Fire Tending Devotions Stage 1

Whereas I still need a pillar to set up before the shrines to have the main lamps on for my fire tending observance this here is step one with each of the shrines (in one unified case) lit with their oil lamps. It is kind of funny how much bigger and brighter  Dionysos flame is, he whom I honor as the principle spark, the origin of all fire. Of course intellectually I know that this is due to the fact that his oil lamp is wide and shallow, whereas the lamp of Apollon and Artemis has a narrowed spout and is deeper. Still they are both quite beautiful. I have realized that I am now using my last two wicks which means that I am going to have to order a bulk package of cotton fiber wicks from to be shipped to me. The only thing I am irked about is that my statue of Naga Kanya (representing as Leto) *still* hasn’t arrived yet. I am going to have to drop a note to the seller and let them know I didn’t get it for some reason. Eventually I will be making a personal cult image of Dionysos (I already have something specific in mind) and will need to have a very small image to set in his drinking cup in order to be the main feeding image of the god as I have for Apollon and Artemis as can be seen in their picture. There was a kind of feeling of a wellspring settle over me as I poured the libation over the twin statues in the copper offering bowl and a well being settle over me as lotus incense burns on the shrines.

There is so much that will be developing over the next few months with this practice that every baby step seems like a wonder!

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Honoring Apollon During the Hyperborean Season

As I have said before, I consider Hyperborean season to be a time when Apollon is at his most wild and chthonic form as a god fully in his most archaic form as a god of the destructive forces in nature (which would be quite mistaken to look at in a malevolent manner but as a fact that as turner of time there are times of structure and times of destruction as cycles turn). During the Hyperborean time he appears to be the furthest apart from us as he takes up his abode in his holy garden and sets down his mantle and crown of civilization. He instead of the wolfish one, the slayer from afar, the lord of the singing/dying swans (a beautiful end of life in the most sacred and holy fashion). In northern climate we experience this as winter, but I can well  imagine to ancient Hellenes during this rather wet and stormy time of the year it was a time in which the sowing season and the tender new sprouts were particularly vulnerable and without the protection of the god who preserves the crops during the summer half of the year.

For this reason for those who focus more exclusively on his solar and civilized cult may find the Hyperborean time one that is withdrawn from him and without any connection. Of course there are ways to adore him in this afar disconnected from human society, wild god form. Understanding his association with the tomb as a point of boundary between the two worlds also gives a very good access  to this part of him and his domain. At Delphi Hippocrates, according to Pausanias, gave as an offering to the god a bronze of a decomposing body. If we understand the Hyperborean time as one that is outside of human form, constraints and control, as a time of the spirit and soul even in climates in which the sowing of new life is taking place and is of great importance is a very spiritually important time of the year, a mystic time between the Greater and Lesser mysteries in which there are a series of festivals honoring the bonds between Persephone and her mother even in their absence from each other. Therefore images of decomposition, skeletal remains (around this time last year I painted Paper Mache skulls that permanently hang in his shrine but for one who doesn’t have much focus on this part of his cult may find this a lovely activity specifically for this time of the year to adorn his worship place with such momentos. Imagery of wolves would also be particularly appropriate, as would swans as representation of transportation between the worlds of his sacred garden and our world.

Colorful glass through which candle light or lamp light can shine indirectly is also very ideal. Especially for those of us who live in parts of the world that get very dark for long hours during this time of the year such lights can remind us of his blessings, love and kindness even when he is further from his active position in human affairs, even when his winds threaten.

One who feels an very extreme disconnection from him in the winter might even find it appropriate to shroud his image. I used to do this until I came upon the realization that it was not accurate for how I particularly experience him since I more or less “follow” him rather than experience a significant separation. I guess a someone who identifies with his wolfish following this is may be natural. That which is untamed and aggressive in me delights in this time of the year in which I feel him closer to me on a personal level whereas I note his absence in other ways that were more prominent. All the same, shrouding his cult image is from my experience a very powerful experience, especially if it just his face shrouded which lends a sort of otherworldliness and mystery to the god obscured in ambiguity. This a very physical reminder his farness and non presence in his regular affairs where it concerns humanity.

