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!

DSC01559 DSC01560

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.

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.


The Thanks of Harvest

It is that time of the year where many polytheistic cultures celebrated the harvest. In Hellas the entirety of the summer and into the early autumn was the season of harvest. Grains were harvest in the first half of summer which also saw the festival of Kronia honoring the golden age of men and Kronos. The prelude to the harvest time was the Thargelia of Apollon in which the green grains were offered to Apollon in preparation for the harvest season, likely so that sunny dry weather would prevail in order for the grains to successfully ripen. Many crops rely on dry sunny periods in order to ripen, not only grains but also grapes. The initial harvest of which, like with the grain, involved the honoring of Apollon who sustains the crops. This Karneia is an interesting festival as a culmination of summer festivals to the god during this harvest period. The death of Hyakinthos in Sparta and his relation to the wheat bread the harvest of which occurred roughly around the time of his festival has a strong suggestion of agrarian sacrifice and receiving the divine blessings. The Gymnopaideia which honored the youths who have matured into radiant young men who danced unarmed for their society which no bachelor was permitted to witness, which may not only have to do with the societal obligations but symbolical of the propagation of nature and as a festival during the summer harvests it may have some relationship to honoring the propagation of the harvest which has successfully matured and whose grains would not only feed the society and sustain its continuance but also be sewn in looking towards the future. The Karneia which followed was also the shepherd harvest where spring lambs that had been reared were often butchered in thanksgiving. Thus the grains and vineyards were followed by the sacrifice of flesh. The bread, the wine/drink (keeping in mind that during this period that drinking water was often not very clean and so people depended on the bacteria killing spirits, watered down, as a drink) and meat. The very basis of sustenance.

Although many regions, especially in the further north, do not experience this summer long season of harvest (here in Alaska you don’t really see much of harvest until the end of August and early September before everything goes crashing down into an abrupt winter). All the same, August has for many cultures of Europe been a time of thanks to various gods who preserve the harvest and are responsible in some manner for it thriving. Right now may who honor Celtic gods are celebrating the festival of Lugh with the bounties of ripe fruits and grains. For Hellas this is the time of winding down towards the Eleusinia in September around the time of the Autumnal Equinox is an excellent example of the importance of harvest in the honoring of the departure of Persephone. It is proceeded by the festival of Zeus Epoptes which may have relevance to the beginning of the rainy season and the conclusion of the harvest as Zeus the overseer who plans out the proceeding events of the marriage of Persephone, as the grain is planted within the earth to germinate once more to bring plenty to the world. I have expressed my thoughts on an old website of mine that I recently refound/remembered here in which I discuss further my thoughts of Zeus Epoptes.

The Eleusinia couldbe considered the high harvest festival in all its grandeur. It honored not only Demeter and Persephone whose mysteries are the very continuance of all things in blessing of plentitude, but also as what was a time for honoring those gods who are instrumental in these mysteries. They who receive special acclaim for the blessings of the harvest. As far removed as most of us are from the important reverence of spirit of thanks for the harvest in our high tech world in which  we can get all manner of foods available at any store at any time of the year, we don’t perhaps quite understand that feeling of having your societies entire health and welfare dependent on successful crops. Most of us in first world countries don’t know what it is like to experience famine from failed crops (and pray that we never do experience it’s devastation!) It is quite understandable that during the harvest festival Apollon himself would receive two offerings. One, a goat, likely dealing with his blessings as seasonal lord of the dry warm harvest season that permits the successful maturation of the crops (more the point than the weather, but related to the weather for its necessity to this case). And the latter, a pig, something which was sacrificed to not only Apollon Noumenios but also to certain aspects of Apollon as a helper of men, like to honor him as a god of plague (ie famine in most cases).  Zeus is the only other deity that I am aware of who gets two offerings at the Eleusinia.

But that aside, there was a host of numerous deities which by necessity must be given honor to. We know of the Calydonian Boar which was sent to plague men when Artemis was forgotten during the harvest sacrifices, which could be a mythic signifier of how serious and important the role of each the deities take in providing for the dietary welfare of the people. It is more than a grain mother and daughter which gets the most emphasis, but rather a time of true thankfulness for an entire host of gods in a spirit of reverence for survival of one’s household and offspring that will not face starvation. It is not the platitudes of the American Thanksgiving  in a very generic spirit of thanks in a rather abstract way that most tend to celebrate, but a knowing and fending off of hunger that looms ever threatening. They are the gods who are by their grace the sustainers of life. Each culture has them and gives reverence to them for their mercy and kindness. It is of no wonder that the agrarian cult of Demter and Persephone which feeds and sustains mankind as a mercy and blessing would translate into the spiritual world in which souls are saved even as the crops save us from hunger.

