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.

Artemis, Hekate and Demeter

So similar are the natures of Artemis and Hekate that it sometimes causes argument in regards to which is more appropriate for certain forms of worship, namely those various points their natures intersect. I have tried, not quite satisfactorly to myself, puzzle out how these goddesses fit together. After a while I started to come to the conclusion that there is no satisfactory way to separate these goddesses, and I think that this is a conclusion that Athenians came to as well in the classical era where we find references of Artemis-Hekate in the work of Euripedes in his Seven Against Thebes.

For I have noticed something quite distinct, that aside from a few notable sanctuaries (the one at Brauron being in direct competition with Sparta as the inheritor of the Taurine Artemis) Artemis seems to enjoy a bit less popularity than Hekate, and much of worship seems to be very narrowly defined. I think this is part of what causes some to argue that the Eleusinuan temple of Artemis is not really for Artemis, because they see no real function for Artemis in Demeter’s sanctuary, especially when Hesiod, a rather famous Ionian poet to whom the Homeric hymns are typically attributed to, speaks of only the aid of Hekate outside of Demeter and Persephone in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter as the goddesses who aids Demeter in recovering Persephone. This aid was freqently celebrated in Attic vase paintings depicting Persephone with Hekate and Hermes.  So then how possibly could Artemis fit in? To discover that we need to move away from Attic and allied resources and take into consideration that the conquered Eleusis was said by Pausanias to have the exact same rites as those of Demeter at various points in the Pelopennese. In a couple of places this can be attributed to just a migration of the Eleusinuan cult, where Demeter is surnamed Eleusia. But in many cases that is not so. In Messenia we have mention of three Great Goddesses of whom Pausanias doesn’t name, but says that their rites are exactly the same as those at Eleusis. The identity of these goddesses can be peiced together from his subsequent writing on Messenia’s neighbors, Arkadia and Laconia. First he mentions that it is in Messenia, in the feilds of Apollon’s horse herds, that Demeter, in her grief over loosing Kore, hid herself in the form of a mare and there Poseidon, in the form of a stallion, copulated with her. From this mating, Pausanias tells us, Despoina was born. Pausanias tells us that Despoina is a title for the daughter of Demeter and Poseidon, just as Kore is a title for the daughter of Demeter and Zeus. He initially tells us that it is forbidden to say the name of the goddess, but then a few pages later informs us that Artemis is the daughter of Demeter and Poseidon. Which he makes further clear when speaking of the sanctuary of Despoina in another part of the Pelopennese where one enters first through the temple of Artemis Hegemone, and from there you come to the inner part of the sanctuary where there are two images. The main image being that of Despoina (holding the sacred kiste) seated beside Demeter, with another statue of Artemis nearby holding a torch in one hand and a dragon in the other.

Now, this isn’t the only instance of Artemis acting as keeper of a sacred kiste, for in one of her sacred cities in Asia Minor we find her receiving the sacred kiste of Dionysos from Troy in myth. In fact it in Asia Minor you really see the overlay of Artemis and Hekate. For you see triads of Cybele, Hekate and Hermes lining up directly with those of Leto, Artemis and Apollon in differing cities, largely because this part of the world was colonized by Athenians and Laconians both creating a hodgepodge of differing foci. Of course the interesting thing is that Ephesus, whose Artemis so unresembles the Attic Artemis to the point of people saying nowadays that they are not the same goddess, is said to have been mythically founded by an Athenian prince, bears more in common with Artemis outside of Attica. Such can be stressed by very Persephone like imagery in her temple of the Thessalian queen Aclestis, wearing the crown of Persephone as she is escorted back among the living by Herakles. It is also in Ionia that we find Leto identified with a great mother goddess in Lycia and in other parts identified with the dead.  The nature of Leto becomes distinguished as bearing commonality with Demeter. The parental relationship evident with Demeter quite plausibly was well known and recognized in Hellas which likely inspired the account of Diodoros Siculus who said that Artemis and Apollon were worshiped with their mother Demeter in Egypt… their recognized relationship with Demeter probably factoring the Hellenic-Egyptian view of Bast and Horus as twin children of Isis, something that did not previously exist in Egyptian religion before then as far as I am aware.

So then how does Leto, the fruitful mother become distinct with few other instances of her in myth and cult…and never without her children?  It is because this is her identity specifically is attached to het children. She is as the exhalation of the earth that imparts light… just as the natural vapors of the earth mingled with the air in Hellenic thought to provide nature’s relevations through the oracles. Her very nature is meant, as given by her name, to be obscure …and seems quite intentional. As is Hesiod producing her sister Asteria to present as the mother of Hekate. For we see no other mention of this titanide outside of this particular theogony, which states that she was held in esteem by Hera for escaping Zeus by plunging into the sea in the form if a quail, setting up her continued existance as Delos whereas Leto conceived as a quail in one myth.  Thus Hekate for all that Hesiod acclaimed over her, possessed just as vague of parentage.

In fact when it comes to the origin of Hekate we find a differing version inside of Attica alone, in Brauron, where Hekate was said to have originated as Iphigenia. That Hekate is so vastly reduced within Attica alone is rather startling. But as infrequently as one sees evidence of her presence outside of Attica in a truly notable way, it should not be surprising either to find her so reduced. Although among tragedians Hekate’s popularity skyrocketed, in terms of cult she seems to have been honored frequently as Iphigeneia, which Hesiod mentions in his catalogue of women, as she was acclaimed over poetically as Perseis (the daughter of Perses). Certainly as with all gods Hekate has diverse parentage that attributes to her functions as a goddess. As such the stress in her functions likely varies from place to place. So it would be a mistake to think she was held in equal esteem throughout Hellas, rather Artemis and Hekate are almost interchangable depending on where you are. What is clearly distinct of Hekate that is worshiped in Hekate in those few places mentioned by Pausanias is not a kourotroph of nurturing nature outside of Athens, but a goddess of the dead and witchery, a goddess of the night, wheras Artemis is kourotroph.

Neithet position is more correct than the other tho, which was finally agreed on by Athenian playwrites when discussing Artemis outside if Athens, for only then does Euripedes call her Artemis-Hekate in recognition of Artemis bearing qualities like Hekate, and for which we see the goddesses interchangably addressed in the Orphic hymns.

Unfortunately this peaceful interchange has made matters a bit less so among modern worshippers. Unlike Apollon and Hermes who have several areas of overlap but never were identified as more than the closest of brothers and whose worshippers enjoy a happy interaction, the mingling of Hekate and Artemis causes some rather heated disputes, especially as not all worshippers do so through the Athenian lense as it were. But it would be nice to see some positive exchanges.

