His Father’s Will: The Relationship of Zeus and Apollon

His Father’s Will is actually the title for a booklet I will be getting to in the future dedicated to exploring the relationship between Apollon and Zeus. They share such a fascinating relationship that I felt it is worthy of its own booklet alone. I believe the only other booklets I am planning such indepth relationships within is one exploring the relationships of Apollon and his twin Artemis, and one exploring the relationship of Apollon and Dionysos. However, it is more probable that I will write this one long before I write either of those just because in the end it is, in my opinion, a fascinating one.

Later mystic traditions alleged that Zeus, Apollon and Dionysos were in reality the same god operating on different levels of activity (and likewise aligned Hera, Artemis and Persephone). While I understand the reasoning behind it, and understand that the reasoning that although they were regarded as “the same”, they were still likely conceived and approached in a sense of separateness in terms of worship, it is still not something I am sure I agree with in the literal sense that they are “one” and the same. I do believe that these three gods DO share an important acting relationship, the two younger gods perhaps more intimately connected to the activity of Zeus than any other gods, aside from their sister Athena. That they serve as conduits of his activity might be one way to phrase it, or that their domains are inseparable from a particular aspect of Zeus’ activity. Certainly there does appear to be considerable overlap between Zeus and Apollon that reveals itself in the Orphic hymns, not only in their own individual hymns, but also in the hymn of Helios where both gods are likened with Helios and Zeus is hailed as a player of the lyre.

Hymns aside, there are, after all, many cultic interconnections that appear vital in the relationship of Zeus and Apollon that may add subtle layers of meaning to the worship of these gods. Chief among these is the issue of prophecy. Zeus himself is often considered the source of prophecy and himself had a number of oracles, and yet prophets, oracles and sybils seem to be sacred to Apollon is who holds the official office as oracular god….and given to him by Zeus. That his position is one of mandate held by Zeus’ will we can see in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes in which Apollon stated that he could not gift his divine office on his younger brother for it was the will of Zeus that he hold it (my paraphrase). Apollon is often intimately associated with the acting will of Zeus and his “sight” (in regards to all seeing and knowing of the future…which is perhaps the stem of their joint association with the sun who is the all-seeing eye of the heavens). As such he is frequently depicted in terms of acting with no further motivation because he was assigned to such by his father, as in the case of Apollon’s actions in favor of Ilium in the Trojan War, acting as his father’s authority in giving contest to the Achaeans and purposefully slowing their victory. Even the aegis which Apollon wields at the fore of the Trojan army is one that Zeus presents to him to so carry. Certainly Apollon is mythically attributed with many key points in the establishment of Olympia, one of the grandest seats of Zeus, and its games, and the laws governing those games (which Apollon protects).

Apollon’s place of authority in the imager of the Lapiths against the Centaurs on the western pediment of Zeus’ great temple in Olympia is perhaps telling of something, as the myth itself deals with conflict in regards to violation of the guest-host relationship. A not unfamiliar conflict root as we see too with the Trojan War. Zeus himself protects such relationships and was often called upon as witness for such transgressions, and to act as judge and executioner. Apollon’s association at Olympia particularly as protector of sacred laws, and other cultic examples in which Apollon seems to act particularly in cases of law violation (and perhaps one of many reasons of which both Zeus and Apollon were honored in the assembly area of Athens) may be a particular aspect of their relationship. One in which Apollon acts with Zeus in terms of steering/shepherding, guidance, law, truth and other such functions that deal with the ordering of civilization and maintenance of it and the cosmos. This may also have some bearing on many shared symbols such as goats (associated so with plentitude, and good guidance…as they were used by the Dorians to shepherd sheep, among other things), wolves (of quite fearsome dispositions in their consuming appetites in attributes set on them in myth, but also creatures of twilight where they are not clearly discernible), serpents (who enter into hidden areas and given the appearance of immortality with the shedding of their skin) and so on.

Even the griffin, the hound of Zeus, is linked with Apollon, that even as it is obedient and loyal to Zeus as its master, it serves too as mount for Apollon and is in a sense harnessed by Apollon (not only in terms of as mount, but in a more controlling way too as depicted in a statue of Apollon in which the god holds a griffin helpless by its legs. In a sense if the griffin is the hound of Zeus, Apollon is here acting as the houndmaster for Zeus, which is certainly an appropriate way to look at their relationship in my opinion. For Apollon always seems to be non too far from the seat of is father, and is likewise attributed with authority in regards to association with Fates and Graces, as well as being the only other god aside from Zeus addressed also as king. In this sense of authority we can see how the relationship mentioned at the opening can make sense on a symbolic level, as Zeus proceeds as the highest king over all the cosmos and things, and Apollon as a king beneath Zeus, ordering things among the living to the will of Zeus. Thus on one of very few times that Apollon rebelled in anger against Zeus, we find him acting by Zeus’ will in punishment serving as a slave shepherd, his functions mirroring his divine ones, bringing prosperity, order and protection. And perhaps as a reminder that Apollon too on another level that for all Apollon’s power and necessity, he is but an extension of Zeus’ might even as a slave is but an extension of the desires of a king.

