Two years in

“As the god who both initiates and terminates plagues, and as the god who knows their causes and their cures, there is no one more “brilliant” or “pure” than Phoebus to consult on these matters.”

More than two years into a worldwide pandemic that began just a few hours by train from where I live, there is still no god closer to my heart than Apollon. Thankfully, even as news of another outbreak approaches (perhaps it will not, perhaps it didn’t actually spread here, testing and tracing is still ongoing), I remain largely untouched. Even when my younger sister contracted Covid, she was asymptomatic and did not pass it on to her children, husband, or our mother. I can only pray (and wear a mask and wash my hands and keep up to date with my vaccinations) that I emerge on the other side still unscathed. May you as well.

Quotation from Loxias and Phoebus in Tragedy: Convention and Violation by Arlene L. Allan and Jamie A. Potter

Devotional Art

I have been “studying” digital painting for almost two years now, but my “classes” are mostly focused on landscapes, so that’s what I’ve practiced the most. While my skills have improved tremendously from where I started, I still have a long way to go. Please be kind.

This was my first experience with devotional art while in hyperfocus, which was a great experience that I really hope to repeat. It is also my very first piece of digitally painted devotional art. It was inspired by Apollon, and since I currently have no way to have it printed in order to offer it to him, I am sharing it with you instead.

devotional art inspired by Apollon, Melia Phosphorou, February 2022

* My “art classes” are the tutorials of the immensely talented teacher, James Julier.

I Turn to You

This is the second in a series of prayers that I am writing to match the prayer beads that I made for Apollon. This time, I attempted to write a prayer focused on his protective and apotropaic aspects. Perhaps the organization could use some help (that’s never my strength in writing), but I’m overall fairly pleased with this one. I also like that any of the verses could be removed to be used individually or in a small group, so you could adapt this prayer to however many beads you’ve chosen for your own set of prayer beads or just whatever is most relevant to your life.

To Apollon who helps in contests,
I turn to you.  Please guide me as I struggle to excel.

To Apollon who protects the streets and defends the cities,
I turn to you.  Please guide me and keep me as I walk alone.

To Apollon who averts the storm,
I turn to you.  Please keep me safe from rising waters and raging winds. 

To Apollon who heals,
I turn to you.  Please return my body to its healthiest state.  

To Apollon who averts evil, 
I turn to you.  Please surround me with your light.

To Apollon who diverts calamity,
I turn to you. Please shift my path so that I am not caught in the disaster.

To Apollon who commands plague,
I turn to you.  Please keep me from its path.

To Apollon who protects flocks,
I turn to you.  Please keep all in my food chain free of disease.

To Apollon who rescues,
I turn to you.  Please hear me when I cry out in despair.

To Apollon who helps,
I turn to you.  Please come to my aid.

To Apollon who protects the dead where they lay,
I turn to you.  When my time comes, please guard me as well.

To Apollon who purifies,
I turn to you.  Please free me of miasma.

To Apollon who protects those who journey on ships,
I turn to you.  When I sail, please ensure that I land where I mean to.

To Apollon who guards against blight,
I turn to you. Please keep famine at bay.

To Apollon who guards against decay,
I turn to you.  Please keep my stores fresh and clean.

To Apollon who guards borders and boundaries,
I turn to you.  Please keep my home safe and unmolested.  

To Apollon who grants a happy return home,
I turn to you.  Please help me to see mine once again.

To Apollon who protects crops,
I turn to you.  Please help to water and prune, trim and move.

To Apollon who heals madness,
I turn to you.  Please calm my thoughts and show me clarity.

To Apollon who protects strangers,
I turn to you.  Please guide me to behave as a guest and receive just treatment in return.

To Apollon who is,
I turn to you with gratitude and with praise and with love.  

21 Gifts of Apollon

prayer beads for Apollon by Melia

I was recently inspired to make a set of prayer beads for Apollon. Now, whether or not I will actually manage to use them as prayer beads and not just as a comfort object or fidget toy is still up in the air, but the first step (after making the beads, of course) is to write a prayer to go with them.

