Reorienting the shamanic axis: Apollo from wolf to light
MetadataShow full item record
Citation (published version)Carl Ruck. "Reorienting the Shamanic Axis: Apollo from Wolf to Light." SexuS, pp. 497 - 510.
Delphi was the universal axis mundi or central connection with the theological cosmos for the ancient Greco-Roman world, the seat of the most renowned shaman of antiquity, the Pythoness prophetess. The long sequence of priestesses who held the office delivered oracular responses from mythical times as early as the mid second millennium BCE until the last recorded pronouncement around the year 395 CE. During this expanse of time, Greece transitioned from Pelasgi-an/Minoan worship of a goddess to the Indo-European evolution of the patriarchal family of Olympians, over which the male deity Zeus presided as father or sibling. The pathway of shamanic prognostication was reoriented from its former connection downward through the Corycian wolf cave on Mount Parnassos to the chthonic realm of Gaia and it was reassigned upon the building of the Delphic Temple sanctuary in the eighth century upward to Zeus, with the deity Apollo functioning as mediator, replacing his former pre-Indo-European persona with his new identity as son of the divine father, whose pronouncements the priestess thereafter delivered. The numerous mythical figures in the catalogue of those particularly beloved of the Apollonian deity and his twin sister betray their former role as recipients of human victims, once enacted in the bull dance at the Minoan labyrinth on Crete and by the lover’s leap from the twin cliffs that loom above the Delphic sanctuary. They were prepared for their ordeal by the ingestion of a variety of psychoactive sacraments, prime among them was one associated with the wolf and its canine analogues. This entheogen was a mushroom, and the animals’ fondness for the ecstasy it induced set the pattern for the bonding of humans into packs of warriors and the institutions of society. It can be traced back to the haoma sacrament of the Zoroastrian Persian elite, and indications of it occur as early as the Homeric tradition and persist throughout Europe until the late medieval period, and perhaps even later. In the reorienting of Delphi’s shamanic axis, Apollo’s lycanthropic persona was displaced and rein-terpreted as related not to the ‘wolf’ (lykos), but to the ‘light’ (lux) of his solar manifestation. The deadly twanging of his toxic bow was transmuted into the harmonious, but equally entrancing, spell cast by the music from the plucked strings of his lyre. Apollo is paired with Dionysus as inspiring antithetical modes of human mentality, with Apollo presiding over the separation from Gaia and rational control over nature, and his half-brother finding the source of inspiration in the mediated encounter with the irrationality of the natural wilderness. At Delphi, Dionysus replaced his brother’s former role at the Corycian Cave.