Phoenix Rising: Priestesses of Prophecy & Working with the Pythia

Phoenix Rising: Priestesses of Prophecy & Working with the Pythia April 7, 2019

My first experience with phenomena such as precognition and otherworldly visits happened in a dream when I was around 7 years old. My grandfather was severely ill and in the hospital. At some point in the wee hours of the morning, I woke up from a very vivid dream in which my grandfather had visited me. Wearing his trademark hat and a hospital gown that he kept having to hold together in the back, he was his usual, playful self.

He told me he had to go somewhere, but that everything was ok. He smiled, told me he loved me, and then got in a limousine and left. I had barely had time to begin processing what the dream meant when one of my relatives came in and announced to my sister and I that my grandfather had passed.

Delphi ruins, photo by Siggy Nowak via Pixabay.

To be honest, the dream freaked me out! It also embedded in me a curiosity about and enchantment with the oracular and divinatory arts. This fascination really took off in earnest while I was in my early 30’s, and I devoured every book related to this topic that I could get my hands on. I  experimented with all sorts of psychic tools – tarot, runes, scrying, ceromancy, moon blocks, pendulums, oracular trance….You name it and I likely researched and/or tried it.

I started giving readings to friends and family members periodically for practice and then began to move on to doing readings for people I didn’t know. The feedback was almost always positive and practicing these arts felt natural. But having the courage to really put myself out there to the universe and offer my services as a reader in a more formal way? That was another story.  I began to trust my intuition more and more, but still I struggled to really believe in myself as it related to reading for others. I lacked the deep, heartfelt confidence to truly believe in my own abilities.

Then, I met the Pythia.

Oracles of all cultures intrigue  me. I am fascinated by the druids, who would practice what was known as “Imbas Forosnai” by chewing on the flesh of an animal, retiring to a dark cave and chanting before slipping into trance and finally emerging into the light having achieved Awen. I am enthralled by the beauty of the Volva practicing Seidr by sitting on their raised chair and being sung into trance by those around them. Then there are the Pythia, those incredible women who shared their prophecies at the Oracle of Delphi.

When I travelled to Greece, I was adamant that Delphi was one of the places I must visit. I expected to feel a resonance with the Oracle and perhaps to connect strongly with Apollo, its guardian. While I did feel Apollo’s presence, it was the energy of the Pythia from times past that drew me in. This may be in part because of the history of Delphi.

Resting beneath the majestic Mount Parnassus, the Oracle of Delphi is believed to have been built around 1400 B. C.. Delphi was once considered to  be the “omphalos”, the center of the world. Although Delphi is most commonly associated with the Greek god Apollo, its first guardians were goddesses. Greek mythology tells us that Gaia oversaw Delphi first, followed by the goddesses Themis and Phoebe, the latter of whom was Apollo’s grandmother. According to the story in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, a large serpent or dragon known as the Python was originally stationed at Delphi to protect Gaia.

Themis and Aegeus, photo via Wikimedia.

Apollo knew that the fearsome Python had been sent by Hera to chase his mother around when she was pregnant with him so as to prevent her from giving birth in any land. Apollo slew the Python and took over the Oracle. The priestesses were called the Pythias in recognition of the Python. Some historians believe that the Homeric Hymn in which this story occurs was heavily influenced by Greek society moving from a matriarchal culture to one which was predominantly patriarchal.

The Pythias were not selected at random. To be considered a viable candidate,  a woman had to have proven psychic ability as well as the ability to enter a trance state. Prior to Apollo’s association with Delphi, the priestesses were said to give their prophecies from a rock on the side of the path leading up to the temple. In Apollo’s time at Delphi, the Pythia would first purify herself in the nearby Castalian spring and would then enter a cave in the temple’s adyton. The Pythia would then sit on a raised tripod and drink the water of the Kassotos spring which was also near the temple. It is believed that she may have chewed bay laurel leaves. In a trance-like state, the priestess would express the prophecy which priests would then interpret and share with the querent.

There has long been an ongoing debate regarding whether or not vapors arising from the chasm below the Pythias contributed to their trance. A great deal of skepticism also exists regarding whether or not the prophecies were real. Accusations that the priests interpreted the often riddling or inarticulate utterances of the Pythia based on their political motives and/or the value of sacrifices or money given by the querent are not uncommon. Regardless of whether or not you believe these accusations to be true, it cannot be denied that the Pythias were held in high regard and her prophecies sought out for hundreds of years.

As I stood at Delphi the day that I visited, I could see the ancient pre-Apollo Pythia giving her prophecy from the large rock that sat next to the Treasury of Athena, just down the hill from Apollo’s temple. When I reached the ruins of Apollo’s temple and what was once the entrance to the cave, I could feel the strong pull of powerful feminine energy surrounding me. The experience was profound, and I soon found myself making an altar to the Pythias and working with them on a regular basis.

Author’s altar to the Pythia, photo by the author.

I work with the Pythias in much the same way that I do the deities I worship and work with. My altar contains a statue of a Pythia flanked by two white candles. Other items on this altar include bay laurel leaves, a small bowl from Greece which I fill with sacred water, and foreign coins. I sometimes leave offerings of roses or honey and I will charge my divination objects on the altar from time to time. Guided meditations have helped me to connect with the Pythia and learn more about them. Now when I sit down to do a distance reading or any kind of divinatory or oracular work, I light the candles on my altar and call in the Pythias for guidance. I have found that I immediately feel a sense of calm wash over me when I do this and I am more willing to trust what I am seeing, feeling or sensing.