These beads are seven sets of 21 beads plus an additional six spacer beads plus one large end/beginning bead. Not included in that count are some sterling silver caps and the beads that dangle off of the end. So, my idea was a 21 line prayer or a prayer using 21 epithets that could be repeated seven times. I will probably end up writing several prayers for this purpose, and hopefully through that be able to find one that sticks. I will post them here for your use as well, for the most part.

Today, I decided to focus on the being thankful for the gifts Apollon gives and attempting to write a prayer of thanks. I’m not sure how I feel about the rhyming, but I thought it might make it easier to memorize the prayer.

Khaire Apollon, dearest one, please hear my prayer:
You who are Argonios, thank you for pushing me when I compete,
You who are Agyieus, thank you for keeping me safe in the street,
You who are Aigletes, thank you for your radiant light,
You who are Akesios, thank you for your healing might.
You who are Akestor, thank you for turning away the dark,
You who are Embasios, thank you for watching as I embark.
You who are Epikourious, thank you for your protection,
You who are Erasmios, thank you for your affection.
You who are Hebdomagetes, thank you for being born,
You who are Hyakinthos, thank you for being with me as I mourn.
You who are Hylates, thank you for your presence in the wood,
You who are Kourotrophos, thank you for protecting the young through childhood.
You who are Loimios, thank you for delivering me from this plague spread across the world,
You who are Mantikos, thank you for prophetic words unfurled.
You who are Myriomorphos, thank you for coming to me in any shape you choose,
You who are Proopsios, thank you for seeing what begins, what stops, and what continues.
You who are Prostaterios, thank you for guarding my door,
You who are Paian, thank you for calming the pain that I abhor.
You who are Phoibos, I am always thankful for your golden light,
Thanks again, and many times more, dear Aristaios, best and most bright.

A Paraphrase of Plutarch

Apollon is…
Pythios for those beginning to learn and inquire,
Delios and Phanaios for those to whom some part of the truth is becoming clear,
Ismenios for those who have knowledge,
and Leschenorios when people have active enjoyment of conversation and discourse.

Pulling Apollo Apart by Richard Hunter and Rebecca Laemmle, 2019

The Delphic Maxims

The Delphic Maxims, or The Commandments of the Seven Sages, are a rather extensive list of ethical advice from ancient Greece. The original was posted at Delphi, but copies were made and posted in other areas of the ancient world. There is an inscription on the stele found in Bactria (Afghanistan), that reads (in translation by Louis Robert), “These wise commandments of men of old, – Words well known thinkers – stands dedicated in the most holy Pythian shrine; From there Klearchos copies them very carefully and brought them here in the shrine of Kineas to shine far around it.

There are a number of competing translations of the maxims, and competing translations wasn’t good enough for me. I have never studied Ancient Greek. I only have what I’ve picked up here and there from studying epithets and such for the past nine years or so, and I was not at all qualified to discover the “truth” of the matter for myself. I enlisted the help of several scholars and students of Ancient Greek, and after much discussion, I have compiled a new-ish translation. Some translations are exactly the same as what you will find elsewhere, and some are quite different. We tried to stay as close to the original as possible, but in some cases, something more colloquial seemed to be the best translation. My deepest thanks to these students and scholars – Anslaigh Eanruig O Dalaigh, Patrick Dunn, Alex Gonzur, Naomi Guyer, Emery Jones, Mariana Chanidou-Platts, Thomas Speciale, and others who prefer not to be named here. I will post some of my sources at the end, but quite a bit of the information we used comes from notes of mine that are roughly 11 years old, and I don’t have the sources that I originally used for those.

If you are curious about any of these translations and how we arrived at them, please post a comment. I’d be happy to explain our thinking.

1)  Ἕπου θεῷ  Follow the gods.

2) Νόμῳ πείθου  Obey the law.

3) Θεοὺς σέβου Worship the gods.