I would recommend in all earnestly that before celebrating the end of the harvest and the gifts that the gods have so generously endowed us with a short period of fasting for those who are able to remind us how much a divine blessing food is for us as a true gift from the gods. I think that this year I must give special thanks to Annapoorna-Artemis with her lovely spoon/ladel, nurturer of life,  who extends her hand to nurse mankind until we have reached the end of our age and are ready for her arrows.

Artemis who is not only a goddess who is a divine nurse but also a provisionary of the fields by holding off the wilderness from encroaching into the fertile fields and the blessings of wilderness displaced for crops, is understandable how grievous it was to forget her, and how her mercy was instantly revoked as the very agent of the wilderness, the Calydonian Boar. was sent forth into human habitation and fields to bring death and destruction. Ever ought one by thankful of her. For Annapoorna dispensing out food, for Artemis who provides. This is especially relevant for Alaskans where given how harsh a wilderness we are surrounded with and with comparably very limited spaces for crop growing or viable for supporting herds of livestock, many people find what provisions they can in the wilderness. The wild berries, the salmon runs, the hunt. She is important not only for what the wilderness provides but for the viable spaces too that she establishes for us. Thanks be to all the gods during the time of the harvest.

Annapurna Parvati and Artemis the Nurse


When I speak of Artemis as the divine nurse I don’t mean to bring forth the imagery of Artemis whipping out a breast to suckle newborns, or anything of the like. I don’t even agree that the orbs attached to the Ephesian statue are breasts (although Roman copies in Italy have exaggerated into breasts), rather I think of them as eggs which was a very important mystic motif in the Hellenic world. Rather, even as Artemis is widely associated with numerous streams and rivers, she is a goddess who at the birth of the baby draws up the nourishment for the baby (ie lactation). This is her provision of nourishment for the newly born who need to nurse as most warmblooded creatures require. It is for this purpose that she was likely honored by wetnurses of infant boys in Sparta, as well as her wide worship as Kourotroph (a role she shared with Hekate, and Ge notably). Her role of nourishment though should be taken in consideration of the sum of the whole.

She was important enough in the harvests that she sent the Calydonian Boar to ravage when she was forgotten in the harvest sacrifices. In Italy we find the cult of Diana which the sacred Nemoralia in August was said in part to have been celebrated to hold off autumn storms from devastating crops which may have some cross cultural sharing given the sacred laws inscribed in Greek at her temple). Artemis’s own role as Soteira, that we find a loose connection with human nourishment through protection of the crops, as well as protection of young animals that she provided as consumption as the huntress of the mature wildlife.  With her associations with rivers and streams there are also tentative association with freshwater fish. As such it is all connected with the concept of nurturer and sustenance that allows from growth and development.  As a huntress such growth and development, and thus proper nutrition, would be of high priority to her as a goddess who is also a huntress.

This quite relatable to Artemis’ manifestation in India as Parvati when she comes in the for of Annapurna. Although Annapurna is associated with provision of meals of rice and grain, she herself is not really, to my way of understanding, a grain goddess. She doesn’t bring the grain nor is she responsible for its production and cultivation. She provides the nourishment. It can be said that the food end-product which she distributes in order to feed men is more her area, something which began with her feeding the world with Shiva. She is overall a goddess of nourishment in general, “Ann” being food and “purna” referring to full or complete. In this sense she is considered too the goddess of cooking, which seems like a strange role to association the very apparently  undomestic Artemis with until we consider that cooking food is believed to have its origins in Neolithic hunting where game meat that would otherwise be too tough to consume was softened by cooking. In which case we can see a very tangible link between cooking and hunting despite notions of the person who brings home the bacon being separate from the person who cooks said bacon to borrow a colloquialism. Her associations, like Apollon, to the living flame further reinforces it. Again to look towards Nemi which may or may not have connection to the Hellenic Artemis cults, there was a significant votary connection between Artemis and the lamps of Vesta.  There are many ways in which we considered Artemis and Hestia to be cooperatively working goddesses, and the production of food in cooking would be a huge common territory.