As one of Pelopennesian leaning and devoted to Artemis I try to not ignore Hekate. As such I honor both Artemis and Hekate at the entrance. I honor both, with Ge, during Korutrophia, even tho it is Artemis I recognize particularly as such. I honor Artemis ad Despoina and companion/sister of Persephone during her time among the gods, and Hekate as her companion in the underworld, and it is Hekate I honor with Apollon in regards to death and burial, just the same as key keepers.

Balance has become the key.

brought to you by my laborous typing on my phone. As always please forgive grammatical and spelling errors.

Playing with Bulls: There is not only one

While I am going to be focusing and bulls and cattle in general in this post, it is going to serving as an example that can really be applied to any sacred animal (for instance the swan which is a sacred symbol of at least Apollon, Ares, Aphrodite and Zeus, with probably a number of others to be thrown in as well), because there is an idea at times that an animal sacred to a particular god is *only* sacred to that god. It can sometimes be seen as something of a bitter line of contention too among devotees who just can’t fathom how this animal that they consider as a most powerful example of their god’s nature and domain can be shared with another deity. This is particularly the case when you have deities that have been scholastically and popularly perceived as being oppositional to each other. And yet despite how much some of us may want to cling to very insular and segregated concepts of the gods, history shows us that is not really the case. In most cases just about any animal that you see attributed to one god, you can find attributed to at least one or two more, at minimum. The swan I gave above is a good example, another example can be the turtle which is commonly assigned as belong to Hermes but is also an animal associated with Apollon, the form of which he took to seduce one of his lovers. And yet perhaps the most widely shared animal, aside from the serpent, which in reality perhaps the most common sacred animal among many gods, would be bulls. Aj has a great article in which she highlighted many bull associations that can be read here.

From the above article you can get an idea of just how diverse bull imagery and associations were, and more importantly why. Because she covered the why so well I don’t think I need to go into it. Clearly though in Hellenismos the first gods that come to mind when one thinks of bulls though it is Zeus and Dionysos. This is not a unfair bias because both have heavy cultic bull associations, especially Dionysos. But, sometimes the emphasis on Zeus and Dionysos, especially the latter, with bulls will sometimes overshadow the importance of bulls in the worship of other gods. Don’t get me wrong, bull imagery is very important in my worship of Zeus and Dionysos, and in the case of the latter also calf imagery. I would love to have bull horns for their altars to be honest. But if I were to commission a drinking horn (which I do plan on doing someday when I can afford it) it would not be for either of these gods…but rather for Apollon. For it is Apollon who has been depicted with the rhyton (drinking horn). Now for folks who are stuck on the idea of the dichotomy of Apollon and Dionysos as opposite polarities may say “Whoa, hold up! What?!” Just as they probably would have done regarding Apollon and snakes. The idea of Apollon and Dionysos as polar gods often effect how people see what is sacred to the gods, and therefore Dionysos gets categorized in the box of wild god, wild things, bull-god, drink etc. And Apollon gets put in the box of civilized, sober, swan-god. Yet both gods being equally civilized and wild, both gods liking the bacchic festivities of drink, and both gods sharing several sacred animals. So whereas Dionysos may have his drinking cup exclusively, Apollon has phiale (not exclusively) and is the only god I have seen with a rhyton to date (but I am not going to say exclusive, I am just saying the only one I have seen as of yet).

Despite popular understanding, bulls, oxen and cattle in general are sacred to Apollon. Pausanias tells us of a statue of Apollon in Caria in which the god has his foot upon the head of an ox, even as he tells us that in Delphi Apollon was given a devotional gift of a large bronze bull. And speaking of devotional gifts, a lovely find in Bulgaria came to my attention today. A small perfume bottle in the shape of a bull was found in the temenos of Apollon. We are also told in the Orphic Argonautika we are told by the poet that Orpheus was continually hounded by the double bull-goads of Dionysos and Apollon which I think is rather significant. Apollon also tended the cattle of Troy while the great wall was built by Poseidon, which we are reminded of by Homer through the dialogue of Poseidon in the Iliad. And of course none can forget the Homeric Hymn to Hermes in which Apollon must recover his cattle that were stolen by his brother Hermes (and which is a subject of one lost play in which Apollon is aided by the help of satyrs in his search for them). By extension we even find Apollon’s son Aristaios making the first domestic beehive out of the carcass of a bull. Certainly the bullwhip (and symbols of herding) that he traded to Hermes for the flute and kithara remain as much his as the kithara and lyre remains Hermes and have been bestowed by Hermes upon mortals.

Of course even as  Apollon’s connection to bulls are often overshadowed by Dionysos, it can also be seen at times in Poseidon’s connection to bulls overshadowed by Zeus. Poseidon himself is the great bull of the sea (Poseidon Taureos). Poseidon’s association with the Cretan bull, which he sent from the sea, of course is perhaps the greatest testimony to this connection he shares. Another deity to whom bulls have been sacred, who is often forgotten because the cow is more often attributed to her, is Hera. Pausanias tells us that anciently in Argos two bulls were used to pull the priestess of Hera to the temple. Yet on an occasion the bulls were late arriving, and so the sons of the priestess pulled their mother (acting as bulls in their stead) and died for it. Ever afterwards oxen were used, and the application of the title of ox-eyed to Hera further associates her with oxen. Even though we find that the end result is a favor of oxen, the fact that bulls are the traditional vehicle of choice for Hera (in the form of the presence of her priestess) is important and can’t be reduced to merely her relationship with Zeus (to me that would be like saying that deer are sacred to Apollon only because of Artemis, and that laurel is sacred to Artemis only because of Apollon etc). According to theoi.com Hera’s servant Argus was mythically connected to the bull, who following the death of the bull which ravaged Arkadia, covered himself in its skin.

Other gods associated with bulls are Helios and Selene (which Aj does touch upon the bull representing both the sun and the moon). In the Odyssey we find that Helios has an island with a great pasture of cattle sacred to him, and for Selene we find that she has everything from a cart driven by bulls or oxen, when not using horses, to being described as a goddess who is bull-eyed. There are quite probably others but these are the most immediate that come to my mind. It just goes to show that when it comes to sacred animals, regardless of what animal it is, there is never only one god to which it belongs.

Poseidon Domatites (or the courtship of Hestia)

Not to long ago in my post about Apollon and Ge I spoke briefly of the famous myth of the courtship of Hestia by Apollon and Poseidon, which strikes one as a friendly kind of competition to get her hand. Whereas Apollon’s associations with Hestia are pretty easy for me to expound upon, as can be seen from that post, with Poseidon it was far less clear.

