Apollo, one of the most widely revered and influential of all the ancient Greek and Roman gods, was most often seen as a Sun God. His role, however, is far more encompassing. Apollo is also associated with prophecy, healing, music, art, poetry, archery and so much more. In the Greek myths, he was depicted as a handsome and youthful man without a beard who had numerous love affairs.

Image Credit: Leto holding Apollo by Lazar Widmann

As the Sun sheds light in the darkest places, the Sun was the only one who could uncover hidden truths, see through lies and deception, as well as dispel evil. In his love life, however, Apollo was persecuted by a streak of bad luck unlike any other god.

The most unfortunate and famous story was Daphne’s. In her efforts to escape him, she was changed into a laurel, his sacred shrub. Coronis, another one of the Sun’s lovers, was shot by Apollo‚Äôs twin Artemis, when she proved to be unfaithful. Cassandra, another one of his love interests, rejected his advances. She was punished by being made to utter true prophecies that no one believed. Marpessa, the granddaughter of Ares, was not fond of Apollo and preferred Idas.

Apollo had many other failed love affairs as well. You might be wondering, what kind of karma is this? It doesn’t make any logical sense. Why were Apollo’s lovers so terribly punished in this way?

In the end, however, after all the mishaps and misfortunes, order is ultimately restored and our truest, deepest desires are fulfilled. In the end it is Thero, the daughter of Phylas, a maiden who was described as beautiful as the moonbeams, who would finally love Apollo the way he desired. She was loved by the resplendent Apollo and she loved him in return. Through their union, she became the mother of Chaeron, who was famed as “the tamer of horses”. He later built the city Chaeronea.

I have a chat with Dipa Sanatani, astrologer and author of the cosmology fantasy novel The Little Light regarding her thoughts and views on the Sun God and how he has been represented in Greek and Hindu mythology.

Dipa sanatani speaks

(This is a transcription of a spoken text based on an interview.)

In Hindu and Greek Mythology, the Sun–while powerful, and in some ways even all-powerful–has always been a tragic figure. This is despite all the gifts he can and does bestow and give. He is someone who has a lot of love affairs, but can never find someone to truly love him. He is someone who has great gifts, and yet, he is someone whose gifts are oftentimes rejected–as are his attempts to find and keep love. He is someone enduringly loyal, even to the wrong people. That is why he has been depicted as a tragic figure.

I see the Sun as an entity–both physical and mythological–whose purpose is to create. It is his light that allows plants, animals and humans to grow and flourish within the solar cycle. The Sun is associated with light, with life, with the dawn, with abundance and plenty as well as all the beautiful things in life.

With that, however, comes this sense that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. And what do I mean by that?

If it was sunlight all day, or if you lived in a very hot place, you would know that water, for instance, can be scarce. If you’ve ever been to a desert, if you’ve ever gone hiking on a really hot day, and this Sun is glaring at you, and glaring down at you, I mean, it’s scorching. Your skin, your eyes… it’s really really too much.

I think in a way, with the Sun, there needs to be a sense of balance. Yes, the Sun brings a lot of beautiful things and gifts into your life, but at the same time, when there’s too much solar energy, just glaring down at you, it’s not always conducive for creation.

In certain countries, especially in Europe, where sunlight is scarce during the winter months, there’s a lot of emphasis on the solar calendar, because that region was not getting a uniform amount of sunlight all year. They were very focused on the solar calendar, the solar year, the solar cycle–because of the harvest, the storage, and there were all of these different aspects that went into it. I think that’s the main reason why in Europe people came up with this idea of a solar calendar.

The idea of a solar year is entrenched into Western astrology, whereas in Eastern astrology, there is a lot more emphasis on the lunar calendar and what the lunar calendar means. A lot of countries in the East had adequate sun, adequate summer–maybe too much summer–and it was hot. You could even say that they needed a much more intimate relationship with the Moon and with the lunar cycle–because that was when it was cool and it was night and they felt this time of the day was more bearable than the sunlight hours. People could actually rest and relax.

I remember when I visited Doha, the lady at the hotel told me, “You’re not going to go out during the day, are you?” I mean it’s so hot that really you just can’t. This describes why in Western cultures, there’s a much stronger emphasis on the sun and the solar calendar and why in Eastern cultures, there is a lot more emphasis on the Moon and the lunar cycle.