4) Γονεῖς αἰδοῦ Respect your parents.
     Alternate Line: Άγαθοῦ πείθου Obey the virtuous.

5) Ἡττῶ ὑπὸ δικαίου  Be overcome by justice.

6) Γνῶθι μαθών  Know what you have learned.

7) Ἀkούσας νόει  Perceive what you have heard.

8) Σαυτὸν ἴσθι  Know thyself.

9) Γαμεῖν μέλλε  Intend to get married.

10) Καιρὸν γνῶθι  Know your opportunity.

11) Φρόνει θνητά  Think as a mortal.
      Alternate Line: Φίλοις βοήθει  Live without sorrow.

12) Ξένος ὢν ἴσθι  If you are a stranger, act like one.

13) Ἑστίαν τίμα  Honor Hestia.
      Alternate Line:Άδιχα φεῦγε  Avoid the unjust.

14) Ἄρχε σεαυτοῦ  Control yourself.
      Alternate Line:Μαρτύρει ὅσια  Testify what is right.

15) Φίλοις βοήθει  Help your friends.
      Alternate Line:Ήδονῆς χράτει  Control pleasure.

16) Θυμοῦ κράτει  Control your temper. 

17) Φρόνησιν ἄσκει  Exercise prudence.

18) Πρόνοιαν τίμα  Honor providence.

19) Ὅρκῳ μὴ χρῶ  Do not use an oath.

20) Φιλίαν ἀγάπα  Love friendship.

21) Παιδείας ἀντέχου  Cling to discipline.

22) Δόξαν δίωκε  Pursue honor.
      Alternate Line: Άρετήν έπαίνει  Praise excellence.

23) Σοφίαν ζήλου  Long for wisdom.

24) Καλὸν εὖ λέγε  Praise the good.
      Alternate Line: Χάριν άπόδος  Return a favor.

25) Ψέγε μηδένα  Find fault with no one.

26) Ἐπαίνει ἀρετήν  Praise excellence.

27) Πρᾶττε δίκαια  Practice what is just.
      Alternate Line: Συγγενεῖς ἄσχει Train your relatives.

28) Φίλοις εὐνόει  Be kind to friends.

29) Ἐχθροὺς ἀμύνου  Watch out for your enemies.

30) Εὐγένειαν ἄσκει  Exercise nobility of character.

31) Κακίας ἀπέχου  Shun evil.

32) Κοινὸς γίνου  Be impartial.

33)  Ἴδια φύλαττε  Guard what is yours.

34) Ἀλλοτρίων ἀπέχου  Shun what belongs to others.

35) Ἄκουε πάντα  Listen to all.

36) Εὔφημος ἴσθι  Be fair of speech.

37) Φίλῳ χαρίζου  Give and do graciously for a friend.  

38) Μηδὲν ἄγαν  Nothing in excess.

39) Χρόνου φείδου  Spend your time wisely.

40)  Ὅρα τὸ μέλλον  Look to the future.  

41)  Ὕβριν μίσει  Despise insolence.

42) Ἱκέτας αἰδοῦ  Respect supplicants.

43) Πᾶσιν ἁρμόζου  Adapt to all things.  

44) Υἱοὺς παίδευε  Educate your sons. 

45) Ἔχων χαρίζου  If you can, give.

46) Δόλον φοβοῦ  Fear deceit.

47) Εὐλόγει πάντας  Speak well of everyone.

48) Φιλόσοφος γίνου  Be a seeker of wisdom.

49) Ὅσια κρῖνε  Choose what is pious.
      Alternate Line: Πρᾶσσε σὺν νόμωι Act according to the law.

50) Γνοὺς πρᾶττε  Act from knowledge.
      Alternate Line: Τὸ δίχαιον μέμε Administer justice.

51) Φόνου ἀπέχου  Shun murder.
      Alternate Line: Όμόνοιαν ἄσχει  Live in concordance.

52) Εὔχου δυνατά  Pray for what is possible. 

53) Σοφοῖς χρῶ  Consult the wise.

