Apollon in the Christianized world: saints, archeangels etc

In a previous post, found here, I explored the most immediate associations of Apollon with Lucifer (likely spawned from his Roman name as Apollo Luciferos) and as a threatening god who crushes superstition, ignorance and other negative attributes that are often used to keep the population under control that are contrary to his nature as a freeing deity. These things illuminate how Apollon’s nature, which would have been fearsome to the medieval church, would have been absorbed into their notions of evil and what is contrary to their god. After writing on this subject I felt I was done exploring a topic that never really captivated my interest very much. However in more recent times the subject seems to come up again from other quarters.

*** I would like to note that I do NOT endorse calling the gods and worshiping the gods under Christianized guise. I say worship them as they are, not how they were dismantled and absorbed into Christianity to make their presence acceptable to the Christian religion.*****

First was in an Orphic group this was posted:

Hymn to Apollo from PGM I:
“O Lord Apollo, come with Paian. Give answer to my questions, lord. O master Leave Mount Parnassos and the Delphic Pytho …(tharr be more) Whene’er my priestly lips voice secret words, First angel of [the god], great Zeus. IAÔ And you MIKHAEL, who rule heaven’s realm, I call, and you, archangel GABRIEL. Down from Olympos, ABRASAX, delighting In dawns, come gracious who view sunset from The dawn, ADÔNAI. Father of the world, All nature quakes in fear of you, PAKERBÊTH. I adjure God’s head, which is Olympos; I adjure God’s signet, which is vision; I adjure the right hand you held o’er the world; I adjure God’s bowl containing wealth; I adjure eternal god, AIÔN of all; I adjure self-growing Nature, mighty ADÔNAIOS; I adjure setting and rising ELÔAIOS: Leave Mount Parnassos and the Delphic Pytho Whene’er my priestly lips voice secret words, First angel of [the god], great Zeus. IAÔ And you MICHAEL, who rule heaven’s realm, I call, and you, archangel GABRIEL. Down from Olympos, ABRASAX, delighting In dawns, come gracious who view sunset from The dawn, ADÔNAI. Father of the world, All nature quakes in fear of you, PAKERBÊETH. I adjure God’s head, which is Olympos; I adjure God’s signet, which is vision; I adjure the right hand you held o’er the world; I adjure God’s bowl containing wealth; I adjure eternal god, AIÔN of all; I adjure self-growing Nature, mighty ADÔNAIOS; I adjure setting and rising ELÔAIOS: I adjure these holy and divine names that They send me the divine spirit and that it Fulfill what I have in my heart and soul. Hear blessed one, I call you who rule heav’n And earth and Chaos and Hades where dwell [Daimons of men who once gazed on the light]. Send me this daimon at my sacred chants, Who moves by night to orders ‘neath your force, From whose own tent this comes, and let him tell me In total truth all that my mind designs, And send him gentle, gracious, pondering No thoughts opposed to me. And may you not Be angry at my sacred chants. But guard That my whole body come to light intact, For you yourself arranged these things among Mankind for them to learn. I call your name, In number equal to the very Moirai, AKHAIPHÔTHÔTHÔAIÊIAÊIAAIÊAIÊIAÔTHÔTHÔPHIAKHA.”

