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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Apollon and the Seasonal Dying God

Whether we are speaking of Adonis, Dionysos or Hyakinthios, Apollon has a certain undisputed relationship with seasonal dying gods. As a migrational god (probably why he is more aligned with herding and migratory birds…both which involve seasonal movement and only slightly with grain cycles in the ripening and safekeeping of the crops) he seems to have little in common with apparent agricultural associated dying gods. Except, that is he is always there. Therefore, while Apollon himself is not a dying god, he is firmly linked to those gods whose vitality is given to the earth in their sacrifice.

In the myth of Adonis we are told that, alternative the common narrative in which Ares is the boar who slew Adonis, that it was Apollon who took the form of a boar. By this act we find Adonis as a dying god whose festivities celebrated the end of spring before the onslaught of summer. Some have suggested in modern worship to rear seedlings and expose them to wither in the blistering heat of the sun in remembrance of this.  However, that the blood of Adonis turned the Adonis river in modern Lebanon red in the spring, it can be argued that like Dionysos whose autumnal sacrifice imbued life and vitality within the vineyards and the grape harvested for wine, imbuing the very sacred subsistence of the wine itself in his finest mysteries, Adonis died earlier in the spring (likely in line with modern Adonia worship in Hellas around the time of Easter) to imbue life into the vegetation. His representation by the very tender spring anemone flowers that spring from his yearly sacrifice of blood is a strong testimony to his lifeblood feeding the flowers and vegetation.

For a latter spring festival with similar theme we may look to the myth of Hyakinthios in which the youth was slain by accident by a disc (which most scholars to take for Apollon’s most favored disc…the heavenly disc of the sun). Although his blood yields the hyacinth flower, the correlation of the sun slaying the youth is more in line with what many folks have taken the Adonia to represent…the sun killing the last of the spring flowers even as the altar was piled with them. Despite the myth of the hyacinth flower, it is quite probable that Hyakinthios had a strong grain relationship established in his death cycle and myth given that on the first day of the Hyakinthia to honor the slain youth no bread was eaten. If we are talking about a late spring/on the verge of summer festival it would have been around the time of the grain harvest in the first part of summer. This cultic reference is the only connection to grain that we have though, so it may or may not be reaching to consider this. All the same, if we find Adonis being sacrificed by Apollon at the early parts of spring to renew the vegetation (in partnership with the cult of Aphrodite), it would follow in perfect sense that Hyakinthios (in partnership with the cult of Artemis Hyakinthia) would bear relation to the next stage that we find in which the heat of the warm dry season begins to reach it zenith and the spring vegetation gives its last hurrah as it were. Given that the beauty of Adonis bears much in common with Apollon (as well as Dionysos) and the apotheosis of Hyakinthios and his identification with Apollon we are following along a theme in which the slain god is in a manner identified with Apollon, likely by the subject and purpose of their slaying. That is to say…for the provision of subsistence for the herds/flocks (includes beasts and humans here).

This is very much true as well in Apollon’s relationship with Dionysos, perhaps even more so as the mysteries of Dionysos’ were of such paramount importance in Hellas. In this case the succor being provided by the action of Apollon the great herder is less about satisfying physical hunger and fending off famine and death, but more for helping in providing for the spiritual nourishment (which we find also in the worship of Persephone too but strictly speaking that is a different subject as she is more of a migratory goddess like Apollon is a migratory god than a *dying* goddess…but she provides the double boon of spiritual and physical succor for which it is not unusual that Apollon would play a role in her mysteries as well). In this respect we have the relationship between Dionysos and Apollon acting in very much a parallel fashion to that of Apollon and Adonis, and that of Apollon and Hyakinthios. Likewise in Plutarch we find identification of Dionysos with Apollon in his discussion on Delphi.  This is not to say, in my opinion, that they are the same god any more than Adonis and Apollon are the same, or Hyakinthios and Apollon are the same, but establishes the active relationship which *may* have originated in one proto-Indo-European deity that would account for similarities both Apollon and Dionysos enjoy in gods such as Jarilo/Yarilo and Shiva.

