Apollon, the Great Dragon

Aside from being the wolf, and the goat horned god, Apollon takes a most unlikely form.. that of a dragon, or great serpent. I believe that this is most especially his guise as guardian, most particularly of tombs  for instance, and oracular god. It is as the great serpent that he is coiled, ungulating, at the the boundaries of all things.

 We may consider first he less commonly known mythic origin from Crete, perhaps more specifically a Doric origin myth in Crete that came onto the island with Apollon and the Doric colonists who established sacred cities to the god, in which Apollon is not the son of Zeus, but rather of Corybas, the dark dragon. As the son of Corybas, Apollon struggled with Zeus, but upon the victory of the latter, Apollon yeilded to the great bull, the chthonic serpent. The marked contrast exists here that whereas Zeus, and Dionysos, have funerary and birth mysteries as the serpent bull repeatingly fathering himself, Apollon is eternally renewing himself that we find playing out in his purification myths and ceremonies. He sheds away the skin and renews.

His more popular mythic heritage points this no less. We find his grandfather Koios, the axis the heavens depicted in an ancient stellar poem as a great heavenly dragon whose glaring eye was the axis. Alternate myths where Apollon inherits Delphi from his grandmother Phoebe (seated at the axis of the earth) may suggest some telationship between her and the dragonness Delphyne, especially if we take Aesychlus at his word that Themis and Ge are one and the same, this would imply that a necessary contest  took place for Apollon to be so gifted. Thus giving a different perspective of a particular vasr painting in which Apollon is seated before Delphyne who is before him with her hands presented in a humanoid Echidnar type of form. It hardly seems a coincidence given that Apollon was responsible for sending another Echidnae-like dragon to devastate a village. This would account for the close identity of Apollon with Python, and the appearance the dragonness in art as a kind of guardian daimon of Apollon’s precinct. I believe that by slaying her he assisted her in a transformation of her own. This would account for the punishment and cleansing tjat resulted as shedding the blood of kin was unforgivable (ask Orestes…as a note interesting how Apollon demonstrated in that myth the favoring of higher law that grants for necessity rather than the old law if the Erinyes. That Apollon was nursed by Themis makes him possessing a direct lineage to law). This would be an important feature of his purifications, his own suffering, and the libations and flute song Apollon offers to Delphyne. This descendance of dragons is further highlighted by Leto who was seen to be the same goddess as the Egyptian Wadjet in Greek opinion. 

Of course Delphyne should be held distinct from another Python, a male which pursued Leto and was slain. This Python is the son of Ge, Tityus. Yet we know he had sacred observances around the time of the Stepteria festival, the crowning festival. That Delphi has two traditions that seem to occur simultaneously, one of which a serpent was burned (Delphyne) and another of armed combat between between men (Tityus) would indicate two mysteries ongoing. One of which Apollon becomes a master by defeating the dragonness, and the other being a spring rite in contest of two male powers before Apollon returns to Delphi. Tityus seems here to me to be as Dionysos whose grave is held as sacred by Delphi’s neighbor as that of Dionysos at Delphi. It would reason while the flesh of his grandmother was offered up to become the earth, Tityos as Python has a grave, the same grave of Dionysos it would seem.

It reasonable then that Apollon is the dragon guardian of the grave of Dionysos as he seems to appear in the Orphic Argonautika. I will be going into this in more depth as I am writing my booklet the Serpents of Delphi in my Apollonian series . In the picture below Delphyne coils around a serene Apollon




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