54)  Ἦθος δοκίμαζε  Test your character.

55) Λαβὼν ἀπόδος  If you have received, give back.
      Alternate Line: Χρονωι πίστευε Believe in time. 

56) Ὑφορῶ μηδένα  Look down on no one. 
      Alternate Line: Λάβε πρὸς ήδονήν Receive for the pleasure.

57) Τέχνῃ χρῶ  Use skill. 
      Alternate Line: Προσχύνει τὸ θεῖον Prostrate before the divine.

58)  Ὃ μέλλεις, δός  What you intend, give. 

59) Εὐεργεσίας τίμα  Honor good deeds.

60) Φθόνει μηδενί  Begrudge no one.
      Alternate Line: Έπὶ ῥώμηι χαυχῶ Do not boast of your physical strength.**

61) Φυλακῇ πρόσεχε  Be on your guard.

62) Ἐλπίδα αἴνει  Praise hope.
      Alternate Line: Χρῶ τῶι συμφέροντι Use the one who has the same interests as you.

63) Διαβολὴν μίσει  Despise a slanderer.

64) Δικαίως κτῶ  Gain possessions justly.
      Alternate Line: Ψεῦδος αὶσχύνου  Be embarrassed to lie.

65) Ἀγαθοὺς τίμα  Honor good people.  

66) Κριτὴν γνῶθι  Know the judge.
      Alternate Line: Πιστεύων μὴ α…  If you believe in something, do not be scared to act for it.

67) Γάμους κράτει  Master wedding feasts.

68) Τύχην νόμιζε  Recognize fortune.
      Alternate Line: Όμολογίαις ἔμμενε  Be firm on what has been agreed.

69) Ἐγγύην φεῦγε  Avoid offering collateral.

70) Ἁπλῶς διαλέγου  Speak plainly.

71) Ὁμοίοις χρῶ  Consult with your peers.

72) Δαπανῶν ἄρχου  Govern your expenses.  

73) Κτώμενος ἥδου  Be happy with what you have.

74) Αἰσχύνην σέβου  Revere a sense of shame.

75) Χάριν ἐκτέλει  Fulfill a favor.

76) Εὐτυχίαν εὔχου  Pray for good fortune.

77) Τύχην στέργε  Be fond of fortune.

78) Ἀκούων ὅρα  Observe what you have heard.

79)  Ἐργάζου κτητά  Work for what you can own.

80)  Ἔριν μίσει  Despise strife.

81)  Ὄνειδος ἔχθαιρε  Detest disgrace.

82) Γλῶτταν ἴσχε  Restrain the tongue.  

83)  Ὕβριν ἀμύνου  Guard against hubris.

84) Κρῖνε δίκαια  Make just judgements.

85) Χρῶ χρήμασιν  Use what you have.

86) Ἀδωροδόκητος δίκαζε  Judge incorruptibly.

87) Αἰτιῶ παρόντα  Accuse someone face-to-face.

88) Λέγε εἰδώς  Speak (only) when you know.

89) Βίας μὴ ἔχου  Have not violence as a recourse. 

90) Ἀλύπως βίου  Live without sorrow. 

91) Ὁμίλει πρᾴως  Speak calmly.

92) Πέρας ἐπιτέλει μὴ ἀποδειλιῶν  Finish the race without shrinking back.

93) Φιλοφρόνει πᾶσιν  Deal kindly with everyone.

94) Υἱοῖς μὴ καταρῶ  Do not curse your sons.

95) Γυναικὸς ἄρχε  Govern your wife.

96) Σεαυτὸν εὖ ποίει  Benefit yourself.

97) Εὐπροσήγορος γίνου  Be courteous.

98) Ἀποκρίνου ἐν καιρῷ  Respond at the right time.

99) Πόνει μετ’ εὐκλείας  Struggle for glory.

100) Πρᾶττε ἀμετανοήτως  Act decisively.

101) Ἁμαρτάνων μετανόει  Erring, repent.  