However that may be there is a special relationship ongoing between the cycles of the dying gods and Apollon’s own migratory cycle, one that cannot be ignored and contains within it a special meaning and coding within the mysteries of these gods. Apollon is enthroned on the tomb of Hyakinthios, Dionysos and Zagreus are buried at Parnassos where Apollon’s sanctuary is supreme, and Adonis died on the mountain sacred to Apollon (and Artemis) that took its name from his son. The cycles of these gods are part of him, he who is nurturer and slayer…the herder to whom the seasons and the winds of the seasons pay heed as turns the seasons around.

The Beauty of Apollon and Aphrodite

Apollon and Aphrodite for a while struck me as a strange pair when I first heard of Apollon’s cultic prominence on her sacred island Cyprus. But upon certain reflections it started making sense to me why Aphrodite has been a thorn in my side *cough* blessing in my life for much of my adulthood.

I had always assumed that many of my issues in my youth dealing with Aphrodite had strictly to do with simply ignoring a goddess who was hanging around in my life in favor of following Artemis around.  I summed this up to a Hippolytus experience. And this is quite probably part of what gave me a problem, since I will say that she played merry hell with me for many years until I established a shrine and started showing some damned appreciation. But I never took even a moment to investigate why she was in my life.

I mean, I gave it a passing thought, O well I was born under the sign of Scorpio…very Ares, and so of course Aphrodite tagged along. Except, Ares himself doesn’t have a very active part in my regular life…so why then would Aphrodite? I just shrugged it off as a mystery of the universe and kept plodding along in my worship.

Yet, there is a close relationship with Aphrodite and Apollon. Never-mind how similar Aphrodite may appear when hunting with her beloved Adonis to the figure of Artemis…not even going to go there. When looking at the functions of Aphrodite and her domain, it significantly overlaps with that of Apollon in ways that are similar, but of a different nature, to the overlapping he shares with Athena and Artemis. Aphrodite almost seems like the odd goddess out as she superficially appears to have nothing at all in common with these virgin goddesses. But then, it really doesn’t have anything to do with *them*, but rather what is going on directly in that intersecting of domains between her and Apollon. It certainly wasn’t Artemis who brought Aphrodite into my life. Yet, which deity is the most prominent in my life… Apollon. And to confess following that is Artemis, Aphrodite and Poseidon.  And Aphrodite’s presence is the only one I spent any time at all resenting, yet it is perhaps one of the most beautiful relationships she shares with Apollon….and one of the most life affirming.

While his relationship with Athena focuses more on the cognitive level and the role of logos along with chthonic purifying natures and the implementing of art, and his relationship with Artemis deals more with their shared  functions in purification, healing, the expression of music both as musician and dancer, hunting, light-bearing and so forth as a kind of mirror of his power in the physical world, his relationship with Aphrodite addresses the most enduring and benevolent functions of Apollon’s nature and domain.

Aphrodite holding dear the very expression of beauty, love, and harmony is intrinsically tied to Apollon’s art in the world. His music is beautiful, although his playing seems more function than for the sole purpose of just serving beauty. His music turns round the order of the cosmos. It is the illumination of beauty and perfection of Aphrodite, who herself is beauty and harmony. By Apollon’s nature he brings these things into the light and sustains them. He himself is of course the most beautiful of the gods, but this is a superficial tie between them. A very slight case can be made for a beautiful god being connected to a beautiful goddess. But I would argue it is by his nature and how he acts in tandem with Aphrodite is what makes him beautiful. He is not harmony, but he sustains harmony. He keeps all the spheres and bodies of the heavens moving in their necessary harmonic order. The movement of order which allots the passage of time pertains to him directly. It is Aphrodite who is the mother of harmony. Harmony issues from her, just as beauty issues from her. I would even argue the benevolence of the Kharities, whom Apollon is likewise associated with leading, is intimately connected to her nature.

