Preparing for Adonia

I often forget to write about rituals that come up, but I haven’t forgotten this time to mention it!¬† So at the moment I am getting ready to celebrate Adonia,which I tend to celebrate on Easter. I know that others hold their celebrations for Adonia later in the year, closer to summer, but I know others who also celebrate on or around Easter, and the fact that I celebrate Hyakinthia at the end of spring makes it rather convenient for my calendar in any case ūüôā There of course seems to be a fair similarity to my mind between the myths of Adonis and that of Hyakinthos. You have competition between two gods (in the myth of Adonis you have him spending part of his year with Persephone, and the other part with Aphrodite, likewise you have Apollon and Zephyrus¬†desiring Hyakinthos), and some seasonal correspondance. However, this does not mean that I feel it is appropriate to lump them together as being representative of the same kind of thing going on in the same time of the year. Rather, the details of the myths reveal certain things about when it may be best to celebrate it, or perhaps even when they were celebrated if one dares to stretch that far.

First, Adonis strikes me as being specifically about spring due to the gods which are involved. Particularly the time between the tail end of summer and in mid-spring, long before the coming of summer. In the myth this seems to highlighted by the fact that he is being torn between Persephone (with whom he spends time while she is in Hades’ court) and Aphrodite. It is suggested to me that when, or perhaps shortly before, Persephone returns to her mother Adonis would have been released to Aphrodite’s company. As such you have Adonis transitioning between winter and spring most specifically, and then destroyed in the flower of his youth by Ares or Apollon, one¬†out of jealousy and the other for retribution,¬†via a boar¬†depending on which version you prefer. Pigs being an animal it seems that have some special connection with the spring and autumn seasons in which you have transitions into¬†and out from winter. It seems that the Calydonian boar is a perfect example of the autumnal transition as the harvest is completed and the boar has been sent out to revenge Artemis¬†upon the people. Turning this over now we have the boar which slays Adonis, which, if you have read my post on boars and pigs, has an especial connection with Artemis as per the location of where he was killed and how this same area once spawned the Calydonian boar too. Therefore Adonis’ boar is the spring equivalent which is also threshing life, though rather than mature life ready for harvest, this boar is destroying the flower that will never, thereafter,¬†fruit. It, therefore, is not entirely logical either to place his festival at the end of spring or anywhere towards summer in which the maturation cycle takes place. Adonis is forever captured as a tender youth hunting in the woods. He is the very imagery of youth prior to taking up the mantle of manhood, and therefore a good reason why you have imagery of the company of Hippolytus hunting with Artemis as the occupation of boys.

This is quite different in character from the Hyakinthia, wherein Hyakinthos is believed to have been portrayed as a¬†deified being¬†as a bearded male as his deification may very well been on the¬†mark the period of transition from youth with which Apollon is particularly concerned. Even the contest over Hyakinthos has a different character from that of Adonis. You have Zephyrus, the spring wind, contending with Apollon over the youth’s affections. And then there is Apollon who accidentally slays the boy with his disc, which seems reasonable to represent the greatest disc of his: the sun. Unlike the transition of winter-spring that we particularly see in the case of Adonis, we are seeing spring-summer in the case of Hyakinthos. As such it is reasonable that Hyakinthia is celebrated at the end of spring, and likewise Adonia would have been celebrated prior after the first blush of spring had faded.