102) Ὀφθαλμοῦ κράτει  Control your eye.

103) Βουλεύου χρόνῳ  Give timely counsel.

104) Πρᾶττε συντόμως  Act quickly.

105) Φιλίαν φύλαττε  Guard friendship.

106) Εὐγνώμων γίνου  Be grateful.

107) Ὁμόνοιαν δίωκε  Pursue harmony.

108) Ἄρρητον κρύπτε  Do not reveal the Mysteries.

109) Τὸ κρατοῦν φοβοῦ Fear ruling.

110) Τὸ συμφέρον θηρῶ  Pursue what is profitable.

111) Καιρὸν προσδέχου  Accept due measure.

112)  Ἔχθρας διάλυε  Dissolve enmities.

113) Γῆρας προσδέχου  Accept old age.

114)  Ἐπὶ ῥώμῃ μὴ καυχῶ  Do not boast of your physical strength.

115) Εὐφημίαν ἄσκει  Exercise (religious) silence.

116) Ἀπέχθειαν φεῦγε  Avoid enmity.

117) Πλούτει δικαίως  Acquire wealth justly.

118) Δόξαν μὴ λεῖπε  Do not abandon honor.

119) Κακίαν μίσει  Despise evil.

120) Κινδύνευε φρονίμως  Venture into danger prudently.

121) Μανθάνων μὴ κάμνε  Do not tire of learning.

122) Φειδόμενος μὴ λεῖπε  Do not stop to be thrifty.

123) Χρησμοὺς θαύμαζε  Admire oracles.

124) Οὓς τρέφεις, ἀγάπα  Love those whom you rear.

125) Ἀπόντι μὴ μάχου  Do not oppose someone absent.

126) Πρεσβύτερον αἰδοῦ  Respect the elderly.

127) Νεώτερον δίδασκε  Instruct the young.

128) Πλούτῳ ἀπίστει  Do not trust wealth.

129) Σεαυτὸν αἰδοῦ  Respect yourself.

130) Μὴ ἄρχε ὑβρίζειν  Do not lead with hubris.

131) Προγόνους στεφάνου  Crown your ancestors (place flower wreaths on their tombs).

132) Θνῆσκε ὑπὲρ πατρίδος  Die for your country.

133) Τῷ βίῳ μὴ ἄχθου  Do not be weighed down by life.

134) Ἐπὶ νεκρῷ μὴ γέλα  Do not make fun of the dead.

135) Ἀτυχοῦντι συνάχθου  Share the load of the unfortunate.

136) Χαρίζου ἀβλαβῶς  Gratify without harming.

137) Μὴ ἐπὶ παντὶ λυποῦ  Don’t grieve for everyone.

138)  Ἐξ εὐγενῶν γέννα  Beget well-born children.

139)  Ἐπαγγέλλου μηδενί  Make promises to no one.

140) Φθιμένους μὴ ἀδίκει  Do not wrong the dead.

141) Εὖ πάσχε ὡς θνητός  Experience well those things that happen because you are mortal.

142) Τύχῃ μὴ πίστευε  Do not put your trust in Tyche.

143) Παῖς ὢν κόσμιος ἴσθι  As a child, be well-behaved.

144)  Ἡβῶν ἐγκρατής  As an adolescent, be self-disciplined.

145) Μέσος δίκαιος  As an adult, be just.

146) Πρεσβύτης εὔλογος As an elder, be sensible.

147) Τελευτῶν ἄλυπος On reaching the end, be without sorrow.

*Alternate lines are from inscriptions from Miletopolis in Turkey and Ai-Khanum in Afghanistan.  

