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.

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Semele and Persephone

With Anthesteria amd the celebration of the returning spring as flowers bloom and kid goats are born, there is a general awe towards Dionysos who, as he ever returns from the underworld, represents a spirit of resurrection and the immortality of the soul. He is the slain bull who goes as a seed into the earth to travel the next world and be reborn. He doesn’t die for our sins, and yet his myth is a mystic program for the soul. And it all begins with Semele and Persephone.

We know that the first Dionysos, Zagreus, was born of Persephone and Zeus who came to her in his chthonic form of a serpent and impregnated the goddess without her mother’s knowledge. The serpent form of Zeus is one that is very particular, especially within domestic worship since we call the god who protects the stores of grain and other foods by the name Zeus Ktesios and place an emblem in representation of him in the form of a serpent in on his jar. Therefore we see a form of Zeus which regulates production, which preserves the grains and fruits of the earth, and is associated with the idea of harvest in general which stocks the warehouses. Thus Zeus Ktesios is honored in the household as a god who preserves the bounty of the harvest for the future. The agathos daimon (also depicted as a serpent) has often been connected with Zeus imagery for similar reasons as a god who is bring goodness to the family. So you have a serpetine Zeus, associated with abundance, who fertilized the Kore. She is associated with the flowers of the growing season, but flowers that must be fertilized and drop their lovely petals in order to bear fruits. It is for the purpose of production that we see this allegory as we honor her with spring flowers but also when grains to ripen. Therefore we can see Zagreus as a manifestation of the divine fruit born of the earth…a fruit which is cut up and consumed and then dispersed by ash as the Titans who murdered and ate Zagreus were reduced to ash themselves with the thunderbolt of Zeus.

Clement of Alexandria, in his anti-hellenismos rhetoric such as it is, speaks briefly of the mystic symbolism of those items which the titans used to lure Zagreus to his death. Items which are important (though he mocked them) for a very specific reason. Consider that humanity arose from the mud mixed with those ashes of the titans, and therefore from those ashes the divine spark was given to humanity, would you not rever the item which caused the harvest? It is only be the harvest, the sacrifice of Zagreus, that we attribute the divine spark within humanity, the immortality of the human soul. Therefore these symbols could aptly be a way to rever the divine within us from Zagreus, but also be a symbol to the way to progress foreward…as all these seperate symbols combined together could equate to the divine state. Clement of Alexandria speaks of the looking glass for instance…wouldn’t the looking glass be representative of reflection? I recently did a drawing of Mnemosyne and in constructing it I came up with the idea to use a mirror…because memory is part of the art of reflection. Pythagoras too recommended for his students to reflect every night before bed so as to encourage the memory of the soul. Even Aphrodite, the mother of harmony who obsolves conflict, is pictured with a looking glass. Certainly not from any case of vanity but a greater meaning that can be associated with the mirror of Zagreus….”I see myself as I am, I see all that I am and all the spiritual beauty I possess, I see all that I have been in the past and will be in the future, I see myself and know I am divine.” All of these peices make a whole even as Zagreus was divided into many. Therefore the mystery of Zagreus is the one which is the birth and transformation of the soul.

But this cannot be completed with Zagreus alone, Zagreus is divided, but we need the unification of the parts. So born was Dionysos to Semele, born of a mortal mother, the princess of Thebes, daughter of the hero Cadmus and Aphrodite’s daughter Harmonia/Harmony. Semele, in her love affair with Zeus, was given the heart of Dionysos, the one part of Zagreus was kept by the gods. And so the princess took Dionysos into herself. This seems to me to have some meaning in light of the practice in Athens for the Anthesteria in which the queen was wedded to Dionysos, and so is joining with the god and taking him into her, perhaps to symbolically by fertilized by the spirit of the god and birth bounty and the divine blessings of the god for the city-state I could guess. In this fashion she would be aligning herself with Semele. I know this sounds a bit strange, and even stranger in some of the mystic mirrors of the Etruscans in which Dionysos (Fulfuns) appears to be embracing his mother intimately with Apollon (Apulu) looking on with a flute player…possibly representative of Pan…just behind him.