The fact that Apollon has ever openly rebelled against Zeus is perhaps the most telling of how deep their relationship is because it is treated with a note of wonder, and it is clear that Zeus responds to it as the deepest of betrayal (not unlike his sense of betrayal in an instance when Athena sided against him in the Iliad with the council of Hera). So grievous was Apollon’s action that he was nearly thrown into Tartaros for it. It is all of this that illuminates the depth of his relationship with his father the best that so profound is their connection that violation was the highest of insult. Such commitment though is likewise illustrated by one way of looking at it through the care and burial of the son’s of Zeus for his father. He was entrusted with the burial of Zagreus, and in the Iliad with the preparations of Sarpedon following death. Illuminating a connection perhaps between the Chthonic Zeus, and Apollon as guardian of the cemeteries and the laws pertaining to the dead in such respect, as well as necessary purifications etc.

In some context it can be seen that if Zeus is the judge, then Apollon is the lawyer informing (and perhaps in some cases swaying) the judge, as we see mythically with Apollon arguing for the preservation of the human race when Zeus became particularly vexed with us. If Zeus is the father, then Apollon is as the eldest brother, keeping an eye on things, dispensing reprimands and reminders and carrying out the authority of the father when he is not immediately present. If it is seen that Zeus is embodied in all things of the earth, heavens and cosmos, then it is understandable that Apollon is the shepherd of all that which dwells upon the earth and in the heavens. And so on.

There is of course much more to consider and speak of….and all in good time. There is still considerable more research and thought that will be done before I begin writing on that booklet.

Of course there also ought to be considered Apollon as an earlier deity and his role associated with the rearing of Zeus as presented in Arkadia (and echoed in Kyrene where they honored that Zeus). But I have discussed this before.

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.

Apollon and Zeus

I have briefly touched on the subject of Apollon and Zeus before but I felt like I wanted to address it again. Perhaps because I am working on a booklet specifically on the subject that it has been weighing heavily on my mind (I am actually working on four booklets more or less at the same time…the Name of Apollon which is about half finished, The Serpent of Delphi, The Holy Torch, and His Fathers Will). So there was a point that I felt worth addressing after watching a professor in a youtube video suggest that Apollon before being the son of Zeus may have held a position of great power and rivalry with the god. Because this is an interesting observation I wanted to address it further in my blog.

In the video, to which I have linked above, it is pointed out that one of the evidences that Apollon may have once been in a position of rivalry with Zeus is just how often Zeus is specifically mentioned, as if the there is an intentional affirmation of Apollon working on behalf of Zeus. It is thus suggested that this hymn was recognizing a tradition in which Apollon was himself a powerful god whose cult conflicted with that of Zeus for power. Given that Apollon himself was the patron god of the Doric race, it may very well may have been from there that the conflict arose. The Doric peoples, whose origins are quite unclear from where they come, though some scholarship has suggest the northeast beyond the mountains (which would put them in a position of relationship not only with the mythical Hyperboreans, but also with the legendary ideas of Apollon being received after his birth among the Lycians…and probably strongly related to the idea that has floated around scholarly articles of Apollon himself having an eastern orgin), could possible have been the people of Apollon with whom the god entered Hellas. There is some disagreement though of whether they came from the Northeast or Northwest. It is of course interesting to note that in Peloponnesian legend regarding the return of the Dorians that this was considered a return rather than an invading people. So whoever this early Dorians were they were a people who had and earlier contact with this part of Hellas (and IF they introduced Apollon into the area it may well have been during this earlier point), and then returned with the Hercalides, an oracle of which was greeted with less than great enthusiasm and a considerable amount of fear according to the account given by Pausanias.

Interestingly enough it is in the Peloponnese that you have some of the strongest cult influences of Apollon, and most common appearance of the god throughout the Doric city-states, particularly under the guise of Apollon Karneios whose form is intimately associated with the Doric worship of Apollon as pointed out by Pausanias that this form of Apollon was worshiped common among them all. Thebes even had its own site that disputed with Delos over the claim of being the place where the god was born, where here the olive and the palm referred to two rivers between which Leto gave birth, and that it was from there that Apollon wandered to establish his temple. Delphi of course bears a special relationship and curiously shows heavy favor often to the Doric people. Whether this has anything to do with having a possible stronger association with Apollon’s mythical birth in the Peloponnesian, or merely a desire to have alliance with the strong nation of the Spartans it is anyone’s guess. But I do find it an interesting observation in any case. Of course both Athens and Sparta professed similar vows of devotion and protection to Delphi, which were both inscribed on a great bronze statue of a wolf at the temple, thus revealing a conflict of cult in which the Athenians, who through the establishment of their Ionian colonies interlinked all under the myth of Ion, and thus making a paternal relationship to the god, and the Doric race.

