Pythia's Departure Analysis

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There is no more controversial and debatable issue than the one dealing with the way the Pythia was inspired to give prophesies. As Scott mentions, before the fourth century BC, there is no source describing how the Pythia prophesied, apart from references that she was sitting on her tripod, from which she uttered βοαί (cries/songs). From the fourth century onwards, some ancient authors mention her shaking a laurel branch, but perhaps this was aiming more to purify than to inspire her. Sometimes she is presented as seated on her tripod, inhaling the vapour coming out of the chasm, while other sources describe her as entering a cavern and going to encounter the vapour. Both these descriptions seem to be an interpretation of a general idea about the prophetess, dating back to the late fourth century BC. Many different opinions have been presented both from ancient sources and modern scholars; opinions that are on a dispute and make modern scholars want to investigate the issue even more. For instance, Oppé in 1904 claimed that the entire consultation process involving the Pythia’s trance was fake, a sham, put on by the priests of Apollo. But let us analyze the different…show more content…
If we accept that a previous bacchanal worship existed in Delphi, the image of the raging Maenad fits perfectly with the image of the frenzied and uncontrollable Pythia. For her, the trance of the Pythia is explained in the context of spiritualism and spirit possession. As she puts it, «I will use the term ‘spirit possession’ to mean any altered state of consciousness, where the behaviour of an individual is markedly different, though in a stereotypical way, from his or her normal behaviour, and hence is indigenously interpreted as the influence of an alien spirit, where 'influence' may be variously defined.» This is how she describes the Pythia’s reaction when inspired; the Pythia was possessed by

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