All the same it is a time of the year where it is not uncommon for thanksgiving for the blessings that the god provided during that year, as in the case for offerings given to him in thanks during the Proerosia and the offerings in remembrance of those given by Theseus to him in fulfillment of his vow when he arrived safely to Athens on the day following the Proerosia. You may find other occasion to give some offering in the spirit of thanksgiving as well through the long winter in which we are sustained by the harvests of summer and autumn.

Boedromia and the Departure of Apollon

The Autumn Equinox marks the departure of Apollon, and ironically this year Boedromia, a festival which celebrates Apollon as savior through evoking fear (which I still stand behind having something to do with repelling unwanted spirits), falling on the day of his departure is kind of an odd feeling….yet perhaps not so abnormal when you think of it that Apollon would be driving out evil, a helping god as he departs, even though I do not often think that these occasions would have fallen so close together, but it works. And as Boedromia is the last festival of Apollon before the autumn equinox it is not surprising that their may be a correlation there in one way or another.

As I am focusing on Apollon Lykeios as Apollon Hyperboreios, one who is not so much afar as not connected to civilization and humanity in a tangible or noticeable way, he is the god in the depths of nature as much as the god in the sacred garden of the next world. He is a god that is hidden in plain sight, the wolf prowling the twilight hours, the wolf who is denning in the sacred caverns awaiting to receive Dionysos. Howling force, cleansing and liberating the people, paving the way even as Persephone descends to her husband, hallowed and pure. Meanwhile the air is cool and the autumn leaves are rustling on the trees, as the snow threatens to descend from the mountains where it currently wrests. Apollon Lykeios sings with primal power as Dionysos is laughing with mad delight in the hour of Boedromia and Apollon’s departure, for the wild presence of the wild god, his beloved brother, emerging.

A Meditation on Hestia, Dionysos and the Twins

There have been those who have said that Dionysos replaced Hestia on Olympos as one of the 12 great Olympians (I am not going to even get into how variations differed from region to region on what gods made up said set but rather deal with this solely). While there is no ancient textual support for this, I think that the tendency of people to want to exchange Hestia for Dionysos says something very profound in their relationship.

As I said in an earlier post, Dionysos is as the divine spark. We see this two in myths of his sacrifice where he is consumed by the Titans and that spark is handed down from him into each of us to create the divine spark of our souls. Yet we all know too that Hestia dwells at the center of all things, as does Zeus who dwells within and around all things. If we consider that Dionysos is part of Zeus (although is not Zeus at the same time anymore than Asklepios who is part of Apollon is Apollon) then we are still left with three beings of the center of all things. Zeus who dwells there by virtual that he is within all things  as king of the gods and cosmos, and yet Hestia by merit that she is by necessity as the goddess of the hearth, that goddess who dwells there by reason that she feeds the fires that dwell within all things (although the assumption is that she is the living fire within all things, I think that this more accurate that in accordance with her actual cult that she sits in the center of all things much as she dwells in the center of Olympos, at Delphin and within each house for the purpose of tending the fires within. This makes her necessary to dwell at the center, and that no life could be without her presence there.

However if Dionysos is indeed the divine spark as is suggested by myth, that which is carried within all of us from birth and even through the passages of death, then it makes sense that Dionysos must dwell in the center, and may be that very attribute or part of Zeus that dwells within even as he is the genitive part of Zeus via the myth of his birth from the thigh of the god so near his reproductive organs. He is the seed of the life, germinating within all things, appropriate too for a deity associated with the mysteries of Demeter and Persephone. In which case we can see him too as described as the child of Haides. He is the spark of flame which Hestia nurturers. As such he cannot take her place at Olympos. Hestia essentially is Olympos, as her presence therein at the center gives life to the divine realm of the gods. There would be no Olympos without her. Just the same Dionysos dwells within Olympos as the divine fire of Olympos, the spirit of Olympos. For his first incarnation as Zagreus he was made by his father Zeus as king, and in such a fashion is united with Olympos even as his substance is united with all beings on the earth.

