The Appreciation of icons of Shiva and Vishnu by a follower of Apollon

Recently this morning I watched a somewhat odd video on youtube that was attempting to correlate the Hindu and Hellenic pantheons, though unfortunately I felt that they failed miserably largely because the creator of this little video knew little about the Hellenic gods, and apparently just as little about the Hindu ones (judging from comments). But in the end this led to a rather relaxing couple of hours looking at videos (some of them rather informative) of Vishnu and Shiva. So I have to say that in the end, I have a great appreciation as a follower of Apollon for both Vishnu and Shiva as they relate to my god. While I may agree that there is alot of Vishnu to seems like it would reasonably bear some commonality with Zeus, what I did find striking was a reference in which Vishnu is essentially a destroyer of imbalance, and a destroyer of darkness, as well as a master of order which tie in a great deal with my understanding of Apollon as the god who is the head of the Muses, the god who orders the seasons by the chords of his lyre, and a god who is the destroyer of darkness, and conqueror of Pytho. On the other hand Shiva relates to other principles which are connected with Apollon, though I do understand that many appreciate Shiva in relation to Dionysos…but it seems even more relevant to me for Apollon as the name of Apollon is given from “destroyer” and Shiva too is the destroyer. Here is a quote from the Sanatan Society website:

Shiva is responsible for change both in the form of death and destruction and in a positive sense of destroying the ego…..All that has a beginning by necessity must have an end…..Thus the power of destruction associated with Lord Shiva has great purifying power….Destruction opens the path for a new creation of the universe, a new oppertunity for the beauty and drama of univeral illusion to unfold. As Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram or Truth, Goodness and Beauty, Shiva represents the most essential goodness.

While I can see how that would relate to Dionysos, it is also very in line with the character of Apollon…the god who has cultus that included presiding over the graveyards where he protected the soul for 30 days before the soul is escorted by Hermes (in which we can also see in the aspect of Shiva called Aghora—god who resides in the cremation grounds)….who according to the Orphic Hymn cast round the seasons and who Euripedes refers to through Thanatos more or less as a god who is keeper of the law which governs death. But even the image of the dancer (that image of Shiva which I saw at a very young age when I went to a small neighbor Indian store when I visisted my father) is one that resonnates very strongly….and again while I can see how those who adore Dionysos may see this is in association with Dionysos, it speaks more primordialy to me of Apollon, the beautiful dancer who leads forth with his high dancing step…and the very image of Shiva with his leg lifted in dance is very evocative to me of this imagery that I imagine in my head of the dancing step of Apollon and he leads about the progression of seasons to freedom. And that in the dance Shiva is crushing the daemon ignorance is quite telling for Apollon is crusher of ignorance, supersition and darkness. Especially poignant in this imagery is that this demon is one that is caused by forgetfulness, the opposition Mnemosyne (memory) and her daughters that delight in Apollon’s company. And that Shiva’s raised hand is said to indicate a release of a devotee from mortal bondage…sounds like Apollon to me in his domain of freedom. Let us not forget that the Mahamrityunyaya mantra is chanted to remove death and disease, and this form of Shiva is the bringer of bliss (some images of Apollon depict him holding the three Graces) and offerer of the divine elixir. Therefore I have profound appreciation for the icons of Shiva representing this principles.

On the other hand I do like Vishnu’s imagery upon the serpent, for obvious reasons because it makes me think of an image I saw once of an ancient painting in which Apollon was in dragon-drive chariot. The great-serpent/dragon connection with Apollon is not one that can be ignored. And nevermind the fact that Vishnu opperates largely within peace, as the embodiment of mercy and goodness, but according to the above website doesn’t tolerate ego (which also resonnates with Apollon) and has a bow and sword, club and disc…three of these are items intimately connected with Apollon who slays by his bow, and is called the god of the golden sword, and delights in the disc (by which he accidentally killed Hyakinthos).

So whereas it would be too greatly difficult I think for anyone to draw direct parrallel syncretic lines (and I am not attempting to do so, I merely got started thinking because the video I mentioned above related Apollon to Ganesha which I just couldn’t see very well) I think that there is something appreciate in both Vishnu and Shiva through the lens of Apollon’s domain. Just as I can see how someone would find something to appreciate of either of these gods through a lens of worship of Dionysos. So while I don’t think direct syncretism would really work I do think that there are lovely iconographic things that can be appreciated and enjoyed and would contain some level of meaning.

