Apollo Is Not A God Of Rationality And Other Facts I Need To Share

Apollo Is Not A God Of Rationality And Other Facts I Need To Share May 9, 2018
Images from Pixabay, Max Pixel


I don’t like Jung and Jungian philosophy.

Don’t get me wrong; Carl Jung had a lot of cool ideas and some of them I personally feel have merit. But so much of modern understanding of the Greek gods comes from his notions, and with it a lot of dumbing down, watering down, pigeon-holing, and outright inaccuracies about the gods have come with it. It has stripped them of their many layers, their complexity, and in some cases the depths of their power.

Let me tackle the first one for you: Apollo is not “the god of logic and reason”. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that he’s NOT logical or reasonable and/or doesn’t possess these traits. But they are not the entirety of who he is as a deity, and I feel that this understanding of him ignores, whitewashes, and outright contradicts major elements of him which I find to be both compelling and extremely fascinating. Heck, there’s an entire story where Artemis (or Athena, depending on where you hear the story) flat out calls him out on this, and essentially asks him why he preaches of moderation when he’s so passionate and is constantly chasing skirt (and sometimes the men too!). His response was, “Everything in moderation…including moderation.” Now, THAT’s my god.

And you are all missing out if you’re unfamiliar with him and all of the myriad of things he presides over. Especially since a lot of it is really damned cool and far, far more interesting than most modern books on “archetypes” would have you believe.

Apollo is one of those deities who has a LOT going on. He’s a god of truth, said to be the “right hand of Zeus”, god of the Muses and hence inspiration, associated with archery, science, poetry, writing, music, prophesy, dreams, visions, healing and medicine (the Hippocratic Oath was originally sworn to him in his aspect of physician), theatre (yup, both he and Dionysos share this as many gods share all sorts of traits), averter of evil, purification, agriculture…and a million more. I could fill an entire blog post listing them, and all I’d do is utterly, utterly lose people in the process of trying to describe him to others.

So who is Apollo? He’s a god to whom “nothing in excess” and “everything in moderation” has been attributed to him along with “know thyself” written at Delphi, where the biggest and most renown oracle of the ancient world was dedicated to him and done in honor of him. He’s associated with sunlight and truth, and yet has strong chthonic and underworld associations when you start digging into his more oracular aspects. He’s a god associated with dolphins, lions, crows, and wolves. Apollo’s entire biography screams “I’m complicated” and “I can do pretty much everything and am associated with so much that even modern day writers such as Rick Riordan make jokes about it”.

I connect with Apollo most in his aspect of oracles, divination, visions, dreams, and anything oracular. I credit his influence with my being able to receive such things without having panic attacks–especially in dreams, where any sort of filter tends to go away and it’s a very overwhelming data dump. He’s also my main patron, I’m a priestess of his, and I do a lot of work in honor of him. He was my gateway into Greek polytheism, and I’ve been here ever since.

He has enough crossovers with Dionysos that there are some traditions–mainly modern and how far back some of these ideas go can be in debate–believe that each god is two sides of the same coin. There is definitely an interesting undercurrent to be found with his aspects of shining, light-bringer, and light-bearing. The Romans referred to him as Luciferos and his twin Diana as Lucifera. And as a god who was so widely known, popular, and beloved it made total sense for Christianity to demonize him all the way quite literally and associate him with Lucifer aka “Satan”.

I’ve stated in the past that Dionysos is a witches’ god, but so is Apollo–they just have different things emphasized in their cults and have differing sorts of roles in their respective priesthoods. To dismiss Apollo as “anemic”, “left-brained”, or “rational” utterly ignores all of the numerous aspects and attributes he has had for centuries in regards to both mystical and esoteric pursuits, especially those involving oracles, divination, and anything in the realm of the seer. Both he and Dionysos have their roots and rites in trance possession and worship, the differences between them still remain but the overlaps are undeniable.

In regards to my personal experiences with him: I’ve found him to be warm, very supportive, nurturing, but not super chatty. Some gods will show up in dreams or will even have a bunch of words that string together in a sentence or two in my head and will make sense. If he actually speaks, it’s usually just a few words, seems super clear on the onset…but as time goes on, it turns out what I thought was insanely simple and straightforward had a ridiculous amount of layers of meaning. I once dreamed that he and Hermes were playing practical jokes on me, and Apollo was supplying most if not all of the ideas.