Yet we find Artemis at Olympos as that goddess which brings the hinds of her hunt  which are received by Apollon (or in later traditions by Herakles who was said to have been given the duty by Apollon). We see Artemis and Apollon at Olympos as beings which feed and invigorate the halls of the gods. They are as nurse and caretaker of Dionysos as they are of Olympos, providing stability and even bringing happiness and joy by their activity therein (as we find Apollon in the poem of Kallimachus arriving among the company of the gods and by his song making all the gods merry and dancing happily). Dionysos too is credited with bringing much joy and happiness to the company of the gods, and his own substance being that which is preferred among the gods apart from all others. In other poems we have Apollon with the Muses being the first to greet Dionysos and making merry in his presence. Although Apollon and Artemis bring substance to Olympos, it is the presence of Dionysos, the ever dwelling flame of Olympos who is the spark of all source of happiness and merriment and by such is much beloved.

Such can be acknowledged in the relationship of the brothers, Apollon and Dionysos. Whereas Artemis after had a nurse like relationship, or nurturing relationship with him, even if at times being one of primal conflicts, the relationship of Apollon and Dionysos is which we overlaps. I would consider there that many of the overlaps deal with this very nature of Apollon and Dionysos acting together as is essential in nature. Dionysos dwells within civilization and the arts of civilization which nurture and inspire the soul into growth and development as the essential spark of this creative potential from the divine. Apollon acting with Dionysos brings forth these very same things. His music gives form to the fire. He is at the center, at the axis directing the movement of all things around it. His music is the influence upon the central spark, providing direction and informing upon it. He is the first celebrant, the bacchic one along with his twin Artemis.  They dance about the divine spark as Hestia tends eternally to it. Essential and inseparable together as they weave their part of life and the cosmos, as Leto who is as night, the womb of life which gives birth to bring forth the light, even as Apollon and Artemis are of the twilight ushering in the light and as such part of its manifestation.

To them I tend them all I tend to the flames for the very heart of life.

A Change in seasons, Noumenia and My New Shrine

Nothing is more profound in moving than when it comes to that moment you set up your shrine in your new house. The way the shrine manifests in your new home is an exciting time because it never manifests the same way. In a new home it lays the groundwork for an entirely new type of work and devotional direction. It is exciting, exhilarating…and uncertain. There is a dread of “what if it falls apart” or ” what if this doesn’t work right”. Yet when it comes together it is a moment of beauty….a new season in your devotional life and daily life all at once.

I have finally gotten moved into my new house. It was an exhausting amount of work to accomplish in such a short time, but to have it all finished before the Noumenia is a great reward to be able to really enjoy my house and the shrines of my gods in completion in greeting the new month. What is more who knew that this would be a month for such a new direction to take shape in my life. I am delving more into my relationship with Dionysos, but having a new direction in my relationship with Apollon is a new adventure. His space is enclosed, like a den surrounded by swaths of cloth, he is the one who loves the hidden places. He is set apart. He is as the raging fire and so his lamp is within his small enclosure with his cult image on his shrine. The enclosure being made from a small metal table brings to mind of a feeling of a hearth or an iron brazier that contains the living flame. I have considered for some time that Hestia is not so much the fire herself in the strictest sense but as a goddess of the hearth and lady of the oiled locks she is that which contains and sustains the fire. This would well explain the myth of Apollon’s attraction and infatuation and desire to marry her (and her subsequent dwelling within his temple at Delphi as well as at Olympos). In the case of more chthonic fire which is more magmatic in its nature I would even suggest this has associations with concepts of Romans associating Vesta with the earth. We know the devouring and warming fires of the hearth, and we know the solar fires which operates in unity with Helios. The fire, the raging winds, these are Apollon, and which are going to be important to me this winter I feel. And so I see perhaps why I was strongly motivated during the construction of this new manifestation of the shrine to have it in this form. The wolf in his den, the flame burning within the iron brazier,  the god of illumination shining from the hidden places. To have a divination given to me in which it was suggested to me that I may want to engage in fire keeping the very next day after setting up this shrine was quite a big revelation to me as to why I was pushed towards this end, a compelling I could not ignore.