This extends then even to what we may consider their primordial natures. This is with Arkadians who viewed Apollon as one of the eldest among the gods, one of two gods of the seasons. If we take Apollon as a god who functions with the passage of time, purifying the exchanges between seasons, months, and years….and as a herder god who sustains life of the crops and the beasts he guards (but as equal potential to decimate these same as the god of wolves, locusts and mice) we can see him as a god overseeing and protecting life in general. We see this theme arise again when he protects mankind by persuading Zeus to not destroy the lot of us, and would further make sense when dealing with Apollon as a leader god in the mysteries and his fathering of the Korybantes in the Samothrakian mysteries. He is providing the way as a caretaker would. Perserving us even as he has mythically acted in the welfare of Zeus and Dionysos in terms of the Samothrakian mysteries, the Dionysian mysteries, and the mysteries of Zeus at Arkadia where Pan and Apollon oversaw the rearing of the infant Zeus by the nymphs.

Now if we look at Aphrodite in her most primordial form, we see a mother of life, the very womb from which all life has come. The mother of Eros in both senses… a god who is very different from Apollon but likewise at the same time bears a remarkable similarity. Enough so that Eros at a protogenios god is often confused with Apollon as a primordial god perhaps which I have taken more often to be as Polyphanes who is born within the egg with the other first borns that he separated and helped manifest….Gaia, Ouranios. This confusion I see as working playfully almost in the myth of Apollon and Daphne where Apollon and Eros almost seem to be set against each other to serve the purpose of the myth. Eros acting directly on Apollon to conceive his action on the world.

But back to Aphrodite. If we taken Aphrodite in this manner, and see her in this light, as the abundant life-provider, who enjoins all life in acts of pleasure and joy (procreation, love, romance, beauty, art) as an order of creation. Then we find Apollon who organizes and order the expression of these things in a manner which continues and sustains it. Thus Aphrodite’s art is one that Zeus says is best for bringing together marriages, and Apollon is the god of the sacrament of wedding as evidenced by the hymns of the wedding (which he did the honors of himself at the wedding of Thetis), which fits perfectly with his nature as overseeing laws (followed by his son Hymenaios who is the god of the wedding song itself). Aphrodite instigates the marriage, Apollon is the protector and orderer of the marriage act (which also explains his role at Crete as a punisher of adulterers). He sustains the creation of Aphrodite. Likewise if Aphrodite can be seen as the mother of life, as a god who protects the herds and crops he is sustaining and nurturing that which she has created.

Which brings us back to Cyprus, the greatest capital of Aphrodite where her most renowned sanctuary rested. I always thought it curious that of all the epithets of Apollon that are abundant, that it was here that he was Hylates, the god of the wood. A woodland that acted as a deer preserve on the island. This can certainly seem to point to a key point of his relationship with Aphrodite to be so honored on her sacred land as a preserver of life, and why here he was so closely identified with Reshep another plague god, one of Canaanite origin, who acted as a preserver of life. Because such preservation so delights Aphrodite, who herself can become war-like in her attributes to protect that which she holds dear to herself.

Artemis, Aphrodite and Teen Awareness

In an odd twist of circumstances, the two most influential goddesses in my oikos are Artemis and Aphrodite, a situation which arose early in my life and for which I can appreciate their roles in teen life, especially as my eldest daughter has entered her teen years.

Anciently the teen years were ones that marked the transition from childhood into adulthood, more firmly than they do today where our teens are considered children until they are 18 years old. This was marked by ceremonies in which Artemis was given thanks and offerings by the youth or maiden, and afterwards were expected to leave the shelter of Artemis in exchange for the blessings of Aphrodite and Hera (and other blessed gods persiding over the marital state). It was considered part of the natural order of things, and the violation of which could bring about disasterous consequences as Euripedes cautions in his Hippolytus.

