The Return of Apollon

I have just realized that the only thing I seem to have posted about Apollon’s return is dated 2010, and so much has changed since then. Most of which I had revised in the course of writing my book on the worship of Apollon. It is funny how book writing gets you so much deeper into research than otherwise…that and I had a lot more time on my hands since I was unemployed at the time. As it is, I have been so busy with other things that I never even mentioned the festival Polytheus this year, I did observe it in a more simple manner than usual since I have been packing and preparing to move…but celebrate it I did. For those who are not aware, Polytheus is the festival during the month Anthesterion (usually in the first part of February but was this year at the tale end of January) which is, by the Boeotian calendar, the birth of Apollon… a period recognized at Delphi during their month Bysios and in consequently also in the Peloponnese from what I can tell, rather than the Ionian Thargelion. Thus Apollon was believed to have be born in this earlier date on the mainland and traveled to Delphi, which leads me to believe that Polytheus (the many oracles) has nothing to do with the return of Apollon from Hyperborea…but more to do with the arrival of Apollon at Delphi and for which the day was held sacred. Therefore the Polytheus I celebrate with clamorous celebration much in the character of how I celebrate the Thargelia. thus we may have a birth and “arrival” of Apollon in a sense but he is not yet *here*. I would suggest it can be as an ancitipation of the return of the god as the oracle waters flow as spring is returning. It seems like an appropriate time to gather small flowers that bloom in the early part of spring and set them on his altar. The crocus flower (the flower from the saffron), according to one source, was a favored flower for the altar of Apollon in the winter…one that could have been potentially blooming at this point of time. However, since most of us don’t have access to crocus flowers, it is appropriate, I think to substitute them with purple-colored flowers in general.

This followed through by the celebration of the Stepteria which follows shortly afterwards in which the death of Python is celebrated (recall that Apollon was only  a few days old in the myth). This festival is named after the crowning of the laurel…which really is the finale of the ritual. The Stepteria is about the slaying of the Python, the exile of the god, his supplication (which includes the city from which the myth of Admetus comes that draws an interesting parallel between the exile of the god for the death of the Python and the slavery of the god for slaying the Cyclopes) to towns on his way to the sacred laurel tree in the Tempe Valley. This trip would have taken a number of days with all the stops that were made. Having arrived boughs were cut for crowns and boughs gathered to bring back to Delphi. All of this done by a boy who represented Apollon, though he is believed to have been accompanied by an entourage of followers. The actually slaying of the serpent was carried out in one of two ways..both attested to (so it is possible that both may have been done). One was a combat between the boy and another man with swords (I will refer you now to the designation of Apollon as the god of the golden sword), the other man representing Python who is defeated. The other was that a snake was set in a tent (for lack of a better word) and set on fire. Whereas for a ritual involving many people I can see a drawn out dramatic swords fight, the chances of anyone burning a snake alive are slim….which makes effigies of a serpent much more likely for destruction.

Having crowned himself with laurel, representing the purification of the god, the boy makes his way back, stopping again at all these cities rendering the blessings of the god to those who gave him hospitality. After these many days the boy arrives amid a fanfaire of singing and celebration honoring his return in the festival Herois. I believe that his festival may have occurred within the following month Theoxenia and was the pre- festival for the Theoxenia festival. It is difficult to celebrate the Herois sufficiently without the mystic journey of the boy actually happening, but the character of the ritual seems to be very much like the Theban Daphnephoria so it is possible to celebrate the essential elements of the Daphnephoria to keep with the spirit of what is happening and that is the procession of the god amid laurels…the Daphnephoria also includes a rather cool “scepter” which has two balls (a larger on at the top to represent the sun from which smaller balls (the stars) hang, and half way down a smaller ball representing the moon, which is entwined with laurel and white flowers at the top, purple flowers at the middle, and the bottom in a sheith of crocus-colored material.

This, or a simple libation can be offered to Apollon a few days before the Theoxenia and then celebrate the Theoxenia (the seventh of Elaphebolion which is coming up at the end of this month) with all props and honors. The Theoxenia marking the festivity of the gods who have gathered to Apollon’s banquet…with special significance given to Dionysos (as would merit a festival in which Apollon and Dionysos are exchanging power not unlike references to the autumn festival would have us believe).

Coincidentally this would also coincide with the return of Apollon to Delos. In the cult of Apollon on Delos there is was a long standing tradition that the oracle was active from spring equinox to autumn equinox at Delos, and then for the other part of the year at Lycia. This is on thebasis of the myth which differs from the Delphic myth in which Leto, with her infants went to Lycia and there they remained until the Old Man of Lycia (so honored by the Delian Maidens) returned Apollon to Delos. This same Old Man according to myth accompanied Apollon eventually to Delphi. So therefore I add a component of honor to the Old Man of Lycia and also engage in singing and stamping the earth with my feet in honor of Apollon’s springtime return in the manner which is described of the Delian Maidens.

