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The Oracle at Delphi: mystic prophet or geological faultline?

By Amalasuntha

The ancient Greeks believed they could consult the oracle at Delphi to know their fate. Apollo the god of the oracle spoke through his priestess, also known as a Pythia, who sat on a stool over a fissure in the earth from which rose hypnotic vapours that put her in a trance. When people came to Delphi they had to present their questions to the priests of the oracle, who passed it on to the Pythia. her answer would be so obscure or ambiguous that the priests would have to interpret it. That way the people got the benefit of Apollo’s wisdom, believing that he knew everything, even about the future. There were many heads of state who would not go to war or take other decisive steps until they had consulted the oracle at Delphi. The priests of Apollo functioned more or less as diplomats and advisors, becoming experts with intimate knowledge of the country and it’s people. Over the entrance to the temple at Delphi was a famous inscription ‘know thyself’ . It reminded men that man must never believe himself to be more than mortal, and could not escape the destiny the gods had set for him.

The worship of Apollo as the god of light, harmony, and order was established between the 11th and 9th centuries. Slowly over the next five centuries the sanctuary grew in size and importance. During the 8th c. B.C. Delphi became internationally known for the Oracular powers of a Pythia–the priestess who sat on a tripod, inhaled ethylene gasses, and muttered incomprehensible words that foretold the future. Documents provided by the Greek historian Plutarch (AD 46-120) describe the Pythia inhaling vapours from a fissure called Adyton. Shortly after she would go into a trance, which enabled her to contact Apollo, the god to whom the oracle was dedicated. Occasionally these trances deepened into delirium and even death, but more normally the woman would utter extremely cryptic and freely-interpretable rhymed answers, which were sometimes conflicting.

Read the original article at: Chesterfield Pagans

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