Salome, Apollo, in Technicolour
I walked on the moon to touch the stars,
A legend in my lifetime.
Today, one of my medications has been on my mind, since I was at the bus stop with my gigantic umbrella, and a pack of obnoxious teenage boys started chanting, on what was a very bright and sunny day “Hey, where the rain at?” –as if they must’ve thought this had been the first in my life I’d been taunted in this manner. The reason for my gigantic umbrella, I’ll get to in a bit, but just in case we met at the Polytheist Leadership Conference, yes, its the same gigantic umbrella.
Some of you may already know that I take St. John’s wort for seasonal depression (and other environmental depression I can experience throughout the rest of the year). Apparently St. John’s wort is named for its aprtropaic properties:
Hypericum perforatum is a yellow-flowering, stoloniferous or sarmentose, perennial herb indigenous to Europe. It has been introduced to many temperate areas of the world and grows wild in many meadows. The herb’s common name comes from its traditional flowering and harvesting on St John’s Day, 24 June. The genus name Hypericum is derived from the Greek words hyper (above) and eikon (picture), in reference to the plant’s traditional use in warding off evil by hanging [the] plants over a religious icon in the house during St John’s day. The species name perforatum refers to the presence of small oil glands in the leaves that look like windows, which can be seen when they are held against the light. [from Wikipedia]
St. John’s Wort has been valued since the ancient Greeks for its plethora of uses. The colorful common name refers to the red pigment and the German word “wort” which means wound. During the Middle Ages it was believed to have the power to cast out demons.
Traditionally, St. John’s wort has been used as a pain reliever and helps to regulate the nervous system (nervine). It has also served as a mild sedative and antidepressant, astringent for hemorrhages and diarrhea, expectorant, diuretic, digestive aid and cholagogue (by encouraging the release of bile from the liver), uterine tonic (which may relieve uterine cramping) and abortifacient. It is also an emmenagogue (which promotes menstrual flow) and is anti parasitic.
Additionally, as the common name implies, this wonderful herb has been used for wounds, burns, sores, bruises and other skin problems. For topical use make an oil from St. John’s wort by soaking the flowers in olive oil for 2 to 7 weeks and strain. Apply the oil to affected areas.
Recent studies have shown St. John’s wort to work very well for depression which may be the modern equivalent of the medieval demons. These studies support many of the traditional uses, especially the antidepressant qualities. Tests show improvements in antidepressant activity, anxiety, apathy and low self-worth. Antidepressant results occurred after 4 to 8 weeks of use. Another study found that St. John’s wort may be beneficial in Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD).
St. John’s wort has also been compared with pharmaceutical therapies for depression. The results have shown that St. John’s wort is just as effective as the pharmaceuticals but with fewer side effects. As compared to some pharmaceuticals, St. John’s wort increased cognitive functions while some pharmaceuticals decreased them. [from kroegerherb.com]
That said, one of the known side-effects of St John’s Wort is increased sun sensitivity –and i was already pretty sensitive to sunlight, to begin with. While I am (as well as many other Hellenists) inclined to associate all medicinal herbs, especially the ones backed up by scientific studies to be more effective than placebo, with Apollon and Asklepios, the origins of its name (both common English and scientific) suggest that its associations exclude Apollon’s perceived solar qualities which I’ve already been questioning.
So as i tend to do, I decided to search some terms with tags like “mythology” or “folklore” or “ancient greek” –works like “depression” and “shade” that are associated with St John’s wort (the former SJW aids, the latter aids one who needs SJW), and I came across a story that I only had a passing familiarity with, before:
Ovid, Metamorphoses 10. 106 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
“In all the throng the cone-shaped cypress stood; a tree now, it was changed from a dear youth loved by the god who strings the lyre and bow [i.e. Apollon]. For there was at one time, a mighty stag held sacred by those nymphs who haunt the fields Carthaean [i.e. on the island of Keos]. His great antlers spread so wide, they gave an ample shade to his own head. Those antlers shone with gold: from his smooth throat a necklace, studded with a wealth of gems, hung down to his strong shoulders–beautiful. A silver boss, fastened with little thongs, played on his forehead, worn there from his birth; and pendants from both ears, of gleaming pearls, adorned his hollow temples. Free of fear, and now no longer shy, frequenting homes of men he knew, he offered his soft neck even to strangers for their petting hands. But more than by all others, he was loved by you, O Cyparissus, fairest youth of all the lads of Cea. It was you who led the pet stag to fresh pasturage, and to the waters of the clearest spring. Sometimes you wove bright garlands for his horns, and sometimes, like a horseman on his back, now here now there, you guided his soft mouth with purple reins.