“blond” Apollon

I have seen a remark about how Apollon shouldn’t be represented with yellow hair because ethnic Greeks were not blonds. The thing that bothers me about this remark is this, the gods are not human. The way the gods are envisioned poetically is based on symbolism, and so is how the god is expressed. It has nothing to do with human genetics. To say that a goddess has eyes the color of the sea, this obviously has symbolic connections. Well then Apollon’s coloring has nothing to do with racial identity, but rather on symbolism. Gold is the color of the divine, Apollon is the guardian of the process of attaining deification connected to his association as guardian with Dionysos, as guardian of the vine. As a god intimately connected with deification in the mysteries, the divine hero, it is natural the god who be expressed specifically as one with gold hair. We know he has gold hair from poetry, and even the remains at Delphi have the god… quite literally… with gold for hair. So why should worshippers throw away this very real material about how people saw the god away. Now a mythic representation where the god is disguised as a mortal, I can see making him appear ethnic for those reasons, because he is literally taking the form of the people with whom he is blending. However, for religious representation of the god it is reasonable to depict the god with symbolic poetic descriptions. He is the god of light, he is bright. He is golden thoroughly. For these reasons it is quite appropriate to portray the god with golden hair, despite ethnic origins of his worship. And that is saying nothing for those who discuss parts of his cult that are connected to the north and the Hyperboreans.

more on music and Apollon

Again on music, really because it is something that is so much a part of the worship of Apollon, and really for me music is the essential expression of my soul. Poetry is the language of my soul, art is the vechile of expression—the eyes of my soul, but music is the full expression. It moves me, inspires me, and is such an essential part of my worship. When I first got my lyre when I was about 16 years old, I was so disappointed. I had wanted a small harp for my birthday. It was what I pleaded and begged for. So my dad got me a lyre from a music store that specialized in old fashioned instruments. I played with it some but I was rather unspired by it, because what did I know of lyres. There are just a few strings on it, so it didn’t get the range that a harp does. But I kept it and took it out every now and then. Now, over a decade later, it is a prominent part of my worship experience. In myth, the lyre is an invention of Hermes given to Apollon for trade. The kithara is a more grand evolution of the humble lyre. The measure so necessary for working the lyre, is all about timing. It certainly takes more control than playing a small woodwind. I have a recorder flute that I use too. I played classical flute in highschool, but I was having a bad reaction to the silver mouth peice so I hated to practice with it because it gave me sores in my mouth and I finally stopped (which I wasn’t too broken up about because I wanted to play the violin but my mother refused to allow that). On the other hand the recorder is alot of fun and gives a raspy pitch that is just wonderful. Do I play it for Apollon, yes of course. Now of course there are those who would say well hold on whatof the myth of Marsyas. Well I think that myth illustrates a connection of the woodwind to Apollon if one unpacks it a bit. Also this article I have been reading has produced plenty of evidence in support of the flute in connection of the god. It was only for Apollon that the lyre was played singularly without accompaniment, but that didn’t make it the only instrument to be played. The flute (aylos I think it was called) was a large part of his worship, particularly in the paean to the god. There were contests of this instrument played, and in processions it was played together with the lyre. I mentioned briefly in my last post how I associated movement with song… the music that movement and wind makes. What then is more appropriate than the reed based instrument. I have even used panpipes (syrinx) for Apollon in the past when I had them. This was my favorite instrument to play with in my youngest years. It is an instrument associated with Pan and Hermes, but with the identification of Pan with Apollon in the spring months in the Orphic hymn, I would say that it is just as appropriate. On the whole strings and woodwinds are closely connected with the god, but I wouldn’t particularly use any other instruments to honor him. Drums and cymbals are more for Dionysos, Rhea and other gods in my opinion and by what historical evidence has indicated.

song of movement

Completely off the wall observation, but I love sounds from movement. The rustling of leaves, the whisper of reeds by a pond, wind chimes tinkling and moaning. Strangely, though it doesn’ t  have a measured rhythm that is so paramount of Apollon’s music, there is just something of it that makes me think of sounds by his breath. In this respect I love jewlery that makes noise with the wind and with the movement of the body. I used to have beautiful bracelets and anklets with small bells on them so there would be a whisper of song every time that I moved. It is also one of the reasons why  I adored the belly dancers hip scarf. I prefer bangles that can slide on the rist and clink together. Even the necklace I have made in Apollon’s honor that I wear often has a subtle clanking of the beds and rustle of the chain. I refrained from putting bells on it. There is just this entire love affair with natural subtle sounds. Unfortunately without quiet and calm and awareness of the environment they get muffled so easily. The small subtle sounds and songs from movement all around, I connect this in some ways to the music of Apollon. It is not only the music that harmonizes and puts all in its course, but it is also the music of the heart and soul, the movement of the self and all of nature as it breathes life. This Apollon’s music. A combination of all of these things. To say his music is just the orderly music of kithara and nothing more, it is mistake the fact that while that does play a large part in his worship, the flute has too. Not only in the myth of Marsyas where his kithara is challenged by the flute, but also in a history of his worship from this article I am reading which connects the flute especially to his paeans. The flute I think is connected to him as the more earthly manifestation of his  music, the subtle shifts and variances through breath and life. So I like clicky clanky things, I like bells, wind chimes and rustling leaves just as muchas I love the sweep of the violin, bird song, and the music of human voices in chorus. All of these things are part of Apollon and play into my worship of him.