In short you end up with a period in which a child still clings to Artemis, to the wild uninhibited freedom she brings, while Aphrodite begins to assert herself. This is rough period of time. With adoration I, like Hippolytus, clung to Artemis. I vocally, and sometimes viciously shunned Aphrodite who represented what I intellectualized as the embodiment of my scathing opinion regarding relationships. I laughed and sneered at boys, or just outright challenged them in some form of contest or another. I felt Artemis laughing with humor, and often egging me on. “Oh I dare you” she would seem to taunt at my hairbrain ideas. She is like a shout in the wind…utterly uncatchable leap of freedom. With her I trampled through the woods, leaves tangling in my hair, dirt mingling with sweat, shouted and laughed. She encourages and relishes the beast in me even as she me to become greater than I am. Always a challenge rises from her. It is too easy though to be carried away in your love for that you neglect the mounting responsibilities you owe your family as you age…and even to resent the curb to your freedom and your family who places these upon you.

To make matters worse, no matter how much you push away Aphrodite, she is still working on you. I would find myself adornibg myself with nice clothes, jewelry and perfume. Nevermind the flow of desire in the later years. She us resilient, waging her clever battle.

Even for those who fly eagerly into the arms if Aphrodite, I imagine it is difficult to let go of the joys of Artemis.. to be able to completely surrender to the sway of Aphrodite and leave childhood behind.

I see my daughter struggle between these with having her first real boyfriend but clinging in so many ways to wanting to be a little girl even as she wishes to be grown. I made peace with these goddesses by giving them equal places of honor as I refused to let go of Artemis, and her me. How will my daughter?

To Honor Aphrodite

Often the worship we give the gods is built largely on our perception of them, and as such we can become so hooked on singular things under the idea that this best favors the god. I have seen for instance a time where there were those who insisted wine was not an appropriate offering for Apollon, when in fact there is no prohibition against it and he is in fact in the Orphic hymns called Bakkhic, yet a reference to alcohol not being permitted at the Pythian games and  nietzchian view of Apollon and Dionysos at one time had some solid support by many worshipers led by the belief of the few who presented it. It is not that there is something wrong with the perception or practice but that as it is often developed from a single source viewing a god or goddess a certain way that it overshadows other ways we may interact with the gods, some which would be more suitable in different situations.

Different situations may not just apply to other ways we could receive benefice from the deity in question, but also situations which is inclusive of a wider community beyond our own private worship. There are those who honor Dionysos with revelry of a kind, for instance, which may not be suitable for a ritual with families, minors or people with substance abuse issues. No one would say that this is all Dionysos is but as a main form if worship for one, it is naturally the first inclination of worship, or can be. But a public focus so directed it is also likely to be divisive  in a diverse community, and among newer members cause a rather stereotypical one dimensional worship of the god and relationship of the deity. It should not be mistaken that I think that there is anything wrong with how one worships a deity but that we ought to be aware if potential limitations we may be putting on our own relationship with the deity, and even more so sensitive about worship in a community setting rather than among a very small group of similar minded individuals. For example I have no problem with someone who engages is mastibutory practice to worship a particular deity, but I don’t want to see pictures or videos of you doing it, nor would I want to be around it with my children in worship.

This includes language that refers to deities as strictly hetero-erotic or homo-erotic that is often exclusionary to the participation of fellow worshipers and their feeling if fellowship with other worshipers in the community. This also includes divisive and disincluding practices shared among the community based on sex. One way this has manifested is via CIA-female veneration of certain goddesses or the worship of said goddesses been placed predominantly on women (despite evidence to th contrary at times such as with Artemis).

