An Exceptional Understanding of Apollon in Siva Nataraja

I have written before regarding Apollon and Siva, but as I am continuing my studies with Saivism this has been becoming more profound in insights I have gained. The cultural Hellenic understanding of Apollon is beautiful and profound in itself, yet when I see him through Siva, my understanding gains new depths of himself in a greater form that is beyond cultural understandings of the god in all his forms. The most striking moment for me as of yet is when I was reading Dancing with Siva and I came to the portion on the symbolism of Siva’s dance. Apollon as a divine musician and dancing god in his own nature, the lord of the weaving Crane Dance of Theseus at Delos, the excerpt on the dancing form of Siva shows itself to be the most relatable for a worshipper of Apollon when it is broken down.

Perhaps the only lack of real clarity is the drum of Siva. This is because as far as I have seen, drums were not significantly important to worship of Apollon. In some ways I can see where some folks would see Siva as containing both Apollon and Dionysos within him, as drums were significant in the worship of Dionysos, as well as in the worship of Rhea/Cybele from whom he likely inherited the drum. It is unfortunate that we do not know more about the Apollon of Crete, or really very thorough information of the Doric Apollon (as it is believed that the Doric people brought his cult to Crete) as there may be significant thing to this father of the Korybantes, this son of Korybas, that was not commonly shared through other parts of Hellas. What is apparent is that despite the lack of the drum, the harmonic vibrations of Apollon’s domain serves much similar purpose as the drum operates….provision of rhythmic order….this in itself can represent the issuing forth of creation as the drum of Siva represents. That creation itself is an act of order from chaos as we find in the illumination of Phanes who divides the substances that creation is born in the cosmic egg. This brings me greater understanding here in which my lord, who is lord of the axis, is central dance of harmony and order. A lord of the gateway through which life passes into new life….an ever renewing cycle. For as the drum, or rather the vibrations of lord of Apollon which is more commonly represented as the lyre, reminds us that as he is directs harmony, nothing ends or stops. Everything is always in motion. Energy doesn’t just die and disappear. It continues on its movement, transforming and changing, but unceasing. Apollon as lord of the tomb doesn’t represent then end, for the lord of harmonic movement there can be no true end. It is just a series of death and life. He turns all the seasons around as the Orphic Hymn says.

The lower right hand of Siva is raised in blessing, bringing preservation. Apollon is the preserver and protector. Not only of humanity in general as we have seen on many accounts, but also more commonly of children for which he is honored following safe birth after they survived 7 days, even as he is honored at the release of the soul on death for a period as it releases its bonds until the soul is escorted from the earth by Hermes. As Apollon is connected with agriculture and herding, we know that he is closely associated among the living with the preservation of humanity through the civilized arts. He is the ripener of crops preparing for harvest, and the rearer of beasts to feed men. His blessings, even as his nature is as a destroying god, is the blessing of nurturer and preservation until the moment which life is ready to be plucked. The preservation of life serves purpose, but even still it is a blessing and gift to us. On a more symbolic level, preservation also serves when we look at the god as oracle announcing religious and spiritual obligations, the will of the gods…..or even the institution of education and the arts which feed the soul in its development.  Part of his preserving grace is illumination of the path of progress to apotheosis. This is perhaps one of the greatest symbols of the throne of Apollon resting on the tomb of Hyakinthios. Not merely out of love and affection but also an indication of the grace of Apollon by which our ends are accomplished. This would certainly make sense why scenes of certain mythic victories (such as Theseus over the Minotaur) was inscribed on the throne. The throne lies upon the tomb, exactly completely measure over the process of life into the apotheosis and liberation of the soul.

The upper left hand of Siva holds a flame, which is destruction and dissolution of form. This is the balance to the drum. This is Apollon as the destroyer of which we know him. He who is the law within nature which renders all things into dissolution. Apollon as Pythios, the god of rot. Apollon as lord of the tomb in which the form decays and releases the soul within (or more anciently with funeral pyres was probably lord of the pyre with the devouring flames before burials became more common). He destroys form, with his serpent arrows (which were likely envisioned as fiery arrows by this description…fiery and venomous). Unlike ideas that Apollon’s association with the sun were by his arrows significant of light, this is not the case so much I think. Apollon when he has provided illumination he merely holds aloft his bow and light issued from it. Now his arrows are destructive fire, which is also possessed by the sun by which association here may be based.

The position of the legs of Siva Nataraga as described by Satguru Sivaya Subrahmuniyaswami is perhaps the most relative as his role as gatekeeper, god of the boundaries. For one foot is placed upon an earthbound spirit confused by its sloth (or unevolved soul) while the lifted foot is promise of liberation. If the processes of life and death are a symbol for the journey of the soul then we can see the liberation of destruction of form itself and the release of the soul is also a symbol of the progression of the soul into apotheosis, into unity with the gods rather than trapped in the human cycle. Apollon as the charioteer has a direct link to the chariots of the soul described by Plato in which each soul has a chariot which attempts to rise to be near the god it adores, but undisciplined, without spiritual progression, they cannot sustain nearness and are ever falling. Close to the earth are great masses of soul chariots. I have long said that the contests of Apollon and the liberation by destruction (the myth of Marsyas in perhaps a rather important one that combines both of these themes) are ways of explaining Apollon as the gatekeeper. As I said above he is enthroned upon the very process of apotheosis, which indicates that he is the god of the gateway of apotheosis which only souls can pass which are proven. Apollon being enthroned on the tomb of Hyakinthios serves purpose similar to the gesturing to the upraised foot by Siva Nataraja with his lower left hand.

The end of the passage is summed up very well, that I think all followers of Apollon can benefit from in understanding Apollon’s greater transcendental being:

“The birth of the world, it’s maintenance, its destruction, and the soul’s obscuration and liberation are the five acts of his dance.”

I am just touching the very utmost tip of Saivism but so for it has been very profound for me.


7 thoughts on “An Exceptional Understanding of Apollon in Siva Nataraja

  1. The ‘clashing’ discordant music of the Kouretes and Korybantes is interesting: These are the ‘noisy’ discordant, rhythmic, actual aspects of youth and its future-vision (i.e. – Prometheus), whereas Apollon seems to represent the idealised accomplished, harmonised aspect of perceived youth in hindsight (i.e. – Epimetheus). These aspects seem to fulfil Apollon’s oracular reach!

  2. Hello 🙂 I’m becoming more interested in Shiva lately so i hope you don’t mind me asking this but how do you incorporate Shiva into your pratice? Since you’re hellenic do you honor Him in a hindu context or not? I hope i’m making sense here. English is not my main language so sometimes it’s hard to express myself 🙂 Thanks*

    • Yes I do. The way I have my shrine set up is that Siva and Parvati have a space between Apollon and Artemis. I fast on Mondays for Siva and am learning about puja as well as taking the guided course from Himalayan Academy…and I do Hellenic rituals for Apollon and Artemis. I may sometimes when chanting names of Apollon include the name of Siva in there in which case Siva is getting Hellenic offerings as part of identification with Apollon 🙂 I hope you find that helpful!

      • Yes it was, thank you. I didn’t know about that site, i’m gonna check that 🙂

      • One more question if you don’t mind… I know Apollon does but wolves can somehow be associated with Shiva too?

      • I am not sure really, for one I don’t know how prominent wolves are in native populations in India. That Siva dwells in mountainous regions (around which wolves often tend to set up residence) could potentially make some associations…but I have not come across anything yet regarding wolves and Hinduism.

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