Thanks to my friend Jolene/Niadis I think I have found a worthwhile link via a name she came across in the work of Pausanias (which I don’t recall reading myself yet so I probably haven’t gotten to that book yet) in which the god is called δωματίτης which is given in translation by the translator of Pausanias as Poseidon of the house . It was quite confusing because the word didn’t seem to have any specific meaning with what we are familiar with the word used to refer to the home, “oikos”, so how was this referring to Poseidon of the house? I ended up absently slowly deleting letters in frustration until the translator hit upon something else: δωματί, the rooms. This is a very specific structural component of the house, but is not all the house altogether, but rather divisions out into bedrooms and other necessary spaces. But it seems to me that this would be most significant in relation to the main room of the household, what we call the living room in our modern houses, where anciently (and not so anciently) the hearth was located (at which a guest could supplicate). Therefore Poseidon is both related to the structural nature of rooms which divides the house (think also here of Poseidon who built the walls of Troy which acted a protective and divisive barrier for the city). This bears an interesting relationship to Apollon who is known for setting foundations and set the foundation stones for his own temple…perhaps why in some references Apollon and Poseidon are both addressed as builders of the wall of Troy, even though Homer, in the speech between Apollon and Poseidon, has Poseidon refer that he himself built the walls, while Apollon was tending the pastures. But Homer also later goes on to show us that walls were constructed with offerings to Poseidon and Apollon both (and these two gods, with the aid of Zeus utterly destroyed the defensive wall that the army of Hellenes built but neglected to give customary sacrifice for).

As the main room of the household, where the primary household activities took place among the poor, and among the wealthy and kings was the primary gathering place of the household (though not necessarily where the cooking was done), we can see that perhaps this name of Poseidon is perhaps very relevant specifically to this room. As Apollon is connected to the hearth (and altar) which shelters and feeds the flames as its protector, Poseidon by the operation of the room creates division between the sacred center of the household (and the integrity of all other rooms) from that which is beyond the walls akin to the functions of the gods of the doors, gates and boundaries. He surrounds the hearth with his barrier much like Okeanos (and Ouranos) surrounds Ge.  though Zeus is best known for his worship at the center of the household, it is quite probable given this epithet that Poseidon was also honored at the center of the household, not only for its sacredness but as the heart of the household which holds up the integrity of the entirety of the house and all within it.

Thus in the courtship myth of Hestia we have two kinds of protector gods involved. We have Poseidon as a god of the liminal boundary who acts in the division of space (in Orphism this is also associated with the idea of the domain of Poseidon being between that of Zeus and Hades, Poseidon’s domain acting as the point of division, but also the point through which communication occurs in between), and Apollon as a protector of the heart/altar as well as a fiery god and thus connected to the substance contained with it. The presence of Hestia’s hearth essentially brings life to the rooms of the dwelling and is a great part of what makes it an oikos. This would also make sense in the strong presence of Poseidon and Hestia in Delphia where Hestia had a large hearth just within the temple and Poseidon had an altar, for in myth he traded his half of Delphi to Apollon for one of Apollon’s sacred islands. The sacredness of Delphi locational as much as it has to do with Apollon’s habitation there, and such there are other myths connected with Delphi that have little to do with Apollon and rather establishes it as the navel of the earth. Therefore while the structure of the temple, and the establishment of the sacred precinct (mythically by the  body of Python/Delphinia) is directly tied to Apollon, there are other qualities that are of itself as a powerful spiritual area.

In any case I think that Poseidon Domatites is a worthy and important part of the household now that I have become aware of him. In a sense in the oikos we find Hestia being contained by the barriers of Poseidon and Apollon, which is an important part of the spiritual wellbeing of the oikos.

Apollon of Ge

Pausanias speaks, I believe in Messenia, of an altar to Apollon of Ge (the earth). At first I had assumed that this perhaps referred in similar nature to Apollon as at his temple Daphne in which a statue depicting Apollon demonstrates him libating to Ge, presumably for the resurrection of Daphne as the laurel tree. However it never seemed to fit quite right because logically if it was speaking in relationship to Daphne (and as I said before the Peloponnese also recognized Daphne, though had her as the daughter of their river Ladon) that it would be referring to her instead of a more ambiguous title as being of the earth. As I have also noted before, as per Diodoros Siculus, we understand, via his example through Egyptianized statement of the mysteries, that Apollon and Artemis are conceived mystically as being the children of Demeter, who for all intents and purposes is directly associated with the earth, and I continued this idea with Apollon as the torch-bearing youth/shepherd. So I thought to speak a bit of Apollon of Ge, or more aptly the fire of the earth.

To understand the following, I must share my concept of the Apollon in relationship to the sun. Whereas I understand Helios as the physical sun in our solar system, I understand Apollon as ruling that substance of which Helios is comprised. Apollon is light, but he is also fire. I hadn’t put a great deal of thought into this before because I was so focused on the light, and yet when I was reading a Hindu text the translator in their commentary spoke of how light is inseparable from fire. I myself agree. Light (and heat) are visible byproducts of the presence of fire. And have I not before experienced a small portion of his intense flames. That some connect the origins of his name to a title for Agni, the Vedic fire god (who became Rudra/Shiva), reinforces the fire associations, as does poetic references to Apollon’s arrows being fiery serpents. The very nature of fire is as that of Apollon, it is largely destructive, even as he is the destroyer, when it comes into contact with that which it may consume, but in moderation it is life-giving. This speaks of Apollon’s nature as a nurturing god and bringer of the golden harvest, as well as his fundamental role as destroyer.

As a fiery god that directly impacts his relationship with other gods, most particularly Hestia who is not fire herself, but possesses fire. In her Orphic hymn she is the venerable guardian of the unwearied flame, and as her name means both home and hearth hers is that which contains the vital flame. She is at once the hearth, the household which contains the hearth, and Olympos which contains the hearth of the gods. That in a brief Homeric Hymn (Homeric Hymn number 24) to her she is called upon as the goddess who attends to the house of lord Apollon with oil dripping from her locks. She is the sustainer and nurse of the fire with the locks of her hair dripping with oil. Thus it is understandable how vigilant attendance of the fire for her at eternal burning altars, and even within the oikos, was of tremendous importance as it bespeaks of her very nature to vigilantly tend to the flames that they never extinguish and leave mankind in cold and darkness. For this reason I think that she is perceived at the center of all things because she is seated at the fire that dwells within the center of all things, and Apollon resides at the center as gives mythic reasoning for his decent from Koios (the axis of the heavens), his relationship with Helios, and his dominion at Delphi at the navel of the world. She attends to the fires of all altars, where she is honored first and last as suitable for a goddess who attends the flames of sacrifice. Meanwhile Apollon, as the god of the very substance of the devouring flames, he is the protector of the inviolable nature of the oikos (in which we know him as the god before the gates and doors), and protector of the altar. Thus the nature of Apollon and Hestia are by necessity bound, and the great hearth of his temple at Delphi was of great renown. Naturally they have a mythical connection too in which Apollon, before Hestia became the tender of the hearth-fire, pursued the goddess in courtship, as did Poseidon, who himself shares a very interesting relationship in activity with Apollon which I will speak of more shortly. That she is escapes being permanently bound in marriage to either god is interesting, but even more so that despite her desire to not be married to Apollon, that she shares a permanent relationship with him and his cult, and that of his twin for which there are some illustrations of Artemis in her Ephesian appearance that decorated the surface of oil lamps. In the latter case we have it more pronounced from southern Italy in which lamps were used and left as votary offerings for Diana. Coincidentally it is perhaps an interesting footnote that the eternal altars that were left burning in certain temples and in the cities were lit by the light of the sun, making something of an interesting relationship and how the earthly and heavenly fire was perceived in gradient scale and how they were linked into one idea. For the heavenly fire was perhaps the more pure way to get the earthly fire rather than by means of delivering it from the strike of flint on steel…it is born purely as its nature is rather than from substances that are not of fire.