What do I mean by the first blush of spring? I, for one, never would have though in my youth that spring had stages that it went through. Alaska has a spring so short that you take a breath and you pretty much miss it. All the soft flare of spring is just barely¬†a glimpse in the year. However when I spent time in warmer climates I saw first hand the blades of the spring flowers poking through the soil in the middle of winter. And when I went over seas to Morocco¬†in January I was quite startled. A place I had visited previously thick with the heavy scent of big summer blossoms and rich colors, in the winter time was like some fairy paradise with feilds of soft green and the tiniest pale flowers dotting the landscape in the valleys as snow accumulated in the mountains. The weather was chilly, and damp, but it was full of a freshness and innocence that I didn’t realize would have been possible in that landscape. Yet the winter flowers of December and January are rapidly replaced with the spring flowers of February and March more or less. And I recall from my gardening lessons at my mothers knee that a good gardener has stuff planted together that will bloom alternating as the months pass so that there is never a flower free spot in the garden. Therefore the first half of spring is dwindling down getting ready to be replaced by the latter part of spring with its more luxuriant flowers than the small enchanting flowers of the first half, as the season progresses.

I have heard mentioned a practice, which many base their modern festivals from¬†what I understand,¬†in which in Egypt I believe, where greens were grown and left to perish under the sun. Now having read above what I have described I am pretty confident that in Egypt, as another North African country, such greenery would be very unlikely to be growing so near summer. In these climates the greenery goes to town during the rainy months of winter, and then the flowers start really showing up in the beginning of spring. Therefore it seems more likely to me that perhaps sometime in the end of winter, if this was indeed a practice, since I don’t recall if there was a citation for it so I won’t make any positive claims about it, it seems that these would have been growing¬†largely in the latter part of winter and into the spring. Then as spring progressed and the days grew hotter, as the mediteranean heats up quickly, the tender plants would have died long before summer even began. This is my take from what I have seen in any case.

Now following this model specifically doesn’t work for my geographic location. If I had started plants in January or the end of December, if they hadn’t died from the cold they wouldn’t be getting ready to die as spring came around. Because of the particulars of this part of the world, they would be getting ready to really get going instead.¬†¬†For this reason I prefer not to use this agricultural model in my observation of Adonia.However, that said, a northern equivlanet could arguably be made for the season in which mollasses is harvested from maple trees. It is a very brief part of the year in which you wouldn’t know that spring had started for all the snow everywhere, but the trees waking from their slumber let the sap rise and this is tapped by those who are hardy enough to weather the cold to get it. This is perhaps a good distinction in more nothernly places the differences between the first flow of spring compared to the latter part.

The way I celebrate Adonia then is in large part how many celebrate Easter. I cook a ham, perhaps an ironic device considering the boar that did him in, with its sweet glaze that I reserve only for this time of the year. A lot of it is about family, togetherness, and feasting together. Of course this is followed by the solomonities the night before in which sorrow is exhibited for the passing of Adonis. I can imagine some folks can really get into this. I am not so good at it to tell the truth. The Hyakinthia without its overt show of grief is more suited to me than the outpourings for Adonia, but I do my best.

This year I am looking forward to having a statue of Adonis for the occassion. A surprise gift among some other things I get to pick through, it is apparently a fairly valuable little statuette of bronze that is going to make the perfect¬†image. For the first time I will have an image of Adonis for my Adonia! It is just a shame I won’t have my apartment for the occassion so that I can really get into the spirit of things. But, having the Adonia being celebrated around about Easter gives me the oppertunity to enjoy my family for the festival even if I don’t have the oppertunity to do all that I like this year. Therefore, though it will be on a small scale without all the ritual and ceremony that I enjoy, I am thinking it will be a lovely Adonia.


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.

Boars and pigs

It seems like it would be appropriate at this moment, having concluded with deer and goats, and considering the dawning of the spring season….to address the subject of boars and pigs. Pigs are animals that have something of a bad rap that have become almost synonymous with poor health.¬†I have my husband on one hand saying that people shouldn’t eat swine because it is unclean, and on the other hand there is another group counting how much fat content pork has….gods save you if you like bacon, ham or ribs! Or sausage for that matter (which seems to be a big part of much Italian and Greek cousine from what I can see). The word pig is even given as insult if you have a bit more girth about you. The pig has become synonymous with being¬†fat, ugly, unhealthy, dirty (because obviously the fact that the animal is smart enough to protect its skin from sunburn by applying mud is just too ewwww for modern tastes), and altogether destructive to local ecology (as we understand from importations of pigs into environments where they are not native and the destructive of native habitats and wildlife¬†in places such as Australia and in the southeastern United States where wild boars roam). In short, any noble or¬†redeeming character the animal has once possessed has all but disappeared in this era.¬†There have been some attempts to save the image of pigs by indication of their intelligence…often through popular children’s tales…but these have barely made a dint. Granted this is from an American perspective, and it may be that the reputation of pigs is not quite so dismal in other parts of the world, but it is in this kind of environment (at least in the USA) that people are discovering the beauty of Hellenismos….in which the pig/boar does have important significance.

