Pagan Goddesses and Gods of the Delphi Oracle
The Pagan Oracle of Delphi was located about 75 NW of Athens on the Corinthian Sea (Korinthiakos Kolpos), 5 miles inland and 10 miles south of Mount Parnassos' (Parnassus) summit. There on the sharp, Parnassus mountain cliffs, at nearly 1900 feet above the Corinthian Gulf, where the sacred spring, Castalia still flows into the Cephissus river, two spectacular crags form a ledge. It is here that the Pagan temple of Apollo was located. The lower level of the Temple was reached by steps at one corner, and it is said that intoxicating fumes rose from a cleft in the floor near the center of the chamber, which were believed to be the smell from the decaying Python which Apollo is said to have killed. It was on Parnassus that the sacred Stone of Rhea landed when Cronus disgorged it. (There is a large stone that still rests in destroyed temple.)
Tradition has it that Delphi was found by Coretas, a shepherd boy, who discovered that his sheep and goats acted strangely when they approached the area and he himself soon began uttering prophetic statements which came true. However, oracle was given at Delphi by the Priestesses of Daphoene during Cretan times, which was at least 200 years and possibly 400 years before Apollo. The shepherd, Coretas obviously did not discover the sight, but rather he uncovered the secret to the Priestesses of the Serpent Oracles of Mother Goddess who presided there.
Christian sources assert that the Priestess at Delphi (Pythoness) was intoxicated by fumes escaping from the underground cavern and that she spoke gibberish which had to be interpreted by the priest; and further that the questions had to be formed so as to receive a "yes" or "no" answer.
Adamantius Origenes [Origen (c. 250 CE)], the Christian writer who defended Christianity against attacks by the philosopher, Celsus, in Contra Celsum, uses the following argument against Paganism:
"It is said of the Pythian priestess, whose oracle seems to have been the most celebrated, that when she sat down a the mouth of the Castalian cave, the prophetic spirit of Apollo entered her private parts. She sat with parted thighs on the tripod of Apollo, and the evil spirit entered her from below, passing through her genital organs, and plunged her into a state of frenzy, so that she began with loosened hair to foam and rage like a drunkard."
It must be noted that the Pythoness was still giving oracle at the time Origen wrote, and Origen did not report having personally seen this--even though he was a Greek--but rather, he reports that "it is said." And his statement was pure fantasy, intended to paint the Pythoness as a demonic channel.
The Pythoness did sit on a brass tripod, each leg of which represented a Goddess; the front most--facing east-- was Hera; tripod right was Pasiphae, the Cretan wife of Minos whose Bull worship was still reflected in Delphic worship; and tripod left was Ino, who, like Pasiphae predated the Apollonian invasion of the shrine. Thought apotheosis Ino became, Leucothea, Goddess of pools and streams, as it was from the pool of Castalia that the Priestess obtained her bowl of water from which she descried the oracle. The water from the Castalia pool contained methane and ethylene, traces of which are still present in the pool today. And it is likely that there was a greater degree of these gasses present anciently. And it is also possible that the amount of these gasses, and possibly others, decreased over the centuries, and as their euphoric properties decreased, so did the ability to produce oracle.
It was upon this tripod that the Pythoness sat with parted thighs, but she did not give frenzied oracle. That was the Sibyl of Cumae; and of course Origen would have considered any spirit or God which entered the Pythoness to be evil.
Socrates recognized the differences in madness, distinguishing it from being sane,
"but there is also a madness which is a divine gift, and the source of the chiefest blessings granted to men. For prophecy is a madness, and the prophetess at Delphi and the priestesses at Dodona when out of their senses have conferred great benefits on Hellas, both in public and private life, but when in their senses few or none." (Phaedrus, 243)
But being out of one's senses does not mean that one is "plunged" into a state of frenzy. On the contrary, all ancient paintings of the Pythoness show her seated on her tripod with a laurel sprig in her right hand and a bowl of water in her left from which she descries the oracle. No picture of the Pythoness shows her in a frenzied state, nor would she have been able to hold a bowl of water in that condition.
Origen, thus, becomes a classic example of the Christian ignorance which prevailed in the early days of that religion. That ignorance did not improve with age.
This is not to say that the Pythoness was not frenzied when she was in the cavern, as she most often was, for theolepsy was part of the oracle of Dionysus whose shrine was behind that of Apollo's. However, the cavern was forbidden to all but the priestess, and it is doubtful that she was ever seen in frenzied state when seated upon her tripod.