Of course the story follows that Hera tricked Semele into asking Zeus for a boon, and so that when he agreed to give her anything that she desired, her wish to see Zeus in his true form caused her to combust leaving behind the premature Dionysos which Hermes rescued from the ashes of his mother and brought to Zeus so that Zeus could sew the infant into his thigh (a very strong procreative symbolism there associating Dionysos with the sexual center of Zeus!). Dionysos was thus born a third time, directly from Zeus this time and set about his youth and adventures being raised in the mortal world and his desire to join the gods (via the instruction of Apollon who was, with his company of Muses, the first to recognize the god. Eventually Dionysos departs to the next world to gather his mother that she may be among the company of the gods. This departure is represented by the tearing apart of the bull and the ivy by the Thyiades who consume it. Essentially Dionysos is sacrificed by the women of his retinue and becomes a part of them, from their consumption of him. In such way he is coming into contact symbolically again with the substance within humanity even as he moves to the next world. Aristophanes’ in his play Frogs puts an amusing spin on the whole adventure which leaves out the death of the god and engages in amusing conversations with the souls of the deceased that commulate in a test of knowledge between those much lauded in the next world…giving a nodd to the idea that the knowledge of the soul that it has accumulated places it in a higher level in the next world. This makes Frogs an entertaining and also relevant comedy for this season, a seaon which is celebrated coincidentally with comedies….as comedies address a different venue of the mortal existance than the tradgedies do as the former are arranged in a celebration of life. In any case Dionysos and Semele do not emerge together. No something else happens. First Dionysos returns, he is the infant in the Liknen basket who is born in a cave on Parnassus.

Paranassus is quite a fascinating place. It is not only the mountain which overhangs Delphi, the navel of the world, but it is also the place where the remains of Zagreus were buried by Apollon. And it is from this mountain in which the bones of the earth (the stones…perhaps also symbolically merging with the bones of Zagreus who is buried there) were thrown to create new people after the Flood. Therefore Parnassus has a strong association with death and resurrection just by these means. It is no wonder then that in the cave of Pan, high in the mountains, that the Thyiades, in midwinter, would greet the return of the infant Dionysos.

Semele, alternatively, comes with the spring. In such respect she is aligned directly with the Kore. There is an image of the return of Semele which is quite profound. A vase painting which showns a mound. To one side is Apollon (with Pan beside him), and to the other side of the mound is Dionysos. All three gods are gazing down into the ground. There Semele is rising with flowers and all the emblems of spring with her. She is likened to the Kore who is ascending to the divine company. And thus Semele is the as a goddess of spring flowers herself. I had seen, yesterday, a lovely statue of Dionysos with a small figure of a woman that I had assumed was Semele as it appeared she has a small fire in her hand, but later found out has been called by academics Spes (the representation of Hope) carrying a lily. I am not entirely sure what they base the labeling of the figure as Spes off of, but the lily does not distract me from an identification with Semele as a goddess who returns in the spring. And her return is characterized by her divine name Thyone who is described as the fiery mother of Dionysos and is recognized as representative of the unification between Dionysos and the celebrant in which they partake frenzy as they are filled with the divine essence of the god. Which again connects back to the spirit of Anthesteria as we see Dionysos joining with the queen during this ritual, the very act of which is governed by Thyone. I would hazzard to suggest that it is in this fashion, this interaction of Dionysos, the thrice born god that helps the human soul slowly gather up the peices, the symbols of Zagreus by which the god was distracted by the titans, and bring them unity. Dionysos in this fashion is the liberator of men because he rejoins men to the gods, that which is represented by the communion with his wine.