Now I classify pigs and wild boars together because it seems the biggest distinction between them is that pigs are nothing more than domesticated boars (of which there are various types). Here is a good description of them from a website called Hog Stoppers:

“The difference between the wild and domestic animals is largely a matter of perception; both are usually described as Sus scrofa, and domestic pigs quite readily become feral. The characterization of populations as wild, feral or domestic and pig or boar is usually decided by where the animals are encountered and what is known of their history. In New Zealand for example, wild pigs are known as “Captain Cookers” from their supposed descent from liberations and gifts to MńĀori by explorer Captain James Cook in the 1770s.
The term boar is used to denote an adult male of certain species, including, confusingly, domestic pigs. In the case of wild pigs only, it is correct to say “female boar” or “infant wild boar”, since boar or wild boar refers to the species itself
One characteristic by which domestic breed and wild animals are differentiated is coats. Wild animals almost always have thick, short bristly coats ranging in colour from brown through grey to black. A prominent ridge of hair matching the spine is also common, giving rise to the name razorback in the southern United States. The tail is usually short and straight. Wild animals tend also to have longer legs than domestic breeds and a longer and narrower head and snout. European adult males can be up to 200 kg (sometimes up to 300 kg in certain areas, particularly Eastern Europe) and have both upper and lower tusks; females do not have tusks and are around a third smaller on average.

So apparently it doesn’t take very long to go from pig back to boar.¬†Differences appear to more or less superficial.¬†Likewise in myth they do same to take¬†different roles, in which the pig is connected agricultural goddesses such as Demeter and Persephone, and the boar has links to Ares, Apollon and Artemis who harness its more aggressive features. However, despite the form of these roles, there is no difference between them. So it is appropriate to consider them more or less together.

In Hellenismos the pig is identified specifically with the cult of Demeter and Persephone. This takes into consideration that the pig is appropriately representative of the earth and its procreative nature. This may relate in some degree to the girth of the pig, but perhaps has more to do with the nature of the pig itself. Among domesticated pigs, as described above, there is a tendency to wallow in mud in order to protect their sensitive skin. Domesticated pigs, for whatever reason, have lost their tougher bristly coats, and therefore submerge themselves within the earth. Of course wild pigs are mostly nocturnal animals by habit anyway, and are, suprisingly, a borrowing species of animal.

“The animals are usually nocturnal, foraging from dusk until dawn but with resting periods during both night and day. They eat almost anything they come across, including nuts, berries, carrion, roots, tubers, refuse, insects, small reptiles–even young deer and lambs.
Boars are the only hoofed animals known to dig burrows, a habit which can be explained by the fact that they are the only known mammals lacking brown adipose tissue. Therefore, they need to find other ways to protect themselves from the cold. For the same reason, piglets often shiver to produce heat themselves.”

This presents us with an image of a borrowing animal which is sensitive to the elements/environment, takes some refuge within the earth, that takes all things with into itself without distinction, that is a female-community social animal (living in female groups called sounders, during which males only enter for breeding season after which they leave), and produces multiple offspring (like many other animals connected with fertility such as rabbits, dogs, etc).