A new season is coming around, and the slight apathy I had been feeling before has shed away given way to excitement towards what is to come. Devotion to the lord of the raging elements, the living giving and destroying. The wolfish one. Hail Apollon!


Apollon and the Egyptian God Set

First of all I think it is necessary to make note of the fact that I have not seriously studied Kemetic religion or Egypt even since I was in highschool. Since I am nearing my 35th birthday, that means it is has been quite a few years. And even though I felt like it gave me a good foundation I will be the first to admit that there is a lot that I have forgotten over the years (or is buried so deep it would probably take someone highly trained in hypnotism to bring it out). All the same, as today is Karneia and I am observing the movement of the year of Apollon’s functions as he is finalizing his preservation of human civilization from the devastation of wilderness (which is more accurately his domain even if he acts at holding it back out of compassion for humanity) I thought it would be appropriate to spend a moment to write about the relationship of Apollon and the Egyptian god I think most strongly resembles him: Set.

As most know when it comes to term of Hellenic-Kemetic syncretism that typically it is Heru-sa-Aset (or Horus the younger/Horus the son of Isis) with whom Apollon is usually linked historically by Hellas. I have been of the opinion for some time since reading the work of Diodoros Siculus that this association was likely most plausibly made to explain the marked difference between Apollon’s roles in the mysteries, as a son of Demeter (whom the Hellenes observed to be like Isis, while at the same time being Persephone) and Dionysos (whom they observed to be like Osiris). Thus we have a narrative of the mysteries that they must have come from Egypt and that Apollon was the son of Osiris as he was the son of Dionysos and that of Demeter (or Persephone) rather than being native to Hellas, and that Orpheus learned of these mysteries and observed them in his time there and brought them back and taught them to the Hellenes. Yet the mysteries which are reinterpreted as Kemetic have little to do with the native religion itself when looked at, nor do the Hellenic mysteries resemble them too closely. Therefore I take it more as a metaphorical translation which serves merely to help tell the mysteries without really telling them…even if it is making stuff up or changing stuff around.

We already can see a more clear distinction between Artemis and Nephthys, the sister-wife of Set as imagined as a kite, a bird that Aristophanes in his play “the Birds” associated with Artemis particularly. That and a very particular nurse goddess as well as a companion of Isis and goddess who has particular attachments with death, if Demeter is like Isis, we can see the huntress/nurse Artemis to be akin to Nephthys more so than the joyous Bastet, especially given myths where Artemis takes a larger participatory role in the rape of Persephone for which we can see Artemis and Demeter standing in distinctive roles when it comes to the departure and emergence of Persephone. In fact she shares a number of powers quite similar to Isis that it is rather awe-inspiring, and a goddess of the twilight (which I think is more apt for Artemis as it is for Apollon) as the vessel of Re descends into the underworld. In the temple of Hera at Argos we get a sense of this kind of relationship when in the hallway of the goddess Pausanias observes that the statues of Demeter and Persephone (which could be taken in similar context if replaced with Dionysos who likewise descends and was later added to the mysteries of Demeter) faced that of Apollon and Artemis at the other side of the hall. There is an immediate relationship here of a particular pairing facing off, which are parallel and oppositional (not in a bad way). Apollon and Artemis act specifically on Persephone (or Dionysos in which it is even more clear). If we had Demeter and Dionysos facing them we probably could have had an interesting parallel for the Osiris-Isis and Nephthys-Set pairings, and even more interesting given the supportive relationship Nephthys has with Isis and affection for Osiris that brought along Anubis the funerary god (which can both be linked to Hermes Psychopompos (which is far more common)  and by my opinion to Apollon as guardian of the tomb) who is also called the son of Set in some texts.