While I am not a huge fan of this later period of mysticism, it does provide a good bit of food for thought of what may have fleshed out the natures of the archangels and saints that drew on his domain to manifest in Christianity. Here we can see in the above text that he is called both Michael and Gabriel. Apollon’s nature and domain is at times very conflicting for those who don’t have more than a cursory understanding of it. I mean no human can really understand the entire scope of who the god is, but for those who are ill informed, incorrectly informed, or basing their information on just a vague cursory glimpse of the god, then it can be understood how this apparently conflicting and ambiguous nature of this god would have been dealt with by assigning different parts of his nature to different heavenly beings. Thus we start with the highest forms of his nature manifesting in the form of two archangels here, as Michael and Gabriel.
The name of Michael apparently refers to the angel as one “who is like god”, wherein we see him in close association with the highest of divine heavenly powers…God, and in early literature was called the “prince of the first rank”, and the protector of the people. This understanding can correspond to notions of Apollon who himself is also declared multiple times as a king, and shares a particularly closely entwined relationship with Zeus, as well as functioning in a very protective/guardian-like fashion. This probably the original lines in which Apollon is drawn into association with Michael, who would later, with Christianity, be attributed much of Apollon’s character and domain. In New Testament myth Michael , in the act of throwing Satan from heaven in the heavenly war, is the conqueror of evil (which explains statuary and iconic images popular of him in which he is depicted slaying a serpent much in similar form of Apollon slaying the dragon Python).
It is quite likely that this New Testament addition, and related imagery, was heavily drawn from Apollon’s nature and myths, and as such as an averter of evil itself. Likewise Michael’s attributes as “commander of the host” is a later interpretation as referring to Michael, perhaps inspired by Apollon as “marshaller of the host.”  As such associations between Michael and Apollon are related to Apollon’s destructive, protective and fairly militaristic nature. That said, in early Christianity Michael was also a caretaker of the sick and as a healer which align to Apollon as a healing god associated with the concept of dispelling/conquering evil influences which illness can be (and often were) considered among. Catholics later added another dimension which is also attached to Apollon’s domain, and that is dealing with death. The difference being primarily though that Apollon in Orphism was a god who determined if a soul of a deceased person was ready to dwell among the gods or to go to Hades, and his historical worship in association with cemeteries as a protective god of the tomb, whereas the transportation task was largely in the hands of his close brother Hermes. Michael does it all though. Still Michael weighing the souls of whether a soul is to go to heaven or hell in Catholicism does seem to be borrowing from this ancient understanding of Apollon and his domain in nature and the cosmos. Over the years I have come across more than one person who find images of St/Archangel Michael to be perfectly acceptable substitutes for imagery of Apollon. Which honestly I am not sure if I understand since there are many images available for Apollon out there, but perhaps would be acceptable for those who are closet polytheists to have devotional areas that don’t tip off visitors and/or family members to the nature of their religious beliefs.
The associations of Apollon with Gabriel don’t make a lot of sense at first glance as Gabriel is largely a messenger which makes one think…ah Hermes! But the nature of his messages is more oracular, not that they are delivered through an oracle but that Gabriel approaches to give explanation, to give voice and be the voice of god, of gods will. Which does carry over into the New Testament wherein Gabriel relates to mankind the will of god. This is very much like the purpose of Apollon at the oracles in the ancient world, something that according to the Homeric Hymn to Hermes that is solely his property ordained by Zeus (my paraphrase) and that can not be given away. This of course plays into Apollon’s associated with the Right Word/Truth. Generally speaking imagery of Gabriel is not unlike some of the imagery of Apollon, softer, more reflective, and kinder in appearance typically than many other figures. There does seem to be some disagreement though between Old Testament speaking of Gabriel as a man, and the later passage in Luke where he is described as an archangel. Clearly the PGM quoted above draws from the understanding of Gabriel as an archangel. This is of course keeping in mind that both Michael and Gabriel in Orthodox tradition are considered as saints, so the line seems to be pretty wobbly. In the Kabbalah though we see Michael and Gabriel working as archangels in concert with each other, so there may be this ancient idea already established linking Gabriel and Michael, which would make sense in later identifications of them with Apollon.
Gabriel also, like Apollon, seems to be considered with the liminal movement of the soul between life and death. Whereas we have Michael at the end of life, Gabriel is in juxtaposition at the beginning of life, both being places that Apollon presides. Thus myth in which Gabriel selects the new soul ready for birth can be easily seen relating to Apollon Lykeios’ nature as the lord of the twilight, proceeding death and before birth. The largely New Testament, one that was quite a bit later in showing up, idea of Gabriel’s Horn to signal the return of the lord can be chucked up to being symbolic of the voice of the god, and Gabriel’s relationship to sound, although in Islamic texts this is ascribed to another archeangel, but the symbolism borrowed by Christianity to be attributed to Gabriel is quite likely influenced by Apollon as the voice of Father Zeus.
But when speaking of the archangels we must too address Raphael, whose name means God Heals, even though he is not discussed in the PGM, because this archangel who is charge of all diseases bears a startling relationship to Apollon, and something which we find Apollon being related to another saint for. I am actually honestly surprised that with the inclusion of Michael and Gabriel in the PGM as identifies of Apollon that Raphael was left out, but this may be because of the popularity of Apollon’s son Asklepios for matters of healing, even though Proclus identified Asklepios as being contained within Apollon even as Dionysos is contained within Zeus. Or perhaps it wasn’t seen as a relevant edition? Or perhaps it is because unlike Michael and Gabriel he doesn’t have an ambiguous saint/archangel confusion going on? Who knows.  But his healing and binding of harmful spirits is very much in the character of Apollon. Imagery of Raphael with a fish represents the use of parts of the fish in the book of Tobias. However the fact that the New Testament does not include mention of Raphael, and only mention of Michael and Gabriel as archangels may be a strong indicator of what was going on in mingling of early Christianity and polytheism mystically if New Testament all but ignored Raphael. It is perhaps even more possible that Raphael is not included because the understanding of Apollon’s healing has more to do with harmonization and destruction of evil which could be understood in relation to Gabriel and Michael already.
In any case, Raphael forms a particular close triad with Michael and Gabriel (although unlike the latter two Raphael/Israfil is the only one widely accepted as an archangel), one which may suggest that these three archangels could have been understood as embodying three divisions of Apollon’s domain as we can see apparently given by Plato in Cratylus when discussing the names of Apollon….one as archer (which suggests the destructive and militaristic nature of Apollon in which his arrows are used mythically and therefore aligns with Michael), one who arranges harmonic movement of bodies (alluding to the harmonic nature of Apollon’s “voice” and as Musagetes, as well as oracular god which could align to concepts of Gabriel), and as washer (as a healing god, which could align to concepts of Raphael.)
Of course things get more interesting when you turn towards saints which are comparatively much later editions to Christianity than the archangels. It is typically with the saints that you see the gods most creatively being borrowed from not only to fulfill human needs but also to convey natural domains that cannot be ignored as existing despite ignoring the gods themselves.
One such saint that is associated strongly with Apollon is Saint Sebastian. However since there is already a pretty interesting article written regarding the relationship (especially iconic) between the healing saint Sebastian and Apollon, I will not go into discussion about him but just provide a link here to the article.
However, there is another saint which can be associated well with Apollon, that has apparently never occurred to anyone since I haven’t found any mention as of yet of it on the web, and that is Saint Christopher. To understand this relationship we have to understand that Apollon himself is a boatman. He not only led by boat his first priests from Crete to Delphi, but has also had devotional monuments made of him grasping the helm of a boat, and even more so importantly with his connection to harbors in many instances in his cult/worship. Saint Christopher is often seen as a protector of travelers, but not so much in the manner in which Hermes was a protector of travelers, but rather because he served in relation to the vessel of transportation, rather like the association between Apollon and the boats. What can be further expounded on the relationship between Saint Christopher and Apollon is actually I think the most compelling, especially when we consider the relationship between Apollon and Dionysos and the epithet of Apollon as bestower of Dionysos, is the myth that came out of Hellas in which Saint Christopher carried a child across (which we see in imagery of Saint Christopher). To understand how this is important we have to remember that Saint Christopher was one who had singularly devoted himself to serving the highest king (god)–which should sound familiar alone as much of Apollon’s nature, though he is called himself a king, is based on his service to his father–and in such manner acted to transport the helpless and weak across a dangerous river (much like Apollon aiding travelers across the sea on a much smaller scale, though a great number of rivers and springs were associated with Apollon and his worship). And so in the instance where he carried the child that is so common in his icons, he carried a child of such weight and upon crossing discovered that he carried the divine child. In Christianity this divine savior child is called Jesus, in Hellenic religion it is Dionysos. The child then informs Christopher that he did a great good by carrying the weight of all the world and god upon his shoulders to safety, even as Apollon bestows Dionysos to the world who is salvation of man.
There may be other saints that can be associated with Apollon that I have yet to come across, but it appears to me that Christianity hijacked Apollon, turning that which was luminous, beautiful and enlightened into the representation of evil, aligning two (or three if you want to include Raphael) portions of his domain, and two saints to reflect other, perhaps slightly minor, roles of Apollon’s nature.
In the end this is an interesting study of how Apollon has continued to manifest despite constraints imposed on him by a predominantly foreign religion, but one I do not advocate in following. If you love Apollon, follow Apollon and celebrate in his images. The archangels and saints seem by far less necessary to me.
***Please note that I am not saying that the archangels and the saints are really Apollon or came from Apollon. The names of the archangels are recognized as having come from during the time of the Babylonian captivity. That these archangels were recognized early on as being the same as Apollon is fact as per the hymn I quoted above, as such it could have impacted the development of how these angels were perceived in Christianity. Obviously the sncreticism was already otherwise in place. As for the saints, in their appearance in early Christianity they often took over characteristics and needs that are part of the gods’ domains and personalities. Just because the gods are not being acknowledged doesn’t mean that these domains and personalities are not still apparent in the world, and that the needs they fulfilled weren’t still needed. Such has often been redistributed with the appearance of new saints. But I do NOT advocate treating them as they are Apollon. ****
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5 thoughts on “Apollon in the Christianized world: saints, archeangels etc

