Tag Archives: Delphi

The Longest Day

Galaxidi Town Square ©2009 Charlene Nevill

Galaxidi Town Square ©2009 Charlene Nevill

When I told Socrates, my seatmate on the flight from London to Athens, that I was spending FIVE days in Delphi he was aghast. I explained that it was really only 4-1/2, but he refused to hear me. Having grown up in Livadeia, a small town between Delphi and Greece, Socrates had spent a lot of time in Delphi over the years, but never five days in a row. He assured me that I would be bored out of my mind after two days and suggested I take a day trip to Galaxidi, a village on the Gulf of Corinth below Delphi.

I was beginning to think a ‘day off’ might be a good idea. I’d visited the Sanctuary several times, I’d toured the museum, and I’d walked up, down and around every street in Delphi. Still reeling from my latest conversation with Source, I thought a day away might offer some perspective. And even though I had no great desire to see Galaxidi, visions of a stroll along the waterfront and lunch at a seaside cafe were playing around in my mind. But I wasn’t ‘feeling’ it. And instead of listening to my instincts, I listened to Socrates and made the trip anyway.

Nothing really horrible happened that day. But from the moment I arrived at the bus station that morning, I had a nagging feeling that this trip was not a good idea. And there were signs all along the way telling me it was a mistake. I needed to purchase a ticket but the bus station was closed. It finally opened just before the bus was due to arrive, but then the bus was 20 minutes late. A trip that would take 20 minutes by car took an hour and a half by bus, because we had to transfer in another town and wait another 30 minutes for the next bus. When I finally arrived in Galaxidi, I was famished. I found several restaurants along a small cove that vaguely matched the visions I’d been entertaining, but none were serving lunch. In desperation and after much gesticulating, I finally found one that agreed to serve something other than coffee.

As I sat alone waiting for my lunch, I thought of my college friend Patty. After graduating with a double major in French and German, Patty moved to Germany to teach English. I never really understood what happened, but one day after she’d been gone for a few months, I got a call from her mother telling me that Patty was back; she’d had a nervous breakdown and was in the hospital. I was in shock. Patty was not only beautiful and intelligent, but she was the happiest, most joyful person I knew. At the time I thought, if this could happen to Patty, it could happen to me. Now all these years later, I understood what had happened. She was away from home living in a foreign country for the first time. She was alone and she felt totally isolated. And that’s exactly how I felt as I sat there alone eating my Greek salad and drinking my white wine.

After I finished my lunch, I had another hour before the bus was due for Delphi. Sitting in the town square listening to the leaves fluttering in the breeze, I realized that there really was no reason for me to be here. I’d come to Greece for one reason only: to connect with my past. And I knew with certainty that I had no past in Galaxidi.

When I finally arrived back in my little room in Delphi that afternoon, I felt like I’d come home. And then as if on cue, I heard bells. I ran to my balcony and there right below me was a parade of GOATS! It was almost too much to be believed. There were black goats and brown goats, white goats with brown spots, baby goats, billy goats, goats with great curled horns, goats with beards, goats of all kinds and sizes, and they kept coming – walking, running, leaping and bleating with bells clanging. My wish had been granted. Perhaps there was a lesson here. Or maybe two. Number one: don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. And number two: listen to THE VOICE and follow it.

Goats in Delphi ©2009 Charlene Nevill

Goats in Delphi ©2009 Charlene Nevill


Strange Vibrations

On my first morning in Delphi, I woke up just as the sun was rising. Stepping out onto my little terrace, I saw a ghostly moon hanging above the valley and rays of sunlight touching the hills and olive groves below. Everywhere birds were calling out and singing their morning songs.

The Sacred Way ©2009 Charlene Nevill

The Sacred Way ©2009 Charlene Nevill

After breakfast at the hotel, I headed straight for the Sanctuary. I met few people along the way, but as I neared the site, I saw at least a half dozen tour buses and I knew it would be challenging to keep my focus in the midst of the crowds. I kept hearing ‘OMPHALOS, OMPHALOS’ in my head as I walked past the tour groups that had stopped along the Sacred Way to listen to lectures. Quickening my pace, I hoped they would be distracted long enough for me to have a few moments alone with the ancient stone.