Even the vague lunar associations that Artemis has are not distinct from Annapurna as the goddess is depicted seated with a moon upon her brow. The moon has a long history of association with making full and increase, which may be the basis of Artemis’ connection with the moon as well as it is not otherwise very clear exactly how the moon fits into her overall cults.  The pull of the moon on growth, the movement of the tides as well as tracking the times for harvest and planting (anyone seen a falmer’s almanac?) is quite significant when taken into consideration the vague connection Artemis seems to have with the harvest. Such connection becomes more evident when we look at myths in which Artemis, with Athena, was said to have led Persephone to the spot where Hades stole her away. The marriage of Persephone is very much lined up with the grain harvest and the sewing of the new seeds (plant eggs) which would be very evident in the worship of Artemis if she is implementing  these activities in her mystic mythic role. This certainly provides an interesting slant to Annapurna’s neglect of the food giving fields causing all things to go barren. It is not because she is responsible for plant growth necessarily. But the harvest and planting that is part of food production she plays a part in, just as wild animals disperse seeds through consuming them and defecating the seeds from their bowels. Consumption and food making are not separate from the process of cultivation, but neither are they directly the same. We see this too with animals in which Artemis is the huntress who provides for young creatures and protects them but has also been connected loosely with their fertility and reproduction even though she is not a fertility goddess strictly speaking. The connection between crops and animals is a close bond that we can even see even with Apollon and his associations with protecting and harvesting herds and crops alike. Her likeness in this respect with food grains is probably part of what significantly connected her as a daughter of Demeter whose myth of the barrenness of the earth bears similarity to that of Annapurna.

Further, associations with Artemis and primal energy can be linked to food as well which provides the physical body with energy, even as she herself fills the spiritual body with energy in the pursuit of her spiritual hunt towards driving forth our souls. I talk more of Artemis and energy in my post here. Likewise the prayer to Annapurna address she who gives her energy to Shiva, this is his nourishment, not the material food. In either case what is important to take away is less the myth surrounding what is going on but more towards what is being presided over. She is offering nourishment and sustainment to the body and the soul. This is the importance of this function of Artemis-Annapurna.

That said I can really easily imagine Apollon and Artemis getting into a heated argument over the importance of spiritual pursuits vs food/nourishment.

Janus and the Unity of Apollo (Apollo) and Artemis (Diana)

I have spoken before of the cosmic unity between Apollon and Artemis. I have spoken of this in reference to their interlocked domains and in comparisons to Apollon and Siva. Recently I read a passage that speaks of the work by Macrobius from his work Saturnalia in which he ascribes Janus essentially as being the composite whole of Apollo and Diana, stating the providence of Apollo and Diana over the doorway and streets. This makes quite a bit of sense to me and has been something I have been leaning towards. I have read two descriptions of Janus’ two faced somewhat aniconic form. One describes him as bearing a youthful face and a bearded face representing youth and age and thus the passage of time and the doorway of which he oversees. The other descriptor states that the two faces are gender opposites, one masculine and one feminine.

I have often wondered why the imagery of Apollon Agyieus persisted in Rome and through the Roman Empire when I have never seen any evidence of the domestic worship of Apollon. In fact, I had always assumed that with the adoption of Apollon that their Apollo was adopted simply lacking the domestic features that were so important to his Hellenic cult. However this was something that struck me as particularly odd given just how important it was that it would be so abandoned, and even more so when I came to see how many Agyieus representations were present in that part of the world. For years I have simply ascribed to the simple explanation that the household cultus was not adopted because the providence of Apollon in the domicile was already covered by Janus. This conclusion was reached after formerly abandoning the identification of Apollon and Janus with each other on the assumption that this identification in branch of stregheria I was familiar with may have been an assumption of later folklorists from which the founder drew. That said, now reading this material from Macrobius I am forced to reevaluate those assumptions of my youth when I prayed to Apollon and hailed him in the same breath as all-seeing Janus. That these prayers that would flood my mind’s eye with light and heat are something precious. That just perhaps this instinctual alignment and association was perhaps containing something worthwhile.