So this meandering pushed to the fore of my mind by some observations I made last night that I had seen some beads made of pumice and how I had felt compelled that I should make a necklace of them for Apollon (although I had just finished making him his skull necklace, it appears that there is another that needs to be made). This strand as I imagined it would be simple, pumice stones spaced with quartz and flourite (the last and first minerals to form in cooling). When I said above that I saw Apollon as the fire associated with the sun of Helios, this is reflected too more intimately in which we have, as I began this post, Apollon of Ge, the very fire and light within the earth, the perfect rotation of the molten material at the core keeping a perfect harmonic balance in the life supporting capacity of our planet, and the magmatic sea upon which the huge body of rock flows. This core is of course of magnetic properties that establishes are north and south pole running through the core, the north-south alignment being particular to Apollon as we understand his own northern and southern migrations which are imitated my migrating herds and flocks. He in his relationship with the sun may be the bringer of the golden grain, but he is the receiver of life as it follows his north-south course in his internal relationship with Ge.

This magmatic association we can particularly see historically with the sacredness of thermal springs to Apollon, in which heat escape through fissures in the earth’s crust, releasing heat and important minerals into the water. Thermal springs have a long history of being beneficial to humanity’s ailments and perhaps the most direct cultic link to this understanding of Apollon of Ge. This is not to say that I believe volcanoes to be his. More to the point I see the volcano to be of Hestia. Like the hearth it contains and directs the living fire. It is also the house of Hephaistos, who likewise has a close interaction here for he is the only god who can harness the power of fire to create. For instance he makes the bows of Apollon and Artemis. For Apollon it is always a metal bow, whether silver or gold (of which his bow is described as both) which is particularly curious as his bow is made of a substance that has to be shaped and purified by fire on gold and silver mineral deposits. Whereas I may see Apollon as the fiery one associated with the fire within the earth and the fire of the heavens, it is Hephaistos who pulls out and separates the various forms of minerals from the elements and minerals carried within the fiery magma. Hestia I relate as much to Hephaistos furnace as I do to the volcano, the hearth and the altar. The nature of Apollon connected with fire may also highlight many of the similarities between Apollon’s rebellious and sympathetic nature towards humanity and that of the Titan Prometheus who brought fire to humanity. I don’t consider Prometheus and Apollon anything near the same divine being but I do think that there is a fundamental link in their characters that may have something to do with Apollon’s nature and domain.

Apollon’s fire as earthly and heavenly has a direct relationship with Poseidon as I said above. We already know that Poseidon has a very close relationship with earth, in which we get the pairing of Poseidon and Demeter as the parenting of Artemis (and likely Apollon too as via Diodoros we know that the twins were conceived of as twins of Demeter mystically too, and not just Artemis). The kinetic energy of water has a penetrative, fertilizing, corrosive  and enveloping nature in relationship to the earth. It can therefore be imagined that the kinetic transformative nature of Poseidon merging with Demeter can be perceived as interlocked with the nature of Apollon. Thus the oracle of Delphi, which Apollon inherited, was once originally in joint ownership of Ge and Poseidon. Poseidon traded Apollon for his half, and according to one Delphic myth, Phoebe gave Ge’s half which she inherited to Apollon as a birthday gift. The relationship of Apollon and Poseidon continues further in the myth of Ilium in which Poseidon and Apollon were sentenced to build the walls of the city. Later in the Iliad we find reference this but also an interesting pairing of Poseidon and Apollon against each other, whereas the water of Xanthus (who was said to have a hot and cold stream that fed into the river) was placed opposite of the fires of Hephaistos. Thus we find the cooling water placed in reverse opposition to the fires in both cases. It is of further interest that Apollon refused to fight his uncle, although Xanthus fared less than well against the fires of Hephaistos.

There is a distinctive positive relationship between Apollon and Poseidon which is creative of basic building blocks of earthly material. Thus Apollon himself is a god who laid the foundations of his own temple as well as aid in the building of the walls of Ilium. It is the cooling of fire that allows Hephaistos to draw forms. Any good blacksmith needs the intense white heat of the forge, and the water to cool that which they are working on that it solidifies into the form the blacksmith gives it. We see this is magmatic activity. I spoke of thermal springs, which I also believe are sacred too to Poseidon in some cases, but there is also the matter that magmatic activity under the sea creates new land mass. As someone who lives in the Ring of Fire, much of our land here is created from such activity. Much of my home-state Alaska was created from magma cooled by the sea, as were the pacific islands. Therefore whereas Apollon has a solar relationship with the upper levels of the sea into which the light of the sun feeds the abundance of oceanic life (for far less creatures thrive in the darkest depths where the sun is absent), he also has a magmatic relationship with Poseidon’s water both in the sea and in fresh water.

It is for this purpose that I honor Apollon of Ge, and that I shall make for him the necklace of pumice, calcite, and quartz in remembrance of these vital relationships to his earthly flames that enriches the earth and the oikos.

A most Blessed Poseideia!

And the time has returned again for Poseideia. Last year to celebrate Poseideia I had posted regarding the relationship of Zeus and Poseidon in regards to the moisture of winter. You can find that post here. So I have thought perhaps to continue my discussion of the divine blessings of the moisture to the earth this Poseideia with heartfelt wonder of the mingling of the moisture with the ploughed fields of Demeter. For even as Demeter was seized by Zeus on the mountains of Rhea and fertilized with the holy daughter Kore (Persephone), so too do we have in this time of the year, during Demeter’s mourning for her daughter, that Poseidon pursues and mates with Demeter to bear Despoina (Artemis), keeper of the sacred kiste, the mystic box.