Omphalos ©2009 Charlene Nevill

Standing with my back to the crowds, I held my hands about eight inches away from the stone’s surface, one on each side. Starting at the center, I felt an unmistakable throbbing sensation in both hands. Moving my hands up to the top, I felt nothing. Back toward the center, the pulsations began again. Then, squatting down, I held my hands near the bottom. Nothing.

I wanted to find a place nearby to sit and absorb these strange vibrations, but the crowds were advancing so I moved off and sat down on a rock where I could gaze at the pillars that once formed the entrance to the Temple of Apollo.

A group of seniors with an English-speaking tour guide stopped directly in front of me. Talking about the Temple as the place where the Oracle delivered her prophesies, she claimed that the Pythia, sequestered behind a curtain, did nothing more than moan and rant while the priests who had taken questions from the supplicants, would ‘interpret’ her hysterical incantations. According to the guide, the priests continually gathered knowledge of politics and worldly affairs from the pilgrims who passed through Delphi; she gave little, if any credit to the Oracle.


The Oracle at Delphi

I wondered where she had found her information. From my research, I understood that the priests at Delphi did, in fact, play a pivotal role in deciphering the Oracle’s prognostications. But from studying illustrations of the Oracle while in trance delivering her prophecies and from reading about these sessions, I hadn’t come across any indication of a screen or curtain separating her and her audience. And with Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle among the Pythia’s fans, it was hard to imagine that such a fraud could have been perpetuated successfully over the course of 1,200 years.

As the group moved on, my attention was drawn back to the Omphalos. I thought how strange it was to feel such a connection with this other-worldly object. But maybe it wasn’t so strange. In her book Messages from Spirit: The Extraordinary Power of Oracles, Omens, and Signs, spiritual intuitive Colette Baron-Reid talks about rocks as sacred sign-bearers. According to Reid, rocks and stones have life-force energy even though they’re inanimate. And as part of the metaphorical language of Spirit, they represent looking into the past for knowledge.

Well, that pretty much summed up my goal for this journey. The problem was that as hard as I looked, I didn’t seem to be any closer to finding my past. Maybe trying harder wasn’t going to elicit a response from Source after all.


The Oracle is In

Mount Parnassus ©2009 Charlene Nevill

Mount Parnassus ©2009 Charlene Nevill

Or is she? As I approached the sanctuary later that first afternoon, dark clouds framed the mountains as the sun cast the last rays of daylight over the ruins. Feeling a familiar clutching in my heart and my gut as I gazed at that mountain, I knew I’d been here before.

There were scores of people at the site from all over the world. I wondered if the news about the site’s closure had been as disappointing to them as it had to me, but I thought it unlikely that more than a handful had made the trip expressly to commune with the Oracle.

The Roman Agora ©2009 Charlene Nevill

The Roman Agora ©2009 Charlene Nevill

As I walked along the Sacred Way, I focused intently on every stone, every pedestal, and every column hoping to find some connections with the past. I continued to feel overwhelmed by the mountains that towered over the site; I knew they had something to tell me, but I had no idea what it might be nor how to find out.

Below the Treasury of the Athenians, I got my first glimpse of the Omphalos. Tears welled up and my heart ached with an unidentifiable sadness. I couldn’t ‘see’ anything, and I didn’t ‘know’ anything that I didn’t already know, but I was certain that this large, egg-shaped stone and I had a history.

Omphalos ©2009 Charlene Nevill

Omphalos ©2009 Charlene Nevill

Created to symbolize the center, or navel of the earth, the original Omphalos was kept in the Adyton, the inner sanctum in the Temple of Apollo where the Oracle made her prophesies. Delphic authorities had placed several replicas around the sanctuary to remind pilgrims of the site’s holiness. Judging from the appearance of this stone, it was very, very old, and assuming it hadn’t been moved, a multitude of supplicants had passed it as they made their way to the Temple with their queries.

Because I wouldn’t have the opportunity to get close to the Adyton, I vowed to spend time with this strange artifact during the next few days and ‘feel’ its energy. Maybe it, too, had something to tell me.


Source Throws a Curve

View toward Bay of Corinth ©2009 Charlene Nevill

View toward Bay of Corinth ©2009 Charlene Nevill

I am off to Delphi at last! Even though I hadn’t studied up for my brief stay in Athens, I had read so much about Delphi and watched so many video clips about the sanctuary, not to mention two History Channel videos on the Oracle, that I felt like I’d been there already. But wait! Maybe I had . . .