Therefore, one level we have an animal of which the female members represent and are closely linked to earth and agricultural goddesses (agriculture also being the seeds of civilization and community). If the soul is also considered one symbolic level to be feminine (via the mythic representation of Psykhe) it may infer something in regards the initiation process in which the individual offers a sacrifice of a piglet  in order to enter into the mysteries. I would hazzard to suggest that this piglet is representative of the human soul. I have talked before about associations that can be made with young animals and the immature youthful identity of the human soul in which humanity can be referred to in association with young animals (which nursed and cared for by the gods) and the adult animals are generally directly associated with the gods. So the initiates make a symbolic sacrifice of themself, a kind of mock death which they perform right beside the temple of Artemis Prothyrea (of the portal) as a symbol of passing the first gate of Eleusis before they can enter deeper within sacred citadel which possesses a second smaller gate into the Telesterion where the initiation rites were carried out.

It should not surprise us to see Artemis associated at all with the area in which the piglets were sacrificed. Though we more often see boars directly associated with her in myth, she is a femme-centric deity through which we can appreciate her association not only with lionesses (an animal which she can be seen holding in images characterized as Potnia Theron type images that seemed to have remained fairly common representations of her in the Peloponnese) but also with wild pigs that also connect her with her earthly domain. Thus the dangerous wild male boar becomes a natural tool of destruction rendered by her. We can see three cases which are connected with Artemis.

One of which I will mention first because it is the most indirect association, and that is the boar which slew Adonis. Now there are two distinct versions that we see here, and they are dinstinguished by the male god participating. One one version, that is perhaps the most commonly recognized,¬†it was Ares who either took the form, or sent, the boar spurred by his own jealousy of Aphrodite’s lover. In the other version, which is elluded to in Euripedes’ play Hippolytus (and by that reference we can assume that it was a pretty well known version) was that Apollon sent/took the form of the boar to slay Aphrodite’s lover on the part of his twin Artemis, as well for his own reasons which are stated more explicitly below. For at the end of the play we see Artemis address Hippolytus that in return for Aphrodite’s offense she too will slay the one whom Aphrodite loves. Of course in the end it turns out that both Hippolytus and Adonis become deified from this exchange, but it does pose an interesting medium in which again we are presented with an image of the boar symbolizing death and a kind of blessed rebirth. This is not to say of course that the two versions of the myth are incompatible either…it could be Ares and Apollon both got in on it and featured a duel representation of the destructive component of the¬†myth as they are referred together also in war (which I have spoken of at length before¬†in regards to Apollon’s association with war and his relationship with Ares). This earthly end/destruction that rises to a new birth can also be viewed in the context in which I was informed that it is common for offerings of pig to be given to Apollon Noumenios, who is honored at the Noumenia as the new month manifests. Similarly we can see offerings of pig to Apollon (and Zeus..probably in his Cthonic character)¬†in autumnal festivals of Demeter such as the Proerosia.

The boar naturally then has become a subject of specific heroic feats. Perhaps one of the better known examples wold be the Erymanthian Boar (which may very well have been the same boar which slew Adonis, since the version of the tale in which Apollon sent the boar it is said to for his part to have been for the purpose because Aphrodite blinded his son Erymanthius…from¬†whom logically¬†the boar would have taken the name as it would from the place in which the boar roamed. It hardly seems as coincidence in any case, and the mountain itself may be associated with the myth of Apollon’s son who was blinded for seeing Aphrodite bathing…a common punishment for mortal men who transgress in this manner). It is perhaps then on the sacred mountain of Artemis, Erymanthos, in which these whole drama is contrived that appropriately sets up the setting for the fourth labor of Herakles (following up from the labor in which the hero has persued her hind that may further establish a link between Artemis and the hero). From the myth of this labor we learn that the mountain is the home of the centaur Chiron, whom Herakles is visiting and ends up poisoning with one of his arrows (which leads in later as a reason why Chiron agreed to give up his immortality…and so end the pain of the poison arrow… in exchange for Prometheus’ freedom whether that be figuratively by giving Herakles his strength or making a more literal bargain with Zeus that aids Herakles’ when he frees the Titan). So we see this grounds to be a focal point¬†as a kind¬†doorway between death and life, which is quite appropriate given the nature of Artemis. And likewise appropriate to whatever links it has with Ares and Apollon who are also connected to death and destruction. For whatever reason Eurystheus wanted it, and Herakles captured it by driving it into the snow via the advice of Chiron, but the king was so terrified of it when it was brought to him that by his wish Herakles disposed of it. In Cumae there was displayed a set of boars tusks in the temple of Apollon¬†that were said to have been from this animal,¬†on the belief¬†that Herakles threw it into the sea and the boar swam to Italy where it later died and was there perserved.

