Thursday, December 15, 2011

44 Days of Witchery: Day 6

A Favorite God

Apollo was the son of Zeus and Leto, as well as the twin brother of Artemis. His realm was music, prophecy, colonization, religious healing, archery (except war and hunting), poetry, dance, intellectual inquiry, and shepherds. He was also a God of light, sometimes called "Pheobus" (which means radiant or beaming), and had replaced the previous solar deity of Helios. He was also a God of plague and was worshipped under the name of Smintheus (rat) and Parnopius (grasshopper). Ironically, he was also the destroyer of these plague-carriers. According to the Iliad, he shot arrows of plague into the Greek camp. Being the God of religious healing, he gave people guilty of murder and other immoral deeds a ritual purification.

Hera, the wife of Zues, was outraged with jealousy when she found out Leto was pregnant by Zeus. Hera decreed that Leto was forbidden to give birth anywhere on earth. Not the continent, nor an island. The only shelter Leto could find was at Delos, in the center of the Aegean, which was a floating island. It was difficult to get to, because of strong under-currents.

Hera, angry about the loophole, imprisoned Ilithia, the Goddess of childbirth. Fortunatly, other deities intervened and forced Hera to release Ilithia, resulting in Leto giving birth to Apollo and Artemis on Delos. As a gesture of thanks, Delos was secured to the sea floor by four columns to give it stability and became sacred to Apollo.

Apollo's first acheivemnt was to rid Pytho (later called Delphi) of a serpent (sometimes a dragon) called Python. The monsterp rotected the sanctuary of Pytho from its lair near the Castalian Spring. It stood guard while the "Sibyl" (later called Oracle) prophecied as she inhaled vapors from an open chasm. Apollo killed Python with his bow and arrows and took charge of the oracle.

This act was a blessing for the countryside, because Pythos had destroyed crops, sacked villiages and polluted water. However, Pythos was a son of Gaea, and Apollos punishment for killing him was to serve as a cowherd for eight to nine years for King Admetus.

When his pennance was finished, Apollo returned to Pytho in the disguise of a dolphin, bringing with him priests from Crete. He also took on a new name, becoming "Pythian Apollo". He dedicated a bronze tripod (a symbol sacred to this God) to the sanctuary and bestowed divine powers on the priestesses, who became known as the Pythia.

Delphi was named after Delphinios (meaning dolphin or porpoise), which is Apollo's cult title. The Pythia inhaled hallucinating vapors from a fissure on the temple floor, while sitting on a tripod and chewing laurel leaves. After she mumbled her answer, a male priest would translate it for the supplicant. In time, Delphi became the most important oracle center of Apollo.

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