During the three-hour bus ride, I stared out the window watching for anything that might be familiar. After an hour, we were in the countryside passing fields of cotton, sorghum and olive trees. So far, nothing. But when we started climbing Mount Parnassus and I saw clumps of flowering herbs and a goat-crossing sign, I felt tears well up – a sure sign that I had bumped into something from another lifetime.

Steps to Apollonos Street ©2009 Charlene Nevill

Steps to Filellinon Street ©2009 Charlene Nevill

When we arrived in the tiny village of Delphi, it was apparent that there were no taxis. Having studied a map, I knew that my hotel was on the lowest of the tangle of streets that criss-crossed the mountain; I just didn’t know how to get there. So I set off on foot pulling my suitcase behind me. After asking three shopkeepers, I finally found one who was able to tell me that my hotel was at the opposite end of town and the only way to get there was down a series of stone steps. Another test. At least I was in better shape than when I’d arrived in Athens.

Checking in at my hotel, I was hoping for a room facing the Bay of Corinth. The woman at the desk assured me that because I was staying for five days, there was no question that I could have a room with a view.

©2009 Charlene Nevill

©2009 Charlene Nevill

When I entered my little room, sun was streaming in through French doors that led to a tiny patio with a marble-top table and a small chair. Looking down I saw a garden with a flock of chickens on one side and another garden with giant melons on the other. I took a deep breath and thanked the gods for this little piece of heaven.

Speaking of gods, I was anxious to get to the sanctuary. I wanted to walk the Sacred Way through the Agora, and past the ruins of the treasuries that once held offerings made by Greek city states to Apollo. But most of all, I wanted to visit the Temple of Apollo where a succession of Oracles in rapturous union with Apollo advised a steady stream of kings, philosophers, and ordinary citizens on everything from wars and affairs of state to personal matters over a period of 1,200 years.

On my way out, I stopped to chat with the proprietor. “You know, the site is closed,” she said. “WHAT?” I squealed. “I’ve traveled half way around the world to visit the Oracle.” “You and everyone else,” she said.

There was a map of the site on a bulletin board showing that only half the site had been closed. But of course, it was the top half where the Temple of Apollo was located. It seems there had been a rock slide ten days earlier and there were no plans to re-open that part of the site any time soon.

I hadn’t forgotten Angelika’s advice about the possible disruption of plans, and here it was – the ‘unexpected development’. Incredulous yet undaunted, I told myself, like Avis, I would just have to try harder.

Great Expectations

“Man cannot discover new oceans until he has courage to lose sight of the shore.” – unknown

Delphi ©2007 Leonidtsvetkov

Delphi ©2007 Leonidtsvetkov

In anticipation of my departure, I’ve been experiencing a myriad of emotions, mostly fear and sadness. The fear no doubt is related to that chat I had with Source a while ago about being tested on this journey. And my clairvoyant friend Angelika warned me when this trip was just a fantasy that I could make all the plans all I wanted, but Spirit would have final say in the way things would unfold. And the sadness? Well, I have a premonition that nothing will be the same when I return.

But according to writer, teacher, travel leader, and documentary filmmaker Phil Cousineau who has been on the road all his life, this is exactly what can be expected when one sets out on a soulful journey. In his book, The Art of Pilgrimage, he recounts innumerable stories about pilgrims, sojourners and explorers who have traversed the globe throughout the millennia.

Siting Muriel Rukeyser’s essay, The Life of Poetry, Cousineau compares the fear of soulful travel to resistance to modern poetry. “A poem invites you to feel. More than that: it invites you to respond. And better than that: a poem invites a total response. So too with powerful and soulful travel. It seizes your imagination, but the way through to the sacred moment can also be through deep anxiety about the unknown. The possibility produces fear in many travelers, even at the threshold of their own door before leaving home.”

What am I expecting to find at Delphi? If given the choice, I would wish for a transformative experience analogous to that of Henry Miller, who was so moved by his travels through Greece that the account of his journey, The Colossus of Maroussi, “streamed from the heavens” straight into his soul. I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.

So, I am off at last. I leave today unfettered and untethered, so you won’t see anything from me until I return mid-October. In the meantime, don’t forget to look for the Harvest Moon this weekend. God willing, I will be viewing it rising above the Acropolis.