According to Macrobius Janu was the universe itself, holding to my associations of Apollon/Artemis with Phanes, whose name was derived from eundo given that the heavens are always in motion. This has a stricking similarity to Socrates discussion on the inherent meaning on the name of Apollon in which  he suggested that Apollon referred to him as the god which keeps the bodies of the heavens (and really all things) moving together harmoniously. Even the Neoplatonic view of Janus as the god of the doors of the heavens and hell aligns with Hellenic worship of Apollon not only as gatekeeper and his celestial associations but also his khthonic ones as funerary god of the cemetery. Given that Artemis shares in all  the same prvidences as Apollon we can link her to nearly all of these same designations as well.

Associations of Janus with the compass of the world is also quite familiar in my own thoughts regarding Apollon, although ones that are likely not shared given that they are my own doxa and conclusions. Whereas I generally ascribes the directional winds  Somewhat related, although not quite the same, Marcus Messala indicates that Janus unifies the opposites and brings together the four elements in the compass unifying the elements where they meet. While the texts giving this information is neo-Stoic which had a high emphasis on Apollon as god of gods, this does not discount the close undeniable association of Apollon and Janus….and kind of amusingly that Jarilo whom can be identified as a Slavic possible origin of Apollon possesses a name that bares similarities to both the names of Apollon and Janus, although that is just my amused speculation there.

In many ways I am seeing Janus as kind of Parasiva, or perhaps symbolically more accurately comparable to Ardhanarishvara in which Parvati and Siva are unified, as the unified form of Apollon (Apollo) and Artemis (Diana), nurturing and consuming presider over the heavens and the earth, binder of things, ensarer, unifier, destroyer, guardian.

The Serpent Arrows of Apollon and the Fire of Leto

Apollon’s arrows have been poetically described as serpent arrows. This signifies certain qualities of serpents of the venomous nature. The arrows are fiery, stingy and eating like flames in the skin, probably similar to the feel venom entering into the blood system. While I have never been bitten by a venomous snake, I have been stung by a wasp and can well understand the feeling of fire on the skin. It is an interesting turning of the imagination to imagine the arrows of Apollon projecting out, entwined with fiery serpents, dealing their death blows and consuming that which they pierce. They do not merely wound, but like greatly venomous creatures, their sting is certain death and consummation by fire.

As the Hellenic peoples saw Leto in the Egyptian Uto/Wadjet (the nurse of Horus and Bast, which may have some connection to how Leto was perceived in her relationship with Apollon and Artemis in the mysteries where the twins were regarded as the children of Demeter (Artemis) and Persephone (Apollon), we can see a definite serpentine connection as Uto is typically represented in the form of a winged cobra crowned by the sun, sometimes with the head of a woman in something of a naga or Echidna fashion. Although Hellenes identified Uto with the night, as preceding the light of the divine twins and said she escaped Typhoen by turning into a shrew, the serpentine nature of Uto is what is clear in Egypt. We can certainly get an idea of the flaming serpentine nature associated with Apollon via this association that Leto has as a matter of inheritance whether she is regarded as his mother or nurse. This oracle goddess who is both serpent and had a cult in which the shrew was given particular honor forms an interesting variation of the hunter/prey theme that I have written of before. In a sense she is herself like a self consuming fire, a self consuming serpent for she is both the serpent, the natural prey of the serpent, the shrew.  It provides an interesting dichotomy housed in one goddess  that gives some direction of thought that she is herself constantly consuming like all devouring time, nursing life and destroying it without effort and in every breath and movement. Night that is constantly bringing forth day and consuming it again.

This makes her, although she is not envisioned as a huntress, the principle companion of her daughter in the hunt. Whereas Artemis is the energy of the hunt, I imagine Leto to the be the very force of the nature of the hunt, the natural  repurposing cycle of birth and destruction. Likewise, as Apollon by his nature is preserver and destroyer, she is as the very force behind his destructive power. She, like her mother Phoebe, is one with Delphyne (which I believe may have occurred to the Hellenes historically given her association with Buto and Buto’s own oracular providence) who is both the serpent arrow of Apollon and the victim of the arrow. Yet for all of this she is possessing serpentine qualities of grace and beauty, although often concealed within the veils of shadows. Mysterious, lethal, but powerful and gracious all at once. Whereas Artemis is the mover of the energy, and Apollon directs the movement of energy…Leto is raw power itself. It is for this reason she is devouring and generating all at once and ceaselessly. Leto is inseparable from the cults of her children because she is coiled deep within both of their disciplines and natures. Her relationship with them s by necessary different than the maternal relationship of Demeter/Persephone. Fact of the matter, aside from directing and protecting her offspring one does not really see a very maternal side of Leto in terms that we commonly think of it. We see  the unknowable, the gracefully elegant, nurse and killer and fierce protectress……we see her raw power for which she was also associated with goddesses such as Rhea.

