On days like these, it becomes clear to me why humans would invent a „good god“. A god like APOLLON, who would represent the human potential to bring light into darkness with art, the potential to heal, to bring order, to do the right thing. An extremely handsome god who would midwife civilization, found beautiful cities and intervene with his precise arrow whenever justice is undermined. A protector to every shepherd's sheep.
With war breaking out right around the corner from my home, I realize with a screaming heart how fragile the construct of a culture is, how easily it can break, how easily violence can be unleashed and take innocent lives if it serves powerful interests. It seems to be part of who we are as humans. At least one could get this impression just by the sheer amount of war gods I've come across in my research. Very few gods who weren't also gods of war in some way (including Apollon himself, passionately involved in the Trojan war). What a relief it must have been to run into a figure like Yeshua at the end of classical antiquity, finally a "prince of peace" at the Mediterranean after all these blood thirsty entities who were venerated here!
As the ecstatic child I grew up to be, I always used to be a big fan of Dionysos and would look down upon Apollon as "the boring god" who stands for mastery and skill in art, the mathematics of music and harmonic shapes. Yawn. No chance against the god of wine, the wild, primordial, seemingly less patriarchal non-binary trickster who leads whole groups of women into the forest and goes crazy with them on wine and shrooms. Way more cool. And after reading Nietzsche’s entrancing poetic praises of the god of madness, it seemed even more clear to me: I want to be Dionysian when I grow up, I won't suppress my beast qualities, my raging lust for life. Western culture had been about suppressing this wildness for way too long. A great reason to over-identify with this archetype, right? In the myth, a mother ends up tearing apart her own son in ecstatic fury. Catharsis, drama, a little too much maybe? Definitely easier to long for this kind of intensity in times of peace and stability. Maybe a privilege.
These days I take a closer look at Apollon and I do not find him so boring anymore. The word that comes to mind is Ecstatic Mastery. The capacity to be both polarities at once, to be the God of wolves a n d shepherds, to be the bringer of the plague a n d its greatest healer. And to use the energy that flows between these poles for the greater good.
I also think of the sanctuary of Delphi and its famed oracle. Yes, Apollon killed a monster snake here, a python, just like the Christian hero saints and angels did with the European dragons later on, symbolizing the victory of faith and discipline over pagan passions, lust and violence. In both cases also a triumph of male dominance over the Earth and her keepers.
But the python of Delphi did not really die by Apollon's hands in my reading. Instead, after a long period of cleansing himself from the deed, it became part of him. His priestesses, called Pythia, might have been using the snake technology of their spines to access the realm of truth and to speak in his voice in an ecstatic trance state... (enhanced my some magical fumes from the Earth). The inner python not suffocated but cultivated. What made them into oracles might have been just this: mastery.
What an achievement to master the fiery magma of artistic inspiration and safely guide it all the way to the point of crystallization in the shape a flawless art piece - without losing the urgency, the snake passion, the aliveness on the way! Or to bring peace without just numbing down, without suppressing the passions or denying the suffering. To be touchable while present.
We'll sense into some of these "Appolinian" qualities of self-mastery this Sunday at HANG WITH THE GODxS! * You are all that * Weekly Archetypal Playtime (Online)
Fun fact: the whole conflict between the "Dionysian" and the "Apollinian" principles actually was mainly an over-simplified reading of German philosphers from the 19th century. In actual ancient Greece, the oracle of Delphi was left to Dionysos during Apollon's yearly absence during the winter time. In many ways they were two sides of the same coin, their mythological beings intertwined in a tale of ecstatic mastery of the polarities. That's why we will be meeting Dionysos two weeks after Apollon. And, to complete this triangle, we'll hang with Apollon's twin sister Artemis, guardian of innocence and of the forest, in the session in between:
I hope that in all these sessions, we will not turn our hearts away from the ongoing suffering and just distract ourselves with some self-development. The invitation is to widen hearts and imaginations ever more so they can touch ever more precisely what is worrying and scaring most of us these days.