The professor in the above video made an interesting observation too. He remarked that all those cities mentioned in the Delian Hymn to Apollon were those in which the god had marked cult presence.
“(ll. 30-50) Among those who are in Crete, and in the township of Athens, and in the isle of Aegina and Euboea, famous for ships, in Aegae and Eiresiae and Peparethus near the sea, in Thracian Athos and Pelion’s towering heights and Thracian Samos and the shady hills of Ida, in Scyros and Phocaea and the high hill of Autocane and fair-lying Imbros and smouldering Lemnos and rich Lesbos, home of Macar, the son of Aeolus, and Chios, brightest of all the isles that lie in the sea, and craggy Mimas and the heights of Corycus and gleaming Claros and the sheer hill of Aesagea and watered Samos and the steep heights of Mycale, in Miletus and Cos, the city of Meropian men, and steep Cnidos and windy Carpathos, in Naxos and Paros and rocky Rhenaea — so far roamed Leto in travail with the god who shoots afar, to see if any land would be willing to make a dwelling for her son.”
Though a number of places are given here it would be interesting to find out how many of these are Doric colonies (which I may get around to figuring out when I work on this part of my booklet), and how many are Ionian. It may be interesting note. Off-hand Kos is a Doric colony, as is Crete, which is referred here to as the shady hills of Ida is a notable colony. Though Apollon doesn’t particularly appear in Linear B script of pre-Dorian Crete (unless we do want to state that Apollon IS Paian in all shape and form), he receives notable cultus here near Knossos. Meanwhile in the text of the Odyssey the Doric people are considered well established at Crete during that legendary period. The Doric colonies all extend to the southern Hellenic islands and southern Asia Minor, south of the Ionian colonies, in Claria. That, unlike other Hellenes, the Spartans were at different points allies of Persia, is also an interesting note to their possible eastern interests. What we do know is that the Persians honored Apollon of all the gods when they entered into Hellas, one general having a priest of Delos aiding him in sacrifices to Apollon with frankincense there. Therefore it can be said that there was something in regards to Apollon’s power and nature that was appreciated by the Zoroastrians. Does this relationship between Sparta and the Persians, and the honoring of Apollon perhaps have something to do with the origins of the Doric race and the god Apollon? Of course it is impossible to know with any certainty.

But this is getting off on a tangent. Clearly this is all conjecture which is interesting to think of but not the purpose of this post. In any case we have a god Apollon who has a bit of an odd fit in Hellenic myth. Much of Apollon’s functions have close relationship to Dionysos and to Hermes after all which makes matters more frustrating try to fit his place among the Hellenic gods (and quite probably why so many modern followers of Dionysos have so little connection or interest in Apollon). However Apollon is given a kind of mythic relationship to them in which he is portrayed as the powerful elder brother who makes a distinctive impact on his brothers . It is he who is entrusted with the body of Zagreus for burial, which he buries on his own sacred mountain, Parnassos. He then follows to be the first of the gods to greet the son of Semele and aid in the introduction of the cult and his journey to join the gods and taking part in the armies of Dionysos (which is probably more supportive of the kingdom of the father of Zeus which Dionysos extends). Likewise with Hermes we find Apollon having an early interaction and an intimate exchange of domains…a fluid joint sharing between herding (originally belonging to Apollon) and the playing of musical instruments (originally belonging to Hermes their inventor). Hermes thus is the guide of souls from the cemetery guarded by Apollon, and Hermes is the inventor of music which Apollon, as the god of Truth is able to wield beautifully. In a sense Apollon’s power gets cast in a supportive role, but an essential one. In the case of Dionysos, you have both Apollon and Zeus playing important background roles shaping the coming of the god, just as Athena and Artemis do (both which have myths which associate them with different parentages and potentially older forms), and yet both of these goddesses are mythically cast with affectionate and quite devoted relationship with Zeus.

In comparison with his twin, Apollon has a more strained relationship with Zeus, though he often acts on the will of his father. After in the Iliad his protection of Troy we gather more or less has to do with his carrying out this will…as we can discern from his conversation with Poseidon. Yet, like his uncle, Apollon has often been punished for transgressions against Zeus’ will. Poseidon and Apollon were set by Zeus to build the walls of Troy, and wall construction thereafter was to be dedicated to them (for which the lack of they took offense in regards of the Greeks when they built their fortifications without offerings to Poseidon and Apollon). In his speech to Apollon to get him to turn against Ilium, Poseidon argued to not protect those whom they served without recompense. For he stated that Poseidon built the walls, Apollon tended the herds of Ilium and were cheated by the king. Apollon was also nearly hurled into Tartaros for exacting revenge for the slaying of Asklepios by Zeus. So therefore on one hand, while Apollon did act in accordance to the wishes of Zeus, he wasn’t above rebelling. So Apollon is exiled (due to the interference of Leto which saved him from Tartaros….which does seem a little extreme for a father to even threaten to do to one of his sons) to live as a slave to the king Admetus as a shepherd. Not even the gods when they attempted to chain Zeus have had that threat levied at them. In fact in Apollon’s case, mythically, it wasn’t just a threat but was in the process of happening before intervention saved him from that fate. This suggests a likely older conflict between the two deities that is influencing the myth in its formation.

I have said before that the Arkadians called Apollon and Pan among the oldest of the gods. As Pan is also said to have been nursed with Zeus in some myths, it is quite possible that we see Apollon and Pan and gods contemporary of Zeus, or even pre-existing Zeus, in which case Pan was given a second incarnation as a foster brother to Zeus while later reappearing as the son of Hermes. Apollon we can say for certain proceeded Zeus in some myths as from Samothrake (the Thracian Samos mentioned in the above Delian Hymn as being one of the places connected intimately with Apollon) was where he was the father of the Corybantes, the nurses and protectors of Zeus. It seems that these Corybantes, though identified with Kuretes of Crete, were also identified as being an equal number of females and males. The daughters acting as nurses (and becoming a group of heavenly stars…I believe associated with Plaiedes which is interesting because the rising of these is regarded by some to have been a significant sign of the coming of the Thargelia in celebration of Apollon’s birth by Leto. The male children though were the protectors and likely the sacred dancers in the form of the Kuretes. Therefore we see a form of Apollon pre-existing the birth of Zues and perhaps interacting with him in the same way that he interacts later with Dionysos.