  1. Pingback: Apollon in the Christianized world: saints, archeangels etc | ChristianBookBarn.com

  2. Okay, I know this most likely wasn’t your goal, but reading this it almost sounds like you’re saying the Archangels were all based off Apollon. On the Saints part it is less leaning towards that, but to me that’s really what it sounds like. And it kind of pisses me off, irrationally I suppose since that probably wasn’t your goal. So yeah, sorry but that’s what it sounds like to me.

    • Not at all, what I am saying is that Apollon’s domain has likely influenced the personas of these beings. I think I said somewhere, or was my intention to say so (maybe I deleted it during editing) that the archangels were named during after jewish capitivity in Babylon. However, that two of these archangels were recognized anciently as being the same as Apollon (as per the quote I gave), which may have influenced how this archangels were viewed in the development of Christianity. Same with the saints, who often took on characteristics of the domains and personalities of the gods that were previously around, serving much of the same functions. Saints and archangels as representing divine powers is not a new idea. That is all. Sorry if it pisses you off.

  3. There’s definitely influences of various gods in various of the archangels, I’ve noticed. I love reading about the similarities and the overlaps; it reminds us that, despite what we think about people being so old fashioned and uncivilized back in the day, they were in close enough contact to be influenced on mythic levels by other cultures and to influence right back. There’s some overlap between St. Nicholas and Poseidon, in the Mediterranean realms, which cracks me up to no end because of the overlap between St. Nicholas and Odin in the more northern climes. (They ARE the same after all that! Who knew??) (no I don’t really think that, but we did have a prominent Odin’s woman try to convince us/me years ago that Odin was ultimately a stepped down version of Poseidon . . . )

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