So hail Dionysos on this Anthesteria!

to honor Dionysos

Despite the fact that I dont count Dionysos as one of the 12 Olympians, each of which has a cosmic and wordly application under whom all others fall into line, I wanted to take a minute today,  inpsired by a recent online conversation ongoing in a community, to speak of Dionysos because inspite of this I didn’t want anyone to go away with the impression that Dionysos isn’t held to great importance. That said I think his importance is relative to worshipers more on a personal level because I think he, in a sense, embodies the personal interaction between the gods (particularly Zeus) and the mortal race. If Apollon loves humanity and according to myth persuaded his father via song from starting over gain with the human race, and if Hermes is the helper of man, then we can understand the strong association in this brotherhood in including Dionysos who is the god the closest and most intimate to us, all in equal measure without discrimination…a freer, a lover, a leader of revelry and bringer of joy and peace. He represents the divine bestowing of the most gracious gifts of the gods.

It is no wonder he is honored in Aristophanes’ Peace play in celebration of..well..peace 🙂 He is also representative of the state of divine possession, of madness, as he was struck with madness by Hera and so too his maenads display madness in their possessions. It is this same madness which is associated with the wine, divine substance personified, which we take into ourselves in his honor. That liquid force, the inseminiation of divine vitality (quite appropriate for a god enclosed in Zeus’s thigh, so near the point of reproduction to also be associated with a divine masculine reproductive principle which is further carried out also via the phallic image of the thyrsos. Dionysos is the fertile and inseminating god, making of course Pan one is his perfect companions who likewise carries this association.

But he acts on a different level than Pan, who is largely concerned with reproductivity and influences, like Apollon, generation (as Apollon made the flocks and herds of Admetus numerous, dropping twins each, therefore being more specific to individual cases than the general fertility of flocks regulated by Pan and, to a degree, Hermes). Dionysos, on the other hand, does seem to be especially connected to any of this, but rather associated with fullness, ripeness and more fruiting associations. Therefore in my mind this seems to be more in line with the ideas of ecstasy, being full via spiritual union and love for the gods, and the immortal nature of the soul, as argued by Socrates in Plato’s Phaedo, and as associated with agricultural ties, which drinks, becomes enlightened and aware, is filled with bliss, happiness and goodness. Something especially considered of great power, as a poet of some fame, I forget his name specifically, but I believe it was Alcaeus (I quoted this poem in my book I think) who calls for wine as a friend to old age. And why not? When a lifetime has passed, and one becomes weary, the warmth and cheer of wine in the winter, as in the winter of one’s life, is uplifting. Dionysos represents this influx of divine grace toward the immortal soul as far as I believe it to be, this different brand of insemination and fertility.

In this manner Dionysos brings us closer to the divine state, and in his own wanderings that he was led to do by the oracle of Apollon (not unlike Herakles) in order to join the gods, Dionysos represents a certain passage and way. He is our most immediate divine companion in life, and it is no wonder why those scenes from the Orphic house in Pompeii showed the initiates likened to a bride. He represents a marriage of the mortal to the divine with a promise of happiness. It is not necessarily a marriage to him…after all he and Ariadne are portrayed overseeing the matter, but rather in a general sense. I would say that he oversees the general movement of the soul, regardless of life or death, and is therefore, by rights, of the most honored and most beloved for the constant care and compassion he brings, and even a bit of unruly disorder every now and then 🙂

I may be very slow at building his shrine, and took quite some time to select the perfect statue of him for my home, but I don’t see him as a god that really needs a temple or shrine of any kind to pay direct worship at. Instead Dionysos is celebrated with every act of joy, and every act of communion with the gods, with every act of kindness and expression of humanity towards others, and certainly with laughter and revelry! Next time you are laughing among comrads sharing drinks and food together know that you are honoring Dionysos. The next time you get on the floor and play with your children rough and tumble, with them squeeling in delight, you are honoring Dionysos. And when you dance, pray, or sing in heartfelt wonder to the gods, remember that Dionysos is also so honored. He is honored in the goodness that is cultivated within and that we share. The fermentation of our life experiences which we can hope in the end will become, like the juice of the ripened grape, a great elixir.