It is however from Crete that we have the most evidence that is briefly given in regards to a conflict between Apollon and Zeus. Here Apollon is called the son of Corybas (a son of Rhea/Samothrakian Demeter and Iason), who is given a dragon-ish persona in the Orphic Hymn. The Corybantes are named after his father here, who was said to give this name to all men who acted like men possessed in rites of his mother. Thus the sons of Apollon were named after Corybas in myth. On Crete myth held that Apollon, son of Corybas, challenged the power of Zeus. Zeus won and Apollon yielded to the power of Zeus…perhaps then becoming adopted into the family of Zeus. Cretan myth therefore also says that Apollon was the son of Zeus and Hera, perhaps as adoptive parents. Artemis meanwhile, who has a character much like Eleithyia, becomes a handmaiden assistant of the daughter of Hera in which she is responsible for the suckling young. Thus by entering into an agreement you have the conciliation of gods together into a new family of gods and Apollon becomes born through Leto, as per her associations in Asia Minor in particular with the underworld it gives an association of death being transformative…as likely plays out in the case of the siblings of Zeus who are swallowed by Cronos which in a fashion aligns his elder siblings to Zeus’ power as their freer and makes him the new elder brother as he doesn’t get reborn from the stomach of their father. So the dragon’s son, the bright king, is born from the womb of the earth via Leto. In this light the rebellions of Apollon against what mythically may have been perceived as tyrannical actions of a god he consensually yielded to, is given a new light.

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.

Pan, Apollon and the Seasons

“By the side of Demeter there is also a Herackles about a cubit high. This Herackles, says Onomacritus in his poem, is one of those called Idaean Dactyls. Before it stands a table, on which are carved in relief two seasons, Pan with pipes, and Apollo playing the harp. There is also an inscription by them saying that they are among the first gods.”
-Pausanias, 8.31.3

Usually when we think of a division of two seasons most modern worshipers think foremost of a division of summer and winter between Apollon and Dionysos, as these are the gods who are alternating at Delphi. However this table from the temple of Demeter in Arcadia, threw something into light that had been tickling my brain. You see, Dionysos, though most of his festivals are in the winter, are focused on the production of wine rather than the winter season in general. From his birth we have the birth of the new wine that comes, and the honoring of the lord of the wine press and so on. However if we set the division of Delphi aside we see that at Delphi there is another important feature, the cave of Pan at the height of Paranassus, the cave where the Thyiades celebrate the birth of Dionysos. There is also the fact that when we take a look at the Orphic hymn to Apollon, with all the heavily seasonal features to it there is no mention made directly of Dionysos. Rather, at the end of the hymn, after having praised Apollon for playing spring’s sweet chord, the poem ends praising Pan who blows the wistling winds through syrinx famed. Now on one hand I think that this too is an allusion to the winds of Apollon, but as all things within Hellenic religion are multi-layered I think that this is too. It reflects the nature of Apollon, but it also reflects the seasonal boundaries between Apollon and another god…Pan. If we consider that overwhelming evidence indicates that Apollon departed to and arrived from Hyperborea on the equinoxes, and a naturally blustery time of year, and the most turbulent time would be between this times in the winter. Certainly sailors did not venture out onto the seas during the winter because of the storms at sea.

Therefore, while we do have the Seasons, those lovely goddesses, we also have the two seasons here, the primary division of the year represented in Apollon and Pan. I do find it interesting that together they are addressed as being the eldest among the gods. Of course it is not entirely because myth presents them as part of younger generations (Apollon and the son of Zeus and Pan younger still as the son of Hermes), for myth and the relationship of gods is symbolic and an unending tangle. This is a reason why I don’t blink when I read Apollodoros is his Library mention that Apollon was believed on one hand to be the father of Korybantes (the Asian version of the Kuretes), who took care of Apollon’s father Zeus as an infant. And of course the table mentioned above by Pausanias he includes to say that it contains images of the nymphs who nursed Zeus, and the infant Zeus himself. The fact that the table was set before Idaean Herakles, who not only cared for Zeus but with his brother founded the Olympic games, is also not without value.

There are, of course, scholars who suggest that Pan is a manifestation of Zeus in his raw action in the cosmos as progenitor. The above record of the temple (which by the way would not be likely to be unique to the cultus of Arcadia if this is a noteworthy thing in the temple of Demeter, and this very temple and the mysteries practiced here in Pausanias asserts are an exact copy of those at Eleusis) indicates that Pan and Apollon here are closely united with Zeus in some respect. If there can be anything to this it is plausible, considering that Apollon himself was seen as a king (as which he is addressed by Homer too) we have an interaction between two king figures, one of which is more significant as the king of the gods, and of contrasting seasonal influences. The rains of Zeus being more prolific during the winter months when the downpours (or snowfalls in the case of colder regions heh) nourish the earth for germination. It is cool, it is wet, and in warm climates in the mediteranean it is teaming with life in its fairest blush. Thus so deftly Pan blows his syrinx through the land, blowing forth the rain-bearing clouds. Meanwhile Apollon’s period is the bright heat of the ripening season. There are numerous depictions of him with the golden grain, most particularly on coinage whch he is said to bring with him on return from Hyperborea…or perhaps more accurately this represents what his return results in bringing. So on one hand we have the planting and germinating, and then on the other we have the season cultivation, ripening and harvest. Pan here thus representing the seasonal opposite to Apollon.

