We begin our climb upwards from the Tholos of Athena towards the Temple of Apollo. The way is winding, a graduated path, smooth, making only gentle demands on our knees so recently godded, strengthened by Hermes and Artemis. We have breath enough as we climb to engage in conversation with our companions, to share our thoughts, our experiences while we were gathered around the Tholos.
Above, and across the road lies the Kastalian Spring. Here, where the great cliffs form a chasm, both pilgrims and the priesthood gathered to purify themselves in preparation for entering the great temple. (The Traveler’s Key to Ancient Greece)
These Kastalian waters were said to confer inspiration and were connected with the Muses. In late Roman times the Muses were named and assigned this way:
Calliope (fair face) Epic song
Clio (proclaimer) History
Euterpe (gentle rejoicing or delight) Lyric song
Thalia (festive) Comedy
Melpomene (honey-sweet song) Tragedy
Terpsichore (rejoicing or delighting in the dance) Dance
Erato (passionate) Erotic poetry
Polyhymnia (rich in hymns) Sacred songs
Urania (the starry heavens) Astronomy
We continue upwards along the Sacred Way, its flights of stone steps challenging even for godded knees. The Sanctuary of Apollo once contained temples, rich treasures brought here as gifts from many cities and individuals, hundreds of statues. Today we pass ruins, weathered stone, holding only the memory of wealth.
The Temple of Apollo was composed of an outer and inner chamber. On the outer walls were inscribed sayings of the Seven Sages, intended to inspire those who came seeking answers, to prepare themselves for their meeting with the Pythia. For the prophetess awaited them in the inner sanctum. Here the Pythia sat beside a stone known as the omphalos, the center of the world. She held an umbilicus tied to the omphalos. She was seated on a tripod placed over a chasm in the earth from which vapors arose. She waved a branch of laurel and entered into an altered state – enthousiasmos – in which she uttered prophecies.
place where the Pythia sat
The priests who attended her recorded and “translated” her words into Homeric verse. This formal procedure for the functioning of the oracle acquired its final form in the 6th century BCE and remained unchanged until the reign of the Roman emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD.
If we feel some regret, some sadness, that we are nearly two millennia late for the experience, we have not yet understood the Quantum Powers of the Universe, nor learned what Jean Houston has been teaching us on this journey about the way these powers are available to us, bringing us the gift of time, past/present/future, in each sacred moment.
For here in this sacred place of the Pythia, Jean invites us to find places to sit on the fallen stones. We breathe deeply, close our eyes, come to stillness. We call upon the presence of the prophetess, trusting that her spirit is still available to us.
Jean invites us to present our questions to the Pythia. What guidance does she offer for our time? How may we move towards a planet of peace? Responses arise from within our hearts. Voices speak within our circle:
Peace will come as we open our third eye, the eye of wisdom, to recognize and honour the beauty, the light of the sacred presence, in one another. This seeing will lead us along the path to peace.
The Pythia invites us to take time each day for deep listening to her voice, the voice of Wisdom…she will speak in and through us, offering guidance.
You who are reading this in the sacred space of your own home may also find yourselves seated imaginally among the fallen stones of the Temple of Apollo, near the earth’s omphalos.
Here, you may breathe deeply, focus your heart, and call upon the wisdom that once spoke through the Pythia.
What questions do you bring to her? What responses do you hear?
After our encounter with the Pythia, we start the downward climb, passing an opening in the stones wall, a grotto. Throughout the Christian world such places were chosen or constructed to honour Mary, often holding a statue of her. Once again, with a shiver of recognition, we see the continuation of the presence of the Sacred Feminine honoured through ages lost in memory, vanished before memory.
Yet still present.
Grotto awaiting the Sacred Feminine Presence