This now comes around to Aphrodite, the goddess that this post shall now address, for such mindfulness is important especially when dealing with worship of her (but is likewise applicable to others. The case being that how the goddess is honored publically has an easy tendency to become inappropriate or insensitive to others, and in the case of this goddesses has in the past caused insensitivity towards fellow female worshipers. Online there was, for instance, an incident where in a community forum, a man offered up a pornographic image of a woman, not one created by the woman in question as a means of worship, as an offering to Aphrodite. Forthwith a number of men in the group didn’t get why a number of women were insulted by this and several left the group. A feeling of resentful betrayal was already in place which only intensified with several men in the group retaliating against one such woman who spoke up. When it goes so far, and I have seen it happen before at other times when overtly sexual pictures are shared, that their is objection about the in appropriateness of sharing such images, insults get hurled. The most hurtful of all being that if you have a problem with it or with it being seen by your children or co-workers etc then you need to “go back to Christianity.” As a woman being told that you are being too sensitive, or that you cannot object to a woman’s sexuality treated as property of men publically as an offering tears at feelings of community and fellowship, and makes can make us disappointed too in people we admired and respected. And for someone to tell you to shut up and put up about because our objection seeks to ruin a patriarchal religion is fuel for anger and does further damage. Does this please or benefit Aphrodite that an offering to her, which was publically inappropriate, caused such a fracture? Does this benefit other gods whose communal worship was directed by said men that those whose who became disappointed in their mysognistic behavior that they drop out of participating in those communal events? How does this glorify Aphrodite?  How does it honor to verbally slap down the women who worship her? Does this suggest that there may be something wrong when I first inclination of praising a god or goddess is publically inappropriate?

Case in point, last year when I was making an invite for a public Aphrodisia, at my house, the first assumption was that it was going to be adults only with overtly sexual participation. The fact that this was the first to come to mind was a bit disappointing, but what was more so was that half the people who said they would come did a 180 when I explained that the Delian Aphrodisia was family safe. Why must it always be overtly about sex?

Sexuality in itself can be implied in ways that would make a virgin blush at noticing it without it being inappropriate. My own teen daughter turned scarlet when she release what a rise bud, viewed from another angle looked like.  Let us not forget that Aphrodite was honored as “the black” because sex was considered something private and as such done under the cover of darkness, rather than something in front if everyone in full visibility as the animals do. As such I always got the impression that she found suggestions vastly entertaining….and such is appropriate in public. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t adore the pornigraphic images that you may place upon your private shrine, but that this doesn’t need to be first thing taken up.

we ought to remember that Aphrodite is about more then raw sex, but also all th tender feelings, romance and courtship that leads up to marriage as Homer reminds us in the Iliad when Zeus tries to sway Aphrodite from participating in war. She is also about beauty, and most particularly that beauty which comes from harmony. She is the bestowed of many blessed things, reinforced by her relationship with the Khairities. There have been times when I haves played with the idea that the goddess called Kharus was in fact her in another guise. There are so many ways we can honor her (and other gods) let not the ways which are inappropriate be of foremost consideration in an environment not suitable for them.

The Minotaur, Ariadne and Divine Bride

This post is meant as a follow up to my post on Apollon and the Minotaur, here, and after some reflection regarding after reading John Drury’s post here in response to mine. I don’t often get response blogging but when I do it is nice because it makes me think more in depth than I probably did the first time around. And in this case I realize that I had spent alot of time talking of Theseus and didn’t really say much about Ariadne. In part this is because Ariadne has very little play in the tale of the Labyrinth. I mean she is a big part of it because without her Theseus wouldn’t have been able to be successful. Without the influence of Aphrodite, the harmonization of opposite energies, there cannot be liberation at the gate of Apollon. But the main part of her story follows behind the tale of the labyrinth.

Aphrodite’s part and the sign of Taurus (the zodiac sign which is the symbol of her domain) I think caused some confusion. I don’t see the Minotaur as being literally the heavenly bull Taurus. However I think that his name Asterios, meaning “starry” is part of an association that he sprung from a heavenly bull. That is to say that the heavenly bull is a symbol of Zeus. Specifically speaking the myth of the constellation Taurus it is the form that Zeus took in the seduction of Europa, from which union Minos sprung. Theoi.com states though that the constellation was associated both with the taurine lover of Pasiphae and her son. I am thinking though that is more the former, and in association the latter. The former would make sense though that often this bull is credited as having been sent from Zeus. Though it is to be sacrificed theoretically to Poseidon, it is a vehicle of Zeus’ domain. Pasiphae here takes a position like that of Europa, and finds union with a bull. In the case of Europa the maiden mounted the bull and was carried off (though probably following the other way around too). In the case of Pasiphae she devised a plan that the bull mount her. As the moon was anciently referred to with the identity star, it is of no wonder that the union between her and this heavenly bull would produce their starry son. But the constellation itself by such associations would logically be the taurine Zeus rather than the Minotaur which does not take a full bull-form in iconic art.

