The Sun, a star that has long been revered as a symbol to be honored and worshipped holding within its hot light an immeasurable power is also an archetypal figure which we associate with Sun Gods throughout the world. For the first Sunday Symbolism installation what better way to start than to examine an aspect of the heart of Sun-day, the day of the sun and explore the depths of its archetypal energy through storytelling, mythology, and imagination.
This first series of symbolic exploration will focus on the symbolism within the Greek myth of the Sun God Apollo and more specifically the story whereas he is in love and pursuit of the nymph Daphne who rejects his advances and wishing to be free of Apollo she calls upon the divine aid of her father, a River God for help. In response, he used his power of metamorphosis to turn her into a laurel tree whereas to rid herself of him she had to sacrifice her body. What better way to put out a fire than with water? Just as our suns heat dims with the cooling, watery glaze of Scorpio season upon us.
We will discuss three main aspects of this story. The first, Apollo, the Sun God and the archetype he portrays, the relevance this archetype has to the Bay Leaf (Laurel Tree) properties, and the effect that power played out in the form of sexual harassment and assault against another can impact our own embodiment of the sun archetype.
Apollo, God of Light, a spirit of both healing and hunting radiates power gained through the absorption of others. A glowing sponge with prophetic vision who is considered the unblinking, all-seeing “eye of the day”, he is a protector, remaining loyal to those he loves. While Apollos glow is nourishing and healing, his brilliance can be blinding and destructive. The archetype of Apollo has both Light and Shadow aspects at play which will be explored through the myth of his pursuit of Daphne.
Apollo is known as the artist which is fitting given he is the patron of poetry, music, and leader of the Muses. The archetype of the sun is considered the luckiest archetype and is one that is portrayed in myths from around the world, and through astrology, tarot, yoga, palmistry, aromatherapy, art history, religion, and other educational and occult practices.
The Light aspects of the archetype of the sun is a sunny disposition manifesting traits of impartiality and justice, given that solar rays touch all equally as well as creativity, charisma, extraversion, optimism, clarity, excitement, harmony, beauty, honesty, will-power, adaptability, intuition and a star like quality.
The Shadow aspects of the archetypes are quick-tempered or “hot-headed”, egocentric, superficiality, scattered energies, restless, gamblers, pride, arrogance, and rebellion.
The relevance that this archetype has to the Bay Leaf (Laurel Tree) is one of striking resemblance. The Bay Laurel was sacred to the God Apollo for after being struck with a golden arrow by Eros causing him to fall in love with Daphne and Daphne being struck by a lead arrow, causing her to be repulsed by Apollo, he pursued her unrelentingly, slaying her bridegroom in the process. In her misery, she called for help from the River God and was turned into a laurel tree at the moment Apollo caught up with her and so he declared the laurel sacred to his divinity. He crowned himself with what was left of his love and wore her leaves.
The Bay Laurel is embodied with many of the same properties as the Sun archetype. Just as Apollo, the bay laurel is said to hold the gift of prophecy and is used in herbal medicine to heal. It is most commonly used in subtle aromatherapy to help those who lack energy, self-esteem, and confidence or who doubt their abilities adding a touch of the Sun-centered energy to those who need it.
The Bay is strong and sweet with a spicy warm odor just as the Sun archetype is charismatic, optimistic and warm. Just as the Apollo is a complicated God who is believed to be the embodiment of all gods and goddesses, the Bay leaf essential oil has a complicated chemical composition, containing constituents from almost all of the functional chemical groups. Energetically, just as the sun radiates, the bay laurels principle action is to circulate qi energy or prana as referred to in yoga.
This oil is said to be particularly well suited for creative types such as artists, poets, writers and musicians who derive their inspiration for their work from intuition helping to promote insight. This brings to light a lot of parallels to Apollo as he was the leader of the muses and patron god of arts and also intuitively based given he spoke through his oracle. The oil is generally regarded as safe however with excessive use for a few weeks on the skin it can cause irritation just as excessive exposure to the sun can leave your skin burned.
In the myth of Apollo and Daphne (meaning laurel in Greek), he pursues her against her will. Essentially this myth speaks to the heart of a problem not only throughout time but one very prevalent right now in the #metoo and #timesupnow movement. This ancient tale speaks to women’s rights, more specifically peoples rights when it comes to body autonomy and being heard when we say “no” and the fight to have that honored. While sexual assault and harassment are not about sex at all but about power, this story speaks to both lust unhinged and power.
To save herself from Apollos pursuits, Daphne loses her body and herself just as assault survivors tend to do after being disempowered by another exercising force over them. Possibly literally and metaphorically, an uninvited guest can penetrate a victims essence tainting them with overwhelming feelings of helplessness, shame, and guilt just to name a few. It can be paralyzing to be taken advantage of and it literally stops Daphne in her tracks as her legs morph into a tree trunk and her hair transforms into bay leaves. She makes the sacrifice of losing herself to ward off further abuse. It is painful that many women and others are constantly being pushed to make these sacrifices in our rape perpetuated culture. We sacrifice a huge part of our sun archetype when we fall victim to another’s violence, specifically sexual violence. We can lose our confidence, our feelings of worthiness, our optimism in life and it can lead us deep into the roots of the earth and into the darkness that we do not know how to sprout up from. We lose our charisma, perhaps our extroversion as we begin to fear the outside and drown alone in ourselves. The world seems to dim and we can lose our excitement for life bringing out sun shadow aspects of rebellion, lack of emotional stability, restlessness and scattered energies in which we do not know how to focus.
How odd it is that in Apollos pursuit he finds victory in not catching her, but in silencing her, in paralyzing her and in turn taking away her ability to fight back for a tree can not defend themselves against a person let alone a God. He mutilates her new form taking her leaves and crafting a crown from them wearing her as a trophy of his conquest. This is all too frightening in how real this is centuries later in modern day times that men and people feel victorious in their conquest of silencing and overpowering another.
Overall, the archetype of the Sun can only be subdued by the element of water, or by its own shadow. We can learn so much by tuning into it’s energy and mythologies. While the sun is nourishing in smaller bursts, we must use caution to make sure prolonged exposure does not burn us.