Modern exploration of the temple show mineral traces of methane and ethylene which could have been the fumes described by Plutarch. However, many of the questions asked by the inquirants have survived, and though many are trivial, they require more then a simple "yes" or "no" answer. Moreover, many of the answers have survived, and none are gibberish, but are articulate, though often couched in ambiguous terms. The Pythoness, however, did not speak directly to the inquirant, but rather she spoke to the priest of Apollo was always placed between the pythoness and the people.
This is what the 536th High Priestess of my religion told me about the Pythoness:
"She sat on a brass tripod, with a brass bowl filled with water in her right hand and a laurel sprig in her left; it was not fumes from the cavern which intoxicated the Priestess, for oracle had been given there long before the murder of Python by Apollo; the Pythoness was entered by the Spirit of the Vortex while alone in the lower cavern, protected by her two assistants who remained above. When she ascended she gave oracle in the ancient Cretan tongue, which was gibberish to the uninitiated, but was translated or interpreted by the priest and given to the inquirant. When the spirit was too weak to enter the Pythoness, she used a plant to induce a weakened physical and mental state; the plant which induce the trance-like state grew near the temple, and Coretas' goats had become intoxicated from eating the leaves of the tree (or bush), while the sheep, which are grazers, not browsers, were not affected. Coretas, however, had not eaten the leaves, but had become intoxicated after he had drunk a tea he had made from the leaves - which our priestesses say is a Laurel which grows only in that area; but originally oracle was given to the priestess when she was in an orgiastic state in the lower chamber and her assistant priestess conveyed the oracle to those who waited above." (The High Priestess also stated that while the fumes did not intoxicate, they produced a sense of euphoria which elevated the Priestess the same way music elevates the soul.)
Robert Graves seems to agree somewhat with this, stating that the "Goddess Daphoene [also Daphonesissa [the bloody one] was worshiped by a college of orgiastic laurel-chewing Maenads" and that "Apollo took over the laurel which, afterwards, only the Pythoness might chew".
Some species of the Laurel are mildly poisonous in small amounts--lethal in larger dosages--and when made into a decoction (boiled) of honey-wine, it has been know to produce prophetic hallucinations at the places of oracle. However, prior to the use of laurel leaves, the priestesses received oracle in three other ways,the first was by ecstatic orgasm, the second by drinking blood of sacred bulls, and the other by use of poisonous snakes to induce the oracular state.
Delphi is a classic example of the patriarchy overcoming Goddess worship. In order for the priests of Apollo to take possession of the oracle, it was necessary to destroy the Python and overcome the Cretan Goddess worship which had employed Snakes and the Bull for centuries. And while Apollo was very new in the Greek pantheon, the sacrificing of sheep to Apollo did not supplant the sacrificing of bulls to the Goddess until Classic times.
It is recorded that Doria [also called Rhodopis, the Thracian courtesan who lived in Egypt] donated a tenth of her wealth to have hugh iron spits made which were large enough to roast whole oxen. This was done in atonement of her fellow Thracian, Aesop, (of Fable fame) whom the Delphinians had killed by throwing him from the precipice (c. 193 AUC--560 BCE). These iron spits were used for the sacrifices at the altar of Dionysus which was opposite the temple building. After the ram supplanted oxen, the spits were removed and stored behind the altar where they were seen at the time of Herodotus (c. 299 AUC--454 BCE) but they were only mentioned by the priests at the time of Plutarch (c. 800 AUC--47 CE).
There had been six shrines at Delphi. The fifth which was made of dressed stones was burned and the sixth [and last] was erected in 262 AUC--491 BCE). Tradition has it that the fourth shrine had been built of brass by Hephaestus but was swallowed by an earthquake. However, this brass shrine of Hephaestus would have predated that of the laurels, as Hephaestus (Ptah in Egypt) was the master of the Cyclops (Kyklops), who predated the worship of Apollo. The brass shrine is more fable than myth, as there is no evidence of this kind of earthquake activity at the sight for at least 30,000 years. The second shrine was said to have been made of fern-stalks, which indicates that the oracle was purely sexual before it was replaced by the equally sexual Cretan Order. This is confirmed by the first shrine also which was made of bee's wax and feathers, which indicates that the oracle was not only sexual, but had its origin in Egypt, and that the cave was at one time a Vortic center--the bee's wax being formed in the shape of an omphalos.