It was upon a summer day, at high noon when the [summertime constellation] Crab, of spreading claws, loving the sea-shore, almost burnt beneath the sun’s hot burning rays; and the pet stag was then reclining on the grassy earth and, wearied of all action, found relief under the cool shade of the forest trees; that as he lay there Cyparissus pierced him with a javelin: and although it was quite accidental, when the shocked youth saw his loved stag dying from the cruel wound he could not bear it, and resolved on death. What did not Phoebus say to comfort him? He cautioned him to hold his grief in check, consistent with the cause. But still the lad lamented, and with groans implored the Gods that he might mourn forever. His life force exhausted by long weeping, now his limbs began to take a green tint, and his hair, which overhung his snow-white brow, turned up into a bristling crest; and he became a stiff tree with a slender top and pointed up to the starry heavens. And the God, groaning with sorrow, said; ‘You shall be mourned sincerely by me, surely as you mourn for others, and forever you shall stand in grief, where others grieve.’”
…and then I found this:
In Greek mythology, Cyparissus or Kyparissos (Greek: Κυπάρισσος, “cypress”) was a boy beloved by Apollo, or in some versions by other deities. In the best-known version of the story, the favorite companion of Cyparissus was a tamed stag, which he accidentally killed with his hunting javelin as it lay sleeping in the woods. The boy’s grief was such that it transformed him into a cypress tree, a classical symbol of mourning. The myth is thus aetiological in explaining the relation of the tree to its cultural significance.
…and also thisthis:
St Johns Wort Wound Healing Oil
spatholado, Saint John’s Wort Wound Healing OilThis ointment comes form the Greek island of Kea where it is gathered and prepared by hand in small quantities using the ancient method. The plant is gathered during the flowering season (in May) under a waxing moon. It is then placed in a jars with local olive oil and left in the sun until it turns red. The oil is used to dress burns, cuts, surgical scars etc. It is particularly effective for deep wounds, injuries caused by crushing, or any other trauma associated with nerve damage. St John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) is a rhizomatous perennial plant with gland dotted leaves and flowers containing its healing properties. Though the plant may be known today as an anti-depressant and sedative (opinions vary as to its real effectiveness in this field) – it is historically more important as a healing herb. Indeed, it is mentioned as such by many ancient Greek authors such as Dioscurides and Hippocrates.
St John’s Wort has been known throughout history as a vulnerary (wound healer) and was in its heyday on the battlefields of the Crusaders. In Greek it is known as ‘spathochorto’ referring to its ability of healing sword wounds. It was also credited for keeping evil spirits away, for which purpose it was hung above doors on the eve of St John’s day (June 24), when witches were thought to be most active. Its mystique was confirmed by the way the juice of the plant turns red on exposure to air – a phenomenon thought to symbolize the blood of St John the Baptist.
These three items coupled together all reminded me of much of my aforementioned entry on Apollon from the “thirty days of paganism/polytheism meme” from four years ago, which was also written the last time I lived in this area, at the curiously-named “Spice Tree Apartments” (there were no such things in the complex, which severely disappointed me, as I was hoping for free peppercorns or something).
As for all of this giving insights to St John’s Wort, other than confirming Apollonian associations in spite of heliophobic side-effects, I’m not getting much, but the fact that all signs point to Apollon (especially as the song playing as I was writing this was Gavin Friday’s “Caruso”), I think the subject of my first painting in years has been decided —now hopefully, unlike this week, I’ll have some time to start on it next week.
And while I have you here, it just occurred to me as i restarted “Caruso” and added the epigram to the begining of this post, that where Jesus’ cult was arguably born of Orphic origins with the Christ figure as the Dionysian life-death-rebirth deity, Apollon, especially from my time in Kyklos Apollon (which I was initially thinking of rejoining, but am now thinking of doing my own similar ritual, but at a time I’ll select through divination, as I now believe there is sufficient evidence that the KA cult has been polluted1 —but I’m getting distracted), that Apollon would be the complimentary John the Baptist figure, bringing us back to St John’s Wort. Maybe I’ll rethink the significance of the herb I almost just assumed to be low.
1:yes, I’ve seen most of the FB posts referenced, and I knew about this long before Sannion posted it, just in case anyone was thinking o accusing me of being one of his “lackeys” or some such stuff and nonsense; if anything, this opinion of mine makes me Kyrene Ariadne’s lackey, it’s just that sannion’s post is the most easily-accessable source on this miasma that has been brought to Kyklos Apollon.
In other news, at the bus stop, today, a bee (as I quote myself from FB) “spent an absurd amount of time hovering around my junk”. Make of this what you will.