This is symbolized beautifully by the union of horses, Demeter in the form of a Mare and Poseidon in that of a Stallion. She hides herself in the herds of Apollon’s son, to escape Poseidon’s attentions but the god is not fooled and pairs with the goddess in their horse forms. Though Pausanias says that the identity of Despoina is not to be known outside of initiates he makes it pretty clear a few paragraphs later when he says that Artemis is the daughter of Demeter and Poseidon. This is stated at Delphi, and is particularly celebrated in Messenia and Arcadia, the latter of which Pausanias says had identical practices as those at Eleusis. Furthermore the connection to Artemis to horses is pretty well known in the Peloponnese where, particularly in Sparta, numerous jewelry has been found in which the face of Artemis is depicted with that of a horse to either side. And another locality praises Artemis at the spot where Odysseus was able to catch his horses that had escaped. Artemis here can be identified in some respect to the tamer of the horse, even as Athena is the yoker of the horse. But this is going quite afield of what I wanted to talk about.

The month of Poseidon is largely a celebration of the planting season attached to those that also occur around the end of November that are typically attributed to Zeus. This is perhaps the festival that is part of the germination of the seeds. Persephone is the queen in the court of Hades, and Demeter is wandering in her sorrow, withdrawing her abundance from the world with the winter season. The moisture of Poseidon finds Demeter and impregnates her, as the winter rains cause the tiny grains to burst open for tender sprouts. This is a hazardous time because anything can makes these small sprouts die in their very vulnerable stage. Demeter afterwards takes herself to cave in Arcadia where she hides away, and where she likely bears Despoina. Depoina as keeper of the mystic box I feel has a great deal to do with this tender return of life. Dionysos is also born shortly thereafter and so the box is perhaps more intimately associated with the birth of Dionysos in the Corycion cave.

The Kiste in this instance seems to take the place of the basket that we also see next month in the Leanea where Dionysos is represented as a baby in the basket. The kiste can also refer to the heart of Dionysos that was carried by Athena in a box to be implanted in Semele for the birth of Dionysos in Thebes. However here it is likely to refer in general to the arrival of Dionysos with the first germination of young plants. A parallel can be found here in the Ionian tale that Pausanias tells in which after the fall of Troy in which the kiste which carried the sacred image of Dionysos, and drove anyone mad who caught a glimpse of it, arrived in the sacred citadel of Artemis and there was kept with certain mysteries of Dionysos that seemed to have included Artemis. In a sense hear Artemis is bearing the mysteries of Dionysos, much in the same way that we see Artemis represented in relation with Despoina, she is the mistress and is also represented as a torch bearer, the leader of the way, the goddess Hegemone.

Thus Poseideia sets all of these things in motion as Poseidon fertilizes the land and Demeter. He is sea-foaming stallion, white as the whiteheads of the waves, crashing upon the land. Or in more northern climates the rush of the snow blowing through the sky. It is the run of rain stamping with a steady thrum of hoof-beats on the ground. He takes the broad dusky mare of the earth. The fertile mare, whom the Sycthians treated much in similar manner to the cow, by taking the milk from her which was remarked upon in Hellenic literature. This flows after the mating, when she is infused with moisture from him.

So happy Poseideia to all, and may we all takes thanks in the heavenly moisture (in its myriad forms) that permeates our world.

The two Cosmic seasons, four seasons, and Alaska

Before I have talked of the division of the seasons, as per Pausanias, into two one of which is ruled by Apollon, and the other half by Pan, and that this works well for me as an Alaskan. So I wanted to take a moment in light of this winter season and its upcoming holidays, to expound on that a bit more.

The two cosmic seasons more or less, as far as I can discern in their relationship to Apollon and Pan who rule them, as one which is a period of sowing/flowering/growth…the rainy season in which the blessings of heaven permeate the earth and bring forth the beautiful bounties. And the second being the season, ruled by Apollon, as one of cultivation/fruition/maturation. If we take this from lore in which Apollon spends half of the year at Delos and Delphi from equinox to equinox before going abroad (whether that be to Hyperborea or to Lycia) we get a clear idea of the part of the year that Apollon has dominion. By Mediterranean climate, he arrives after the season of lambing, after the season of flowering. He is arriving around the time where the first signs of the immature grains are appearing, those which will be offered to him during Thargelia two month later.

With his arrival we still have the presence of the spring blossoms, and the Hyakinthia exhibits the transition from spring into summer in his seasonal domain with the last signs of the spring flowers before the summer heat that were piled upon his altar. But these are the remnants of those tender flowers that have been growing so vigorously before his arrival. He is not a god of spring blossoms, but rather of the cultivation of the crops for which he has been depicted not with blossoms, though various flowers are attributed to his cult such as the Hyakinth, the Iris, and Crocus, but with shafts of wheat and grapes. His is the season of maturation in which the fruits of the earth are preparing themselves for their respective harvests throughout the summer and into the fall. By the time of the autumn equinox most of this harvesting is well concluded, that of wheat and that of the vine. That bread was forbidden at the Hyakinthia certainly relates it in part to harvest and this cultivation period, though it is left out in respect to Hyakinthos who died prematurely before he was ripe before his time. This phrase also comes to us in the literature of Euripedes in Aclestis (as I have mentioned a number of times) in which Apollon states to Thanatos that death should only come for those who are ripe for it. Here is that firm connection of cultivated ripeness for harvest.

Apollon thus is also connected strongly to creatures which are detrimental to the harvest. First there are the locusts that consume everything, and particularly the tender flowers before they can go to fruit. Then there are the mice which will feed upon the young grains and fruits. These are creatures that ruin the crops and so Apollon is the averter and destroyer of these creatures for the sake of the cultivated harvest, just as he destroys that which would corrupt or cause some damage to us in the cultivation of our souls.

Truly the Karneia marks the coming end of his Season as the spring lambs have matured into rams ready for sacrifice and the first of the grape crops are cut to mark the beginning of the vine harvest. Aside from Boedromia, which shortly follows, this is really the last festival of Apollon of the season (this is distinctly different from Pyanepsia which has less directly to do with Apollon aside from being a thanks giving by Theseus as promised for his safe arrival in Athens). It marks the height of his domain, following the summer killing heat, are the rewards of the vine harvest of that which has endured and from the sun has fattened and sweetened. this marks the beginning of the death of Dionysos as he himself too is preparing to be sacrificed for the essence of the wine. As it was pointed out to me, the pinecone is a natural barometer for the return of the rains, so with that in mind it is natural that Apollon Karneios hold the pinecone because he stands at the threshold of the rainy seasons, and the pine cone matures and opens in preparation for the end of the cultivation season of light for the season of rains and sowing.

