Just like Goddesses, Gods are the deifications of archetypal energies within the human psyche. The mythology of any religious tradition is, therefore, an attempt of that particular culture, to explain human behaviour and thought structures in a narrative, a storyline that is as entertaining as it holds deeper meaning on a physical, a mental/emotional and a spiritual level. If you'd like to find out more about other Gods, click here: Gods.
The Most Beautiful of All Gods
Apollo is the national deity of modern Greece but has been one of the most important and complex deities in ancient Greek culture and mythology, too. He is the son of Zeus and Leto, younger twin brother of Artemis and a solar and light deity. His areas of influence are the fine arts like music and poetry, truth and prophecy, healing and plagues in regards to men, where his lunar sister Artemis reigns over healing and plagues in women. As the patron deity of Delphi, Apollo presided over the oracle there prophesying. It was believed that the oracular priestess received her messages through him.
Together with his twin sister Artemis, Apollo is the most beautiful of all Greek deities, said to be a beardless youth and therefore seen as the most Greek of all the Gods. His beauty is as radiant as the sun itself. He and Artemis are credited with the invention of archery and both have this sport in common, being of sure aim where no arrow ever misses its mark.
He is the leader of the Muses and directs their choir which explains his association with the fine arts like music, singing, dancing and poetry. He also invented string music and the instruments lyre and cithara. Because of this, he is often depicted with a lyre, which is one of his symbols. The others are the bow and arrow, the sun and the laurel wreath. Raven and Python are his animal familiars.
Apollo is the patron saint of many towns and is said to favour the establishment of towns and civil constitutions. He presides over divine law together with the Goddess Themis and his father Zeus and deals with legal matters, their founder and interpreter. He is also the patron deity of colonists, foreigners, fugitives and refugees.
An Excursion to Rome
Apollo is the protector of male children and presides over their education, as his sister protects young girls and women. Once the boys reached adulthood, they cut off their hair and dedicate it to Apollo to commemorate the God’s assistance and protection throughout their lives.
Apollo is also an agricultural deity and is responsible for abundance in harvest, especially grain, but also in all other areas of life. He is the shepherd who watches over herds and flocks and blesses domestic animals with plentiful milk and fertility.
The etymology of Apollo’s name is not utterly straight forward. It was traced back to various roots with meanings such as to destroy, being the God of plagues and ill-health, assembly, therefore presiding over political life, fold, as in being the herdsmen of flocks and some other meanings besides.
Apollo’s most important title or byname is Phoebus, which literally means bright. He had a lot of other ones, being a complex Greek deity, but later in Roman religious mythology, he was more simplified and had a lot fewer areas to preside over. This is perhaps not surprising, as most of Ancient Rome’s energy was martial and secular and the mythology and spirituality were, in the same spirit, simplified and made more efficient and materialistic. Thus, deities each had a very worldly purpose and were often reduced to this.
Ancient Roman culture is mainly famous for its martial and civic developments and bureaucratic achievements and innovations, rather than being highly spiritualised like the Egyptians or philosophical like the Greece of the Hellenistic period. Roman spirituality was perhaps its weakest point and without a strong moral compass, ultimately led to the demise of the vast empire that could not be saved by a compassionate Christian religion, either, as Rome had already imprinted the new religion with patriarchal and judgmental laws and dogmas.
The Hellenistic Knight in Shining Armour
Returning from our excursion into Roman history back to the God Apollo, it is important to take a closer look at some of the mythology of the God to understand the various nuances of this beautiful deity. In the Iliad, which is an epic poem, narrating the events of the Trojan war, was written by the classical Greek poet Homer, Apollo is described as the healer of the Gods, but also the one bringing disease and death with his bow and arrows, which are usually said to be gold. In very few sources, they are mentioned as being silver.
In one version of the myth, the first arrow Apollo shot as a child killed Python accidentally. Python was a drako serpent, a dragon who guarded the navel of the Earth Goddess Gaia, the centre of the Earth, Delphi, then called Pytho, Apollo had to flee and spend eight years performing humble servile duties before he was forgiven and allowed to return to his divine duties. He then presided over the city and oracle of Delphi, thus later called because it was said that Apollo first came to the city in the shape of a dolphin.
Dolphins are the gatekeepers of different dimensions and move with ease and grace between the elements of air and water. Thus, they symbolise Apollo bringing the connection from the world of the divine, the spirit world, and the mundane human world through the oracle of Delphi to humanity.
The God’s accidental slaying of Python is in other sources explained as a premeditated and planned act of revenge because jealous Hera had sent python after Leto to prevent her from giving birth to the twins that had been fathered by her ever-cheating husband Zeus, and Apollo, when able to do so, sought revenge for his mother’s plight by killing the serpent. Either way, Apollo conquered it and, although he had to do penance by presiding over the Pythian Games, the forerunner of the Olympic games of modern times, he was ultimately forgiven and reinstated.
As Python was an Earth spirit and also guardian not only of the oracle but also of underground waters, this battle describes on a mundane level the arrows of Apollo, the sun’s rays, dispelling the mist and fog that rises over marshes and wetlands, as well as the sea. On a metaphorical level, Apollo brings bright light, clarity, into the world, the human mind and perception. Illusions fall away and are seen for what they are and no longer for what they appear to be. Apollo is the one who shines a bright light on everything for examination and realisation.
The Solar Masculine Archetype
He is the bringer and shower of truth, the one that exposes and reveals it. He brings clarity where there was confusion, light, where there was dark, healing and wholeness where disease and fragmentation reigned previously. And yes, Apollo can also bring death and disease and plagues. But viewing this in the light that the God is a divine principle, an archetype and part of the human psyche, it is obvious how this fits together.
When we are not ready to face the truth, resist it and fight with everything we have to uphold the illusion we find more convenient, comfortable and safe, we built a resistance that quite literally tears us apart over time. Truth pulls us in one direction, and we pull against it. The result is that this causes a continuous strain, much like the pulling of ropes competitions, that ultimately leads to something snapping or breaking. And this something is the human body, heart and mind.
However, when we open our hearts and minds to the clarity that Apollo provides, our inner sight that shows us our own personal divine truth, it may come as a shock at first, but it is worth working through this and embrace it because the long-term gain is most definitely a benefit that stands out and above anything else that could be gained in the short-term by clinging to illusions.
Thus, Apollo is our inner guiding light, the active part, the doer, the part that acts on divine inner guidance, the one that takes control and leads, the ego that is surrendered to the divine will, your soul’s purpose, rather than being ruled by materialistic, existentialist fears. Apollo is the solar power of the Tarot’s Sun card. When you embrace your masculine, solar power and use it to serve your higher purpose and utilise it for the achievement of your goals, nothing can stop you!