It seems as if many people choose the gods that they worship, at least until they’ve had direct experience with other gods, by affinity – they choose gods who rule the areas of the world that they themselves cherish. If I were to have done this, surely I would have chosen to venerate Poseidon. I grew up in the northeastern part of the United States and have spent most of my life within an hour of the ocean. However, Poseidon never seemed terribly present here. The gods of the north (Aegir, Ran, and their nine daughters) seem much more at home in the North Atlantic than Poseidon, though Poseidon certainly can be and is venerated here.
When I visited Sicily for the first time (ok, the only time, but I plan to return), swimming in the Mediterranean is where I first felt the presence of Poseidon, Amphitrite, and the other sea-gods of our tradition. When I swam in Cala Rossa (the picture in the header of this blog), I was alone in the cove as it was nearing sunset, and I was in water over my head surrounded by volcanic rock, and I just thanked and thanked again these gods for allowing me to swim in their space and for allowing me to be aware of their presence. For me, these waters were somehow more sacred than the waters I’d previously visited in my life. They were more full, or at least more full to my awareness.
It was probably helpful that all over Sicily, the gods are remembered in the names of places. The first place I swam was in the Tyrrhenian Sea off of the northwest coast of Sicily. I took a boat tour along the coast from San Vito lo Capo to the Zingaro Nature Preserve. During the trip, the captain pointed out a rock formation and told us that it was the Bath of Venus. I did not get to explore that bath, I was merely able to photograph it from the boat, but I was able to swim later in the trip, and jumping off of the boat into the clear blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea was amazing. I parked myself in the water with a snorkel so that I wouldn’t even have to come up for air. I could clearly see the rocky sea floor and I watched fish swim by me. I did not want to leave.
I’ve also already written about my experience of swimming in the waters off of Syracusa and encountering the warm stream of Arethusa on its way from Greece to her fountain on Ortygia.
In addition to my personal experiences swimming in His seas, I’d also like to talk a bit about the relationship between Apollon and Poseidon. Colonization is one area where both gods were extremely important. Apollon provided oracles that gave both permission and instruction for people to form new colonies, He is also the god that they prayed to before embarking on the voyage to their new homes and upon disembarking. However, it was Poseidon whom the people needed to provide a safe voyage, and His seawater was used as khernips when they made the first sacrifices at the foundation stones of their new colonies. Apollon does have several epithets related to His role in colonization, and it would be wonderful if one of you would like to write about one or more of these epithets for the devotional.
Archégetes (Αρχηγετης), Founder of Towns; Leader and Protector of Colonies; Director of the Foundation; Leader of Colonists
Delphínios, of Delphi; Slayer of Python; of the Dolphins; of the Womb; of Sailors; God of Colonists; Dolphin God
Embasius (Εμβασιός), God of Embarcation
Epibaterios (Επιβατήριος), He Who Conducts Men Aboard A Ship, Seafaring; of sacrifice upon disembarkment
Horios (Όριος), He of the Boundaries; of the Borders; Protector of Frontiers; of the Boundary Stones
Klários, Supervisor Over Cities and Colonies (klaros: allotment of land)
Oikistes (Οικιστής), He Who Establishes New Colonies
Apollon and Poseidon built the walls of Troy together. Due to supporting Hera in Her rebellion against Zeus, they were both sent to serve King Laomedon who had them build the walls around his city. However, when he refused to compensate Them for their work, Poseidon sent a sea-moster to attack Troy. Apollon, on the other hand, remained a supporter of Troy during the Trojan War while Poseidon supported the Greeks. Some epithets of Apollon that relate or could relate to this protection (and not otherwise mentioned in this post) include:
Agyieus (Αγυιευς), Protector of Streets and Public Places; Defender of Cities; of the Streets; Protector of Roads and Homes; God of Streets and Ways; Leader
Boedrómios (Βοηδρομιος), Helper of Those in Distress (at war); Who Helps to Conquer; Rescuer; the Helper
Eleleus (Ελελεύς), Uttering a War Cry; Circling the World; God of the War Cry
Apollon and Poseidon don’t seem to share as many epithets as one might expect. Well, perhaps at first glance I was the only one expecting them to share more epithets? Apollon has quite a few epithets that are related to the sea, and I guess I expected to find more of these also associated with Poseidon. However, the only epithets I found them to have in common were Πατρος (Patros), which means father, ancestral and Σώτηρ (Soter), which means savior. I will, however, share the list of Apollon’s epithets (not otherwise mentioned in this post) that seemed to me that they would be shared by Poseidon.
Áktios (Άκτιος), He of the Foreshore; of the seashore; God of the Shore
Anax (Αναξ), the Great King
Epaktios, Worshipped on the Coast
Euryalus, God of the Broad Sea
Kosmoplókos (Κοσμοπλόκος), Holding together the world
Saligena, Rising from the Sea
Zosterios (Ζωστήριος), He who surrounds (a place or person) with His protection; Encircling the World as with a belt