07 May The Oracle of Delphi
The Oracle of Delphi
We take an early bus to Delphi. It’s a pilgrimage many have made before, to the belly button of the earth, the oracle of Apollo. We pass through undulating mountains carpeted in green moss. The closer we get the thicker the air becomes, weighted with particles of water. They water becomes a visible fog, a condensed sensation setting down upon us, entering in streams through the open bus windows.
I sit behind the driver, watching the curved road roll toward our destination. I am expecting the haggard oracle balanced over a creek of fuming liquid and think of little else.
Mother asks, “So this is a temple for Apollo?”
After three hours, we arrive in Delphi and climb the winding walled paths leading to the platform of columns. I’m imagining where the eagles met and landed on the tawny cliffs of Mount Parnassus, where only vultures circle now. Each wall is hand-fitted, interlocking stones like a cobbled jigsaw puzzle. We see only the remains of the hollowed out egg.
Mother asks, “What’s the story?” while examining a stone wider than her arm-span.
“Apollo was the god of lots of things: art, athletics, medicine, and prophecy. He predicted things with an oracle.”
“A priestess …she would’ve lived here, an old woman called a Pythia, who could project her soul into the domain of the gods and ask questions. She could also allow her body to be inhabited so the gods could answer.”
The sky drapes a warm blue shadow on extensive ivied walls; the length of them consisting of crumbled, once-ribbed stones. There are more shadows on the path. We walk toward the grey columned platform with stacked cylindrical pieces like balanced peaches due to the fleshy context of weathered, pink stone.
We enter the semi-circular stone amphitheater; tall, skinny bush-like trees and shrubbed crags rise around us.
“The Pythia would breathe in a toxic liquid that would put her into a trance. She would breathe it through a stone,” I continue, “Legend says the liquid was the decomposing body of Apollo, who had fallen into the cracked stone.”
I’m walking through my imagination’s past: fumes rising from the chemical stew passing underground, a creek in her sanctuary, inhaling deeply, speaking in riddles.
“I’ll tell you,” she says, “these stories are interesting, but they just don’t make sense.”
It’s funny how significance to one may mean nothing to another – or stranger yet – how we are all rooted in the same imagery but it has multiple divergent interpretations, the collective aspect buried under social conditioning. I, myself, am drawn to Apollo. I’m drawn to the creation of inspired images. They come to me without request, a neuron rush in sleep, as self-aware as a swallow of cold water in the morning.
On the way home the bus stops in a small town, Arapahoe, where we eat snacks and look at the handmade rugs they’re famous for. I care nothing of rugs because my thoughts are elsewhere.
I wanted to see the oracle. It’s a thought I can’t escape. The gifts I’d bring couldn’t compete with the sacrifices of the past. Would I be admitted? What would she tell me? Would she hiss from her tripod, sucking the rising plume? A vision in color, spoken in tongues, shrouded in grey by the flickering light.