The Omphalos, or Navel of the World, was said to have originally been in the cave at Delphi, but that would have been at least 6,000 years before Troy; and that conflicts with Greek myth which has Zeus losing his navel string at Omphalion, which is on Crete, near Knossos. Knossos, of course, predated the Greeks by at least one thousand years, and it is likely that the later Greeks attributed the Omphalos to Delphi because it was the home of Pythos, the Stone of Rhea.
The Stone of Rhea came about when Uranus, whom Cronus had castrated before usurping his throne, prophesied that one of the Children of Cronus would in a like manner dethrone him. Cronus took this to heart and after making his sister, Rhea, his consort, each year she bore to him a child. Hestia was the first, then Demeter, and Hera, third. After this were born Hades followed by Poseidon. Cronus devoured each of these five as they were born. Rhea's third son, Zeus was born at night on Mount Lycaeum in Arcadia. Knowing that Cronus would devour her newborn son, Rhea bathed him in the River Neda, to cover him with an earthly scent, and gave him to Gaea (Mother Earth) who took him to Lyctos in Crete where he was hidden in the Cave of Dictes. There he was cared for by the daughters of Melisseus, by name, Adrasteia and Io, and by the Goat-nymph Amalthea, who fed Zeus and his foster-brother, Pan, on her milk.
When Zeus grew to maturity he went to the Ocean Stream where he took his first mate, the Oceanid, Metis (counsel), one of the thousand daughters of Oceanus and Tethys. It was Metis who instructed Zeus in how to become the Cup Bearer of Cronus. She also taught Zeus how to serve his father an emetic concoction, which caused Cronus to vomit the children he had swallowed. The first disgorged was not a child, but the Stone Rhea had given to Cronus, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and which he believed to be Her Son. When disgorged, the stone called Pythos, was hurled down to Mount Parnassus where Zeus fixed it in a deep cleft. It was constantly anointed with oil by the suppliants of Apollo who offered it strands of unwoven wool. It was Metis, also, who would be the force in the dethronement of Zeus.
The usurping of the priestess' authority took place no more than three generations before the Trojan war. It was Heracles who had restructured the zodiac with his twelve labors, and it was Perseus who had set Pegasus and Agyieus loose to destroy the Goddess worship in Greece. For it was the winged-horse, Pegasus, springing full grown the body of Medusa, who then flew to mount Halcion where he became the favorite of the Muses; and it was the poets, touched by the Muses, who created the myth of their past. Even so, the takeover of Delphi was not completed for least 600 years.
Greek myth has Phoebus (radiant) Apollo being born on the small floating island of Delos, the seven-month child of Leto, (Roman, Latona) and Zeus. His twin sister, born a sacred nine days before Apollo on the Isle of Ortigia, was the Grey-Eyed, Virgin-Huntress, Artemis, who would become the Roman Diane, and bear the epitath Cynthae, which She gained in Her dispute with Aphrodite who bore the title Cynthera.
The Greeks had Zeus always off seducing and impregnating married and unmarried woman and the Goddess, Hera, His wife, was always trying to take vengeance on those women. One fable--for it is certainly not myth--has Python pursuing Leto until she came to Delos. This is obviously a Hellenized version of Isis who, when pregnant with Horus, was pursued by Set (the Greek Typhoon) until she came to the moving island of Ta-Neter, as the Greeks considered Isis and Leto to be the same, just as they considered Apollo to be Horus. The Egyptians, prior to the Greek invasion, made no such association, but rather worshiped Leto as a foreign goddess whom they called Lat--the Romans would call Leto, Latona. Most of the remainder of the Apollo fable is inconsistent with Egyptian myth.
The Chick Quail, which is the last letter in the Egyptian Alphabet--pronounced U (OO), is found in both cultures, but in very different aspects. And while all Egyptian Goddesses or Netert supported Isis in her travails, the Greek, Hera, was made the enemy of Leto. Also, Ta-Neter, which was to the South and East of Egypt, welcomed Isis and floated away, never to be seen again, when Isis and her infant son left. However, the Isle of Delos was unwilling to receive the Greek Leto, fearing that it would be forgotten and sunk into the depths of the sea. Delos, of course, became a permanent Island, and one of the centers of Apollo worship. Hera was said to have used guile and deception to keep Ilithyia, the Goddess of Child Birth on Olympus, thus making the labor of Leto (after the birth of Artemis) nine days, before the birth Goddess could come and deliver her son.