I would then hazard to guess that that the relationship between Dionysos and Apollon at Delphi has some root with these interconnections. Certainly in Arcadia, who have rich traditions of being the birthplace of Zeus (though doutblessly they are not the only ones), the deception of Cronos and the approach of the Kuretes, the fact that images of him as a youth are almost an exact mirror to Dionysos is fascinating. Zeus too has a thyrsus, just his is crowned with an eagle, and his costume is fairly different in leathers and tunic, but he too wears the vines. Thus I would suggest that the division of Delphi between Dionysos and Apollon works on a symbolic level, particularly if Proclus is correct in saying that Dionysos is in a manner contained in Zeus. Apollon is not an inheritor of Zeus, but rather he sits on his own throne near his father’s side.

It certainly gives an appreciation for the goat-visaged Pan, the ram-horned Zeus, and the horned Apollon (I am still undecided whether it is a species of long horned goat or if is the horns of a young ram lol)…all of which were esteemed in the Peloponnese. Not to mention the connection to wolves they have.

This is something I just wanted to talk about briefly as I will likely touch on it when I get to my booklet “His Fathers Will: The Relationship of Zeus and Apollon” which would have to be done before I ever even think of writing the booklet of Apollon and Dionysos! In fact it may come shortly after “The Name of Apollon”. Either that or “The Delphic Serpent” will be next. I guess it just depends on what gets finished first.

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.

(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.

wolves and goats

I find it quite interesting that gods who have strong associations with wolves, share similar associations with goats in both Hellenismos and Religio Romana. In this there seems to be a natural order taking place symbolically in which the two are intricately tied. Take for instance (in honor of this day of Lupercalia) the Roman gods Mars.

Lupercalia crosses over into three specific areas symbolically in the sacrifice in the Lupercali cave, a sacrifice carried out in honor of the place where Remus and Romulus (the founders of Rome and sons of Mars) were nursed by the she-wolf. First and foremost we must keep in mind in this ritual that its importance is connected to the birth of Rome and the prosperity of the Republic (and later the Empire). It therefore stresses the lineage through Mars. Though Mars shares many similarities to the Hellenic god Ares, there are scholars who cast him in a stronger assocation with Apollon in his more ancient aspects when speaking of relationships of cults than with Ares, from whom he later adopted much of his myths and characteristics. However the indigenous cultus of the god stresses his association to the fields (in which he shares association with Apollon as both gods are those that ward off “rust” which attacks grains) and there protection foremost from which it is believed that his more war-like characteristics developed in extention. Therefore it is natural that the god be associated with creatures of the feild, unlike his Hellenic counterpart Ares who shares less associations. Mars, for instance, is directly associated with wolves, and the wolf of the Lupercali cave was one that was sent by him to nurse his sons until a shepherd found them so that they would not freeze from exposure or starve. In that cave a cast of boys (all from noble families) were chosen to play the part of the Lupercii (as Lupus is latin for wolf we can infer that they are playing the part of wolves). The sacrifice carried out in the cave is one of goats and dogs (the latter being a traditional sacrifice to both Ares and Mars…in the case of Mars it was red dogs). Previously in a post on goats and deer I spoke of how the female goat is associated with nursing, as a goat was a nurse of Zeus, and the male is associated with fertility, it can be inferred that this ritual sacrifice is intended on two parts. One, it honors the nurse of the two heroes but the sacrifice of an animal associated with nursing. The second we see directly in the purpose that is carried out…the strapping of women with the strips of goatskin to promote fertility. This would appropriately honor both Mars, the father of Rome, and Faunus, the rustic god of Italy indirectly in one ritual. I say indirectly only because the description of the ritual itself does not directly mention Faunus (nor does it directly mention Lupercus) but I cede the point that in accordance to the lore of Italy that he may very well have been present indirectly and symbolically in association with the sacrifices carried out in the cave and the legendary roots of the sheperds being the original lupercii, that in ritual were actually the youths of patrician (noble) families in Rome specifically connected to the sphere of the children of Mars. It can be said that in mythology the origins of the Lupercalia lay with Faunus and his shepherds (from Romulus and Remus took part and upon being engaged in the festivities, according to Livy, were captured by Numitor’s people) but that these origins lay in the mythic history of the festival and the primary portion of the festival is in honor of the she-wolf of Mars. However, regardless of whether we are speaking of Mars or Faunus, the sacrifice of the goats (and dogs) at the cave of the wolf is very important symbolism. Therefore the wolf which destroys and protects is part of the cycle of the fertile and nursing goat, an idea which we see carried out in the cults of very closely related Hellenic gods Zeus, Apollon, and Pan, and slightly with Artemis via her epithets Lykeia (wolfish) and Kourotrophos (nurse), the latter of which I had discussed in my previous post on goats and deer.

