The Radiant, Prophetic God of Light Apollo

The prophetic god of light Apollo
The prophetic god of light Apollo – engraving by Jacob Matham (1571-1631), in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

And finally, allow me now, as well, to introduce you to the third of our patron deities. He’s the noble patron god of the liberal arts and sciences … and thus now of Cupid’s School. That’s the radiant, healing, and ‘far-striking’ god of Light Apollo.

“Thou master of lascivious arts,” he [Apollo] said,
“To my frequented fane¹ thy pupils lead:
And there, inscrib’d in characters of gold,
This celebrated sentence you’ll behold:
First know yourself; who to himself is known,
Shall love with conduct, and his wishes crown.

­ – Ovid, Ars Amatoria II, transl. Thomas Yalden

In classical mythology, Apollo was the great Olympian god of Light. Often referred to as Phoebus (meaning ‘shining’ or ‘radiant’), Apollo represents the light of truth and reason. He’s often identified then with the sun, and hence with the sun god Sol (Helios). (The sun god, meanwhile, is said to have driven his horse-drawn golden chariot, each day from east to west, across the sky.)

Apollo then was a god of diverse realms, but especially of poetry, music, and prophecy, and of medicine, healing, and disease. He appears to have been amongst the noblest influences of all the gods of the ancient world. He was also closely associated with the Muses.

The Muses, meanwhile, were the inspiring goddesses of music, song, and dance, and particularly of poetry. They represent and personify the highest forms of creative and intellectual inspiration.

‘The far-striking’ Apollo

Apollo, though, is also the Archer god. Thus then, the prophetic god of Light often appears as a deliverer from evil. He’s the shining adversary and sharp-shooting nemesis of wilfully-ignorant wickedness and overbearing arrogance. He’s the incisive god who hits the mark. In the ancient poet Homer’s famous epic poem the Iliad, in which he’s also referred to as ‘the far-striker’, Apollo supported the Trojans and opposed the Greeks at the Trojan War.

According to the most widely recognised accounts, this, otherwise, healing and light-diffusing god was the son of Jupiter (Zeus) and the Titan Coeus‘ daughter Latona (Leto). He was born on the Greek Cyclades island of Delos, along with his frigid twin sister Diana (Artemis). The island of Delos then was sacred to him, as was Delphi, where Apollo’s said to have famously slain the monstrous dragon-serpent Python, which had jealously guarded the oracle there.

Apollo slaying the Python
Apollo Slaying the Python – engraving by Hendrick Goltzius (1558–1617), from Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ (1589), book 1, plate 13 – in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Delphi, meanwhile, was considered the centre, or naval, of the world. What’s more, it was famous then for its temple of Apollo and as the site of the Delphic Oracle. This was the most celebrated oracle of the ancient world.

The term Delphian, therefore, was often used in relation to both Apollo and the Delphic oracle.

The Delphian god’s radiant attributes

This Delphian god then is variously represented as the personification of youthful manhood and masculine beauty. He’s usually portrayed as crowned with a laurel wreath, whilst casting ‘diffusive rays of light’, and oft carrying one or more of a laurel branch, a lyre, or a bow and a quiver of arrows.

In Ebenezer Cobham Brewer‘s Character Sketches of Romance, Fiction and the Drama, meanwhile, the Delpian god is aptly described, I think, as the ….

model of masculine beauty. He is the sun, in Homeric mythology, the embodiment of practical wisdom and foresight, of swift and far-reaching intelligence, and hence of poetry, music, etc.

Let us then, in these technologically advanced but oft morally (i.e. imaginatively, intellectually, socially, and creatively) dumbed-down and retarded (and thus increasingly dark and ominous) days, earnestly and urgently invoke this noble light-diffusing god. For without Light, there can be no Life.

Meanwhile, dear reader, who says the gods are dead … or don’t exist? Or does that knave not know himself? For have you not felt their influence, and that of less innocent ones too, in the sphere of your own life … and within your own soul?

  1. Temple or shrine