Apollon the Wolf God and the Autumn Harvest

Apollon the Wolf God and the Autumn Harvest
by Lykeia

Apollon typically acts as the destroying divinity in nature and as such he is the god of (and repeller of) such harvest/crop destroying creatures as mice, locusts and even wolves who prey on livestock. But Apollon Karneios is also the pastoral god who holds back the autumn storms for the ripening of the vineyards (and likely orchards etc), which can also be seen in his Roman festival the Nemoralia which served a secondary purpose of averting harmful storms from the fields. This is very much the key to understanding Apollon as the ruler of the mild half of the year, in which he tames the destructive forces to allow life to flourish, and acts as a deity of the wild places permitting civilization to rise from the wilderness, something he shares with his sister Artemis, who typically prefers abodes outsides of the city limits.

So what has this to do with Apollon as the wolf god you may ask? It is really a very simple play on symbolism that we find in common with Pan and Zeus – the pastoral god who protects the herds from the wolves is also the wolfish deity. The god is quite literally the wolf in the sheep’s (or goat’s in the case of Pan and Apollon) clothing! He is identified with the herds and represented as horned as the very beast he is aligned with. As a herding god for Apollon it is more commonly goats whom the Dorics used as flock leads for their sheep. This doesn’t replace the wolf god, but rather presents another aspect to him. He is both the wolf and the god who holds back his very nature from consuming that which is under his care. Therefore the honoring of Apollon Karneios, regardless of his horned imagery, is very much the honoring of the wolf god Apollon, as he is given honor for preserving the herds even as he preserves the crops from famine and storms, and is so honored with sacrifices of goats and sheep.

Since I don’t put much emphasis on later solar cult associations I consider Apollon’s Hyperboreia retreat in autumn (continuing through the spring) as an unleashing of his own tempest. Apollon is not a god who seasonally dies but one who brings around the seasons himself. During this time I don’t see Apollon as departing but rather released from his civilized duties back to the wilderness, running as a wolf with ravens flocking around him. The winds making the doors and walls of the house shudder and groan….and in the winter creating potential white out conditions from snow. He is as the wild hunter with his twin, of same spirit together unbound. He is the one who slays the seasonal dying god, the bull Dionysos, as the Thyiades of his own Delphi rave and tear the bull. His are the winds unleashed destroying every vine and shriveling all greenery by their blasts. The Dioskouroi, wind gods in their own right, so hail him their king! For this purpose too he has been identified with Iakchos, the boy of the winds.

Karneios and Lykeios are one, and elements of both are present in the Roman cult of Soranus. Apollon is foremost the wolf god, and from him issues the flames bringing warmth and illumination like flowing magma, whereas his divine exhalations at Delphi mingle the essence of the earth and the air. Even as he is the winds billowing the seas’ surface he is the heavenly axis about whom the heavens turn to predict the periods of fair and foul weather for prosperity of farmers and seafaring men. He is Apollon Telchinios, the storm and wolf god of Rhodes who destroyed the storm sorcerers, the Telchines. He is also the wolf-light, the god of the interminable periods between the movement and change of seasons just as the wolf light of the day, the twilight during which wolves were believed to be especially active and prowling, divides the transitions between night and day. The light, just as the civilization, is issued by his grace. He opens the doorways for the sun for which Helios lauds him. His winds are the movement of the cosmos, his divine song issuing from his breath, pushing and drawing all things forward. His winds carry one through the gates on the wings of a swan.

These same ideas can be applied almost entirely to Rudra too who was petitioned to preserve people and herds etc, and who had wide mouthed howling dogs (or perhaps more in the likeness of wolves than real dogs considering how non domesticated this god is), and who sons were said to be as voracious wolves.

Hail the wolf god of the wind, preserver and destroyer of life!