Typically, as I mentioned above, in order to fulfil the purpose of the Hellenic narrative we have Apollon associated with Horus, usually based on his serpent slaying (never mind that Set is the ultimate force against Apep the great serpent) and largely due to his medicinal/healing attributes, as well as solar characteristics that become particularly emphasized in Apollon’s later cult. That is not to say that Apollon had zero such attributes, but it is more likely that he was a god of the twilight and in the solar context would have had more in common with Khepri, the god who brings the sun into becoming, and in some things I have read also been associated with the sunset. I am not sure what that may have in common with Set at all, but it is an observation and there has been on author who pushed for a recognition of the name of Apollon coming from an altered form of the name of Khepri. All the same, while Apollon is particular to that time of the day as the god who turns round the days and seasons (and therefore appropriate as god of becomings and endings) his cult is largely more distinctive as a god of natural destructive forces (which includes the sun which in hotter climates can be a bane that withers crops and destroys life as well as decaying flesh), as well as the more ancient associations with the wind storms that we see lingering in particular cult traditions and specifically in the cult name of Apollon Telkhinios.

As I have said in other posts, Apollon as a god of healing, abundance, civilization etc should usually be examined through the lens of what his name is, what his primary action is. He is the destroyer. That name is not accidental, but has a very particularly purposeful meaning behind it. That makes him more appropriately a god of the wild places, of famine and illness etc. Yet as myth demonstrates, he loves humanity and is compassionate. Therefore I see his guardianship of cities and pastoral flocks etc as a intentional holding back of that which is within his domain in order for human life to prosper. As we see with Rudra in India and Set in Egypt, or Rashef in Mesopotamia (none of these being *evil* gods by any stretch of the imagination) it is not uncommon at all to see a god of destruction/illness be petitioned for exactly the opposite purposes. Therefore it is reasonable to understand how a god of the destructive forces of nature and the wild lands would be a god who protects civilization. Certainly makes sense to me how and why Set would have been king of Upper Egypt! There is some quite odd commentaries out there that the Greeks associated Set to Typhon, when that would more accurately probably should be aligned to Apep.

In fact when looking close at the roles that Set provides (keeping in mind he also had very important supportive roles to Osiris and Horus) that his role as a slayer is not uncommon to the domain of the god and not unnatural to what you find with Apollon, particularly when looking at the relationship of Apollon and Dionysos in which Apollon is not only one who lauds Dionysos and is the first to greet him as a god but is also a god who can be seen as assisting the slaying of Dionysos. The Thyiades (who were named after a nymph who was a lover of Apollon as well as a follower of Dionysos) is perhaps a good starting point of looking into this relationship. But perhaps more strongly would be the iconographic imagery of the wolf and the bull, and instances of contest between them. Or even Theseus (with strong links to Apollon) and the Minotaur (even though I have stated before the Minotaur is strongly linked also to Apollon as guardian of the gates). Apollon as a year god and Dionysos as a seasonal and dying god thus have this natural dance that they go through which I think is appropriate to for that Osiris and Set, that the one god who loves the other who must dye, is the god who cares for him but also is the one who cuts him down by necessity. Even the exile of Set has a very strong taste of the exile of Apollon who was banished from the company of the gods for his transgression of murder. That which is necessary in nature is not always popular in any case among men or gods in myth it seems.

We see too much of the protective nature of Apollon in Set as Set is the god who protects the sun barge during its nightly traversing of the underworld. And Set as a god who restrains the desert is very much in line with how I see Apollon as a god restraining the wilderness/wolves/locusts/mice/etc. Even Set slaying Apep has a similar imagery to Apollon slaying the Python. Nevermind associations of particular animals such as the boar. Unfortunately in later periods Set gained enormously unpopularity. He is just not as pretty as Apollon apparently, and invaders saw set as being more common with Typhon and evil forces that natural destructive ones, whereas Apollon’s reputation remained fairly intact until Christianization of Hellas.  In fact philosophy and later traditions that veered more into a solar cult and away from his original cult worship as a god of the natural destroying forces of nature probably did more to preserve his image than anything else. Associations Apollon had with falcons due to his swiftness of travel were played upon to show that Apollon spent time in Egypt as a falcon god makes such associations with Horus and solar cults even more pronounced. His relationship to Harmony becomes more pronounced in the writings of Plato and overshadows his more known destroyer associations……but overlooking that as god of the year who turns round the seasons part of the harmony is the necessity of destruction. Yet I think it was the shift of focus from the less destructive features of Apollon’s cult onto that which he preserved from his own forces that did a lot for his cult to not go a similar route as that of Set in later periods. I mean I have wondered a time or two, even as Set has been linked erroneously with the mad chaos that is Typhon) if plays on Typhon weren’t reminiscent or reflective in some manner of the Cretan contest between Zeus and Apollon as son of Corybas (who himself was transformed into a black dragon), and shows up again when Apollon battles the second Python (not Delphyne but the son of Gaia). It all makes an interesting turn of the mind.

