Delphi and Ithaka:a spring pilgrimage

by Venetia Kapernekas

photo @VK Feb.24th,2017_ 10 am

 

Departing Munich with my daughter that rainy morning on February 23rd and arriving to Athens on sunny afternoon and  driving directly  to Delphi it was  indeed a pilgrimage to Light.

Delphi was an important ancient Greek religious sanctuary sacred to the god Apollo. It is located on Mt. Parnassus about 178km northwest of Athens

Delphi at a very early stage was a place of worship for Gaia, the mother goddess connected with fertility and also home to the panhellenic Pythian Games.  The sanctuary was home to the famous oracle of Apollo which gave cryptic predictions and guidance to both city-states and individuals.

Architecture: The first temple in the area was built in the 7th century BCE and was itself a replacement for less substantial buildings of worship which had stood before it. The focal point of the sanctuary, the Doric temple of Apollo, was unfortunately destroyed by fire in 548 BCE. A second temple, again Doric in style, was completed in c. 510 BCE with the help of the exiled Athenian family, the Alcmeonids.

The oracle of Apollo at Delphi was famed throughout the Greek world and even beyond. The oracle – the Pythia or priestess – would answer questions put to her by visitors wishing to be guided in their future actions. The whole process was a lengthy one, usually taking up a whole day and only carried out on specific days of the year. First the priestess would perform various actions of purification such as washing in the nearby Castalian Spring, burning laurel leaves, and drinking holy water. Next an animal – usually a goat – was sacrificed. The party seeking advice would then offer a pelanos – a sort of pie – before being allowed into the inner temple where the priestess resided and gave her pronouncements, possibly in a drug or natural gas-induced state of ecstasy.( Mark Cartwright at Ancient History Encyclopedia) 

photo @VK Feb.24th,2017_ 11 am

“…The oracle of Apollo at Delphi was famed throughout the Greek world and even beyond. The oracle – the Pythia or priestess – would answer questions put to her by visitors wishing to be guided in their future actions. The whole process was a lengthy one, usually taking up a whole day and only carried out on specific days of the year. First the priestess would perform various actions of purification such as washing in the nearby Castalian Spring, burning laurel leaves, and drinking holy water. Next an animal – usually a goat – was sacrificed. The party seeking advice would then offer a pelanos – a sort of pie – before being allowed into the inner temple where the priestess resided and gave her pronouncements, possibly in a drug or natural gas-induced state of ecstasy.” (Mark Cartwright at Ancient History Encyclopedia)

The ancient theatre at Delphi was built further up the hill from the Temple of Apollo giving spectators a view of the entire sanctuary and the valley below ; photo@VK

  Archaeological Museum of Delphi, designed by Alexandros Tombazis, photo@VK

The site was ‘re-discovered’ with the first modern excavations being carried out in 1880 CE by a team of French archaeologists…all survive as testimony to the cultural and artistic wealth that Delphi had once enjoyed.

(from left to right): “Column of the Dancers “,the three  daughters of Cecropos, about 13 m_”Aghias”, son of Agonios, champion at many Panhellenic games in the 5th century BC _ the twin marble archaic statues – the kouroi of Argos (c. 580 BCE) and the marble Sphinx of the Naxians (c. 560 BCE), (in museum) ;photo@VK by permission
splendid metope sculptures from the treasury of the Athenians (c. 490 BCE) and the Siphnians (c. 525 BCE) depicting scenes from Greek mythology ; in museum , photo@VK by permission

Staying in Delphi for 2 days, we continue driving to Astakos to catch the ferry for Ithaka.. An incredible island this time of the year  as the spring arrived early.  The island has been inhabited since the 2nd millennium BC. It may have been the capital of Cephalonia during the Mycenaean period and the capital-state of the small kingdom ruled by Odysseus. The Romans occupied the island in the 2nd century BC, and later it became part of the Byzantine Empire. The Normans ruled Ithaca in the 13th century, and after a short Turkish rule it fell into Venetian hands (Ionian Islands under Venetian rule). more here… 

I rest for a moment on the  poem “Ithaka” by C.P.Cavafy, 

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard (C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

We stayed for a week at the most beautiful yoga retreat in Greece and beyond. http://itha108.com/gallery/

Ana-Nefeli saving a 3 week baby goat from the sea

Megaro Drakouli at Vathi

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