Apollon, Diaspora in Alaska

I read a post today regarding Americans worshipping European gods that discussed the movement of gods with the movement of people and the natural pull of Americans towards gods of their European heritage (socio-philoso-political heritage of not by blood since most of us do not necessarily feel a call to worship gods of our ancestors), and yet I am aware of that their are many Europeans out there who object to this as we do not have the geographical or direct cultural experience of being raised within the influence of those gods. In between both of these perspectives I have long come to the conclusion that Americans giving worship to gods of foreign lands is by nature a diaspora religion. But this is no different than it was in the ancient world! People took their gods with them and those gods became part of the spiritual culture of the new land they moved into, often taking variation in form and cult worship that differed from the original homeland cult, but still recognizable by that homeland culture as being the same deity and of the same religion practiced differently in a different locality.

Case in point, I am a huge fan of Pausanias. I have his collection of his travels in Greece in which he remarks of cults that have moved from one locality to another, and cases of what seems like very odd local practices in relation to that deity. Yet he did not separate it out as not being part of that same familiar spiritual group. Observations of cults of their gods as practiced by colonies in far away lands have always remained a part of the identity of the Hellenic gods. This is how diaspora works. It is a shared co-relationship in which the colony honors and respects the homeland (Delphi for instance received many tithes from colonies in respect to the god) and native culture of the god while celebrating and giving worship to the god in their own land, and the homeland culture recognizes and often has some form of fascination or interest expressed towards how their gods are worshipped in new localities. Ancient historians loved making such commentary which is clear. But a big part of that is, as Americans, recognizing that are worship is unique to our experiences and geographies as American people living in America, that we cannot and do not have the identical worship and spiritual expression as Hellas (or any given culture for the gods one is worshipping). Looking at local expressions of Christianity should be enough to confirm that this just happens, that a spiritual practice and relationship with deities develops its own unique local form in accordance with the local mix of peoples and influences of the area.

When you live in even more vastly different environments from the native culture this becomes even more apparent when nothing seems to line up right in a geographic illusion as people in warmer and drier climates enjoy. This makes me mythic dialogue with Apollon in his worship unique to this place, while still holding sacred the ancient ethnically Hellene identity of the god. It just adds a unique twist. It is clearly a diaspora religion here when I am giving him worship. My preference for his Boeotian birthday in early February when usually the Chinook winds (meaning snow eater) in which we get strong winds that rapidly begin eating away at the snow in preparation for the later arrival of spring has more to do with how I experience the seasons up here, the winds of late January and early February and the obvious shift in daylight in February as the days begin to lengthen as a god who brings forth the light with his birth makes his Boeotian birthday Prostateria relevant to me as an Alaskan, where I still celebrate Thargelia, but without the Hellene connection to green ears of wheat since there are no ears of wheat in May here in Alaska, but rather as a god who even in February acts as preserver of the earth by bringing forth the warm winds, he has a birthday celebrated then as born to preserve the green life. As such as I take Thargelia and the previous day honoring Demeter Chloe (the green) to be honoring them for green life in general rather than referring to grain harvest. These are peculiarities that if his local cult grows here in the future after generations would have been likely something that Pausanias himself would have possibly commented on “And there in the harsh cold lands of Alaska Apollon is as a wild kindly god, bringing forth the winds to warm the earth and king who brings forth light, yet wearing the pelt of a wolf in which he sometimes is seen as he is surrounded by flocks of loudly talking ravens that have a habit to perch at his sacred grove”. This is something I could well imagine.

Apollon in Alaska is unique, just as my experiences of him in New Orleans, in Arkansas and in North Carolina were all very unique with the change of culture and environment. I don’t pretend or claim any ethnic religious identity, other than profound love, resect and fascination with the ethnic homeland of my gods. I have been delighted to have a pilgrimage to Hellas and am hopeful for other opportunities in the future. It is a precious gift, as a reminder not only of the land where his myths and cults sprung from, but how that influenced his diaspora forms that he has taken and is still a part of his nature and domain even with the local changes and flavors that are unique to my own home. That is just the beauty in my worship that I can do what I do while still having the deepest and honor and regard with where my religion came from while recognizing that my expression of that religion is not and could not be totally identical.

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