Bringing Europe Home

The Oracle of Delphi

What to do, what to do?  That seems to be the persistent and universal question that we humans share.  The ancient Greeks had a singular method for making decisions:  they consulted an oracle.

 What It Is

The term “oracle” refers to both the shrine where a prophet or prophetess channeled advice from a god, and to the prophet or prophetess who administered that advice.  The most famous of them all (in the ancient world and in the present day) is the Oracle of Delphi.  Her advice didn’t come cheap:  it could cost the typical Greek two days’ wages, plus offerings and expenses, to visit the Delphic Oracle, and the fee was much higher for representatives of State or government.

The impressive site included the temple of Apollo, a grand theatre, a stadium, a treasury, and the Tholos, and is one of the most important and visited archeological sites in Greece today.

The Delphic Oracle is situated on the hillsides of Mount Parnassus, not far from Athens, in a location that was considered by the ancient Greeks to be the center of the world.  Indeed, the site–encircled by mountains and overlooking a valley—has a distinct mystique about it.  When we visited, however, we were travelling from Corinth and made our way there via the narrow, winding roads along the sparkling blue waters of the Gulf of Corinth.  So, when we arrived at the ruins enshrouded by mountains, I couldn’t help thinking, “Hey, ancient Greeks!  This is a cool spot, but there’s such a better view just around that bend—why didn’t you build there?”  Yet, I know they had their reasons (mostly having to do with Zeus and a pair of eagles).

The Delphic Oracle hung out at the Temple of Apollo.  It is widely believed that there was a fissure in the rocks from whence hallucinogenic fumes emerged.  The prophetess, called the Pythia, sat on a type of throne above these vapors and served as a medium for the Greek god Apollo, while inhaling deeply (and I’ll bet that this was the best gig for a woman in ancient Greece).   She babbled in her hallucinated frenzy, and these mumblings were interpreted by a priest as direction or prophesy to those who came seeking advice.  So, the way I see it, it was ultimately that interpreter who directed the future of states and individuals.  Then again (and I research these things, you know), there are some scholars who believe that there were no vapors, interpreters, or unintelligible utterings at all, but that the Pythia was lucid and straightforward the whole time.  It remains an ancient mystery.

Bring It Home

And this brings me to a question:  how do you make decisions?  Do you seek counsel from a friend, a confident, a spiritual director?  Do you read the Bible or religious writings?  Do you pray for signs or guidance or for a path to be revealed to you?  Do you listen to your instincts, your gut, the ailments of your body..?

How do you hear the voice of God speaking to you?


  1. Wow. Great photos and words. The place is mystical and fascinating. Hope to follow in your footsteps and make my own pilgrimage – especially since it’s inspired blogs and stories of my own. I try only to make decisions in election years. Takes the pressure off and lets me have fun the rest of the time 😉

  2. Stunning pictures!

  3. Very cool. Greece and Italy are the two countries that I most would like to visit.

    • Thanks! And those two countries are well worth a visit!

  4. Hello Robin, great pictures, reminds me of when I was there some years ago. I thought it was an amazing place, but I reckon it was probably similar to a medieaval cathedral town here in the UK where folk would travel to to see a priest or a bishop, hand over some silver and walk away with a head full of answers.

    My decision making process consists of working out where I want to be, then working out how to get there, and then just going for it. All terribly simplistic really 🙂

    • Sometimes, where I want to be or where I want my kids to be doesn’t turn out–but then we end up at a better place, and I am grateful for that! But, where I want to be and where I feel led to be are often two different things, and it’s that “inner compass” that I believe is the Holy Spirit leading the way. 🙂

  5. Nice post! I was in Delphi years ago and found it to be an eerie mysterious place. I tried to envision what it looked like with the vapors rising from below. It doesn’t look like it has changed much. 🙂

    • Well, I’ll bet it has changed a lot more in the past 2000 years than it has in the past few years! I’m kind of glad we were there on an overcast day–it added to the ambience! Doesn’t seem like it would be the same in the bright sunshine. 😉

  6. a strawberry patch

    Beautiful photographs, first time I have ever seen a picture of Delphi! I let Scripture guide me in my decision making process and try to look at things from a big picture perspective- how will this affect me in 5 years, 10 years, etc. I have found it helps to get a “mountaintop” view of a situation!

    • That’s very nice, Strawberry. I also believe that the more familiar I am with Scripture and the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, the more clearly I am lead in my path and in my decisions.
      I’m glad you like the photos. I’m embarrassed to admit that I had not even heard of Delphi before we visited—it was my 13 year old son who told me about it and wanted it on our travel itinerary!

  7. TBM

    Love the shots and history. I could use an oracle. I’m horrible at making some decisions. And I’m not sure how I make my big decisions. I’m a thinker so I don’t normally jump into something. Then again, I have picked up twice and moved before visiting the place I was moving to. So I really don’t know how I make decisions.

    • So glad you like the shots and the history, TBM!
      And, I get it–I’ve got that “maybe I think too much” syndrome that Paul Simon sings about. There are so many decisions that I labor over and when I finally decide, it turns out to be awful (I’m referring to carpet and paint decisions right now. 😉 ). Still, it is intersting to see how our paths unfold, and I do believe that there is guidance in the big things, if we listen.

