As we know there are a number of speculations out there regarding the northern homeland of Apollon and the Hyperborean myth. Often these point either Slavic or Scandinavian source points (and some have even suggested Celtic). The close apparent relationship between Slavic and Scandinavian customs is kind of interesting when you look at the parallels, and while I have given considerable time to Yarilo/Jarilo as perhaps being the most immediate northern face of Apollon, I wanted to spend some time devoting a post to Freyr. I first want to say that syncretism is not an easy thing one on one in identifying another cultural expression of one’s god. In fact for a while I went from my original Freyr syncretism, to looking at Odin because hey ravens and wolves and seers, oh my! But sacred critters aside, there is actually little else apparently in common with Odin in the most obvious direct sense. Apollon is, even as a cultivator of civilization, very much tied with nature. This is a fact I have to remind folks whenever they look at me cross eyed for suggesting syncretism with a Vanir god rather than an Aesir deity. Apollon expresses both the providing and destructive forces within the natural world….and therefore also is involved through the safe navigation through these frontiers (roads and ships/harbors are both very significant in relation to the domain of Apollon). I think that this is perhaps the most poignant in relation to Apollon as a god of seers is this concept of providing safe passage, illumination of the course. It is a different sense really than Zeus as an oracle god or even Odin as a seer god. Apollon is god of seer as an authority given over to him as a responsibility in navigating a harsh world.
In the most direct sense, however, Apollon’s domain is tied to the production of land and beasts. As a slave herder in myth he brought such fruitfulness among flocks that each beast bore twins, he safeguards the welfare of all that he shepherds…protecting and nurturing. As a god of pastures it is probably not surprising to find him as Nymphegetes whom the nymphs follow in adoration, which really isn’t the same as Freyr as ruling the realm of the elves but there is really no direct equivalent to elves in Hellenismos that I have found. Apollon does similar providence over growing things in which we find him as the god who bears the golden shafts of wheat and god who protects the vineyards from rodents and withholds the winter torrents of rains so that the crops of grain and grape may successfully ripen. This is a bit different from the north in which rains are necessary during the summer for ripening life, but even then there needs moderation for rain. Too much rain, regardless of where you are at is not good for crops. The provision of light (solar and lunar as both are part of Apollon’s cult and evident for Freyr) and rains for the welfare and continuance of life is something particular to the cult of Apollon and Freyr….something that translates in various symbolic ways to human life and civilization. For Apollon there are those who see his light in a more symbolic sense in terms of knowledge and enlightenment as it pertains to civilization and human spirituality. But it is a constant dance of growth and destruction, something that the lord of the golden sword (something applicable to both Apollon and Freyr) is really all about. He protects, he loves, he nurtures, and …..he kills. He is a warrior and hunter all at once even as he is the herder singing to the flocks and the charioteer and helmsman steering divine vessels through seas, woodlands and pastures.
When it comes to promotion of continuance we can see why both Freyr and Apollon would be associated with matters of love. It is part of human courtships which attracts and unifies and often (if by choice of the couple) results in offspring, the next generation. It is in this manner that we find Apollon in some instances personally acting as and in others as the father of the god of the marriage song. I consider it plausible to add courtship songs to this as well. His close relationship with Aphrodite in some places certainly would be telling of his action in conjunction with ties of love. A hymn does remind us that boys play for Apollon in their youth so that as men they would be husbands. In Sparta Apollon’s festival Gymnopaidia went so far as to ban the presence of bachelors, such as was seen the vital necessity from continuance in relation to the cult of Apollon that marital responsibilities were considered of religious importance for the whole community. On a civilization level Apollon acted among humans through the institution of marriage how he acted as herder among the beasts and cultivator of crops/seed heads.
Everything, really, leads back to this central role of his domain, even healing if you think of it and purification…it is the maintenance of well being and the natural order within oneself. The natural harmony within the body. A sense of harmony and peace is very well equated with a god connected with the production of nature, even as much as reaping the harvest and cutting down life. The boar is perhaps the perfect symbol in this respect for both gods. Boars were associated with Apollon at many points, not only as Noumenios in which pigs were sacrificed for him, but also at Eleusis were pigs were offered to him and boars offered to him in Arkadia. The boars massive girth suggest prosperity and plenty while his temperament can be aggressive. Although both Freyr and Apollon are known for having mild temperaments…charmers that they obviously are. Their mercy and kindness, and overall inclination to peace and order, is perhaps indirectly related to their association with honey. Freyr’s servant Beyla was a goddess of bees and dairy, whereas Apollon’s son Aristaios was a shepherd of bees, builder of the first apiary to cultivate honey for consumption (likely also the first to make mead which accounts for his honey rivaling Dionysos wine as a libation), and also the first to make cheese and give this gift to men.
Of course it is largely their connection to weather than had a lot to do with the ramifications of the health and fertility of the crops and herds. Especially for crops as I outlined earlier. Apollon is known too for his storms, typically via winds, but that he has some power with regard to rain and the ropening of crops I have also demonstrated and is typically present in his Doric Karneios form. Their connection with such weather is not surprising either. Zeus aside, Njord has a lot in common with another potential father of Apollon: Poseidon. I say this largely because as most of my friends likely know I consider Corybas, the Cretan father of Apollon, to be a manifestation of Poseidon. It makes sense though because Poseidon was largely popular in Crete at an earlier point and the challenge of the son of Corybas, Apollon, against Zeus for the heavenly throne (the latter winning) seems to fit with a switch from emphasis on Poseidon to Zeus. Although in either case Apollon’s heritage when it comes to weather would be well testified, but Apollon overall (other than being a mouthpiece for Zeus) has more in common with Poseidon and interacts with him more functionally….as well as throw in dolphins, harbors and ships….well you see my point. Poseidon is already considered mystically the father of his twin sister Artemis…so yeah. Apollon, in Cretan myth, lost in his contest with Zeus and afterwards was forever faithful.
In both of instances of the Hellenic Apollon and the Scandinavian Freyr we find a beautiful god of compassionate nature and full of goodness. A god beloved among other gods, and who acts as a blessing to the land and to all people who dwell upon the earth.
At one time I had boars teeth on Apollon’s shrine, and now as I have finished a small statue for his northern form as Freyr, I have a desire to get a string of boars teeth once again. Hail Apollon, Hail Freyr.