I am, of course, truly looking forward to carrying out this celebration in Florida where I hope to be able to stand on the beach and see the reflection of the sun upon it as I stamp my feet for the glory of the returning god Apollon.

The Ceryneian Hind

I didn’t spend much time speaking of the Ceryneian Hind in my last post about deer and goats because I felt it was better to address seperately as it is, within itself, almost its own topic. That said I think the fundamental information from the post yesterday will make it easier to get across my interpretations of the Ceryneian Hind.

First it is necessary to address what is the Ceryneian Hind. Specifically, according to myth this deer originated from a herd of does with golden antlers and bronze hooves. All of these Artemis took to drive her chariot except one which became the Ceryneian hind. These are particular because, though we are familiar with species of deer-like animals (like reindeer and caribou) in which the female is also antlered, generally speaking does do not have antlers. This is also represented in vase paintings were often times the does were represented without antlers, but the Ceryneian hind that still roamed the earth is represented antlered and therefore resembles (but is not) a very large stag.

Some seem to believe that this may point to the link between Hyperborea (the far northern regions where Herakles was said to have chased the hind in his persuit of her) and therefore attempt to associate with hind with reindeer of the north. However I think that this attempt to logically associate a the hind with a living animal is rather like trying to associate the gryphon with a living animal. I don’t think it works. The mythic hind is intentionally set apart from does, and how best to do that…why by making her look like a stag of course! And not like that she is bigger than all stags, so she is quite exceptional.

I would therefore suggest that most images of Artemis with a stag-like animal (as seldom as they occur) are actually representations of the Ceryeian Hind. It certainly seems logical to me that this animal as one which is sacred to her and not hunted by her would be represented in instances where the goddess is portrayed with a stag in a non-hunting sequence. This seems to be especially the case in the most common classical reproduction of Artemis, is not in front of Artemis being hunted, but is rather at her side, and just slightly behind her, leaping foreward. This can be contrasted by the mythic vision of the transformation of Actaeon whom Artemis is represented as hunting in his stag form as his dogs tear him to peices. So I see two very different images…the sacred horned doe which is related to spirituality through mythic symbolism, and the stag of Actaeon which I view through a lense of mortal maturation.

What do I mean by mortal maturation? It is that point of transformation in which a mortal passes into a transition into a new phase of life. It is the difference by and large between Hippolytus, a chaste hunter who rejected the adult maturation (and the adult relationships that it brings) in order to remain in a youthful phase as a hunter devotee of the goddess), and Actaeon, the hunter who upon maturing into the next phase of life desires Artemis (depending on which version you read for ther is the common version in which Actaeon just stumbles unawares on the goddess in her bath, and then there is the one that Apollodoros mentions in his Library that prior to this event the young hunter desired to marry Artemis. In such respect the transformation into the stag represents an exiting of the old stage of life (or the previous spiritual state of the soul) and this transformation, as an animal which is now naturally horned, becomes the prey of the goddess which she hunts into the next stage of life (or next spiritual stage). This idea is complimentary to the idea of the golden hinds for an important reason…a doe is indifferent in a large part from a fawn visually and as a soul is expressed through the feminine Psyche it could be argued that a mortal soul contains a feminine expression. However a divine feminine soul is horned equally as the male (which we also see in representations of Kyrene in which the deified princess is represented with horns in the same style of Apollon Karneios.

This then gives us an interesting interpretation on the hunt of the Ceryeian Hind. Herakles is chasing the doe in order to capture her and so to “horn himself” (as the process of his labors is undertaken as per the oracle of Delphi in order to become deified). There Herakles himself can upon capturing the hind be considered himself to be as a stag. Such can also be implied by the fact that he chased the hind all over the earth until he finally was able to capture her in Hyperborea which alternately is suggested to have been inspired by a northern people but also represents a blessed place as it is beyond the farthest northern reaches according to myth. It was from this place that Herakles also brought the olive trees to plant at  Olympia where he established the sacred games which brought humanity closer to the gods. Of course it cannot be said that he became deified upon capturing the hind because it was only his third labor, but rather that capturing the hind marked a point which plausibly propelled him foreward. It is also appropriate that it would have ocurred as the third since the number three has associations with Artemis (and Hekate too) in which it would be appropriate as the goddess would be actively influencing him at this point in which he comes into contact with her domain via the hunt for the hind. In such respect we can see the corelationship between the hind which represents the deified soul, and the stag which represents the mortal soul preparing for its evolution. And the stag naturally desires the doe.