Perhaps the most important thing that the Pythias have taught me relates to their well known maxim of “Know thyself”. If I am to truly know myself, I must have an ability and commitment to peel away labels, layers and illusions as I delve into my shadow as well as a willingness to continuously work on self acceptance. This includes owning my positive attributes and trusting my instincts. Working with the Pythias has shown me that knowing myself, owning who I am, and trusting myself are all interdependent ingredients necessary for fulfilling my potential, deepening my intuition, serving others, and stepping into my sovereignty.

Below is a guided meditation for meeting and communing with the Pythia at the Oracle of Delphi.

GUIDED MEDITATION — ORACLE OF DELPHI

Begin by taking deep breaths–in and out. Imagine a doorway in front of you. This could be a marble archway, a wooden door, a portal. When you are ready, step through the door.

You see a large mountain looming behind you, framed by an azure blue sky. The sun is beating down and you notice that the people around are dressed in clothing that appears to be from Ancient Greek times. You look down at yourself and see that you, too, are dressed in a simple linen shift or tunic. You realize that you are at Delphi.

You stand watch as people mill about the courtyard and vendors attempt to sell their wares. You move off to the side, under the shade of a tree, and silently ask for a guide to help you. After a moment or two, your guide appears in front of you. This guide could be a new guide or one you’ve worked with before. The guide could present themselves in the form of a human or an animal or mythological creature. You greet your guide and express your intention to visit the Pythia. The guide leads you over to a basin, filled with water from a sacred spring. You cup your hands and let the water stream over your face, neck, and arms. You then drink the water and are amazed at how refreshing it feels going down your throat.

Prophetress, photo by Hamlet94 via Pixabay.

Your guide motions for you to follow. You begin walking in the opposite direction of the marketplace and you are a bit confused at first. However, your guide takes you on a circuitous route behind where the many querents are standing. You can see from your elevated position all of the activity going on below you. You continue to follow your guide until you finally arrive at the Temple of Apollo. Upon seeing your guide, the priests of Apollo ask the current querent to wait, and they motion you in. Your guide indicates that they cannot follow you into the temple but will be waiting for you when you return.

You walk into the temple and a priest leads you to the cave where the Pythia sits. With some trepidation, you walk into the room. The floor is made of rock and while a bit of light can be seen from above, the room is dark. It is only dimly lit by candles. You hear the sound of water and you see a veiled figure sitting on a tripod. At the entrance to the room, there is an altar for you to leave an offering to Apollo and the Pythia. Take a moment to do so. You then walk until you are facing the Pythia. You feel a bit lightheaded as you  sit on a rock across from the priestess and wait. You can only barely make out the silhouette of the figure before you but you can see the edges of the Pythia’s veil as well as the bowl of water in one hand and the laurel branch in the other.

The Pythia quietly asks what information you seek. You think for a moment, and then tell the Pythia that you wish to know how to connect more strongly to your own intuition and oracular abilities. You may also ask another unrelated question if you wish. The Pythia is still for a moment before she drinks from the bowl in her hand and then gently places the bowl of water on a rock beside her. She then pulls a leaf from the laurel branch and begins chewing it.

You wait for what seems like a lifetime, and then the Pythia extends her finger towards you and motions for you to come forward.You do so slowly and just as you get close enough to touch her, the Pythia lifts the veil. Your heart jumps as you look into the eyes of the Pythia and see … Yourself. The energy shifts and suddenly you are sitting on the tripod and the Pythia is sitting across from you.

The Pythia begins to wail and speak unintelligibly but somehow, you understand her. She tells you that you have the answers you seek and to not be afraid to embrace your own inner Pythia. She shares with you knowledge about how to more greatly connect with your own abilities and intuition. You take a moment to hear what she says and let it sink in.

Delphi, photo by Christian Hardi via Pixabay.

If you have asked another question, listen closely as she shares with you her answer.

When the Pythia stops talking, you rise from the tripod and suddenly, you are sitting back on the rock and the Pythia is back in her tripod. You thank the Pythia for her time and her wisdom. She opens your hands face up and in them she places a symbol. She tells you that this symbol will help you to connect to your own intuitive abilities and it will also help you to return to this place should you feel a desire to do so. You nod reverently and turn to leave the room.

You leave the cave and then the temple. As you emerge outside, you find that your guide is waiting for you. The transition from dark to light temporarily blinds you and your guide helps you along until your sight returns. Your guide takes you back to the door that you came through. You thank your guide and provide your guide with an offering. You then turn towards the door you came through and walk over its threshold when you are ready. When you walk through the door, you will have returned to your current time and place. When you ready, take  a few deep breaths and then open your eyes.

About Robin Corak
Robin Corak is the author of the forthcoming Moon Books Pagan Portals title “Persephone: Practicing the Art of Personal Power”. She has had her writing published in anthologies including “Goddess, When She Rules” and “Flower Face: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Bloduewedd”. Robin is a skilled tarot reader and Reiki Master and teaches classes on a variety of metaphysical and Pagan topics at the local and national levels. Passionate about helping others achieve their full potential, Robin is also the CEO of a large, non-profit social services organization in Washington state. You can read more about the author here.
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