Changes, Transformations and Purifications

There are many gods which I think fairly should be recognized for changes and transformations that occur in life. We experience many such changes as we go along from the moment we enter into the world, beginning our days with a small collection of deities that address the welfare of the young, with an ever expanding number of deities getting involved at different life stages as if through a sort of evolutionary progress of one’s life. Yet the key deities almost always involved consistently are Apollon and Artemis (and to a degree their mother Leto) which I consider, in connection to my post regarding their domains as gods of the action of nature as destroying and nurturing forces. In many ways this links to their very real historic cult associations with significant life changes. As I have many new changes coming into my life, with another new baby on the way, and moving into our new (and more permanent) home, has made this kind of a fixture in my mind lately in my relationships with them.

Apollon and Artemis are the premier deities of the newly born. Whether this be the newly born month (Apollon Noumenios, and some have also taken to calling Artemis as Noumenia), the newly born child over which the guard and care-take from being taken prematurely into death during its most tender days, as well as the significant changes of maturing into adulthood and the marital rites (which participation during their youth in the cults of these deities were blessed by marriage as adults). Even their positions at the doorway enters into this, as we enter and exit into new states of being every time we pass our threshold with the very different environments of being within one’s home under the protection of the household gods, and outside interacting in the world outside of the household which had more threats to one’s wellbeing. To enter into one’s household was a kind of purification itself before these gods who guard the doorway (usually by means of offerings to the gods of the doorway and even possibly washing oneself at the entrance), just as we find the gods of the gates acting similarly in a larger scale with cities in which armies were not permitted to pass through the gates until they were purified. This applies to the processes of death and spiritual evolution.

In a sense, with Apollon as a guardian god of the gates of transformation/apotheosis/etc and Artemis as the goddess of the energy which sustains and drives all to these ends, we can see how and why Apollon and Artemis would be significant deities present in any momentous changes in one life….even those changes which are by necessity determined by the Fates for a purpose of impact to our beings that we may not always find individually favorable when they are experienced as painful. Growth and change is often in fact painful or at very least uncomfortable. There is a sorrow of a new bride who has to leave behind the things of her child just as she presented momentos of her childhood to Artemis, and leave behind too the familiar gods and spirits of her household to occupy that of her husband’s. There is the pain of bringing new life into the world, even pain and anxiety of bringing any kind of new creation forth from our minds as Zeus labored greatly in his head to bring forth Athena, by the tools of Hephaistos (another significant god of transformation as the god who enables/gives form to the new forms taken to which I would say Eilethyia almost matches as a goddess of labor pains as being another part of the process…which may be telling as to why between Apollon as the father of the Korybantes and Hephaistos as the father of the Kaireboi we find them as fathers of gods who oversee the most divine change in the arrival of the savior god whether that be Zeus or Dionysos, and the close connection between Eleithyia and Artemis).

Apollon and Artemis remind that that one of the most important things with the come of significant changes and transformations in our lives, that purification is a very important part of the process. Not only does it remove any pollution that we may otherwise taken into our new existence (extra baggage need not be brought), it also allows us in many ways to start fresh and newly born. A home is to be purified before the gods are welcome into it when a new home is established. Purifications are done upon the household, mother and infant after the baby has successfully survived its first seven days of life. Purifications following the allotted period necessary after death of a family member in residence (usually 30 days). Even the rites of passage into states of youths and maidens by children were themselves purification rituals in form….in varying degrees of aggressiveness depending on the place (the rites on youths at the temple of Artemis Orthia is a great example of particularly violent forms of what could be considered purifying rites. Even those who practice some form of magic or spirit work will often begin and end with varying degrees of intensive purifications depending on the deities and spirits concerned.

It makes sense that under any new change in one’s life that a sensible spiritual act would be one of purification, to even approach these gods (at the doorway if you have them established enshrined no where else within your house) and engage in purifications in preparation. Often the simplest and most common means when not dealing with serious transgressions that require purification, is by water although some people also utilize incense smoke into it as well. This can be considered of the same nature as the purifications that are undergone as part of  Hekate’s Deiponon and the Noumenia for the wellbeing of the household as the new month changes round. Really it is the same principle. I myself engage in regular purifications that includes daily bathing and fumigations with smoke as part of my devotions.

One of these easiest ways to conceive of the necessity of purifications is in a philosophical understanding of Artemis. Artemis herself is connected to rivers in very significant ways and is associated herself as being a holy river that brings forth the blessings of the gods. This can be most notable in her role as Artemis Eurynome in which she oversees the purification of the infant Zeus following his birth (perhaps the only significant after birth purification myth that I have found aside from the travel of Leto to Xanthus to purify and bathe her twins. The fact that Artemis and Apollon have many strong river cult associations is relevant to this purpose. The water itself is pure and the purity of its nature is that which carries away the stains of miasma. This is perhaps because water itself has the observable ability to dissolve and carry away particles that gives it such strength. Therefore the purification by water is a kind of release, and unblockage as water is unhindered and one is left open to receiving the blessings of the gods and spirits. The agency of the purifying water itself becomes the first expression of divine blessing…in the cases of rivers purifying gods the blessings go both ways with the deity being purified likewise blesses the body of water such as we find in the case of Xanthus, or even in the case of the river Peneios who offered to withstand the anger of Hera to offer shelter of Leto for the birth of her son (Peneios who incidentally was the father of Daphne who herself underwent a massive transformation into a laurel tree but was also the purifier of Apollon later after slaying Delphyne).

Therefore, like a fount of water or living stream, purification allows access to us to begin a new way, and at the forefront we find Apollon and Artemis there who are the god who are first to bestow their blessings as gods of the purifying agent and gods who preside fundamentally (although not exclusively) over transformation and changes.

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