*correction: I misremembered the name. Buto has been corrected to Uto. Many thanks to Edward Butler for the correction!

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.

Daughters of the Horse

Most of the younger collection of Olympians are most commonly said to have been sired by Zeus, with a few exceptions of gods who are presented with alternate fathering, this may have been as part of a development at some point in Hellas history in which many of the dominant gods were arranged as his children in order to justify their relationship with him and their belonging to his rule (and agreeability to it). That is to say that being fathered by Zeus may have rendered some sensibility to the governance of these deities with realms of function that are particular to Zeus’ spiritual aetheric rule. Apollon presented in Crete as being a son of Corybas, and one who competed with Zeus for rule according to local myth, is an excellent example of the son of an earthy almost chthonic god. His father being a great dragon of a god and follower of Rhea. Apollon here is one who, despite also being a earthy god, like his father, associated with herding and fruition of crops, was born possessing such similar powers of aetheric light and power that it makes him a natural rival of Zeus. A rivalry that, upon loosing to Zeus, was neutralized and Apollon was born as a son of Zeus through the ambiguous lady Leto. The parallel nature of Zeus and Apollon in many respects seems to play out in Orphic hymns in their common identifications with Pan and Helios. Apollon became a favored son of his father and one so, understandably, intrinsically a part of the father god that he often acted as an extension of his father’s will through carrying out his father’s designs and his role as oracle.

Yet two goddesses of alternate parentage are also apparent, daughters of Poseidon. One is Artemis, the daughter of Demeter and Poseidon, a tamer of horses, and holding certain fame as such throughout most of the Peloponesse. The other is Athena who was regarded as the daughter of Poseidon particularly in Crete and Libya, the yoker of horses. Edward Butler, in conversation with him, made a great case for the fathering of these goddesses by  Poseidon firmly attaches them to the physical world, whereas the fathering by Zeus attaches them to the spiritual world of the intellect (my paraphrase..he is welcome to elaborate here in comments below!). As such the fathering of these goddesses serve very particular cases to the nature of these goddesses which is a bit different from the alternative parentage of Apollon shown above In the case of Athena we have a goddess who is looking to separate herself from her parentage by her own power. I think that this can be part of an understanding of her being conceived by Metis. She becomes a daughter of Zeus by her own volition, surrenders her power unto to him and in a way becomes a part of him as he mythically consumes her via the myth of consuming her mother and she emerges again from his head, her nature completely enjoined with his as his nous. It is not hard to imagine that her original form may have been very close to the aquatic dwelling feathered sirens as an archaic bird goddess with chthonic attachments (considering that the realm of Poseidon touches on both the heavenly and the chthonic it is easy to see why her is so fluid in her domain between these principles in more subtle ways…such as her association with the gorgon Medusa which may have been a reflection of an earlier identity of the goddess that the death of Medusa by her involvement becomes part of her harnessing and control of her earlier chthonic leanings under her more elevated form).

As such Athena provides an intermediary service, the earthy horse of Poseidon (which in some mythic version he produced out of competition with her for Athens, and in other mythic versions he produced as a gift for Demeter) becomes yoked by her and by her efforts transformed into a winged spirit horse, even as the death she orchestrated for Medusa yields the winged Pegasus. Even though she is no longer identified or a part of Poseidon her natal relationship with Poseidon is effective in her transformative and elevating principles. She weaves the cloth of the chrysalis which surrounds the earthy and works to transform it into the beautiful spiritual being. She is thus operating on the threshold of Poseidon’s domain into the aetherical.