One of the biggest surprises I had upon having both Apollo and Dionysos in my life were the things I had expected from them that were contradicted in experience. Apollo is the one I would describe has having a goofy sense of humor while Dionysos is a god I would describe at times at being deathly, terrifyingly serious. Much of this of course depends on context. Neither of them are always serious, always jovial, always any one thing. I would describe my impressions of the gods as being akin to determining the particular tone of a song or a poem. You feel things, you get impressions, and when you pray and/or do ritual, the feeling is akin to what you get when you listen to music. Not auditory per se, but sensory.

Not all of obvious Apollo as a god of music is my god, right? 😉

I’ve written so much about him in the past, have contributed to devotional anthologies about him, maintain an online temple to him (and a few other gods too), and have an extensive bibliography of additional reading on him on my Hellenismos 101 site here. The book about him by Karl Kerenyi on that list remains the best, and it’s the first one that fell into my hands shortly after he came into my life. Also, the article on him at Theoi.com is a good read.


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  • Your observation is right. Apollo is not the god of logic and reason. No god is the god of XYZ. Gods are more complex than a singular trait. Ares with war, Aphrodite with love and so on. This is a simplification and does not go into depth into the nature and power of each god. Thank you for pointing this point 😀

    I know this post is meant to explain the rest of Apollo outside of the box that has been made for him. But I was inspired to share just a little bit about why logic is closely related to Apollo for anyone reading this comment. Apollo and logic/reason are so much intertwined because he is understood to be the cosmic principle of harmonic order (logos). Part of this is built into the language. His common title “Pythian” is numerically associated with will/mind/thought. Apollo also appears in various mathematical theorems.

    His orphic hymn makes numerous references to melody, tunes, harmony, “sweet accord” – these are not just musical attributes but demonstrate that “harmonic order” is not just rational thinking, but more broadly as I see it, orderly. Music is beautiful (or should be lol) because the harmony of the sounds that are made happen out of this harmonic order (logos) which Apollo governs.

  • Brianna

    People see things as they are. Its all about perception. It does not make their perception wrong, and yours right however. That is when it comes to the ideas of other people, i am careful and i put forth the idea that that was their experience or what they discovered, and i experienced something much different. I dont like shutting down other people’s points of views, there are people i will disagree with and walk away from, but as a general rule, i realize that history was written by the victors, so therefore i treat every bit of knowledge as a possibility and not a fact.

  • Gaius Florius Aetius

    My first instinct, as a Roman Sacerdos Apollon, was I disliked the article for the tone. The title was annoying me; less because I disagree, but the notion to berate people felt a bit annoying and not the tone I would explain things.

    Let me first disagree with a commenter: The nature of a God is not entirely in the eye of a beholder. That would mean Gods are just subjective. I have always been of the view that we as Mortals can never fully comprehend the nature of a God, but a God has a distinct personality and role. So Mars IS a God of war, and not a God of anything one wishes. Apollo is problematic insofar as over time he became a God of so many things.

    The reduction of Apollo to a God of rationality is more coming from Nietzsche and his duality Apollonian vs Dionysian, which as figure of throught is good, but the naming is problematic and misleading, if you see it through Pagan eyes. I assume Jung took his view on Apollo largely misled by Nietzsche, who as I think, never meant it as interpreting Apollo, but I agree with the author, that this false image stuck, and I agree with most of the content of the author of the Article.

    As Priest and Seer I found it remarkable to read how my conversations and contacts with Apollo are quite similar. I experience Apollo as a “man of few words” and more reluctant; harder to fetch than other Dieties. Some Dieties are more approachable, but I assume that comes with the nature of Apollo, being a God of Light, Virtue, Art and other things, which are more lofty, aloof elements than, say war or earth.

    I assume in part it hinges on the personality of the individual. I am a more nocturnal person, and while I love the Sun and the Light, it is opposed to my lunar-nightly nature, so I feel more reflecting the solar-Apollonic nature, than being identified with it. And thus every individual will have a different relation TO Apollo (or any God), but that doesn’t mean the nature of a God can be anything.

    I am not sure I would characterize Apollo as a Witche’s God. Being no Witch, I have little experience there, of course, but I guess there are Dieties which are closer to the idea of Witchcraft than Apollo, though a God is per se open to any honest seeker.