Apollon, Artemis and Action of Nature

I remarked in a conversation with a friend yesterday that it seems to me if I were trying to simplify the domains of Apollon and Artemis that it would not be a boxy sun god musician/healer and moon goddess huntress bit that is typical, but rather when examining their domains that they seem to fall along two very distinct activities within nature, that which is cyclic that involves timely death and then again to generation, and that which is life sustaining and nurturing, which includes concepts of food provision.

While both Apollon and Artemis have characteristics of the other, generally speaking Apollon takes the former part, the god of the action of nature which is cyclic which is the biggest part of the Orphic hymn to him. Roles which indicate the god as nurturing are usually linked to keeping back banes (attacks of famine inducing critters and hostile weather for crops, beasts of prey for livestock, and premature death and illness towards humans) which would produce untimely destruction. He is that which ripens all things for the time of their destruction by means of protecting it from those very forces of his which  would destroy it. In Euripedes Aclestis there is a great quote in his confrontation with Thanatos that I frequently use in which Apollon challenges that death should only come for that which is ripe for it. This is part of the harmony of his divine song. He ages and matures things until they are ripe for their destruction, just as he holds off foul weather for the fruits to ripen to plant new seeds.

Although he is the destroying force in nature, it is to a purpose, just as his warding the living from his destructive forces is to a purpose. Destruction is necessary to breed life. Compost is a rich fertilizer that brings the healthiest and most prolific plants. The decomposed flesh of Python created the sacred ground of Delphi from which the holy fountain rose. The natural death of beasts frees up resources for the young (anyone who lives in an area with high numbers of prey animals that lack significant numbers of natural predators know well how problematic this can be). And let us not forget the number of plants that are given room to spring to growth after a forest fire, or even those seeds which require seasonal fires in order to germinate.

As a destructive god (and preserving god by warding off these forces) he is the god of every natural force which destroys life. He is the god of locusts and mice which can bring plagues of famine. He is the god of wolves. He is the god of the winds which when they are not doing their mild functions of natural corrosion can be just as dangerous of blight on food stores and shelter when storms get out of control on land and sea, and his is the fire which consumes all things even as fire within the earth warms his thermal springs therapeutically. As such the nature of the benevolence of the destructive forces within nature we find him loosely paired with the symbolism of the sun, whose heat could destroy with terrible droughts and heat and bring forth life in the spring. Naturally we find him too then linked with carrion eating creatures (which wolves can be at times….they are opportunity eaters), and ravens.

Artemis as the sustaining and nurturing part of nature is the energy of the natural world. She is the food provider through the hunt and through lactation of the nurse, or even in connection to the welfare of crops. As such she is connected to powerful females of the animal kingdom such as the fiercely protective maternal bears, and the huntress lionesses, as well as dogs who not only lovingly care for large litters but exemplify the protective and loyal part of her nature and as hunting dogs as providers too for mankind. Other creatures which represent wealth of food, especially those species which generate quickly such as rabbits and hares, are reasonably sacred to her in association. Ultimately she is that which is always propelling life forward. If Apollon is the dance and the path, then she is the dancer and the one hunting prey down the forest trails. She vitalizes that which he orchestrates from the moment she receives the new life, and pursues forward each living being into growth as an bow launches and arrow. As she slays the beasts she is part of that which is instrumental and connected into the evolution and natural progression of life as one things yields to another form. In such respects she is connected to the moon which increases and decreases (even as Apollon is associated the cyclic nature of the moon) in which the growth of life is aptly symbolized.

Together the divine twins play the most important and principle parts of nature, and that is how their domains are best summed up to me when put to more general forms, but this makes far better sense to me than the standard summation of their domains that are common.