5 facts behind the mythical, mystical power of the Oracle at Delphi stack up for today’s Burger Bite.
- After a century of debate, scientists in the 1980s confirmed ancient accounts of two converging fault lines in the hydrocarbon-rich limestone beneath Delphi capable of releasing ethylene gas that could explain the trance-like states of the Pythia (the Delphic oracle).
- While ethylene gas, first used as a surgical anesthetic in the 1920s, is capable of inducing unconsciousness, altered states, or incoherent speech, the side effects can be horrific – including crippling seizures and death.
- Due to the hazards of their duty, the Pythias observed painstaking rituals of fasting and preparation prior to delivering oracles only on the seventh day of the nine warm months of the year.
- The often-long journey to Delphi, the ritualized preparation for inquiry, and the sparse ceremonial schedule held the supplicants at the Oracle for extended periods, giving the Delphic priests ample time to gather intelligence that could be used in the interpretation of their prophecies.
- Because Delphi was the most important cultural, religious and financial hub in the ancient Mediterranean, it’s been suggested that the “interpretation” of the nonsensical oracles was simply an astute analysis of history, current events, and human interest by the well-informed attending priests.
Chris Everheart is author of the YA thriller