**In Miletopolis, the inscription was in a gymnasium and had the opposite meaning – “Boast of your physical strength.

Records of “The Commandments of the Seven Wise Men” in the 3rd c. B.C.
Delphic Maxims
Ancient Greek Maxims

The Trojan War

Lately, I have been listening to the audiobook version of Daughters of Sparta by Claire Heywood. As I was listening this morning, a thought came to me. I think the story of the Trojan War is a story of how one cannot blame the gods for any hardship one encounters or any perceived lack of help from the gods. The gods both work together and against each other’s aims, and this is what causes the continuation of creation, the continued existence of the universe. If I were more proficient in music theory, I’d use a symphony or some other musical piece as a metaphor, but I would quickly get lost if I made the attempt. What I mean to get at is that conflict is necessary for growth, and some conflict is not what it seems. Consider a debate, for example. It may look like an argument to spectators that just happen upon it, but it may have in reality been carefully planned with each side doing their best to cover all aspects of their perspective. At the end, there are no hard feelings, but each side has learned more about the other perspective.

Raji: An Ancient Epic

Today, I have something unusual (for me) to share with you. It’s a video game recommendation. I know, can you believe it? I took a break from Animal Crossing to look up games with free demos. I came across this game, tried the demo, thought it was incredible, and bought the game. I’m not too far along because games are kind of hard for me, but if you have a gaming system that supports it (I play on a Nintendo Switch), I highly suggest that you check it out.

This game isn’t Hellenic, but it’s really solid media for any polytheist. The gods are present in the game, but they aren’t enemies, and you don’t steal from temples. Have you seen another game be this respectful? Durga is the main deity present, and she’s chosen a girl, Raji, who worked in a carnival (and thus has acrobatic skills) to fight the demons that have invaded earth. Her younger brother has been taken by the demons, and she is determined to get him back. Durga gives her a special weapon to use, and she receives blessings from other gods at their shrines to aid her in her fight against the demons.

The graphics are beautiful (albeit the main character is quite small and you see her from rather far away), and the tutorial is effective. It’s platform-like (side-scroll is the correct term?) in that you can’t get lost and not really know what you’re supposed to do next the way that I do in open world games. The puzzles aren’t too hard, either. For me, I mostly get stuck when I have to defeat particular demons using a particular skill, and I have trouble mastering the different button combinations repeatedly. I don’t recall if I was able to choose a difficulty setting, but if I did, I chose the easiest one. Even if you fly through this game (I’m not), I’d still recommend it to you. There are a lot of opportunities to learn about Durga and other Hindu deities as you play. Another bonus is that I’m learning that I’ve long been pronouncing a lot of these names incorrectly, and even a lot of sources online give incorrect pronunciations. Hearing a native speaker say the names is invaluable.

The game was created by Nodding Heads Games, which is based in Maharashtra, India. It was designed by Avichal Singh, who has done a fantastic job with the backgrounds and paid attention to detail. The main character’s braid flies behind her when she runs, which is a small thing that matters (to me). The game was released in August 2020, so a lot of you may have discovered it long ago, but I had never heard of it, and I found it to be so unique and respectful in its design and game play that I had to write a post recommending it. It’s available for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, and Xbox One.

Hellenic Buddhist Syncretism

I live in China where it is quite easy for me to visit many beautiful active Buddhist temples. I have visited the temple of the city god in my city, where I was with a friend who taught to pray in a culturally correct manner. I was thankful for her instruction, but I don’t generally pray at Buddhist temples beyond a quick silent introduction and thanks. It’s largely just that as a visible foreigner, I am self-conscious. Since I’m not Buddhist, it isn’t really necessary for me to deal with the staring and comments. Lately, I’ve been traveling with my girlfriend who is Buddhist, so when we visit temples in other areas, she prays and I carry the incense and take photographs. I’ve lately been thinking more about Hellenic-Buddhist syncretism, not because I want to pray at Buddhist temples or become a Greco-Buddhist, but just because my girlfriend will ask if I know who she’s praying to and other similar questions. I have studied Buddhism academically, but I generally didn’t learn the Chinese names for the deities and bodhisattvas. I would like to be able to explain to her the connections between who she’s praying to and who I pray to, so I’ve decided to sit down and do some research. And you, my dear readers, get the results of what I find. This is intended to be rather simplistic, so if you are interested in this topic, you will need to take it upon yourself to do more thorough research.

