The Mystery of Delphyne and the Tears of Apollon

Apollon came to land in the cradle of Mt Parnassos, and there he set up his temple. The first temple of myth was made from cuttings of laurel branches, the second incarnation of the temple of beeswax and feathers that was said to have been born away to Hyperborea by a wind, the third of Bronze which was said to have been swallowed by the earth. Two more temples are attributed to Apollon of human construction. Yet Apollon set the foundation of his own temple, and in doing so it said in myth that he came into confrontation with the dragoness Delphyne. The Homeric hymn stated that she was a bane to herds, a predatory creature, thus as the nature of the dragon. Yet Apollon is named Delphinios that is not only related to the dolphin in the form of which that he brought his priests to Delphi (although ancient images of dolphins look a bit sea-dragonish to me) but also likely to Delphyne as much as he is called Pythios after the rotting action that he inflicted on her for which she is called Python. This is an important feature as whenever we have shared epithets between Apollon and Artemis it is due to obvious clear shared features playing off of each other. We see this is terms of Daphneios and Daphnaea in which they are both of the laurel, in Kitharados and Kitharadia (warning I always butcher the spelling here for some reason) in which both are players of the kithara, with Artemis we see this particularly in Sparta), Lykeios and Lykeia, Hyakinthios and Hyakinthia (where Artemis is portrayed bearded), and a host of many other names..including Delphinios and Delphinia, and Phoebus and Phoebe which are of a particular feminine root mythically rather than the usual masculine mythical root in their shared epithets.

While Artemis and Apollon share a relationship through their maternal heritage with Phoebe, Leto’s mother, it is quite probably that Apollon is called this more in relation to his twin who would be considered the heir of Phoebe as much as Apollon appears to be as a heir of Koios (in the hymn to Apollon by Kallimachus this seems most apparent as the implements of Apollon are hung on the great pillar representing the pole of Koios which may also have a link to one reason why Apollon is represented aniconically is an erect upright stone). In this sense we see why Apollon is called Phoebus, and why Phoebe is said to have given to Apollon as a birthday gift. Do we mean Phoebe as in the maternal grandmother of Apollon or Phoebe as in Artemis who proceeds Apollon in birth. The connection between the former Phoebe and Delphi has been strongly related to the connection of Phoebe and Koios as a pair of the axis. Phoebe at Delphi at the axis of the earth of the dragon Delphyne, and Koios at the axis of the heavens with the great heavenly dragon which the polar star represents the eye of such dragon. Phoebe and Koios then can themselves be seen as great guardian dragons of the axis themselves, which would go a long way  to demonstrate the importance of serpents in the cult of Apollon and Artemis, as well as the naga-like representation of Delphyne. The association with Artemis directly with Phoebe (descent from her in myth) implies that Artemis Phoebe could be very well seen mystically as the slaying of the huntress (the allegory of the hunter turned into game is prominent in her own myth via the myth of Actaeon who in one version is a suitor of Semele and in another myth seeks to be a suitor of Artemis). The hunter prey dicthotomy is very  strong in the cult of Apollon and Artemis. Artemis who is Lykeia is the goddess of the hunt and of the hunting dogs  that would be trained to attack wolves, and Apollon Lykeios who is at once wolfish and slayer of wolves. This may be somewhat behind Plutarch’s analysis of Apollon and Dionysos at Delphi as a singular god in which Apollon represents that form of the god which is destroying of the self. But I digress.

The tears and grief of Apollon  and his self imposed exile otherwise is way over the top if it was nothing more than a dragon that he killed. So would be the elaborate funerary customs of Apollon libating to the  Python if she was not symbolically linked to Artemis. Certainly other versions attest to the twins killing the dragon together but this is more likely a variation playing on the confusion of two different Pythons of Delphi, Delphyne and the son of Gaia, Tityos, who was slain by Apollon and Artemis for his attack on Leto and for whose death would account for their joint departure for purification intended at Crete but without exile. This confusion between the two myths brings Artemis more actively into the Delphyne myth cycle where she is otherwise not clearly present. This may very be intentional as a way to indicate to the mystical nature represented in the allegory of the slaying of the dragoness.