  8. Wonderful post with lots of great information and pictures. I often make decisions by comparing and weighing things logically. Does it make common sense? I also have a keen intution and I try to listen to that as well. Thanks for the post! 🙂

    • I’m glad you like the post. I do often make lists of pros and cons, etc., but the hardest thing for me is when two things size up about equally. And sometimes common sense doesn’t win out—that’s how we ended up moving to Europe! 😉
      It’s a gift to have a keen intution–I’ll bet that “Grandmother Wisdom” serves you well, too. 🙂

  9. Reblogged this on Romancing the Bee and commented:
    The Oracle has a bee connection, which I will discuss in my next post…

    • A bee connection! How fascinating–I can’t wait to read that post!
      Thanks for the reblog, Deborah. 🙂

  10. A wonderful post!! The Oracle also has a bee connection. I will reblog this and add upon it!!

    • Thank you kindly, Deborah. I’m looking forward to your additions. 😉

  11. It looks like a beautiful place. I guess you can’t argue with Zeus and a pair of eagles! Your posts are always full of such great information and beautiful photos! Thank you for sharing Robin! 🙂

    • Evidently, the Greeks didn’t argue. 😉 Still, there was a “middle of the earth” quality to the place (it’s just not where I would choose to build my summer home!).
      I appreciate your kind and encouraging words, Kerry. I always look forward to your posts, too. They are full of life, in all its precious details. 🙂

  12. Loved your post… the info and photos all wonderful. My decisions… well, I hate making decisions so I let things take their course quite often – or follow my instincts!
    I thought maybe you were going to suggest the Greeks should refer to their oracles regarding their economic crisis…? 😉

    • Thanks, Cathy! Funny you should mention–the first trackback (pingback? linkback??) that I included was a political cartoon in which the world leaders are visiting the Oracle of Delphi, and President Obama is asking, “Will Greece crash out of the Eurozone, oh oracle?” She responds by holding out her hand and saying, “That’ll be another 100bn Euros.”
      Generally, though, I’m trying to keep this site politics-free. I’ll save those discussions for my dinner table. 😉

  13. Smile. Your post is like a sign of my inner knowing. In 2001 I passed Delphi on my way from Athens to a place where psychological workshop took place (Family Constellation after B. Hellinger). I often know extremely fast, what to do. In other times I get a symbol or information which I recognize in its worth in the future. I learnt a lot in 2001 in Greece with consequences for my real life in 2012+

    • I’m so glad that this post made you smile!
      I met with a very wise nun for years, as my spiritual director, and she taught me to pray for signs when making big decisions. I do believe that God directs us in that way, often. And I am so often amazed at how instances that I considered “bad” turned out to lead to other situations which were ultimately for the best. So, I also enjoy looking at the value of present situation and recognizing how it came to be. Smile, back. 🙂

  14. Diana

    Hey Robina, loved your post. I traveled there years ago right after college, and I cannot find my pictures of my trip, so it was really nice to see these. Decision assistance? Any and all accepted–right now I’m flying by the seat of my pants! haha

    • Thanks, Diana! Glad these photos were a nice reminder for you.
      And, you always seem to be flying along in the right direction, to me. 😉

  15. Your photos are wonderful Robin, it looks like a beautiful place, full of atmosphere. I must admit, I get a lot of my advice from family and friends, and I’m very grateful to have it because other people can see a situation very differently from the way you see it when you’re in it yourself. However, I do also think that listening to your gut instinct is vital; I’ve had many experiences of not listening to it and regretting it, so now I try to listen more. How about you?

    • Thank you, Lorna!
      I do have many people that I go to for advice: friends, parents, spiritual directors, my husband. I agree, they can often see the “big picture” in a situation and can provide valuable perspective and insight.
      Sometimes, I do get a strong instinct to go in a certain direction, and I do believe that to be the voice of God, in a sense, leading me. I often pray for direction, and in time doors will open and doors will close, and a clear path is revealed.

  16. Those photos are beautiful. I’ve been to Greece but not to Delphi, I wish I’d had the time to go there. Next trip, for sure.

    I make my decisions in a lot of different ways, depending on the situation. Sometimes it’s a gut/intuitive thing, sometimes I ask for advice from a lot of people, sometimes I just roll the dice. I will say that the gut thing, when it happens, is rarely wrong. So there’s definitely something to that saying, “Go with your gut.” It knows!

    • I’m glad you like the photos, M. Weebles!
      Oprah Winfrey has said basically the same thing: “Ive trusted the still, small voice of intuition my entire life. And the only time I’ve made mistakes is when
      I didn’t listen.” So, you’re in good company. 😉
      (p.s. I know this because a friend gave me a subscription to O Magazine, and this particular “intuition” issue had a great recipe for strawberry/rhubarb/raspberry pie, so I was paying a lot of attention to it.)

  17. Lovely post! Brought back fond memories of our trip a few years ago!

    • Thank you, Madhu!
      What were your impressions of Delphi?


  1. Delphi «
  2. Myrtis: Celebrated ancient Athenian on view in Delphi « A different perspective
  3. Fault-y Prophet «
  4. Delphi: Goats to Gods «
  5. The Delphic Oracle And The Bees « Romancing the Bee

Your turn!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: