For me one of the best things about studying myth is the tiny little high I get when I figure something out in a myth that I’m contemplating, when the insight breaks through into my conscious mind. It’s usually at that point that I come blog about it here, sharing what I’ve learned with anyone who cares to read it. But, at the moment, I’m struggling with one particular aspect of Greek myth, and it occurred to me to post it here, to share a bit of my process with all of you. It starts with Apollo.
There are many interesting aspects to Apollo and his story. Twin brother to Artemis, who serves as midwife to her mother at his birth. He is the god of music, logic, and structured civilization, as well as light and the sun itself. He is also considered the most beautiful of all the male Greek gods, and is the epitome of the perfect Greek man, the archetypal embodiment of everything that a Greek man of antiquity should aspire to be.
However, despite all of this beauty and perfection, so many of Apollo’s stories are about his inability to “get the girl”. He falls in love (or lust) with the nymph Daphne, who flees from him in terror, and is turned into a laurel tree to finally escape him. Now, the explanation in the myth for this “difference of opinion” between Apollo and Daphne is that Eros shot Apollo with a golden arrow of love and then shot Daphne with a lead arrow of hatred. I believe there is a deeper psychological truth at work here.
In his poem “Hymn of Apollo”, Percy Shelly says this:
The sunbeams are my shafts, with which i kill
Deceit, that loves the night and fears the day:
All men, who do or even imagine ill
Fly me, and from the glories of my ray
Good minds and open actions take new might,
Until diminished by the reign of Night….
I am the eye with which the Universe
Beholds itself and knows itself divine;
All harmony of instrument or verse,
All prophecy, all medicine is mine,
All light of art or nature; -to my song,
Victory and praise in its own right belong.
Now, I don’t think that Daphne is running from Apollo because she’s somehow evil and is fleeing from the power of his rays. We need to look a little deeper. The Roman poets love to tell this story; in fact Ovid is downright gleeful in the way he describes Apollo’s rejection. I think there’s fun to be found for him in the way that the beautiful Apollo has to chase women, and is unsuccessful.
The insight is eluding me. Any thoughts out there? It’ll come.