Thus we have the second Cosmic Season, the season of the life-bringing rains which causes each seed to germinate and the livestock to fatten with young. This is the season of Pan, the moist fertile season. During this season we have prominent festivals of Zeus the rain bringer, for Dionysos of the flowing vitality, and Poseidon. In fact Poseidon has a whole month named after him in the Attic calendar which is named for his midwinter festival. Here we see the joining of the domains of Zeus and Poseidon intimately that the earth moistens. It is a season of lack in some ways because the season has passed where one can feed off the land. Now one is dependent on their stores until the fruits of the earth come again. Certainly there are winter flowers that are edible and some leafy greens, but it is the preserved harvest which is the main staple. The rainy season thus is a time of hope for the next year that while the previous year yielded its plentitude (or perhaps it has not and you are praying that not another year will pass in famine) you hopes are hinged on the seeds germinating and the young plants that are growing and flowering.

With hope it is thus reasonable to say that this is a season of some joy and merriment. Romans for instance celebrated Saturnalia, with all its mischievous misrule and cheer, with the abundance that the year had brought and gifts exchanged that were made when the rains made it less likely to be doing business outside. But the plentitude and the hope of the next year is apparent in all the festival proceeding from around the Autumn Equinox, from the Eleusinia, the Greater Mysteries, throughout the many festivals of Demeter and Kore, and those of Dionysos to the Lesser Mysteries around the Spring Equinox, it is about hope. And hope is associated with the wine as one ancient famed poet of Hellas indicated. The wine, the gift of Dionysos, bringing warmth in the cold winter. We see this hope too in the programs of Demeter that span this Season of Pan along with those of the wine press for Dionysos and his birth.

Now Alaska is clearly not the Mediterranean by any stretch of the imagination. Yet this division of two cosmic season in the year is quite sound with what I experience here. We have our season of light with its rapid increase of such greater periods of light than experienced elsewhere. We don’t really have a spring. But the four seasons I find to be less cosmic and more local because what seasons manifest and how they manifest is dependent on geography. The two cosmic seasons of light and rain rarely manifest differently for the world continues to turn on its axis in the same course year after year. But geography determines how the four seasons, those beautiful maidens, will progress which varies even in different parts of the Mediterranean as it does world wide. The spring flowers and tender growth is very short lived here, just a few stubborn daffodils and tulips pushing through the snow and a slight blush of blossoms before summer comes bearing forth. And likewise autumn dances through like a leaping doe, barely here one moment before gone to winter. And winter is one lengthy queen.

And yet we depend on our winter precipitation as much as any other place. It may come in the form of snow rather than rain, but it is still a necessity. It keeps the seeds and bulbs warm beneath the earth so that the permafrost which is such a threat to the frozen north, can’t kill them or freeze the ground so solid that in the spring the shoots can’t spring from the earth. And though last summer was atypical, we usually don’t get a good deal of rain during the summer, and thus our ground water, much of which is established from winter melt-off from the mountains, it is vitally important to us and for the growth of our plants as well as being a preventative measure against forest fires. And likewise our wild creatures bear their young during this season. The sheep and rams in the mountains bear their kids, the caribou deer and moose their foals and calves in the earliest blush of spring.

The same song is being sung, even it doesn’t manifest the same. We may not have the lush growth, warm temperatures and sweet flowers in the early months that so many other places experiences them, our summers may be too short to bring a wide variety of fruits or grain crops, but we do have the same cosmic song being sung and bearing out even if those daughters of Zeus vary the interpretation a bit.

Religion and Localized Flora and Fauna

I was asked not too long ago about what changes I noticed to my religious practices of having a mediteranean religion in an arctic (well just shy of arctic actually since I don’t live that far north in Alaska) environment. So I thought I would take a moment to blog about that.

As I have inferred in a previous post as a person who grew and came into worshiping the gods early in life, and having grown up in this environment, it is something that never really occured to me. Alaska was my home during the formative point of years in which I was “meeting” various gods of my religion, and therefore was a tangible part of my religious experience. You must understand that I never even lived outside of Alaska, with the exception of one year in the first grade when we moved to Washington state, in a more southern climate, so the flora and fauna and even the weather and general environment of such places just never registered much with me. But it seems about time to rather point out how things of Hellenismos relate to my religious life in this part of the world.

As I had mentioned before, Demeter was not a huge part of my early religious life largely because Alaska is not an agricultural based area in our seasons. We have a very short growing season, and therefore I associated her with the brief growing periods that were a brief brilliant joy during the year between mid May and mid September, and the very brief autumn in which the good smells made the world richer in sensory texture. This was how I understood Demeter, as a goddess who, with her daughter in company, more or less wandered north for about three or four months, following closely behind the bird migrations, before leaving again. An season of celebration, but not a huge note in my experience of the year itself during which the growing season is minimal. Of course things have changed since then as I see Persephone more present in a sense as everything sleeps here for the long long dark winter and so she represented in the winter that seed and root within the earth being nurtured by the protective covering of the snows from the frigid arctic wind.

Which leads me to Zeus. Zeus more often than not I associated with snow. Rain is something we don’t get a lot of, though I did experience quite a bit when I visisted my dad in the southeastern parts of Alaska where the Tongass National Rainforest (a temperate rainforest) is. so I did have a fairly long association with Zeus in connection to thunder, lightning and rain from these visits and in lesser occurances in my more northernly home. But the winter was the blessed snow. Don’t get me wrong, it is cold, miserable to move in, and there is usually tons of it. But it is also beautiful, and very very important to our local water supply. The snow covers the earth keeping it insulated even as it provides important water to the soil in its lower warmer levels, and later becoming groundwater that our plants depend on during the summer. Not enough snow means drought in the summer. Of course this has changed a bit too to include Poseidon who rules over the winter month in which much snow comes, and as a god associated with the precious liquid of water in general. But as a state plentiful in eagles, I could always see the eagle of Zeus, regally soaring in the skies. Other animals we don’t really have. There are no bulls, we don’t even have cow or ranches with the very slight exception of one protected valley where a dairy farm was erected that has adequate protection from the worse of the elements) with the exception of the very virile and aggressive bull moose which I guess could be a stand-in now that I think of it. They are certainly the more impressive in appearance and size of our herbivores. In fact, I would likely associate both Zeus and Dionysos with the bull moose when paying respects to local widllife. And the fiercely protective moose cow can likewise be attributed to both Demeter and Hera. Essentially in much of Alaska moose has often acted as a stable of human life in a similar manner that cows have played in other parts of the world. We even have laws to which every citizen is entitled to be able to get a license for one moose a year, and subsistance hunters generally get more than that from what I understand. Moose noses are used in making a kind of fatty berry mix as emergency food the way some folks use jerked beef, and the size of a moose could easily feed a family, and quite probably their neighbors, for a good amount of time.