Lupercalia, according to Roman legend, is said to have sprung from the Lykaia of Arkadia, upon the mountain of which on three hills there were three temples. The temple of Zeus Lykaia in the middle surrounded by the temples of Pan and Apollon to either side. Despite the emphasis given by later Italian recorders to the prominence of Pan on Lykaion, it is indisputable that Zeus Lykaia was the prominent figure in the Arkadian cult…one which was echoed in Kyrene, in Libya, where there was a second mountain called Lykaion were Zeus Lykaia was honored following the Arkadian aspect. According to myth Zeus assumed the form of a wolf for nine years and on the 10th year (one divine year) was restored, a pattern that was followed by Demaenetus when he tasted of the sacrifice to Zeus. This form of Zeus supposedly may have been related to the myth in which Arkadians took the form of wolves for nine years after swimming across a pond, after which, if they hadn’t consumed human flesh, would regain their state. All of which must be tied to the king Lykaon, coincidentally the father of Callisto who became a bear. He was the first to be transformed into a wolf by Zeus for the punishment of offering Zeus (in human disguise) human flesh, that of a child, to feast upon. Zeus’ tasting of human flesh may be related to this form of Zeus, as Lykaon is credited with having sacrificed a child to Zeus which was what transformed Zeus into a wolf for nine years. Though there is no direction mention of Pan in the myth, it is wide known that Pan was an important deity among the Arkadians and the fact that both Pan and Apollon had temples joining that of Zeus Lykaia is an important feature in which we see three wolfish gods honored together, and of whom have important features as gods associated with shepherds, the fertility of feilds (to which bees can be connected) and livestock, and oracles. And all three of whom are represented in association with goats, as both Apollon and Pan are called Tragoidos, and as bearing goat, or ram, horns in Peloponnese and its associated colonies…such as that in Libya in which Apollon-Ammon (called Karneios in Peloponnese) and his wife Kyrene are ram-horned, and Zeus-Ammon is likewise horned at his oracle near the Egyptian border.

The goat/ram appears to have a direct relationship in imagery to an idea to a sovereign divinity who brings prosperity by interacting with and fertilizing the world. Such imagery in relationship to sovereignity can also be recalled by a certain myth related to Atreus in which a golden lamb was to confer kingship upon whomever possessed it. Likewise the flying golden-fleeced ram, the son of Poseidon who rescued Phrixus and Helle, the children of king Cretheus, from being sacrificed (the latter whom fell into the sea…that place being called Hellespont after her) and upon carrying Phrixus across the Black Sea to king Aeetes in Colchis, was sacrificed to Zeus (or in some versions to Ares) and his fleece hidden in the holy grove of Ares, was the object of the heroic quest of Jason and the Argonauts for the pleasure of King Pelias. The associations with fertility are of course significant because this ram became the constellation Ares which signifies the time of year when grain is sown according to Psuedo-Hyginus in his Astronomica. This certainly aligns too with imagery of Apollon and Pan together greeting the rising of Semele which would be likewise associated with ideas of sowing and the return of vegetation. Thereby we see the the goat associated with fertile masculine deities of some regard as a divine king, yet of the Lykaion trinity of Zeus, Pan and Apollon we see three levels at work. First we have the high king Zeus, ruler of the world and aether, from whom all things issues. Second we have Apollon, the bright king, the king of light, the king who walks across all the earth. And we have Pan who is the rustic king (recognizably set apart by his distinctive half animal characteristics who opperates in cooperation with Apollon and revels with Dionysos)…and yet all the Orphic hymns to all three seem in some manner to refer to each other. There are, of course, numerous other deities associated with goats/rams such as Dionysos and the aforementioned Ares, but in this post I am concentrating on the divine association of wolves and goats which are expressed in only a few deities.

Thus within Pan, Zeus and Apollon we are presented gods that are connected with destruction via their assocation with wolves, but are also bringers of prosperity and abundance as we can see with their goat associations. They are the wolves that cull of the weaker members of the flock, they are the destroyer of wolves that may prey excessively upon the flock…in such they are both wolfish and protector/shepherd gods who oversee the welfare of the flocks and their healthy increase. Since both slaughter/destruction/sacrifice and fertility are necessary for the welfare of the flock, it is necessary for gods associated with some kingly title and duty to be associated directly with both functions as destroyers and saviors (the savior aspect of Zeus often partaken by Athena who possesses the skin of Almathaea…the aegis).

As far as I can see, regardless of which deity it is for, such festivals as the ongoing Lupercalia, which celebrate both the protective/destructive nature of the wolf (for the wolf is also protective as it is a social animal that cares for its young within a solid family group) and the fertility and nursing attributes associated with the goat are highly appropriate at each turn of the season…and likely accounts for their celebrations at different parts of the calendar through the Hellenic and Roman world. Generally speaking my focus when it comes to a shepherd’s festival in which goats/rams are sacrificed tends to be at the Karneia for Apollon Karneios prior to the start of autumn, but I can see the relevance at the beginning of spring in relation to this.

A related inquiry on deer and goats

This is a post I have been meaning to write for the last few days, but I have been thinking of just how I wanted to present it. It is certainly no secret that in Hellenismos there are a prominence of horned animals sacred to gods. There are the oxes of Hera, the bulls associated with Zeus, Poseidon and Dionysos, the goats of Pan, Zeus, Dionysos, and Apollon, the deer likewise associated with Dionysos, Apollon and Artemis. And naturally many other gods that I just can’t think of at the moment. Clearly there is some powerful symbolism at work that animals who have some form of bony substance protruding upward from their foreheads have some special relevance in our worship. The idea even carries forward into the medieval  period with the sacred symbolism of the divine via the unicorn imagery which any person half way familiar with the unicorn tapestries would have some vague knowledge about.

