γνῶθι σεαυτὸν “know thyself” and μηδὲν ἄγαν “nothing in excess”
The two inscriptions at the entrance of the temple at Delphi
Greek mythology offers several origins for the Oracle, the fountain of wisdom and intuition at Delphi in Greece. One report is of a goat herder from Crete who lost one of his goats down a crack in some rocks; when he went looking for his goat he was filled with a powerful, divine presence, and could see into the past and future. He told his fellow villagers about his experience, and soon after many of the townspeople began visiting the area, experiencing trances and visions of their own. A shrine was created, and people began worshipping there at the end of the Bronze Age.
It became tradition for the villagers of the area to choose one woman from a group of priestesses to take up residence at Delphi and interpret the celestial muses. Eventually, she would speak as a liaison of the gods. Pythia was the name given to the first priestess who served as the Oracle at Delphi.
Pythia was considered the utmost authority in both political and religious matters. In an ancient Greek society then dominated solely by men, this was a significant feat! The Oracle answered questions from local townspeople, travelers, royalty, and academics on a wide variety of issues such as government, warfare, wrongdoings, law, and even personal matters.
Not much is known about the intimate details of Pythia’s life, or her death, and I find myself wondering about her personality, and the innermost workings of her mind. What did she think about her appointment of such authority? Did she even have a choice in the matter? And who – if anyone – offered counsel to her in her times of need? She was only human, after all. I think all women can find meaning in the myth of the Oracle and apply it to our own lives, for that is the ultimate purpose of myth. We can ask ourselves, who do we look to for council in our daily lives, and are we offering it to anyone? No one person is the source of all information, and so perhaps we can look to this mythology to remind us that combined, our collective wisdom is powerful and necessary. We can feel comfort in listening to and trusting our deepest intuition when we need vital guidance; because ultimately the Divine lives within us.