Artemis is another story, however. She is firmly planted within the domain of the earthly and works from the opposite end of Athena. This can be best seen as her role and huntress/nurturer. She propels forward from the earthly state, driving forth all. She is the tamer of the horse, the one who gentles that which is wild and uncontained (energy) in order that it service life to move forward and evolve. When Odysseus’ horses  ran off wild, he prayed to her and later erected a temple to her as a tamer of horses when he had recovered them by the shore. This may in some manner echo the way Hippolytus is portrayed dying in which he, by the shore, driving forth his horses, is recovered by Poseidon who sends his great bull to slay the youth by causing his horses to throw him  from his chariot in their fright. As favor to Theseus, Poseidon undoes the art of Artemis. Other versions of the myth say that Asklepios revived him and the went to Italy to dwell there with his goddess. As such this could also be interpreted as a boon to his daughter Artemis.

Unlike with Athena, we see very little interaction between Artemis and her other father Zeus, other than  her mythic birth as his daughter and her gifts of sovereignty given to her by him as he did for Apollon. Most of her domain is fully entrenched in the domain of Poseidon. This is just more evident in the Peloponnese. In fact Leto as a constant companion of Artemis would tell us more that this is more to reinforce her position as the daughter of Zeus, which was more successful in other parts of Hellas. Meanwhile in the Peloponnese’s Artemis retained her more gorgon-like features and Potnia theron winged form was familiar from Boeotia to Sparta to Olympia. We also see Artemis Eurynome as a river dwelling goddess in a mermaid like form like responsible for the after birth nurse care and purification of Zeus. From her iconic charms in Sparta depicting her face with horses heads and her widespread cult as the daughter of Demeter and Poseidon in this part of Hellas, it is easy to see how by her more earthy nature while still possessing heavenly illumination that she was confused with Hekate who enjoyed similar popularity in other parts of Hellas as they possessed very similar natures as goddesses of the ways, divine nurses, and goddesses of beasts, lamination, nocturnal activity and their associations with the earth, heavens and seas. The distinction being that as a titan daughter  of Asteria and Perse Hekate already had all three jurisdictions, and Artemis came into her heavenly one later which like accounts for myths in which Hekate is said to have reared Artemis.

Unlike Athena, Artemis remains very much the daughter of Poseidon as much as that of Zeus, if not more. Her greatest acquisition perhaps from her fathering by Zeus is her role of illumination and her association with Apollon whom she acquired as her mythic twin, in all probability to their perfect parallel-sameness of natures. They were in all ways one and so in their adoption by Zeus they became his twins, his twin lights. In this manner you have Apollon (likely the son of Rhea/Samothrakian Demeter children the Korybantes served, and Artemis as daughter of Demeter) “reborn by Zeus through Persephone as under the guise of Leto which would hold with the multi-facet way that they would enter into the mysteries and how later philosophy would say that Apollon Zeus and Dionysos are one while Hera Artemis and Persephone are one. Likewise serving a very important parallel in the mysteries in which Artemis and Apollon are concerned with the leading of initiates, leading along the way on an earthy liminal level, whereas Hermes and Hekate perform a parallel role for the divine goddess. Differing echoes of related domains that is tied together by this mixed parentage.

In fact,  as Dionysos was also called the son of Hades, it is also possible that Apollon as the son of Corybas was the son of Poseidon under a local cult epithet related to the cult of Rhea. Given the popularity of Poseidon in parts of archaic Hellas it would certainly stand to reason that he would send out his son to counter the rising sovereignity of Zeus (remember not all myths have Poseidon being swallowed, but also have him reared with lambs placing him in similar juxtaposition with herding that we find Apollon who tends to the pastures and herds). The triad of Zeus-Poseidon-Hades thus becomes overlapped with a triad of Zeus-Apollon-Dionysos to relate to similar concepts, but one under the supremacy of Zeus overall.

There is certainly a rather oppositional character between Zeus and Poseidon through many myths, with the exception of the myth of Troy, and this was only because Poseidon was pissed off. We do see an instance where Athena conspires with Poseidon (and other gods) to overthrow Zeus, but this is a rare testimony to her relationship with Poseidon. All that is really apparent from her parentage by him is her nature (like Apollon) as a charioteer, and yoker of horses. Apollon, meanwhile enjoys a much more stable and constantly overlapping relationship with Poseidon, not only as a charioteer and builder of walls, but also given his many associations with the seas. But only Artemis was revered continually as a daughter of Poseidon even as she was worshiped as a daughter of Zeus as firmly entrenched as she is in her love for the earthy realm with its lush woods, rivers and seas enacting as a nurse to all things.