So I may not have much of an official place to honor Dionysos, and I may not consider him among the Olympians, but I love him all the same. Hail Dionysos!

Apollon and Pan

Since there was a request to speak briefly of the relationship of Apollon and Pan I am posting this. I speak of it is some in my chapter of Apollon Karneios in Crowned with Nine Rays which is currently transcribed onto my website Apollon’s Lyre (link is here on my blog page) but it deserves to be gone into a bit more.

There is naturally a great connection between Apollon and Pan, especially with Apollon Karneios and Apollon Nomios, both of which are ram-horned aspects of Apollon and gods that are in same fashion connected with shepherding as well as a god of the pastures. This is mythically explained in that Apollon served as a shepherd to King Admetus for seven years (or one eternal year) in punishment for destroying the Cyclopes out of vengence toward Zeus. This is perhaps the strongest and most direct mythic connection to Apollon and shepherding, though this myth is likely based off an idea of Apollon as a god which predominates over this activity, as in the Iliad we also see Homer referring to the same function of Apollon in the dialogue between Poseidon and Apollon wherein Poseidon reminds him that of the time that Apollon spent in Troy tending to the flocks. Such care of livestock associated with light is not all that unusual because we also know of the herds of the sun, and likewise the myth of where Hermes recieved his wand and prod come too from Apollon. Thereby we have three deities largely concerned with shepherding: Apollon, Hermes, and Hermes’ son Pan.

Aside from his identy as the son of Hermes, Pan is also an archaic type of deity outside of this myth. We see Pan presented by some poets as a god who taught the art of divination to Apollon (as well as gifting Artemis with her hunting dogs). Thereby aside from being sheperding gods we see also that theyare gods assocated with divination too as Pan had his own caves where such foresights could be sought. Even at Delphi there is a cave of Pan in the mountains of Parnassus. Even the Orphic Hymn suggests their strong relationship both in the hymn to Pan where he is addressed as Paian, and in that of Apollon where Apollon is address as the two horned Pan immiting the whistling winds. So there is a certain strong relationship between Apollon and Pan, though one should not be mistaken to think that they are same divine being. Rather, it suggests such a close relationship where there is complimentary alliance. Apollon is certainly connected with the windsas I said before of Apollon Telchinios, and this subject was elaborated further by Pausanias in regards to a city in which Apollon’s son Asklepios was associated with the winds (and these winds bringing forth good health…his daughter Hygeia). So it is a matter of identification…Apollon possesses characteristics of Pan, and Pan himself possesses characteristics of Apollon. This is likewise evident in the fertile nature of Pan that is exhibited in the natural domain of Apollon, the fertile light that aids in generation. It is hardly a surprise then to see Apollon and Pan close together in a scene of returning spring from a vase painting with Dionysos opposite of them. So this relationship is not so unusual if we consider another close relationship between Pan and Zeus, and how Apollon relates to his father that often intersects certain areas as a particular privilidge of Apollon.

When it comes to the topic of fear (for which post spurred this discussion) the way that Apollon and Pan relate to fear is something that I believe is rather different. In the worship of Pan fear is the instinctive response of the unknown, and therefore such fears can drive unreasonable terror. Apollon’s association with fear is more of a mastery over fear…to confront and dispell unreasonable fear, and by gaining mastery over one’s own fear thus striking fear into others (and in such fashion the paian was said to have worked that the bolstered spirit of the armies singing the Paian was fear-inspiring as I spoke before of Apollon as Marshaller of the Host). Therefore we see Pan of nature who inspires fear because he is part of the unknown, and Apollon, the revealer, who brings mastery over fear. So of course even in this we will see Pan and Apollon closely aligned and both playing and important part. Hail Apollon, Hail Pan!