And so the scene regarding the confrontation over the Ceryneian hind is one that is often artistically portrayed in which Herakles is confronted by Artemis and Apollon (or in the case of the scene from Veii we have Herakles confronted by Apollon specifically) who initially are there to remove the hind from the keeping of Herakles until he promised to return it…which I interpret that Herakles is capturing the hind for his spiritual evolution but isn’t going to deliver into the keeping of the unworthy king. So when Eurystheus desires to receive the hind Herakles states that the king must take it from him by his own hands so that when Herakles releases his hold on it the hind escapes and he is able to counter the anger of the king by stating that he was not fast enough to keep hold of it. From this I can interpret that Herakles may aid us but it is up to us to be at the point in our own journey to which we can grasp hold ourselves too. We cannot become as the stag until we are able to reach that point in our own spiritual evolution. And Herakles continues some relationship with Artemis too as Herakles and Apollon are both cited as gods who receive that which is hunted by the goddess.

In closing I feel that the symbolism of the stag, and the Ceryneian hind are very specific in Hellenismos.

A festival of lights for New Years Day

When I wrote Crowned with Nine Rays I had been playing with an idea for a completely new modern ritul to honor Apollon Hyperboreios. A winter festival celebrating the god from afar, but I hadn’t pinned down exactly when to celebrate it suggesting vaguely that such a festival could be celebrated in January ideally or perhaps February. These are often the coldest and bitterest months of winter until things begin to warm up again at the end of February and beginning of March. Especially Jauary. Back home in Alaska January was midwinter. If December marked the official beginning of the three months of winter with the winter solstice, then January must be midwinter. Of course in Alaska, during my childhood, it snowed most of the autumn too lol. But every year in November lasting through until around March the city celebrated a festival of lights to combat the dark months of the year…keeping in mind that in the far north when we are speaking the darkest months of the year we are literally talking *dark*. As in the fact that during December and January you will not see much of the sun, and if you are indoors during the day it is guaranteed to be dark in the morning when you leave the house and be dark again by the time you leave to head home again. The Festival of Lights as it was dubbed was the combat the seasonal depression that many Alaskans experience with such long periods of darkness as the earth has tilted away from the sun and Apollon is afar from us.

But as the new year is part of this dark, cold period of winter…and is the vehicle of the new year by the modern calendar that most of us follow, it seems appropriate to honor Apollon Hyperboreios with a festival of lights on new years day. I say New Years Day instead of New Years Eve because I don’t see this akin to the solstice rituals in which lights are lit in honor of the sun that is to reborn on the solstice day, but rather that lits can be lit…..and colorful paper latterns would be idea as a symbolic representation of the aurora borealis (the norther lights) that dance playfully in the sky. So we may draw up the colorful lights in honor of Apollon who is afar, the bringer of the new months as Apollon Noumenios and therefore also appropriate to associate with the new year too. That his light graces the dawn of a new year, a new hope, a new beginning as we await his return in the spring.

After all Apollon as god of the boundaries, who turns the cycle of the moonlight to rebirth the month again and again, he turns the wheel of all nature and life in harmony to his music…the axis about which it all spins. He greets at the passage with his torch held high, bringing in always the new from the death of the previous. Let his light herald a bright new year and that we celebrate it and honor it with all the hope in the world. Like every year I will be beside my daughter as we count down the minutes to the new year…probably watching the ball drop in New York Times Square, with our sparkling grape juice in hand. And then welcome with cheer the dawn of the new born year. The light of promise for each of us to hold dear. Of course people celebrate the new year…because the new year represents the best things that we can hope for. It is a time to wipe the slate clean, to start over, to be reborn ourselves. And of course to set resolutions of how we may improve ourselves and become more and better than we hae been before.

Therefore tonight I shall cheer the dawn of the new year with my family and tommorow morning I shall pray to Apollon, and set up lights for him and honor him throughout the morning in celebration of Apollon Hyperboreios. And so I will conclude this post by wishing everyone a truly happy and blessed New Year. May we receive all the blessings and joy as we may find it and cherish it in our lives.

