Hyacinth

Hyakinthos was another love of Apollon who underwent kataphytosis.  Unlike Daphne (who according to some accounts was actually his sister), Hyakinthos loved Apollon in return.  You can find this story in more detail in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

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Purple Hyacinth (freeimages.com)

 

In summary, it was noon when Apollon and Hyakinthos decided to strip (so as to better glisten with olive oil, of course) and practice throwing the discus.  Apollon went first.  He threw the discus so hard that it scattered the clouds above the earth and took quite some time for it to return.  Hyakinthos ran to catch it, but as it had been hurled so hard, it bounced after it hit the earth, and it hit Hyakinthos in the face.  Apollon was devastated.  He ran to Hyakinthos and held his limp body in His arms.  He attempted to revive him, applying healing herbs and staunching the flow of blood.  Unfortunately, Hyakinthos could not be saved, even by the healing hands of Apollon.  He then cried out, “You slip away, cheated of your youthful prime.  Your would that I look upon accuses me.  You are my grief and my guilt – my own hand is branded with your death!  I am the one who is responsible, but what fault was mine?  Can it be called a fault to have played a game with you, to have loved you?  O that I could give you my life as you deserve or die along with you, but we are bound by fate’s decree.  Yet, you will always be with me, your name will cling to my lips, forever remembering.  You will be my theme as I pluck my lyre and sing my songs, and you, a new flower, will bear markings in imitation of my grief; and there will come a time when the bravest of heroes will be linked to this same flower and his name will be read on its petals.”  While Apollon was speaking, the blood that had poured upon the ground and stained the grassed ceased being blood, and a purple flower grew.

(Quoted portion from Morford & Lenardon)

I have read other versions of this story where it was said that both Apollon and Zephyros were in love with Hyakinthos, and out of jealousy, Zephyros blew the discus off its course and caused it to hit Hyakinthos.

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white lily  (freeimages.com

 

I do wonder, though, if the hyacinth that we know today is not the same flower.  There are two details of the story that I’ve never understood.  The first is that the flower that grew is supposed to (according to Ovid, anyways) look like a lily, differing only in color as lilies are white.  However, I don’t think hyacinths and lilies look at all similar.  In addition, the letters “ai ai” are said to mark the petals of the hyacinth, and even with all of the imagination I have, I can’t see what that is supposed to be.

I once bought a hyacinth for Apollon’s shrine.  Admittedly, they’re bulbs and might do better outside, but the plant died rather quickly.  I took that as an omen to not try again.

Sparta claimed Hyakinthos for its own, and they celebrated a yearly festival – the Hyacinthia.  This was a three day festival that we can certainly revive in our own communities.  The first day mourns the death of Hyakinthos.  Sacrifices are made for the dead, and banquet meals are stark and plain.  The second day is a celebration of Hyakinthos’s rebirth.  Young people play musical instruments, sing, and hold foot races.  Choirs compete against one another.  There are even parades with floats decorated by young women.  (just imagine!)  Sacrifices (goats) are offered.  There isn’t much known about what used to happen on the third day, but it is known that for this day a new chiton was woven for the statue of Apollon.  Some day, when I live locally to a Saori studio, I want to weave this chiton for Apollon.

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Delphinium Larkspur (freeimages.com)

Edited 03/09/16 – Vindicated!  The flower that was formed from the blood of Hyakinthos was not what we now call hyacinth.  It was larkspur, which is has a variety called delphinium…coincidence?  I’m still not sure that it looks like a lily or that I see what is meant to be letters, but judge for yourself.

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One thought on “Hyacinth

  1. Man, this post was such a “!!!!!!!!!!” moment for me – when I worked at a florist’s, I was really drawn to blue delphinium/larkspur, and I felt like it was because of Apollon but I couldn’t place why, except for the dolphin reference (?).

    Liked by 1 person

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