It seems further of interest that the Pleiades, whose spring arrival some scholars have suggested as marking the Thargelia rather than a specific lunar date, are hosted within Taurus, along with the Hyades, the rain-bringers. Thus the association of Taurus is like that of the fertile wetness of spring which leads to the Thargelia, the birth of Apollon whose zodiac sign is Gemini. This sign, following the fertile sign of Taurus, is that sign of the portal as I have thought of it. When I suggested this to John he mentioned the dokana and this was exactly what I was seeing when I see the sign of Gemini. It is the wooden frame of a house built crudely with bricks. This makes sense too as Apollon as a god of foundations and the establishment of buildings and walls, as was his son Trophonios a masterful architect in relation to the domain of his father. In a sense I am seeing the entrance of the house, in front of which Apollon is an important deity, along with Hermes, and the Dioskouri in Sparta as it happens. This is the boundary between worlds, not only the living and the dead, but also between the heavenly and the mortal which none can cross with the exception of those who are blessed by Persephone and Dionysos according to the mysteries. It seems to be of no mistake or coincidence that upon Theseus’ final arrival to Athens that shortly following his thanks-giving to Apollon with the Pyanepsia, that we have the Oschophoria of Dionysos and Ariadne.

So here with Pasiphae we see the first workings of Aphrodite as the goddess who aids the way to Apollon. It is by her art that we see the conception of the Minotaur, and in at least one vase painting of Pasiphae with the babe on her knee we see the goose, a sacred animal of Aphrodite, not far away. What work Aphrodite did to align the purposes of Theseus and Ariadne, followed that work which she made between the immortal Pasiphae and the heavenly bull of Zeus. As an aside, said bull was said to have swam from Crete to the mainland and this is the same bull which Theseus defeats as the Marathonian Bull in his imitation of Herakles as a youth. As these “labors” were performed before his arrival in Athens it is reasonable to say that his foray into the labyrinth was the culmination of these. He would have adventures later as king of Athens, including a raid into Amazonian territory with Herakles, but it is these things in his youth that establish his hero-cult and which lived on. To become a hero was to become immortal and to dwell among the blessed. His defeat of the Minotaur established him as the national hero and unshackled him from the fate of the soul following mortal death.

Ariadne is at once a part of this and a bit separate from it. Ariadne is the daughter of Pasiphae and the labyrinth is *her* dancing floor. It is the place of her mystic dances as I indicated in my previous post. She did not fear the minotaur, and certainly had nothing to fear from him. She alone of those who traveled into the labyrinth was safe from his destruction of those who dared to approach his boundary. Ariadne very much represents what I call the Divine Bride. This is distinguished from the hero but is also that which the heroes, and those who are not heroes, attempt to attain. Though that is jumping ahead a bit for she does not technically become the Divine Bride at this point. However her meeting of Theseus leads her to this destination. As John point out in his post her tale in many respects is similar to Theseus’ kidnapping of Helen (though in this later telling he is an old man kidnapping the maiden) in that Theseus is placed at an obstacle and removes the maiden from what seems to be her protector. This is a fair simile, though Ariadne is not yet the Divine Bride this bears little importance because it is what she will become, just as Artemis in some versions slew Actaeon to prevent his courtship of Semele who become a divine bride herself.