We should perhaps then infer that the upward horn represents itself a state of divinity, from which we can also construe significance in the horn of plenty with which we are familiar with. In Roman art we see Fortuna (Fortune) and Ceres carrying the cornucopia brimming over with the wealth of the world that the gods have given to us. In Hellenismos we are familiar too with a myth of Zeus in which the goat Amalthaea who nursed him was sacrificed by him and it is her horn from which the horn of plenty comes, she who sustained the king of heavens. This of course lends a very particular symbolism associated with goats….the male goat representing masculine fertility (for Zeus is very fertile in his nature, as is Dionysos who was carried near this fertile zone of the god for his final period of gestation), and the female goat representing the divine nurse. Therefore it is not surprising to me at all when I see a goat image in Thracian rhytons (drinking horns) because this divine fertilization I connection closely to the very essence of the wine which Dionysos so liberally distributes. Likewise a female goat portrayed in proximity to a goddess indicates a function of the goddess as a Kourotrophos deity. There is for instance one statue of Artemis with a young animal which some say is a faun but also looks to me, because of its size and general shape, to perhaps be a goat instead with the small budded horns on its head and curled tail. But I guess we will each have to decide for ourselves what we think it is.

In symbolism stags have a great deal in common with goats if you get right down to it…differing mostly that deer are typically not associated with the nurse aspect, but are instead as fauns are often pictured as nursing from the Maenads (probably referring to the first Maenads that are nymphs and not literal historical followers of Dionysos). In such respect they are recepiants of “divine” nourishment (via the possession of Dionysos within the nymphs) which  seems to link them to a greater specific connection between the divine and the mortal…as a bridge between the two at a greater symbolic level. Perhaps rather the mortal desire to draw closer to the gods, and pursued by Artemis when they are mature (whereas the young faun is represented peacefully at her side. Apollon, alternatively, has been represented in Hellenic and Etruscan images as holding a stag within his hand. He is seldom pictured with a faun…usually only in cases where he is in the company of his twin, but is always associated with the adult male deer, and to a degree the hind of Artemis…a sacred golden horned female deer. Such imagery with this deer are generally very specific though to the myth of the labors of Herakles.

To understand more on ancient thought regarding the symbolism of deer I would like to take a moment to share a quote that was shared with me….granted it is from the Roman historian Pliny, but I do think that it is somewhat revealing:

(Natural History, Book 8, 41): A stag, when wounded by an arrow, can eject the arrow from the wound by grazing on the herb dittany. If bitten by a poisonous spider, the sta…g will eat crabs to cure itself. (Book 8, 50): The stag is a gentle animal. Stags are very lustful; the mating season begins after the rising of the star Arcturus. When deer hear hounds, they run down wind to avoid giving themselves away with their scent. Deer are simple animals, surprised at everything; they can be charmed by song and by a shepherd’s pipe. To cross seas they swim in a line with each deer’s head on the back of the one in front of it, and they take turns moving to the back of the line. A stag’s age can be told by its horns or its teeth. Stags lose their horns every year, and retire to secret places to do so; their right horn, which is never found, is said to contain a healing drug. The smell of stag horns burning stops an attack of epilepsy and drives away snakes. Stags are at war with snakes, drawing them out of their holes with the breath of their nostrils. Stags live a long time; the ones that Alexander the Great had put gold necklaces on were caught a hundred years later, and the necklaces were found to be covered with folds of fat. Stags are not subject to feverish diseases, and eating venison is said to prevent fevers in people. (Book 10, 5): Stags fight with eagles: the eagles cover themselves with dust, perch on the stag’s horns to shake the dust in its eyes, and beat the stag’s head with their wings until it falls. (Book 11, 115): The breath of stags scorches snakes.

We can therefore infer that the stag represents a sense of community support via their cooperation in navigating streams (ei currents of life as I can see it representing), with swift movement (which can infer swiftness physically but also mentally and on higher levels), that they are long-lived and so like any long-lived animal are probably associated with a concept of immortality or the divine state, this also seems to be addressed by so called curative and protective properties within the flesh and horn of the stag, as well as the fertility symbolism that we find in goats too.

But what particularly interests me is the symbolism with the mind. More so than most other horned animals, it seems that proportionately to its skull the antlers of a stag have a more pronounced upward extension as it ages…the older it gets, the more impressive its rack gets which is quite curious considering that deer tend to drop their antlers. But there is just something entirely awe-inspiring of seeing a five-point (or more) buck. In such respect it seems likely that the symbolism of deer is connected to achieving a state of consciousness close to the divine level which is accomplished through rebirth (and therefore associated too with Dionysos who, like is maenads, is also represented wearing the spotted faun’s skin). This doesn’t seem to far-fetched of an idea if we consider a different culture for a minute, and think of the hindu religion. I had recently read that when the stag is represented with Shiva it is because the stag is associated with the mind, and Shiva is able to control the swift moving mind and bring it into stillness. Though this is a different symbolism, a kind of divine state of mind does seem to be represented.

Dionysos himself, and his followers, appear by necessity to be direct connected to deer in its faun state, as we also find the greatest number of associations of the deer with Artemis. I think that this is particularly telling. In one hand we have the flayed faun…the young immature..hornless…deer who is slain which I think speaks to me of mortal rebirth. And this is the faun that is suckled by Maenads and is tended kindly by Artemis. Thus the fawn represents mortal life that enters exits and enters into life through numerous incarnations, that is fostered and cared for by the Kourotrophos, that is suckled by nymphs, that is held by Dionysos until the stag comes finally to Apollon who represents the divine boundary…Apollon of the Boundaries, the end of his sacred road. He who receives Dionysos. He who receives that which is slain by his twin….whether that be her stags or her goats (the latter of which he used in myth to build their horn altar at Delphi).