After leaving Delos, Apollo pursued Python, the enemy of Leto, who fled to Crisa, which would later be called Delphi. There Apollo entered the shrine of the Goddess Mother of the Earth and killed Python beside the chasm. Of course, Pythos, was the Stone of Rhea which was placed there by Zeus, but the destruction of Serpent Worship at the oracle needed justification. It was the fumes of the decaying body of Python which were said to fill the lower chamber of the shrine--but since only priestesses were permitted into the lower chamber, even the Greeks had to speculate on what was there.
The Pythian games were inaugurated as a funeral honor to Python. Apollo may have been able to do away with the Python (that is, the Goddess worhsip of the priestesses) but the people still honored their ancient Goddesses. In later years, the Olympian Games would invoke the Pythian Truce which were written on the five concentric rings which insured that the Olympics could be held every 4 years without fear of attack or revenge by any attending. Today those rings are said to represent the five modern continents from which contestants came to the first modern Olympic games--there were of course six continents represented in the first modern Olympic game.
Apollo was tainted by this murder of Python, and Zeus sent him to Tempe for purification; but Apollo sailed instead to Tarrha in Crete, where King Carmanor [son of Dionysus and Alixirrhoe] performed the rite. This of course makes Dionysus older than Apollo, which is also indicated by the oracle of Dionysus which was at Crisa, before its name was changed to Delphi--in honor of Apollo-Delphinus, or dolphin.
Cleombrotus, in Plutarch's Why Oracles Failed (21) tells of a wise man on the Persian Gulf, who stated to him that
"[the] slayer [of Python] was not afterwards banished for nine years nor did he go to Tempe, but on being sentenced he passed to another world. After nine cycles of great years he came back from there purified and truly Phoebus, and took over the oracle which until then had been guarded by Themis. (The Goddess of Justice.)
On his return to Delphi, Apollo attempted to seduce Daphne, the priestess of the Goddess Mother Earth, but when he was about to catch her, she cried out and Mother Earth took her away to Crete (the home of the Serpent Priestesses), and left the laurel-tree in her place. Apollo consoled himself by making a "laurel wreath" for himself. Or so the Greeks would like us to believe.
Ovid makes Daphne the daughter of the river God Peneus, and the blunt (literally of Cupid's revenge) Apollo chided Cupid one day for his use of the bow, and bragged how his arrow never failed, and how he slew Python with countless darts. Cupid countered by telling Apollo "You are far above all creatures living, and by just that distance your glory less than mine". Cupid then waited for his revenge. That was not long coming, when Cupid saw Apollo approaching the place where Daphne bathed in her father's pool. He drew from his quiver two different arrows, one gleaming golden and sharp, the other deadeningly blunt, tipped with lead to drive all love away, and this he used on Daphne, while he shot Apollo with the stinging sharp arrow of love, through bone, through marrow, and through the heart, and he loved Daphne. Daphne had many suitors, bus spurned them and made the marriage torches hateful and criminal to her. Apollo pursued her, telling her he was lord of Delphi, Tenedos, Claros and Patara and Zeus was his father. But she fled and Apollo, driven by the superior power of love gave chase. She escaped him at first, but his relentless pursuit drove her to terror and exhaustion, and seeing the river of her father she cried for his help. Her father heard and "when her limbs grew numb and heavy, her soft breasts were closed with delicate bark, her hair was leaves, her arms were branches, and her speedy feet roots and held, and her head became a tree top. Everything gone except her grace, her shining. Apollo lover her still. He placed his hand where he had hoped and felt the heart still beating under the bark; and he embraced the branches as if they still were limbs, and kissed the wood, and the wood shrank from his kisses," and from that time on he loved the Laurel above all trees.
The truth of the matter is, Daphne (laurel) was the daughter of Teiresias, the blind Theban Prophet who gave birth to her during the seven years when he had been a woman. His other daughter, Manto [the mother of Mopsus, the seer] he sired after he was a man again. Daphne and Manto were both taken captive when Thebes fell in the generation before Troy. Manto was sent to Ionia where she married Rhacius, King of Caria, by whom she had Mopsus--said to be the son of Apollo. Daphne remained a virgin and was sent to Delphi; most likely to add the power of Teiresias to the Delphi oracle which had recently (within 100 years) been taken over by the Apollonians. There she became the Sibyl. There are some who say that Manto had her name changed to Daphne when she was sent to Delphi, but this is perpetrated by Apollonians who forget that the Sibyl spurned Apollo's love, while Mopsus was the son of Apollo and Manto.