This would also be pertinent to the symbolism of the amber tears of Apollon. The only other myth of Amber that we really find is in regarding to the Heliades, the daughters of Helios and sisters of Phaethon who became poplar trees that wept tears of Amber for the death of their brother. I was asked a short while back to discuss the connection between the death of Phaethon (whose name means shining) and the death of Python, aside from the similarities in their names. Here we find Phaethon representing a disruption in nature, he drives the sun chariot out of balance creating chaos and catastrophe on earth, and is slain by Zeus in order to correct the balance. Even though we do not find these tears being shed by Helios, but rather by his daughters in his place perhaps, it is linked to the sacrifices necessary for the harmony and balance of nature. Death is a necessary process but memory is eternal even as amber is a somewhat permanent transformed form of organic sap. Death is transformative, and so the myth of Phaethon demonstrates this clearly with the transformation of his sisters, and the eternal amber, a substance closely associated with other earth deities perhaps in a chthonic association. Similarly we find in the slaying of Delphyne a keeping of balance. Predators are necessary, but predators have their own predators and nature corrects over populations of predators to prey resources. Malevolence, regardless of anything suggestion of it that may be attached in the course of story-telling portion of the myth, is not a factor. Nor is it a factor of good versus evil, or of god versus goddess as is popular among goddess-spiritualist retellngs of the myth. Rather it is a grief over the necessary of sacrifice, the fruit of destruction, and the cycles of life and death that are so much part of Apollon’s cult (and in a manner Helios cult as well). Delphyne remains as a benevolent daemon at Delphi under the guise of Python and her representations around the omphalos, and the celebration of her sacrifice at the end of each divine year, and Apollon’s grief for slaying that which is representative of his other half, his twin Artemis, and the taking of the name Pythia by his oracle brides. The close relationship between life/light (which we see in Phoebus and Phaeton’s names) and Pythios/Python is something that contains symbolic weight of the balance of life and death.

Although carrying mythic differences, the association of Apollon’s tears over Delphyne is remarkably similar to the rudraska tears of Rudra upon the death of Sati/Shakti. In myth Sati immolated herself, who had already been grieving for her separation from Rudra/Siva and then suffered insult and non-presence in the company of her father (who neither acknowledged her presence in either her literal presence or even her presence via her connection her husband by refusing offer Prasad to Rudra/Siva. This sense of separation is being out of harmony in my view, a sense of imbalance or a state needing correction. At her death Siva brought forth destruction, calmed only by Visnu dividing the body of Sati (thus the body wasted away like we find with the myth of Delphyne) as Siva wept tears that became the rudraska that is most holy. Siva afterwards paid penance by retreating into the mountains of the Himalayas, a self imposed exile which led to unity again with Sati when she came again as Parvati. Separation unity, life and death, harmony and balance that is all one.

The amber tears of Apollon carry the full of the weight of the mystery of Delphyne and carry an honored status in my view that is not dissimilar to the rudraska, and I know many devotees of Apollon who wear amber for him or find amber to be a highly important devotional item in his worship. To this ends I plan on, in my own personal worship with the  unified shrine of Apollon, Siva, Parvati and Artemis, to string the rudraska beads (from a strand my baby broke) with amber beads to wear during worship to so honor this one sameness element.

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3 thoughts on “The Mystery of Delphyne and the Tears of Apollon

  1. Reblogged this on Tales of an Urban Priestess and commented:
    Ein wundervoller Beitrag über das Thema Delphyne, Python, Phoebe und Bernsteintränen. Ich habe mich mal über die ersteren beiden ausgelassen, kam jedoch zu keinem Ergebnis. Damals fand ich es schwer zu unterscheiden ob Delphyne und Python das selbe Wesen sind oder wie genau sie nun tatsächlich zusammen hängen. Das Thema Bernsteintränen habe ich bewusst nicht angetastet.

  2. Reblogged this on The Atlantic Religion and commented:
    I am pleased to share this wonderfully insightful piece from Daphne Kyrene on her excellent ‘Lykeia of Apollon’ blog, on the mythical relationship between Apollon, Delphyne/Python and the legend of Helios, Phaethon and the Heliades.

  3. Pingback: The Amber Tears of Apollon and the Heliades | Beloved in Light

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