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Delphi – Shamanism under Control?
Delphi – Shamanism under Control?

Author(s): Anna Judit Tóth
Subject(s): Cultural history, Ancient World, Sociology of Religion, History of Religion
Published by: Akadémiai Kiadó
Keywords: Greek religion; Delphic oracle; Pythia; shamanism; honey; poetic trance; Apollo; Hermes

Summary/Abstract: The assessment of the talent of the Delphic Pythia was ambiguous among Greeks. On the one hand, they emphasized the role of Apollo in the process, saying that becoming a Pythia requires no special ability or education. On the other hand, they admitted that the Pythia infl uences the poetic quality of the oracle. Despite the modern popular view, the Delphic oracles did not require a secondary phrasing by male priests. Pythias presented the oracles in their final form, but in verse or in prose, depending on the poetic talent of the seer. In my paper, I present arguments that the Greeks deliberately underestimated the Pythia’s own eff orts in order to hinder the formation of a spiritual (shamanistic) power which could have been able to overcome secular political power. The enigmatic character of the oracles served the same goal: to maintain the political independence of the Greek states. However, there are traces showing that divination originally had a close connection to poetic inspiration and that both had a slight shamanistic character. I highlight two motives: the existence of poetic as well as divinatory initiation and the role of honey, a food allegedly inducing trance.

  • Issue Year: 63/2018
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 197-208
  • Page Count: 12
  • Language: English