Apollon is, and has been, easier to identify with. As I said in the above mentioned post Alaska’s seasons are largely light-based, which is especially true the further up in Alaska that you get. We also have a number of wild animals that are significant to his worship (and to those of other gods who share these animals). Swans we have (which are sacred to Apollon, Zeus… and Ares from what I am told). In fact we have the largest species of swan, the trumpeter swan, that migrates up here every year from all over the U.S. in returning to their breeding grounds. Trumpeter swans are so called because of a musical french horn kind of sound that they make. We also have ravens galore which are particularly associated with Apollon, and the various species of hawks and falcons which I have always assigned to his worship). We also have wolves, again something he shares with Zeus, as are wild goats (aka mountains goats) and sheep (aka dall sheep) which live in our mountains throughout the state…the latter of which is another important subsistance animal for several tribes, particularly further north. And while we don’t have true dolphins here we do have porpoises and their cousins the orcas, both of which I associate to both Apollon and Poseidon in lieu of the dolphin and because of their very similar chacteristics.

Meanwhile Artemis has her deer in the more southern parts of Alaska, and caribou in the more northern reaches. The caribou I find distinctly appropriate since they are the only species in which the females are also horned and that puts me in mind of the sacred deer of Artemis. Athena has her owls, though sadly the owls which are sacred to Ares don’t live in this state though I might say that the clever snowy owl could easily work for both of them in the manner that his changing feathers during the seasons allows him to blend in and ambush his prey. Aphrodite has her geese, and sparrows…and the haunting song of the loon is something that I associate with her. Hera may not have her cuckoo or peacock here, but we do have the arctic tern that I consider a kind of stand-in for the cuckoo in some respects because it has not too disimilar nesting habits…though I think terns are more aggressive, though beautiful, birds. And the snowy egret, though i have never seen one myself, is supposed to be the most majestic bird in our state aside from the eagle. that I would consider worthy of taking the place of the peacock.  And so it follows.

Fauna is fairly adaptable and similarities of symbolic traits can be overlapped in some respects to give you a connection in your religious life with your local environment. Flora is a bit harder though I must admit because none of the trees or plantlife is native to here or even able to withstand the temperatures to allow outdoor transplant. Laurel, olive and oak don’t survive outdoors. Instead we have the late-budding aspen trees, the pale willow (which I tend to associate in lieu of laurel sometimes..especially the treasured diamond willow and in fact in my youth I used it as a sacred tree along the same lines of what is thought of in regards to laurel), and tons of pine and birch. Wheat doesn’t grow well here except in aforementioned valley and perhaps a few other isolated areas. However, beekeeping is pretty productive up here if one gets honeybees from colder environments rather than mediterannean stock bees which don’t hibernate long enough for our long winter and end up starving. Maple harvesting is also something of a big dealin some areas.

There are some things I am still trying to intellectually figure out how they relate, but when it comes to the gods themselves I don’t have any problems really connection to my local landscape. But it is a worthwhile thing to think about all the same 🙂 One’s local environment after all is as an extention of one’s oikos…it is what is immediately connected to you.

Poseidon and the Ring of Fire

I often say that in my youth I was so obsessed with Artemis that I didn’t spend much time in worship of other gods, but I should clarify that it doesn’t necessarily mean that I did not have affectionate regard for other gods even if I did not actively worship them. Of those gods, Poseidon is perhaps the one that goes the furthest back in my memory. As a child who was born on an island (and spent summers on said island ever afterward growing up) and grew up near the gulf of Alaska, the ocean has played a very central role in my understanding of the world and my relationship to nature. In my early childhood I fancied that there were beings beneath the waves that were looking back up at me every time I traveled on a boat. The sea was a place that was an important part of life for most who live in Alaska, and even to those more inland as even the salmon, which is an important subsistance food, were known to spend a large portion of their life in the sea before returning to the streams inland.

But this is not an exotic seaside place with soft sand beaches and exotic flora, nor does it possess warm breezes. This is a harsh landscape, where leaping waves slap against sharp craggy stones, or washes up upon treacherous silty, muddy banks that make up the mudflats. The water is gray-green with its turmoil, and even the shells are often of small size and some nondescript hue, with the exception of the abalone shell with its rainbow sheen. The water is cold, even in the summer it is cold (which makes me wonder at my own insanity when I was a child that I once swam in the ocean during Spring Break). The ocean here is perhaps one of the most unforgiving and burtal in the world, and anyone who has ever seen an episode of Dangerous Catch which features crabbing on the Bering Straight between Siberia and Alaska would probably agree. But I feel that the very primal nature of the sea here makes the most wonderous garden of Poseidon. And for all this drab coloring it hosts a variety of sealife, a richness in fish and numerous species of whales and porpoises which rise up from the depths. I have seen the dolphins swim along the jetstreams created by my uncle’s fishing boat, I have seen humpback whales spray large columns of mist into the sky. And I have seen the friendly orcas (which people like to call whales but are really part of the porpoise family) swimming together in their pods. Even as I have seen gill-nets full of salmon, and crabpots with large ruddy crabs. Much of the wealth of Alaska is within its sea. It can only do very limited forms of agriculture such as wheat and vegetables and berries, whereas other fruits (such as those of vineyards and orchards for example) fail. On a lesser scale we can say its game is also another valuable natural resource, when we aren’t taking into consideration the mineral wealth of the landscape. But our true heart is part of the sea, which can be seen if one takes  up a map. Those villages and cities of the interior are considerably fewer, clinging as they can do various rivers and streams, whereas all along the coast you will find the densest populations thriving in a largely inhospitable landscape.

It is also a place of volcanoes and earthquakes, which is natural as a land feature that is part of the Ring of Fire. For those who don’t know, the ring of fire is the area which encompasses the Pacific plate and its adjoining plates along the western side of the Americas (both North and South). This is a region with tremendous activity which results in numerous volcanoes, and earthquakes from seismic activity. Volcanic activity has actually been one of the biggest land-makers in the west, and a good portion of Alaska is believed to have been built up from volcanic activity. You can read more about the Ring of Fire here.  Now, whereas some may think that Hephaistos would be a god to perhaps more strongly associate with Alaska geography due to more “fiery” activity, the fact that this is occuring in response to movement of oceanic plates which results in releases of magma does not strike me as something alien to the worship of Poseidon, just as earthquakes in general are attributed to him…and this is something that is no stranger to us. We have in recent years seen earthquakes that split the ground and severly altered roads and landscapes, and that is nothing compared to the big quake of 1964 which brought utter devastation and destruction. In this fashion we have the very harsh reality of living here that is measured against the plentitude…and for most of us it seems like a fair bargain.

