Gods of Art

28 06 2017

There are a number of influences over what is nowadays termed “art”. Everyone knows that art in the modern sense signifies paintings, sculptures and sometimes weird “installations” that can be found in galleries, museums and public places.

There were nine muses which were associated with art, but strangely enough something is missing from what would be deemed “art” in  modern times. The muses patronised the following: (Calliope), epic poetry; Kleio (Clio), history; Ourania (Urania), astronomy; Thaleia (Thalia), comedy; Melpomene, tragedy; Polymnia (Polyhymnia), religious hymns; Erato, erotic poetry; Euterpe, lyric poetry; and Terpsikhore (Terpsichore), choral song and dance. Is there one specifically for painting as would be known today? In the time of the muses visual arts were not what was associated with pure art, it was a oral society and the great arts were spoken as in theatre, acted, played, spoken poetry and dance. The Hellenistic civilization was one of pure action and in the moment effects. It is a surprise to any researcher to find that no muse specifically dedicated to painting or sculpture existed, though these cultures created much painting and sculpture, which survives today on vases and walls.

I will argue that there are three main contenders for the title of “ruler of art”.

Athena /Minerva

Goddess of wisdom, war, pottery and crafts, Athena stands as probably the first deity which is easily recognisable as the true goddess of visual art. In Hellenic times pottery was one of the major modes of visual art representation along with wall painting, mosaics and of course the thing that Greek civilization will always be remembered for, the 3 dimensional representation of the human form, chiselled and formed from pure marble or stone. It should be noted that their architecture was also magnificent art work, which was decorated with frescos, and these statues.


Athena is not depicted sitting. She is not depicted with colouring pencils, nor with paint brushes or any kind of “crafts” tools. She is depicted in full battle array, ready for slaughtering the enemy. She is not depicted sitting at the potters’ wheel, even though she is patroness of the pottery which recorded her image.

The meaning to the modern is probably lost, as we seem to interpret things from our perspective which has things categorised and a bit disconnected. But to looking more deeply into the association of Athena as a goddess of the defensive war and protection of the city, connections can be made. Modern theorists accept two forms of power in any state. The obvious hard power is military, but soft power is also acknowledged, and encompasses everything that falls under the term “culture”. When other nations come up against a culture that impresses them, victory can be won simply by putting those nations in awe and fear, when in reality the hard military might does not match the power that is projected.

It was Athena who gave the Greeks victory against an enemy that far outmatched them, the Persians. During this battle Athena helped them to get out of Athens, allowing it to be burned to the ground while setting up a trap and luring the Persian ships into a narrow channel where they were ambushed and slaughtered. Wisdom in battle requires artistry, whereas brute force is defeated by the mental precision and cleverness.

If we look at artistic achievement as well as military achievement, the same principles are true. The fine detail and precision used with wisdom, creates superior art to that of thick brushes with base colours. Walls are painted in individual colours to brighten up the house, and the work is brute force with little need for artistry apart from the need to avoid going over the floors and doors. Athena’s wisdom is attention to the finer details.


From Athena we are reminded that any art is done with a certain level of aggression. Her artistry is designed for conquering her enemies. Athena is a virgin goddess. This means that all sexual energy is maintained, and purified and is part of her essence.


This is the Sun god. Apollo, like Athena is a violent god. The Sun’s beams though when they warm the skin are a source of life and comfort, they are the thing that gives pleasure to existence. Just imagine life in eternal darkness, it could get pretty cold, you would be in the realm of Hades / Pluto, where the Sun appears as nothing more than a bright star.


Apollo is depicted playing musical instruments such as the Lyre. With this Lyre, he was able to win the hearts of everyone even the mountains and birds melted in joy at the sound of his playing. Apollo as Sun god is associated with light. Imagine looking at an artwork in the dark. Apollo’s art is so basic, but essential. In many works of art beauty is infused through the depiction of light.

The 5th house, is the house of Leo and the house of the Sun. Creativity and warmth are said to be associated with this house. Apollo is a god of archery, and like Athena has a deadly side, but just like Athena as a warrior from a distance his skills require a great precision and control. Apollo’s art is connected with music, prophecy healing and archery.

Since prophecy is about the future, Apollo is possibly a greater power than Athena. Whereas Athena has wisdom, Apollo is able to predict the future and therefore able to see how things would work out. He therefore allows the artist to predict or envision the outcome of any project before it has happened. To go deeper into the matter, Apollo is the god of the mind’s eye, which sees actions before they unfold, but which also gives the artist the ability imagine and create using that same faculty.

Like the Sun itself, Apollo’s power is unseen though it is right above our heads. It is so bright and obvious that it is not given its due. Apollo gives a pure outpouring of art. It is however musical rather than visually associated. What is the music of Apollo? It is the lyre, which is a stringed instrument similar to the harp or the lute. In order to exploit the artistic gifts of Apollo one must attempt to depict stillness, light and warmth. As the god of archery, he is not a figure of pure action like Athena, but one which does not need to go anywhere in order to dominate his enemies. As god of light, Apollo holds the key to all colour. 1831324dfa87dd23ee202ca283d2fc37--refraction-of-light-color-mixing

The god of light is in fact the god of colour, as revealed by the prism, which splits visible light into is various hues. The esoteric knowledge here is that of fundamentals which are revealed only through deeper understanding. The essence of art is colour, the essence of colour is light. The artist at a basic level mixes pigments cleverly, pigments that are made up of mineral elements that serve only to reflect different areas of the colour spectrum. Could Apollo therefore be the greatest visual artist? He is not depicted with coloured pencils and paintbrushes in his hand, but he is depicted with the lyre.

Aphrodite /Venus

The modern artist has an obsession with Aphrodite, goddess of the female form and of visual beauty. Admittedly, she is not depicted in the art with coloured pencils nor with paint brushes, she is depicted with a mirror and accompanied by Eros ready to arouse and expand the eroticism, from which the word  “erotic” originates. Erotic does not equate with naked, nor does it equate with pornography, because smut is neither sophisticated, nor beautiful. What is worked on here is finer feeling, sensitivity, love and gentleness.

The two signs associated most with art and finery are Taurus and Libra, both of which fall into the domain of Venus. This deity is not a war god, but rather a lust god. She is concerned with beauty and beautiful things. Good things do not just include the female from, (though this is one of the best), but include food, drink, money and every good thing that money can buy. Indeed, Aphrodite is associated with value, because of her beauty and the basic laws of capitalism reveal how that works. The more beautiful a thing, (or person) the more value it has. Aphrodite is probably a fine visual artist and has a firm grasp on basic form, beginning with the female form. Does this mean Ares has good grasp on the male form? No, Ares is a war god, so Aphrodite extends all appreciation of form to the male form and the beauty in all physical existence.

Aphrodite is most easily associated with the modern conception of visual art. The great artists of the past centuries were masters of form and colour. And although beautiful and great, in some senses this art is inferior to the art of Athena and Apollo. Athena’s art depicts action and utility, it is skill married with wisdom and cleverness. Apollo as giver of light and his ability to melt the mountains with emotion from the music of his lyre is also magnificent. Aphrodite is pleasure, love, beauty, inferior to the ecstasy of action and the joy of sound and light. Nevertheless, the artist cannot always reach the highest and must enjoy more earthly pleasures.




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