Therefore if we take the labors of Herakles as a totality of parts in his deification (rather like the “toys” of Zagreus that Clement of Alexandria spoke of from the last post) we can see an important idea of¬†each labor¬†myth, as far as I see it anyway. So whereas he chased down the horned hind that I spoke of before, he is now confronting an animal directly associated with the seemingly very strong and near unbreakable cycle of death and rebirth of which he gains mastery of. Sounds like an important component in any case of being deified if we consider that his labors are the processes of his deification as per the instructions of Apollon that only once he has committed these labors would he be a god, all of which incurs as the result of his madness-inspired sacrifice of the self symbolized by the death of his two sons from the influence of Hera. It is interesting that Artemis figures in some manner in several of these labors, which insinuates her role in propelling foreward her “prey.” She is closely connected with the Amazons in myth from whom Herakles takes the girdle (which has its own symbolism), there is the hind of which we already spoke, and the boar.

But the most well known boar connection with Artemis is the myth of the Calydonian Boar (which was sent by Artemis in anger for being forgotten during the harvest sacrifices)..but Apollon again is not far away as we are told that Meleager’s spear was later dedicated to Apollon’s temple. This presents us another interrelated image of the boar in association with the relationship between Apollon and Artemis. What is remarkable about this tell, however, is that brings together an entire cast of heroes (a cast which we see much of in the tale of the Argonautika in pursuit of the golden fleece…and like the quest for the fleece ends up being minus Herakles which sets apart the journey of the son of Zeus from that of the other Heroes). The implications seem to be similar in the arrangement of the myth of the Calydonian Boar and the Erymanthian Boar in which we have a dangerous creature, a bringer of destruction, of which each hero is participating for the distinction of wishing to kill the animal. In myth it is the spear of Atalanta who delivers the fatal wound to the animal, which is finished off by the spear of Meleager. In recognition of this fact Meleager awards the remains of the boar to her, which causes a huge uprising that ultimately ends in Meleager’s death in that the firebrand (the fragile symbol of human life) that had been in safe keeping of his mother is snuffed out in retaliation for the consequential death of her brothers (which insidentally also led to her and Meleager’s wife to hang themselves). And yet the spear of the hero was perserved in the temple of Apollon which speaks of certain greatness of the hero. Therefore we see a richness in death symbolism here directly related to the hunt of the boar. That the hide of the boar was believed to have preserved in the temple of Athena seems to attribute not the boar to her, but rather the process in which the hero (who is usually attended by her) has become victorious over that which the boar represents. Or so it seems.

In any case, whether we have the pigs of Demeter and Persephone, or the boars associated with Artemis, Apollon and Ares, we have an animal that is deeply connected with the mortal state and its connection directly with the earth. The earth brings us into being, in an environment against which we have little protection, and in which offers certain death to us in our mortal forms of flesh and blood, but is also receives us kindly and by the mysteries of nature we progress and are reborn….with the hope that eventually we will take the boar by the tusks and be reborn into a greater blessed state.

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.