The sexual encounters of the Gods is a prominent theme in the Greek storytelling tradition. Rejection of male advances often leads to rape. This is not a story that is particular to Apollo. Zeus, Ares and many of the male Gods have this running theme of going after women who rejected them or weren’t interested in them. But that didn’t stop the act and process of procreation as far as the Greek myths were concerned. In light of that, I don’t think it’s very unusual that Apollo had all these affairs, was rejected many times and took a long time to settle down. It just doesn’t really seem that unusual to me.

Why was Apollo, the Sun, unfortunate in love? That is something that is common to both Hindu and Greek mythology. In Hindu mythology, the Sun has a much stronger link to the idea of the father figure, as in, the father of all. In Greek mythology, however, the role of the ‘father figure’ belongs to Saturn or Jupiter.

In Greek mythology, Apollo is portrayed as a youth and someone quite handsome who is just entering youth. He doesn’t seem to embody a fatherly energy. I don’t know, maybe during the summer months, the ladies had a lot of options and maybe they didn’t always make the best choices regarding the kind of guy they wanted to be with. That’s a possibility regarding why Apollo was so unfortunate in love.

Another possibility is that Apollo himself was finding it hard to find the right person. Maybe they didn’t ‘fit’, weren’t a good match for each other. It could also, once again, speak to poor choices made by him regarding the kind of woman he wanted to spend his life with.

The explanation that makes most sense to me is that if Apollo is indeed a God with a lot of gifts–from music to prophesy to the ability to ward off evil–and he’s got all of these wondrous gifts, maybe his counterpart felt inadequate next to him; or wasn’t able to reciprocate what he was providing in the relationship.

I see it as an allegory that points to this notion of justice and balance in a relationship. If you are able to provide and give so much and you are paired up with someone who can’t really give much, is a mediocre person, or maybe just isn’t able to give you that one thing that you really need–I don’t see that relationship being harmonious in the long-run.

You could even see the Sun as a bit of a reluctant father figure. He may have had children from his numerous affairs, but he may not necessarily be a ‘Dad’ that is very excited about being a father. And you see this in the story of the Sun and Saturn, a prominent story in Hindu mythology. The Sun really is the father, the Patriarch. In fact, he is the first Patriarch. He most likely hasn’t figured out how to be a Dad cause he doesn’t have an example to look up to or differentiate himself from.

The Moon in mythology has generally taken on the role of a mother-figure. If you look at it from a scientific perspective, a Moon is not just something to do with the Earth’s orbit. There are many moons in the universe. So I don’t know if the Sun has a wife even though he fathers a lot of kids.

Although he is depicted as a youth in Greek mythology, I just don’t see him as a bachelor. I see him more as a constant something that’s there, but at certain times, we perceive him more and at other times we are not perceiving him as much. And at some times, you are valuing him a lot, and at other times, you are not valuing him very much.

Compared to the Moon, the Sun’s cycle runs for a longer period of time. It’s a solar cycle so it goes for a year. Whereas the lunar cycle goes for a month. In terms of a time cycle, the Sun has a much longer time cycle than the Moon.

Coming back to his love affairs, sometimes you have to go through those experiences before you arrive at that relationship that is right for you. Sometimes you have to go through those unhappy experiences before you meet the right person. I suppose the Sun, if you think about it that respect, goes through a lot of difficulties before he finds something that makes him happy. Someone who he can love and someone who can return that love.

I don’t think it’s uncommon. You can’t really say that that’s unlucky or unfortunate because in the end, he does get what he wants. Just because it takes him a little longer, doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. It just means that he had the chance to explore his options before he decided that this person is ‘The One’ and vice versa.

Apollo, in the end meets Thero, a mortal woman who is able to give him that affection and that love. Does it make sense that he chose a mortal woman and founded a city? And that, too, not a very well known city… I don’t know, I guess happiness is where you find it. It has nothing to do with anything else. When you find it, you find it. And you’re just happy with it.

I suppose on that note, the tale of the Sun as it pertains to Apollo is actually saying that, ‘Yes, you can have all the gifts in the world’ and ‘Yes, you can be all-powerful’– you can have all the riches and all the prophecies and all the gifts. But the thing that makes you happy may just be something really ordinary and maybe really not that exciting. But you get to enjoy, okay maybe not just enjoy, but you find your happiness, not in the extraordinary, but in the ordinary.

Happiness is ultimately where you find it. Apollo, the immortal God, finally just found it in the arms of a mortal woman.


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