First, how did this happen? Well, Alexander the Great traveled from Macedonia going east. He conquered areas and left folks behind and appointed local rulers to rule cities and provinces in his stead as he went. A number of these were then conquered by the Mauryan Empire. The Mauryan emperor converted to Buddhism and spread it to those in his empire. The religion continued in the region (modern day Afghanistan and Pakistan) through several different empires and was later brought along the Silk Road into China. Now, for the syncretism.

Heracles, photograph by Felix Mittermeier

Heracles: Heracles was depicted in art as Vajrapani, the protector of Buddha. In Chinese, this is 金刚手菩萨 (jīngāngshǒu púsà).

Buddha, photograph by Melia Phosphorou

Apollon: Apollon was sometimes portrayed as Buddha himself. In Chinese, Buddha is 佛陀 (fótuó).

Boreas: Boreas, or possibly Aeolus, was the model for artistic depictions of Wardo, the god of the wind. In China, Wardo became 风伯 (fēngbó), who is actually a Daoist deity, but there is a lot of crossover in China and may exist in Buddhism as well.

Tyche: Tyche inspired the artistic depiction of Hariti, who depending on the Buddhist tradition is seen as either a goddess or a demon. She’s seen as a protector of children and of the mother during both child birth and childrearing. She’s also a bringer of terror to irresponsible parents and unruly children. In China, she is 鬼子母神 (guǐzǐmǔshén), and she is part of both Buddhism and folk traditions. She is also known as 诃梨蒂母 (hēlìdìmǔ), one of the 24 protective devas. She’s a figure from the 26th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, but her narrative has little to nothing in common with any story I’m aware of about Tyche.


Atlas: It’s not clear if there was actually syncretism of Atlas and the yakshas, a group of Buddhist (and Hindu and Jain) nature spirits, but there is an artistic evolution from Atlas holding up Buddhist temple walls to yakshas performing the same function.

Zeus: Zeus was syncretized with Indra, who in Buddhism is more commonly called Śakra or Sakka. Indra is a guardian god of Buddhism. He is the ruler of heaven and the king of the devas. As a Hindu deity, Indra is translated as 因陀罗 (yīntuóluó) in Chinese, but Śakra is 帝释天 (dìshìtiān). Indra wields a thunderbolt known as a vajra, and this and his kingship both seem to indicate reasons for his syncretization with Zeus.

I didn’t find as much syncretism as I was hoping for, so if you know more or have source suggestions, please leave a comment.

From Boreas to Fujin: The Iconographic evolution of a transcultural wind god by Justin Hsu
Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia: Indra
Greco-Buddhism: A Brief History

Alpha is for…


Α αΑ is for Άπόλλων. Apollon is the god of light. We can pray to him when in the dark of night, we need his music to chase away the monsters that with his arrows he can slay.

Β βΒ is for Βορέας. Boreas is the god of the north wind. We can pray to him when we need a break and hope for him to send a northern winter wind, so a snow day we can take!

Acis et Galatea, photo by Joanna Nurmis

Γ γ Γ is for Γαλάτεια. Galateia is the goddess of calm seas. We can pray to her when we ride on a boat, so we don’t turn green and need to tote a bucket along for the ride.


Δ δΔ is for Διόνυσος. Dionysos is the god of wine and pleasure. We can pray to him when we meet our friends and hope that he comes to enjoy our fun, for such companions are certainly a treasure.

Ε εΕ is for Ερεβος. Erebos is the god of night. He works with his wife, Nyx, and his daughter, Hemera, to bring us day and night. We can pray to him to keep our secrets safe and tight.*

Hera and Zeus

Ζ ζΖ is for Ζεύς. Zeus is the king of the gods. We can pray to him when the land is dry and needs a drink. He’ll make rain come, so make sure you let guests come get dry inside; don’t stop to think.

Η ηΗ is for Ἡρη. Hera is the queen of the gods. We can pray to her to guide us in how to help our mothers best. Hera loves when we do chores, so mom can get some rest.

