is also ascribed a warlike character as he is called the warlike Zeus in Arkadia in association with cult of Hera there, though this is likely due to his fashioning too of armor as he is the favored armorer of the gods, particularly Athena. Athena meanwhile is connected to the nous of Zeus. The nous in itself is connected to the sphere of aether and so she is intimately as well. So it would be of little wonder if she shared a commonality with fires of aether that her father enjoys, particularly as she was born from him alone…and from his mind (the nous) at that. As mentioned above she, like Apollon, is one of few gods who is known to have wielded the lightning bolts of her father. It is perhaps the intellectual fire of the mind associated with Athena that has made her as an alternate pairing with Hephaistos who effectively uses fire constructively. Thus the sharp precision of the mind and the careful tutelage of use of the kiln would have also made them an effective pair of gods to worship together.

Helios is considered in Hellenic religion the purest source of fire. As I have mentioned above, the Orphic hymns associate him to a degree with both Apollon and Zeus that brings a strong sense of importance and royalty in our understanding of Helios. So too does the notion that all sacred fires were lit by using glass beneath the sun, for only the purest flames could be gathered from him for this purpose. the cultic association with Helios and the sea in places such as Rhodes further illuminates the connection between flames and the sea, especially gives that Helios was believed to sink beneath the western waves. Meanwhile Selene gathered to her the emanations of Helios with which her light grew and ceased. That Selene’s light was reflective and utterly dependent on Helios is something mentioned many times in ancient literature. In a sense Helios is the most visible fire god we have and therefore of profound importance to us.

I am sure that there are many others that could be mentioned but these are those that come foremost to mind….and my daughter is nagging me for the computer.


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