Hera and Apollon

My daughter just a few months ago mentioned to me how she absolutely had to have a Hera statue. She had one of Apollon, and one of Zeus, and she just needed one of Hera. I can sympathize because Hera is one of the Olympians I don’t have a statue for and it is frustrating. Out of curiousity I asked her why. She said because Apollon needs his mom there. Now this viewpoint confused me for a minute since mythically we all know Leto is his mom. Even she knows that. The comment stuck in my head though, and what is interesting was when I was reading Thrace and the Thracians the book mentioned some devotional work that depicts Hera as mother of Artemis and Apollon. Naturally my reaction was ” whoa! huh?” I can understand a connection between them, as a sort of step-mother/fostermother role. Granted, I can accept that different regions likely would have had different mythos of the gods too. But it just got me thinking of Hera as a sort of foster mother role. Leto is the mother of Apollon and Artemis, and they are depicted frequently interating with their mother. However, at the same time I can imagine an elevation through the nurturing provided by Hera. Mythic account in the Iliad of Hera whipping Artemis with her bow certainly strikes me as a maternal action as a discplinary measure. Technically outside of parental figures one doesn’t see alot of punishment that is the equivalent of a spanking. Second is that the selection of gods as Olympians is a very small one comparable to the vast majority of gods out there. There are only 12, and nearly half of them share a sibling relationship. Hestia, Hera, Zeus, Poseidon and Demeter. Then other 7 are Ares, Athena, Hephaistos, Hermes, Apollon, Artemis, and Aphrodite. Of those Aphrodite is almost related as a sibling because seh was born from the crastration of Cronos. Ares and Hephaistos are both considered sons of Hera and Zeus. So that leaves just a few in selection as children of Zeus among his many many MANY children that he has sired through myth. Athena, Hermes, Artemis and Apollon. As I have mentioned there is some representation already of Artemis and Apollon as children of Hera in Thrace, it would be interesting to see if there is any such imagery connected with Athena and Hermes that depicts a foster-mother relationship with the gods. I would think that this relationship would be part of their status. There are, for instance, images of Herakles and Hera that are maternal in appearance that are directly related the acceptance of him as a god. Anyhoo just food for though.

Apollon with War

Though we don’t consider Apollon a god related to war, because he doens’t seem very warlike, especially in his khiton with his long hair and kitara, that certainly doesn’t scream warrior in any context. I have been reading some things that I think have some connection to Apollon with war. Much like Artemis soteira, the savior of ships… Artemis was honored for the naval battle triumph at the Artemisian straights. After the war with the Persians, according to my book “Thermopylae: the Battle for the West” by Enrle Bradford, Apollon was similarly recognized with a figure at Delphi with his hand at the prow of the ships. I have also read in the same book how Apollon prevented the Persians from entering into Delphi, very mythic and interesting. Though the latter has little to do with what I am talking about, it is the former statement I started thinking about. In writing about Delphinia I was noting that this is a celebration of the naval season, Theseus is giving prayers to Apollon before beginning his journey. I see this as the begining not only of the worldy naval expeditions, but also of the spiritual journey. I read in another source that Apollon Delphinios is connected with the citizen rights. What right is this? One of the associations with the name of Apollon is Apella, for assembly which introduced youths into citizenship during these gatherings of the tribes. A citizen had full rights of voting, but also was responsible,a s part of his rights in safe keeping his country. In being a warrior. I think that this can connect back to the heroic journey where one has to take on a certain amount of personal responsibility, and courage to fight. Heroes did not stay home weaving.

That said, I see Apollon’s associations with a warrior like visage to be one that celebrates Apollon as a protector and guide. Also as one who has made the transition from youth to adult and taking on all of the responsibilities that cme with adulthood. While I don’t have this all worked out in my mind, it is certainly giving me quite a bit of food for though to expand my chapter on Delphinia.

The pythia’s bowl

So I was flipping through the book The Oracle and there are the images I am well familiar with. The pythia sits on the tripod was a laurel branch in one hand and a bowl in the other. I have never particularly paid attention to it before, but then I was wondering what exactly the bowl is. It reminds me of a scrying tool to be quite honest. Much like people who read tea leaves will look at the patterns at the buttom of the cup, scrying catchs reflections of light on a surface. I know alot of people these days do it with crystals etc, but I have done exercises in the past that involved a bowl of water. My favorite tool has been a large abalone shell which catches the light even more so. In the presence of a weak light and a bit of imagination, the most fascinating things can be caught in the water. Though I don’t put alot of personal stock in divination, I find scrying to be a mental stimulus and has led to clear dreaming at night if I do this before bed.

I am hoping that the book might mention the bowl of the pythia. While I think it may be a scrying bowl to focus the mind away from the outside influences (really that is what I have noticed it does… when I have done these exercises I loose awareness of the things going on around me and instead play with the images and whispers in my imagination that rise from some depth in my mind), it possible that it can be just about anything. But it is interesting to consider 🙂