“Chthonic” visions of Apollon and Hyperborea

Due to recently reading about Chthonic Zeus by Aj, it provoked me into thinking about just how many Olympians have Chthonic orientations whether directly in myth and most visible forms of cultis, or more subtly and indirect that is alluded to rather than outright addressed. In my book I had written a little of my thoughts regarding the semi-chthonic vision of Apollon in writing about his relationship with Demeter, Hermes and to a lesser degree Dionysos. Alot of this character seems to take the form of the interaction of sunlight upon and within the earth that penetrates the hard shell of the buried seed, ripens the earth, and sends about the seasons. Even so there were cults to Apollon that established the god as a cave-dwelling deity, perhaps in part as a deity who illuminates the hidden recesses, and his close association with the serpent by which the god is depicted not only the vanquisher of Python, but also carried forth by a serpent/dragon drawn chariot, and taking the form of a serpent himself as Pausanias describes the god accompanying his statue in such a form from Epidaurus to his temple in Corinth to which the statue had been gifted.

The serpent itself commonly represents not only chthonic powers as the serpent goes within the hidden places of the earth (which is very much akin to Apollon as the cave-dweller and may also refer to Apollon’s influence from the tips of the tree to its deep running roots which is inferred by the Orphic Hymn to Apollon) but also immortality (by which the serpent is also connected in respect to the sun). As such we see the myth in which the child of Gaia, Python, is slain by the infant god that was replayed as part of the spring festivities at Delphi. This refers to several things as far as I see it. 1. Apollon takes into himself more or less the essence of Python and the whole sacred precinct is settled upon the remains of the serpent. Thereby Apollon is the master of the daemon guardian of the oracular spring…the direct god of the wellspring of oracles…the foreknowledge of Zeus as well as being associated with the interpretation of the omenous dreams produced from Gaia and Nyx according to myth that comes forth from the horn gate.  More or less this illustrates Apollon quite adequately as the god of the portal, for he emerges at either side but is in truth straddling both sides in an interconnected fashion to be the guardian of the portal/boundaries. He is at once the god of light, and the light upon/within the earth. This puts him in the position in which he gifts Hermes with the serpent-entwined wand.

This certainly colors my perception of Apollon in Hyperborea…not so much as place which inspired the mythic Hyperborea…but the idea that the god is traveling to an island of blessed individuals, to which Creosus was taken with his daughters upon loosing Libya. The farland beyond the seas. I consider it to this point. In myth the east and west in the underworld is more or less connected at a point through which the sun and the moon travel as described by Hesiod in his Theogony if my memory serves. So I place each direction (north, south, west, and east) like a four point compass star. If I cut this out I may fold the east and west points to where they connected upward, and on a flat square plane I would fold this to connect upward and downward. Now as Hyperborea was seen in the north, modeled after a northern people (for which there are many interpretations of whom they came from..but I rather support that they are modeled off of the Celts) and there is a similar southern version (that we know from Delos) in which Apollon travels to Lycia..the place of light. Strabo or Diodorus Siculus, I don’t recall which offhand, talked of a similar place in which people from Libya departed to that was south of India that contained many mythic similar characteristics to that of Hyperborea. As Hyperborea, the garden of Apollon, is specifically a place of blessed associated with those who were beloved by Apollon who were carried off to this place by swans, or became as swans to travel there, is associated like the western isles as a island of blessed I likewise fold the north and south corners along the flat plane. The result  from one perspective would look like a four sided pyramid from our abode. There we have everything which is associated with the “underworld” or otherworld…the castle from which the winds originate, the isles of the blessed. And the axis, which is represented by the north-south dicotomy can likewise represent the interconnecting axis between our world, the blessed, and the divine levels, as well in reflection downward/inward (so viewing away from the flat plane instead of a four sided pyramid it may resemble a prism—the refractor of all light and hues). It is said that Odysseus’ travels legendarily extended symbolically into the next world by which we find all of this connected together as a central area through which the hero traveled helplessly rather than located specifically to the side of our world. The serpent of Apollon represents a connectividity of the axis…that Cthonic and heavenly, the portal of ascent, guardian of the boundaries. God of winds and seasons…axis point at which all things are connected which takes him both to the greatest heights and depths as the dolphin (another of his sacred symbols that is connected with the god in the spring) emerges from the unknown.

These are just my thoughts 🙂

Apollon in Hyperborea

The tugging sensation I mentioned I felt specifically in that prayer I feel has something to do with the fact that I was praying to Apollon specifically with this in mind. It was incredible but I think it was a reminder that even though I was honoring him as if he was far away he is always near at hand and I am not to forget it 🙂 Like his version of a nudge I guess. In coming back to Alaska it has made more aware of the dark months as his journey takes the light away. The darkness of the winter is something else up here, and the sun barely rides the horizon before it disappears again. I honor Apollon as he is in Hyperborea but I never feel that seperation, in fact this time almost feels more intense and personal. I do miss the aurora borealis though. The activity here has been low the last couple of years and sadly it is low again this year. Nothing makes me think more of Apollon than that intimant dance of soft light across the sky!