Therefore, when I first read of Poseidon, he made sense to me on many levels as a kind of paternal deity of Alaska, with Demeter as the maternal deity (for we do depend greatly on what vegetation we get during our short summers)…with Artemis who presides over the beasts, and bright northern light of Apollon and the midnight sun of Helios, and the long rule of Selene in the winter. These are the gods I associate the strongest with this land and in the most immediate fashion, though I recognize the role of all the Olympians within the nature of a place and that there can be no place absent of their activity and certain features bring to mind other gods. Yet gods of vineyards and orchards, of shepherds (though we do have a dairy in one valley!), gods that delight in exotic blooms or associated with the burning heat of summer are less apparent and active here. Yet all the same, the first god who comes to mind when I think of Alaska is Poseidon, closely followed by Demeter, Artemis, Apollon and a number Titans and Titanides. Perhaps it is because this is a primal land still, and so much of it untouched, that it suites these gods to more to my mind, and more strongly echoes their domains. It is a place of harbors and seas, of tall snow capped mountains and wealth of the land, of tundras and forests, of mammals, birds and fish. We are blessed here I think.

(PBP) C is for Cattle

Among all the common symbols of rams, goats, and deer, we would be amiss to ignore to one of the most prominent of cult animals: cattle. As an animal that was perhaps one of the most prized (and likely the most costly) animals of sacrifice, it is perhaps not so strange that these are linked to a very specific collection of deities in the forms of bulls, cows and oxen. In a more generic sense cattle are connected loosely to Apollon and Hermes in the sense that these are the animals which they are associated with as herdsmen. It was the cattle of Apollon (perhaps, as I have suggested in my book Crowned with Nine Rays, aligned with the cattle Geryon in the west..that by their location may represent souls in their collective, not to mention domesticated, habit of living and their prized value among the gods) that Hermes stole, and who Hermes took to herding upon exchanging his pipe and kithara for the bullwhip and cadaceus of Apollon. Neither of these gods are in fact directly linked to cattle outside of their basic providence over the function of herding and caring for cattle. It should be pointed that such association with cattle doesn’t specifically refer to bulls  (which were often kept away from the herds for breeding purposes if memory serves me), but rather in a more generic sexless manner.

However, when it comes to bulls we see an entirely different matter. In the coarse of this section I will be referring to information about bulls from this website. The most important thing about a bull is that it is a fully intact male bovine. Naturally then those gods which are associated with the bull are particularly fertile deities, very distinctive from the gelded steers and so not to be confused! This includes Poseidon from whom the Cretan/Marathon bull came, as well as Dionysos who has been frequently depicted with bull horns on his head and carries epithets that referred to the god as horned (likely in reference to this feature). Dionysos has also been compared by some with the Apis bull of Egypt that was reared and sacrificed. Foremost, though, is the association of the bull with Zeus. In the myth of Europa he takes the form of a bull to carry off the maiden of his affections away from Hellas. As the bull of heavens, it is appropriate too that Hera is closely associated with the cow…the combination of their bovine characteristics compiling in the myth of Io, wherein the priestess of Hera and lover of Zeus was transformed into a beautiful cow. Meanwhile the only goddess that seems to have a direct association with bulls is the moon Titanide Selene, which may refer to the horned aspect of the moon, though is revealed more commonly in poetics which refer to her as “the bull-eyed” similar to how Hera has been likewise called “ox-eyed” or “cow-faced”. In the latter case it may refer to large, warm, soft eyes compared to a somewhat more aggressive gaze of the bull.

The association of Hera with the cow may also be linked to conflation of Hera with the cow-horned Isis, just as Aphrodite has been associated with the cult of Hathor. That said, there seems to be less direct associations with the cow in the Hellenic worship of Aphrodite. Though bearing associations with the cow, Hera is more commonly connected to the ox. Though there seems to be some who specifically distinguish between cattle and oxen claiming that the latter is a very selectively bred type of sub-specie related to cattle, this doesn’t appear to be a universal classification. At the above cited website there are other opinions that oxen have not always been regarded as separate from cattle, but rather referring generally to cattle that are bred and trained specifically for draft labor rather than for a food source. It can be said again to be procreative in line with the bull and cow symbolism in a more controlled manner, rather than the general associations of cattle with food products (ie nurturing functions). Hera then can said to be as the nuturing cow, the procreative cow, but also as the ox. It seems quite important that her priestess was drawn particularly by a pair of white oxen. So sacred were these that when the white oxen had failed on an occasion to draw the priestess, her sons, Cleobis and Biton, were immortalized for assuming the role of oxen and sacrificing their lives in this role by pulling their mother’s chariot in Hera’s honor.

The oxen-drawn chariot of the priestess seems to have some relationship too the martial chariot of Zeus which is referred to in a myth wherein Zeus tricked Hera into returning him by a pretense of marriage in which he and his “bride” were drawn in such a chariot. So whereas a bull represents the masculine virility and feritlity, these oxen instead seem to be directly associated with the production of the earth as plow animals. In which case the Theogamia of Zeus and Hera may very well be associated with a cosmic-scale life-producing union which would be appropriately characterized by a marriage-cart drawn by oxen, as symbols of their marriage union bringing prosperity and life. One which is reflected by the role of the Oxen associated too with Demeter. There is nothing of marriage to this particular symbol but is directly related the propagation of life (with the aid of of the yoke and plow invented by Athena which harnesses the purpose of the oxen) for immediate application to our world.

Demeter, meanwhile, has not associations that I have found directly to either cows, or oxen. Her oxen pair are specifically the vehicle to which her purpose is done. In such a manner I would hazard to say that the two oxen are the oxen of Zeus and Hera’s marital cart, which is being utilized by Demeter in order to produce foods. It is from this force that Demeter’s grain comes, perhaps being an appropriate symbol of the fathering of the Kore by Zeus. It seems to be of some interest that in Egypt both Hera and Demeter were associated to cult of Isis. This certainly seems to indicate some flexibility in later Hellenic thought between the identity of the two goddesses, the latter of which has little body of myth outside of that of her daughter’s mythos. This is not to suggest that they are the same goddess, but rather that their domains have a significant point of merger that seems the most evident in the symbolism of the oxen, which as connected to the marital union can bring some alignment between the grieving widow aspect of Hera when she separated from Zeus (which the mock-wedding mentioned above put to an end) and the grieving mother of Persephone, for which the oxen are utilized to break up the hard earth to sow the grain to return the Kore.

It can be suggested that the relationship between Hera and Demeter is not unlike that Zeus and Poseidon. This can be particularly interesting when we compare the bull of Crete to the image of Zeus as a bull in the myth of Europa, indicating a close alignment of imagery of a white bull of great beauty emerging from and submerging into the sea. As an animal associated with fertility, and therefore life producing semen, it suggests a liquidity of the bull’s nature which is further carried out by Dionysos who brings the moist fruits to the earth. This is a bit different imagery that the less sexualized oxen (probably for the fact that male oxen, as labor animals, are often castrated and therefore generally do not carry the same kind of raw symbolic associations. In the end we are presented with imagery of the fertile and nurturing cow who accepts the fertile semen of the bull, and yet with her more controlled companion ox (who may be a bull since it isn’t always the case that oxen are castrated though that practice is regular) she is able carry forth civilization and progress.