The Hounds of Artemis

I grew up with dogs, I love dogs (I love cats to but lets stay on topic shall we). We have a wide variety of breeds throughout my childhood, everything from huskies to small terriers to Chihuahuas. Dogs have a special place in my heart, which is probably why after many years I have a dog again. Having a dog in the house has made me somewhat reflective on the role of dogs religiously, more specifically in regards to the hounds of Artemis.

Dogs have a long history as human companion and guardian. Their loyal and fierce protective nature likely made them a good model for various spirits. From Cerebrus who happily greeted the newly arrived dead (and not so friendly if the dead tried to leave because hey he is a loyal puppy), and protector of the entrance to Hades, to what I understand as the conception of eudaemons taking the form of dogs as protective benevolent spirit to individuals that they watch over. Overall dogs belong to Artemis, so it would not be surprising if collectively the eudaemons, as imagined as dogs, would belong to her retinue. Dogs to guard the living over whom she takes great care and nurturers, and dogs to drive the souls of those under their care to greater heights.

Of course I can imagine the protest..”but what of the myth of Actaeon?” Actaeon itself is a curious myth that comes with many interpretations to it. The myth itself is complicated. First you have Actaeon, the grandson of Apollon through his father Aristaios. There seem to be two different versions of the myth, one is that in his visit (paying court with design on marriage to Semele I believe, although one play has him as her nephew) during which  time he happens upon the goddess bathing in a stream with her nymphs, and the goddess, so affronted, transformed him into a deer whom his own dogs tore apart. Another version of the myth as Apollodoros tells us is that according to Arkadian account, Actaeon was playing court on Artemis whom he was trying to woo that she would marry him. Same story follows from there. The very idea of the dogs tearing apart the transformed youth can call into question any kind of idea of the hounds of Artemis as benevolent daemons, never mind that in myth it is typically his own hunting dogs rather than her hounds that do the job. But even so there has been commentary of the actuality of a cult that sprung up around the myth in which Actaeon himself played the role of a sacred sacrifice and the result of his own apotheosis. As such, his transformation into a creature sacred to the goddess, and his own tearing apart by dogs that led to his death would suggest that if this were the case it is probable that the hounds here were a medium of his apotheosis. They served the role for which I stated above, that in moving the soul forward. That these are his own dogs specifically could solidify the idea that the dogs were of nature to be loyal and protective of him, which would make this action remarkable. If we read in between the lines we may find a character not unlike Hippolytus in which we have a young hero who has devoted himself in adoration to Artemis. The primary difference here would be that unlike the chaste love of Hippolytus (or so we must presume from the writing of Euripedes), that the love of Actaeon was of such passionate nature that he desired to be united with the goddess in marital bonds. In both instances we would then have the death and apotheosis of young heroes who adored the goddess and gave her reverence above all others. In such a view, his hounds could very well be representative of the eudaemons that she set by his infant cradle, that were destined to immortalize him.

I do personally ascribe, regardless of what the myth of Actaeon does or does not  tell us, that Artemis as a nurturing goddess (by which she also is serving as goddess of the hunt as provider) is a goddess who directs the hounds, as representing eudaemons, to the care and guardianship of mortals. And that perhaps the images of dogs in the cemetaries may well reflect the eudaemon’s benevolent presence in life as the stone dog watches for ages gone by over the final resting place of the dead. This devotion can be seen even in the myth of Hecuba who became the dog of Hekate because of such love and devotion to her family that Hekate granted her this for the grief  over her loss of her family. This may in part inspired some thought that eudaemons could possibly be the souls of those who have loved you. Some philosophical thought has also seemed  to have addressed them as the higher nature of the individual rather than a separate spirit. Regardless, the eudaemon has been  universally addressed as a being of utter goodness.

While not everyone may not agree on what a eudaemon is or how they appear, for reasons outlined above  to me they are ever in the form of dogs, and because of this whenever I look into the eyes of a dog, I see the benevolent grace of the eudameon reflected there. The dog is the perfect symbol of the  kindly protective spirit and Artemis  is the leader of the dogs, O nurse of all.