Friday, May 11, 2012

Road Babe Dispatch From Delphi Greece

We take an early bus to Delphi. It’s a pilgrimage many have made before, to the belly button of the earth and the oracle of Apollo. We pass through undulating mountains carpeted with green moss. The closer we get the thicker the air gets, weighted down with water particles until it becomes a visible fog. This condensation becomes a condensed sensation, pouring in streams through the open bus windows.

I sit behind the driver, watching the curvy road roll toward our destination. Im expecting a haggard oracle bent over a fissure of steaming liquid and can think of little else. Mother asks, “So this is a temple for Apollo?”

After three hours, we arrive in Delphi then climb the winding walled path leading to the platform of columns. I’m imagining where the eagles landed together on the tawny cliffs of Mount Parnassus, where only vultures circle now.  Each wall is hand-fitted with interlocking stones like a cobbled jigsaw puzzle. We see only the remains of a hollowed out egg, once even more glorious.

Mother asks, “So what’s the story?” while examining a rock wider than her arm-span.

“Apollo was a god for lots of things: art, athletics, medicine and prophecy. He predicted the future with an oracle.”

“What oracle?”

“An old woman priestess called a Pythia, who could project her soul to the domain of the gods and ask questions. Her body could also be inhabited by the gods to give an answer. She lived here.

The sky drapes a warm blue shadow over the ivy-covered walls, consisting of crumbled once-ribbed stones. There are deeper shadows on the path. We walk toward the grey columned platform, hosting stacked cylindrical sections that look like balanced peaches.  

We enter the semi-circular stone amphitheater, where tall skinny shrubs rise around us. I explain, “The Pythia would breathe in a toxic liquid that would put her into a trance. Legend says the liquid was the decomposing body of Apollo, who had fallen into the cracked stone.”

My imagination strolls in the past: fumes rising from a chemical stew passing underground, a prophetess in her sanctuary inhaling deeply then speaking in riddles.

“I’ll tell you,” mom says, “these stories are interesting, but they just don’t make sense.”

It’s funny how significance to one is nothing to another. Or stranger yet - how we're often rooted in the same imagery but give it vastly divergent interpretations. Perhaps, the collective aspect is buried under social conditioning. Im quite drawn to Apollo. I’m drawn to the roots of inspired images. They come to me unrequested, a neuron rush in my sleep or a daydream in my waking haze.

On the way home, our bus stops in a small town named Arapahoe, where we eat snacks and look at handmade rugs they’re famous for. I care nothing about rugs, because my thoughts are elsewhere.

I wanted to see the oracle. It’s an image I can’t escape. The gifts I’d offer couldn’t compete with the sacrifices of the past. Would I even be admitted? What would she tell me? Would she hiss from her tripod, sucking the rising plume? A vision spoken in tongues, shrouded in grey by the flickering light.

Mittie Babette Roger is from Louisiana but lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. She received an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Naropa University and authored the book It's Better to Visit the Shaman Without Questions to Ask. She travels the world volunteering to help disadvantaged children and promoting Blue Iguana Tequila to empower serious drinkers.


  1. My aunt and uncle have visited there. It's a place I'd first heard of reading about mythology, and one of the places I do have to see for myself. Thanks for posting about it!

  2. Thanks William. I'm glad you liked it and yes, it's a must-see!