Of dogs and wolves

Today I was inspired to speak briefly about the symbolic differences between dogs and wolves. Now I suppose to some this may seem like splitting hairs because there is a point at which there is a very fine line between the two especially since wolf-dog hyrbids are still pretty well known. And if they are able to cross-breed then they are of the same species and therefore pretty close to being the same. However what is being missed in such considerations is that the dog and wolf represent very different things, especially in Hellenic religion in which you have god (such as Apollon, Pan and Zeus) with very specific epithets that refer to wolves that generally speaking refer to a more wild/untamed and often solar destructive feature of a god, and goddesses (such as Artemis and Hekate) with very specific epithets that refer to dogs which seems to refer to their more liminal roles, as well as Ares. The exception to this of course appears to some small degree with Artemis who does bear an epithet Lykeia in reflection of her twin’s epithet Lykeios, but the cult of which only occurs in Troezen in association with Hippolytus, the son of Theseus and the amazon queen Hippolyte.

However, this exception can be easily understood because Artemis is the only truly independent goddess that really actively and personally destroys anything. Hekate may have associations with the dead as a significant part of her cultus, but doesn’t really take part in the destroying part whereas Artemis hunts your ass down with an arrow notched in her bow which she does as part of the natural order and really nothing to do with social systems. However as a huntress she is not accompanied by wolves, though she can be herself somewhat wolf-like, she is accompanied by hunting dogs, a symbol which speaks of the close association between the souls of the dead and protective spirits that oversee them. Thus also the dog imagery in the graveyards as dogs sit as sentinal guardians, some of which can be seen if you ever vention on a tour of Athens and its museums. The dog is present because it is part of the liminal edge through which we all pass in the cycles of life. The domesticated dog was used for hunting, and therefore was instrumental in nourishing the household, and as time passed its companionship of men and loyalty became one of the highlights of its nature by which the animal could be alternately sweet to its family and vicious to unwelcome intrudgers. Naturally the dog then takes the form of a kindly, and powerful, guardian animal for which poets speak that Cerebros is kindly to the dead as they enter but doesn’t allow them to pass out before him again on their own accord. Likewise the dogs accompany Hekate as companion to the goddess of this liminal portal, as they do with Artemis. In such respects dogs have great social and personal spiritual significance in relation to the human soul and its passage through life and death.

Such also rises a conception of war-dogs trained  in combat which can defend and strike in cases of need. There was a specific breed of dog in ancient Greece (now extinct) called the Molssus which was specifically bred to hunt large dangerous game..such as predators…as well  as act as guard dogs of property and participate in war. It should be of no surprise then that Ares is associated with dogs either as war itself is not particular to nature but rather to conflicts in human society in which case he may protect or cause utmost devastation. And certainly some ancient civilizations considered Ares as a protective presence for he he is called upon many times in prayer by Thebans in Aeschylus’ play Seven Against Thebes that the walls of Thebes would not fall and the children of Ares be spared. And of course we are all familiar with the old saying “let loose the dogs of war.” Dogs are just part of our experience as human and spiritual beings. In such fashion, unlike wolves which are entirely and seperately apart of nature, the dog is a creature that is enjoined and functions within the human experience.

So when someone says to me that wolf is more appropriate to depict with the gods than a domesticated animal such as a dog I have to look at them in askance. Because this opinion is operating out of the idea that the wolf, an animal which is wild, is closer to the gods and domesticated dogs, being a creature of human civilization is further removed from them. This seems to come from two factors. 1. The high status of wolf in neopaganism symbolically that celebrates not only the free qualities of nature but also is just simply really awe inspiring. Lets face it a wolf is just cooler than a dog, that is what it comes down to. 2. A tendency in modern paganism to develope extremes in which anything of civilization is considered inferior. Therefore domesticated dogs are inferior to wolves as humans are inferior to gods. In such thinking if this means that the dog is further away from the divine because of its connection with human civilization. Therefore we start seeing ideas manifest of wolves in company with Artemis and Hekate where never before have wolves been associated. Frankly both of these ideas are missing the point.

Wolves may seem more nifty in an abstract artistic way because of what they represent, but they are not superior to dogs…they are different and representing very different things…all of which is divine. Unlike modern paganism which tends to view civilization as corrupt and against nature, Hellenismos doesn’t embrace this idea. Granted people do some pretty shitty things to nature in the name of civilization, but this is a front for individual human greed and have nothing to do with the main principles of civilization. The definition of civilization is not destroying nature. It is possible, if we can get past corporate greed, for civilization to be harmonic with nature. In Hellenismos both nature and civilization are part of the domains of the gods and it is the gods’ functions with each of these that is glorified with different symbols.

We do nothing to honor gods like Artemis and Hekate by changing their dogs into wolves, because this ignores their fundamental domains and the beneficial gifts they bring to humanity as goddesses of the portal and kourotrophs (in which we can defer symbols of whelping bitches). We can love the dogs of Artemis, Ares and Hekate equally as we love the wolves of Apollon, Pan and Zeus in that they represent different forces in our world and spirituality.