Θ θ Θ is for Θάνατος. Thanatos is the god of non-violent death. We can pray to him that we find a peaceful end at the time of our last breath.

Ι ι Ι is for Ίρις. Iris the goddess of the rainbow and Hera’s messenger. When the gods take oaths, Iris brings them water from the River Styx. We can pray to her when we make a promise and ask her to be our witness. No tricks.*

Κ κΚ is for Κλειώ. Clio is the muse of history. We can pray to her when we study and ask her to show us the currents that connect the past to the present, so that our path is clear, not muddy.

Λ λΛ is for Λητώ. Leto is the goddess of motherhood. She, with her children Apollon and Artemis, protects young children. When we feel scared or alone, no matter the reason, we can pray to her as easy as calling her on the phone. Leto listens.

Μ μΜ is for Μεσήμβρια. Mesembria is one of the horae. She is the goddess of the hour of noon and protector from dangers from the fiery south. We can pray to her to keep us safe and when it’s time to put lunch in our mouth.

Nike, photo by Bill Kelly

Ν νΝ is for the Νίκη. Nike is the goddess of victory. We can pray to her when we compete, for it is she who can help us to meet our goals.

Ξ ξΞ is for Ξάνθος. Xanthos was one of the horses that Poseidon gave to Peleus when Peleus married Thetis. He was also one of the horses who pulled Achilles’s chariot during the Trojan War. Xanthos is immortal, which means that he is deathless like the gods. I bet he’s still running happily, working his quads.

Ο οΟ is for Οὐρανός. Ouranos is the god of the sky, and he also is the sky. We can pray to him when we fly high and when we swear to try.

Π πΠ is for Πανάκεια. Panacea is the goddess of cures. We can pray to her when we are sick that she will come and help our doctors find a medicine that does the trick.

Ρ ρΡ is for Ρεῖα. Rhea is the goddess of fertility and generation. We can pray to her when we plant a garden and watch plants grow, whether they be broccoli or carnations.

Σ σΣ is for Σπονδή. Sponde is one of the horae. She is the goddess of the hours after lunch when libations are poured. We can give to the gods and praise them to let them know that they are adored.

Okeanos and Tethys

Τ τΤ is for Τηθύς. Tethys is the goddess of fresh water. We can pray to her when we feel thirst and and thank her as we drink and drink, drink until we might burst.

Υ υΥ is for Ὑπερίων. Hyperion is the god of heavenly light. He holds up the eastern pillar that separates the sky from the land, and he is the father of Helios and Selene. We can pray to him when we see his children fly by in their chariots carrying the sun and the moon. When one leaves, we know we will see the other soon.

Φ φΦ is for Φέρουσα. Pherousa is the goddess of plenty and abundance. She is also one of the horae, but she presides over not hours of the day but of a season. We can pray to her when we harvest what we’ve grown. If we don’t have much, we have to first find the reason.

Χ χΧ is for Χλῶρις. Chloris is the goddess of flowers. We can pray to her when we see their beauty under the clean spring showers.

Eros and Psyche, photo by Tim Yee

Ψ ψΨ is for Ψυχή. Psyche is the goddess of the soul. She was born human but later became a goddess. We can pray to Psyche to help us change bad habits and better ourselves as quick as rabbits.

Ω ωΩ is for Ωκεανος. Okeanos is the god of the great river that encircles the earth. It is the source of all fresh water on Earth, and all the rain clouds, too. We can pray to him any time – when we’re thirsty, dusty, hot, and dry. Thanks be to Okeanosn that we can take a deep drink or dive deep into a pool and come up with a sigh.


(What I learned from this exercise is that I am not a children’s book author, especially not when hoping to get this done in a single day, which didn’t happen. To do this well would take months, at least, and lots of offerings to the muses. Maybe someday. Feel free to leave alternate verses in the comments. Some letters were really hard to choose. I couldn’t choose between Hermes and Hestia, for example, so I chose neither.)