To obtain Priests for his new cult, Apollo, became a Dolphin and sought out a ship from Crete, which he led back to Greece. The Captain was made High Priest of Apollo and instructed in his rites. The priestesses of Daphoene remained at Crisa, which was now named after the Dolphin--Delphi and were now Priestesses of Apollo and were 9 in number. Originally the priestesses were chosen as young girls, and like all priestesses of The Goddess performed sexual rituals in the function of oracle. During the reign of the Spartan king, Cleomenes, the method of selecting priestesses was changed when it was discovered that the Pythoness, Perialla, had been bribed by love to give false oracle. Their number was reduced to three and they were chosen only after they had reached an age when they were no longer eligible for marriage, [50 years] at which time no man would desire them sexually--some women as old as 70 years when chosen. The Pythonesses did not die young as some modern scholars assert, as they were old before receiving their calling.
It must be noted that Apollo was strictly a Greek creation. He existed in no other nation before the Greeks became a world power. Where Zeus ruled the heavens, Poseidon the seas, and Hades the underworld, with the earth common to all, Apollo held dominion in all--or so the Greeks believed. Along with Athena, Apollo holds the distinction of being the one Greek god who was not represented in the heavens. He was said to be the Sun God, but Helios held that distinction--he was also said to be the light of the moon, but that is because of his twin sister Artemis. It is obvious that Apollo was a Greek form of the Egyptian Horus, who through religious transformation became unique to the Greeks.
Apollo was not just a god of light, but also of healing and disease. His greatest and most feared weapon was thus inflicted on humanity in the form of deathful diseases. It would appear that when the Aryan herdsmen began their invasion of Asia and southern Europe, their first contacts with the hunters and gathers of the lands brought disease and death to the natives. This has always been the case because most deadly diseases, smallpox, etc, are also diseases of herd animals. Cowpox, for instance, was found to be a good vaccine against smallpox. The herdsmen built an immunity towards the diseases, but the hunters, gathers and farmers who had no domestic animals, like the Native Americans, were ravaged the common cold for which they had no immunity. The invading Aryans attributed this great power to destroy by disease to their new God--Apollo--who fought on their side and destroyed all their enemies. And while Apollo was the most beloved god of the Greeks, when other nations became immune to the diseases of the Aryans, he was also the first to lose his power. The deadly far-shooting arrow of Apollo, which would spread disease would be replaced by his murderous worshipers, who launched the Dorian Invasion.
Cleomenes became co-king of Sparta on the death of his father Anaxandrides, son of Leon, who was co-king with Ariston during the time when Croesus was king of Lydia. Until the time of Anaxandrides, the Spartans were undefeated by any other nation, except the Tegeans. Upon consulting the Oracle at Delphi he was told that Sparta could achieve mastery over Tegea only if they retrieved the bones of Orestes--the son of Agamemnon who avenged the murder of his father and became the archetype of the Dorian race--from Tegea. Not knowing where the bones of Orestes were, Anaxandrides sent Licuas to the Oracle of Delphi, who told him to "go where two winds meet, where stroke meets stroke, and where evil rings upon evil," and there he would find the bones buried in the earth. Licuas went to Tegea where he met a smith who was forging a sword of iron instead of bronze. Licuas marveled at the sight and was told by the smith that more unusual things were there. While he was digging a well he had found an enormous coffin which had huge bones in it. Licuas then knew that the "two winds" referred to the smith's bellows, the "strokes" were of the hammer meeting the sword, and "evil upon evil" referred to the iron hammer meeting the iron sword, as iron was the sign of the evil of the "Iron Age." Lichas returned to Sparta and told what he had discovered. Anaxandrides sent him back to the smith disguised as a runaway slave. During the night he stole the bones from the coffin and escaped with them to Sparta. From that time on, the Spartans became the masters over Tegea.
Anaxandrides had married his sisters daughter, and even though she was barren, he refused to put her away as the ephors demanded. The ephors and elders of the Lacedaemon came to him again and ordered him either to put
away his wife (or they would find a way to do away with her) or take a second wife (contrary to Spartan law). He took a second wife and she became the mother of Cleomedes.