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Apollo is the God of prophecy who, as portrayed in classical literature,
is the most Greek of deities. However, he is a composite figure, and the
earliest records indicate that Apollo was first worshiped outside Greece.
One of several distinctive features is that he has close links with a
mysterious people called the Hyperboreans, whom different authors shift
about over a wide area but who seem, in reality, to have lived in north-
central Asia. Apollo spends three months of each year among them. This
far-off connection, coupled with other clues, suggests that his nucleus
(so to speak) may have been a god of Asian shamans who communicated with
them in their self-induced ecstasy. Such a god, carried westward and
southward in folk migrations, may have blended with other deities in
parts of Asia closer to Greece.

Apollo, credibly a result of this fusion, is first recognizable in Asia
Minor. At Troy he was worshiped together with his sister Artemis, who
also had northern affiliations. A prophetic element in him, whether
shamanic or otherwise, remained potent. Legend tells how he enabled the
Trojan princess Cassandra to share the gift, with unhappy consequences.
His inspired Sibyls were said to flourish in the same general area.

Apollo, in some form, crossed the Aegean Sea with Artemis. A new myth
gave the twins a Greek birthplace on the island of Delos, linking them
with Zeus’s family of Olympians. In Greece, Apollo grew civilized and
complex. He became the patron of healing, music, and mathematics and
(though not until long afterwards) a sun god. On the whole, he stood for
harmony and rationality, but the prophetic element in him never ceased to
be active. He had oracular shrines at various places—Delphi was the most
important—and spoke through priestesses whom he inspired, giving advice
and warnings to those who consulted him, with occasional glimpses of the
future, or so it was believed. Sometimes, his messages were open to more
than one interpretation, and in his oracular role, he was known as
Loxias, the Ambiguous. Inquirers went on coming until the oracles ceased
to function in the fourth century a.d.

A special aspect of Apollo, strengthening the case for shamanic
antecedents, is his association with the number seven. One of his titles
is “Commander of Sevens”: the meaning is uncertain, but probably
calendric. In the Delian myth, he was born on the seventh day of the
month Thargelion, about May 20. His Delphic oracle could only be
consulted on the seventh day of a month when he was in residence. Most of
his festivals were held on seventh days. There are further sevens in his
mythology. The mystique of seven does not occur in conjunction with any
other Greek god. It is prominent, however, in India’s Vedic hymns, in
Sumer and Babylonia, and, of course, in Israel, as the Bible shows. The
motif is traceable in shamanic cults of Siberia and may have originated
there. Conjecturally, it was rooted in an ancient reverence for the
seven-starred constellation Ursa Major, still attested by modern
anthropologists; and Apollo’s sister Artemis had a mythic link with that

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