    I snickered at one comment of the author, since I too have a relation to Dionysos as well (in form of the Roman Bacchus Liber Pater), that indeed Apollo can have mild humor, while Dionysos can be serious behind a mask of folly. So I largely resonate with the author’s experience which are similar to mine, which is comforting to read. As a sidenote, I wonder if a woman experiences Apollo different, than me a (gay) man does? Or how would a straight man experience Apollo? But I have to be Teiresias to know that. 😉

    Besides the bit ranty intro, which just anoyed me in tone, though not in content, a good article.

    C. Florius Aetius
    Sacerdos Apollini

  • It must be noted that the Roman god Apollo has very, very different aspects emphasized. So this article wasn’t precisely aimed at the Religio Romana, which has very different attitudes towards religion and the gods in general. But super good to have someone commenting on this who IS from that background, as it’s always interesting to note what’s the same and what’s different. Rome really de-emphasized his oracular aspect, and that’s where I approach him most. I’m not sure on the female vs male vs other sexualities, as being an asexual I’m not straight either. But I definitely have noted a lot of gay men who resonate with Apollo, so it’s most certainly a thing.

    I’m actually a Sacerdos of Apollo myself in Nova Roma (Cyrene Lucretia Corva Apollinaris). Also, excellent to meet another seer! I lean way, way, way more Greek and am far more active in Hellenism but out of all of the gods, wherever Apollo goes I do. I have not really been genuinely active in Nova Roma for a long time, but I’ve been around almost as long as it’s been around.

    Also…guilty as charged for making the title something that would poke at someone to read it. Mea culpa 😀

  • Andrew Bayless

    Anyone who thinks that Apollon is purely “rational” needs to ask Python, the younger Cyclopes, and the children of Niobe whether or not He seemed rational when they met Him. Lol I have a feeling that they are more familiar with a very different side of the Far-Shooter

  • Brian Doyle

    Wisdom; omniscient specifically. And truth. Literally can’t lie. That’s not my spirit you’re talking with. You’ve been deceived. I’m his avatar. I’ve even accessed the destroyer mode a few times. Aka abaddon. The right hand of God. Ever seen naruto. Think about it like that. Full possession, darker side takes over.

  • Crag Murray

    Apollo isn’t even a god, he was from the Ptolemaic people’s, you can’t white wash someone’s whose skin was white, so ignorance is showing. He is immortal, not a god, nor does he wish to be attributed as such but as the age old adage says, they make you who you aren’t, because the world is but a stage.

    Apollo became immortal because he was rational, very rational, so they fed him ambrosia because they felt in those days they needed some of that, but he was also very youthful, Apollo primarily chased men, most of the women he chased because he loved their soul, not their physique which is why Apollo is often noted a small being surrounded by women, as most men with ambiguous or homosexual tendencies are.

    Apollo is fun and youthful but Apollo is one of the more rational souls to come from the abyss of the gods, he lived in numerous countries including what is now Scotland and France, and Greece, and Egypt. He is as Caucasian as you can be, so there is no way to white wash him.

  • Anne Hatzakis

    I beg to differ with your statement “Apollo isn’t even a god”. He is a child of Zeus and Leto — Leto is a second-generation Titan(ess), equivalent in generation to Zeus in Hesiod’s Theogony. This would make him fully divine with no need to be “fed ambrosia” to make him immortal as he was ALREADY one of the Deathless Ones.

    And to characterize him as being “as Caucasian as you can be” is potentially injecting White Supremacist thinking into a discussion of the Theoi. This is something that would be problematic as in Homer AND Herodotus the Theoi are described as loving the Ethiopians because of their piety which would cause white supremacy to be a problem as it would be a hubristic claim that the Theoi cannot call who THEY wish to. I am a daughter of a Greek father and a French Canadian mother who has 2 colors in the summer — alabaster and lobster red — and I will NOT engage in denying the agency of the Theoi.

  • Shachi Devi

    Okay PLEASE tell where you got that Artemis calling out Apollo and Him saying “everything in moderation.. Even moderation” from because that’s EPIC I love Him so much!

  • Shachi Devi

    Regarding the article, you’re totally right! I hate how Friedrich Nietzsche simplified Apollo to a rational, ethical being when he’s not very rational all the time and it’s outright stated in mythology that he enjoys seeing erect dicks. Yeah, he’s called wise and intelligent, but not really rational.