The short of it is that the Divine Bride is the soul loved by the gods and is deified. Both males and females as mortals contain receptive “feminine” souls to the gods. Yet when it comes to myth and in physical expressions we find that females tend to emulate divine brides, while the males desire to secure the divine bride to themselves. In this fashion he is “possessing” the divine soul symbolically. For female emulation we can understand this quite well from the maenads and thyrai, mortal women who mimic the mythic original Maenad nymphs and the nymph Thyra in their ecstatic celebration of Dionysos. Of course each god has their series of divine brides and offspring that generate from these unions, but Ariadne is *the* Divine Bride who represents all of these, as she is wedded to Dionysos, the savior of men and the god who brings men among the company of the gods (or just brings the feeling with his wine which is symbolic of the former statement). It is by necessity that she is wedded to him because they are working together in the spiritual processes.

It was fated that Theseus loose Ariadne on the island of Naxos, and beyond his control. Ariadne’s evolution couldn’t conclude as his did with the labyrinth, for her she was to become a gods bride to be divine. Of course Apollon does his part here too, for he is the god of ships, which we know abundantly from given all the devotional figureheads of ships devoted to him at Delphi in addition to an image of the god with his hand upon the stern of a boat and his own myth as the dolphin-guide of the Cretan sailors, as well as the god of harbors. Thus he is arranging this part for Ariadne. She has no confrontation except her own despair and isolation as she is left behind at the harbor of Naxos with no allies or friends and no family as one who betrayed her own family to help the one she loved. Dionysos found her though and they had offspring and Ariadne’s mortal life ended at the end of Artemis’ arrow. This is not uncommon as I said before, especially in the treatment of females for often times the slaying of women was attributed directly to Artemis and that of men directly to Apollon. Yet the marital crown of Ariadne is considered to be of singular importance as it is that which forms the constellation of the crown. It is her identifier above everything else, in my opinion, as a bride….really *the* bride of brides.

By being slain by Artemis she was freed by the goddess and was hailed as a goddess in her own right with Dionysos who is a constant and loving spouse to her. The part she plays as a goddess though is that of the Divine Bride, the goddess of the initiates who emulate her in their initiations by adorning themselves as brides while Ariadne and Dionysos look on as we know from scenes of the Orphic house in Pompeii that were perserved by Vesuvius. Women emulate her for that divine love. This is perhaps not too different than the role played by Rada to Krishna, for Rada is often depicted in bridal dress and the story of Rada and Krishna relates the story of having divine love and the sacredness of this in the rising of the soul. So too do we imagine Ariadne as the mystic bride, the immortal one.

In this sense we can see her reflection in Helen who was also such. Not only was she fought over by princes to have her hand in her youth, she was also kidnapped by Theseus as I said above (though taken back by her brothers the Dioskouri), and then spirited away by Alexander/Paris to Troy in which we see an epic battle between that which possesses the divine bride (Troy) guarded by Apollon primarily at the fore with the assistance of those gods who are his closest relations (Artemis, Leto, Xanthus, and Aphrodite who doesn’t really count as a closest relation but it makes sense when we consider as mentioned previously and above about the transition from her domain into his). Like with Ariadne Aphrodite is chiefly responsible for setting in motion the pivotal events which brings the divine bride to Troy. More than once we see in the Iliad the demands of handing over Helen and her wealth. Those this can refer in once sense to her worldly riches she absconded with, such wealth can also imply the spiritual wealth that she carries with her, especially given that her name refers to a basket. And it is the quest for her that established heroes in the 10 year war. In the myth of Helen then we find an paralleling echo of the themes of Ariadne, and how both goddesses would figure in the mysteries. Perhaps for Ariadne it is more directly related specifically to the mysteries whereas Helen has some part in the transitions of girls in addition to her more mystic character. Certainly he who possessed her gained divine benefit though as Menelaus was worshiped with Helen. However, Ariadne is forever honored as the Divine Bride, the bride of Dionysos. She more than any other goddess that I can think of, is honored as such aside from perhaps Hera because of her marital status to Zeus.

In this fasion Ariadne is not only an important part of the labyrinth as the mystic journey as the opposite to which Theseus as the traveler is harmonized to, but plays a paramount part as the soul-bride as per her part as the Divine Bride. Please note however that my discussion of her as Divine Bride (in all capitals) are in my own words to describe what I am seeing and may have nothing to do with any ancient epithets. This is of course going off of ideas already in place of certain figures being as brides to gods, and the mystic sense of the soul as a bride. Apollon plays an important part, as does his twin, but it is a natural part in a culmination of other parts that have been played.