Hymn to Ares

Hail to you Ares, martial, seething lord
You from whom all war’s terrors have poured
As tears have poured from sorrow’s rain
Mixing with bloodshed, the crimson stain
That becomes a lamentale river which flows
Into the terrestrial root and deeply sows
The sighs, and clamorous echoes of the dead
Deep within the broad earth’s fertile bed
From which florid life ultimately springs
All born from Thanatos’ benignant wings.
Hail to you Ares, unleasher of tormented sighs
From the high rock of the vanquished you rise
To see before you the leveled armies of men,
The ash and ruin of what was, a story maudlin:
The unwearying song of this mortal burden
Summoned again and again to what is bidden
Beneath the sheild of you who are never bending
Where they are shaken by you, the ever-changing
As a flash-fire, you who set all souls ablaze
In the crucible of the raging war’s you raise.
You, the masterful sire of Deimos and Phobos,
They whom you send among Athena and Phoebus,
You who are keeper of ravenous dragons bred
To spear men on by fear, panic and dread
To take arms for the sake of hearth and land
And before the inferno to unyeilding stand
As the dragon’s children, fiercly battling
A harsh chorus of swords upon sheilds rattling
Hail to you Ares of unsatiable thirst of rage
You who may seldom be caught in any wrought cage
Yet you are drawn and bound by golden chain,
That you, Hermes and Dike by law, restrain
Before the gates. Hail god of vigilant gaze
Hail to you, conqueror, we give our praise
For you who are unflinching ever face ahead
Seeing all before you as shadows of the dead.
Hail to you companion of mortal struggles
In austerity ever your divine sword lend.

Hymn to Apollon Marshaller of the Host

Hail Apollon, hail to you victorious one
Hail to you who are glorified by the sun
Loud-rattling, triumphant-calling god
Uplift the bow, and the spear’s lean rod
That it may glimmer bright off your sheild.
Armored god, Amyclaean, you are revealed
As the upright pillar, god of manifold sight,
Four directions illuminated by your light,
You who are the leader of men, praised Agetor.
How often do we mortals remember to adore
Your fast-striking hand which threw Python
To the dust, of which the clamarous paian
First was sung? The spirit-quickening song,
That which inspires souls and makes us strong.
For however often we may of you softly sing,
We too remember the destruction you bring,
You who weilded the aegis for Troy’s behest,
And the Achaeans, their strength you did divest,
You who shake the death-rattling song of war
Companion of Enyalios, delighter in gore.
And to you Boedromios, of the fearful cry,
Athenians honored you for making their allie
Quelling fear against Amazons on Ares’ hill;
Until Ares, slayer of men, drank his fill
Of the flowing blood, and sank slumberous
Into flowered folds of Aphrodite’s amourous
bed. So hail Apollon, to you all men pray
To bring victory and drive ill harm away
For you exceed in every show of contest.
For when Herakles tried from you to wrest
Away your sacred seat, it was all for vain.
No matter how much he would fight or strain
There you grappeled with him in such might
Shaking mountains by your uproarous fight
That nought could seperate you arm from arm
Not the pleas of Artemis nor Leto’s charm.
Yet Zeus’ bright firebrand, which cracks
Upon earth and sky, severed you as an ax
Striking between two uprooting entangled oaks
And only then could you be soothed and coaxed
To lay aside your wrath. So to you we pray,
You who shine forth as the unconquerable day,
You who, in the first Olympics did outrun
Hermes, Zeus’ swiftfooted and most wily son;
Nor can you be conquered by brutish strength
For at the games you did face at length
Ares, Obrimos who is great in his might,
And together you sparred with fists in fight.
Ever as you circled, as two eagles warring
Advancing, retreating, and as lions roaring
In a precise dance of martial choreography
Until you, fleet-footed, falcon-striking lord
Layed low insatiable Ares to your victor’s award.
So hail to you Apollon, falcon-eyed Paian
You who strike victorious, favor this human.
Bring forth your just aid to my contests
To uplift my heart, and victory upon me bless.