First, some history: The version related by Hyginus says that when Zeus lay with the goddess Leto, and she became pregnant with Artemis and Apollo, Hera was jealous, of course, and sent Python to pursue Leto throughout the lands so that she could not deliver the twins in the sunlight. When Apollo was grown, he wanted to avenge his mother’s ordeal and pursued Python, making his way to Mount Parnassus where the serpent dwelled and chased it to the oracle of Gaia at Delphi; it was there that he entered the site where the Python lived and killed it with his arrows. The Greeks named this place Pytho, which refers to the rotting corpse of the slain serpent in the heat of Helios. Apollo placed his temple on this site and the Oracle, known as the Pythia, was his Priestess. Though little is known of how the priestess was chosen, the Pythia was probably selected at the death of her predecessor from amongst a guild of priestesses of the temple. These women were all natives of Delphi and were required to have had a sober life and be of good character. Although some were married, upon assuming their role as the Pythia, the priestesses ceased all family responsibilities, marital relations, and individual identity.
It has been some years since the Mysteries of Eleusis, as we portray them, included the Pythia. Those who have held this energy have seen it as both a blessing and a curse. She is filled with prophecy, intuition and madness. As a Priestess who has had the opportunity to hold the energies of Aphrodite, Demeter and Hecate at this festival, I have experienced a wide variety of energies. They can be so lovely and also so hard to let go of. I have chosen to not “draw down” or invoke the energies of the Pythia … yet. There is freedom in madness and the edge of the cliff is both tantalizing and wrought with fear, either way it can be difficult to step away. When it is time, I will open myself to the energies of the Priestess and not the slain serpent. I will allow myself to “figuratively” take in the vapors and chew the laurel so that I may gently connect with her wisdom.
Each role that a Priestess holds adds to her character. We do not always realize why the Goddess has called us to take on these parts. I do know that there often develops a relationship of caring between the Priestess and the part she carries. In the case of the Pythia that affinity is aimed at Apollo. She both loves and hates him. He is her savior and tormentor. The person playing Apollo this year is quite dear to me already; he represents a connection to something very precious that I lost. Therein lies the madness. Therein lies the joy and fear and the edge that I must be careful not to become too familiar with.
If you choose to visit Apollo this year you will also be in the presence of the Pythia. She can speak in riddles and seem vague; you may want to bring something to write down her offerings in case they are not readily interpreted.
May your journey to Eleusis bring you closer to what you need most to learn about yourself. My journey with the Pythia has brought me closer to understanding the events of my life and why they have unfolded as they have. I must face the madness as well as the fear and joy if I am to move forward into my ultimate destiny.