PBP: R is for Roses and Rosemary

Roses are truly one of the most magnificent of the flowers, and perhaps one of those that is the most widely touted, especially around certain prominent holidays as signs of affection (which varies as much as the colors…as some roses are assigned to romance, other colors to friendship etc). It is perhaps not suprising then that the rose is quite often offered to Aphrodite, the lady of love in all of its many forms, that their heavy musky scent would delight her. Of course here we are thinking of the fat blossoms of the hierloom roses and other such varieties that possess their rich intoxicating scent, and elegant shell-like buds (not to mention their thick forms). Whether or not the roses that were cultivated in ancient Hellas had these distinct characteristics, it is known that the rose is sacred to Aphrodite,quite specifically the red rose which became red in myth when Aphrodite cut her feet on it as she raced to the aid of dying Adonis. Of course it then seems almost ironic that the red rose, associated with such a tragic romantic myth, is the variety that is most keenly given by spouses and lovers.

However, from images of roses perserved on coins it is unlikely that the ancient rose was anything like the roses most people offer her today(as most modern cultivated roses that we enjoy are hyrbids that have been grown over time..a number of which originated in Asia). In fact they bear more in common, in appearance, to wild roses with their smaller blossoms and far more subtle scent. Though it is evident that there is evidence of instruction of cultivation of roses (or rather Rhodon) since the 4th century BCE, and that Sappho (according to the Encylopedia Brittanica) praised the rose as the queen among flowers.

Now what is also interesting is that at Delphi, along the road before you get anywhere really near the temple, I saw a marker with what appeared to be two wild roses, one set above the other. I personally consider this wild rose to be symbolic of Apollon Agyieus, lord of the road, and perhaps bearing some association with Aphrodite as we have Apollon (a god who, other than Zeus, has been represented on coins with labyrinths) instructed Theseus to follow Aphrodite….and her statue consequently being dedicated to Apollon at Delos. Historical use of the rose for ailments can also bear some association to the god, though clearly the rose is foremost a symbol of Aphrodite. Though typically I offer cultivated roses to Aphrodite, and the five petaled wild rose to Apollon.

Further information on the rose, for some interesting reading, can be found here: http://www.vegetarian-nutrition.info/herbs/rose-hips.php

Now rosemary (the name which refers to it as dew of the sea)  is an interesting plant too, and another one that seems to have had some associations with certain goddess,such as Aphrodite, but according to the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, was also plausibly considered a stand in for laurel by Romans…its roman name having some commonality with the roman name of laurel. And as an richly scented evergreen plant that has a history of being grown to deter evil, aid memory, and bring good health, and for application for purification and use in healing, perhaps that is not so surprising. The greek physician of Nero, one Pedanius Dioscorides, described rosemary as having a warming effect. This speaks very strongly to me of Apollon’s influence, and even the throwing of the rosemary into graves at burial doesn’t contradict as Apollon is a god of cemetaries. Aside from Apollon, it can also be closely connected to the mother of the muses he leads, Mnemosyne, for its influence over the memory. However, it does seem though that in the modern era the rosemary is most often ascribed to the Virgin Mary, and thus by others to Aphrodite. It would be safe to say that, perhaps even more so than the rose, this sun loving herb, is one that can be devoted to both Aphrodite and Apollon, both deities associated with the sea and marriage to a degree….but I would say that rosemary bears a closer semblance to Apollon, even with the connections of romance and marriage. Perhaps rosemary is a perfect symbol of the harmonic relationship of the domains of Apollon and Aphrodite.

As laurel, and Aphrodite’s myrtle, is difficult to grow up in these northern climates, I grow mostly rosemary myself in honor of Apollon and Aphrodite for whom I clip off small bouquets. Perhaps when my rosemary gets large enough I will be able to do more with it.