This year I travelled to Greece, Malta, Italy, and Turkey, seeking Goddess in archaeological sites and museums. Over six weeks, I walked the streets of ancient cities, stood in caves and megalithic temples, and sat quietly with the Grandmothers . .
On my second day in Athens I visited the wonderful National Archaeological Museum.
Then I caught a bus to Delphi, drank from the Castalian Spring, walked down to the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia, climbed the paths of the Apollonian Sanctuary, marvelled at the grandeur of the mountains, visited the Delphi Archaeological Museum, and descended into the Corycian Cave.
Located before the main site, Athena Pronaia was the gateway to Delphi. The temple site has been occupied since the Neolithic Period (5000-3000 BCE), predating Delphi as a sacred place. Originally dedicated to the worship of an Earth Goddess, the shrine was eventually occupied by Olympian deities, Athena in particular. Excavations have revealed that the Delphi site was a Mycenaean village from 1500 to 1100 BCE, with an oracular cult of the Earth Goddess. Around 1000 BCE the worship of Apollo became dominant and the site achieved Panhellenic fame as a major oracle shrine by the 7th century BCE. I visited with the Mycenaean Grandmothers in the Delphi Archaeological Museum.
The Corycian Cave lies 18 kilometres north of Delphi on the slopes of Mt Parnassus. I went down into the Cave alone and sat in the deep silence with the huge Grandmother stalagmites that have been shaped drop by drop over millennia . . .
The Cave is said to be sacred to Pan and the Nymphs, but it may be the original, ancient place of the Delphic Sibyl before the Apollonian takeover.
Michelangelo represented the Delphic Sibyl on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican in Rome. He also painted four other Sibyls alongside the Old Testament prophets. What was he thinking to paint five strong, pagan women on the ceiling of a Christian chapel? Convention says the Sibyls are there because they prophesied the coming of Christ, but I think Michelangelo was making a statement about the value of the old religions. As a young man, Michelangelo encountered the Florentine philosopher, Marsilio Ficino, who has been described as a Pagan who only pretended to be a Christian.
To be continued. Read Part 1.