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Greece

The Oracle of Delphi

The hallucinogenic center of the ancient world. 

For ancient Greeks, Delphi was the center of the world: a site sacred to the god Apollo, where all Greeks united to worship. But at its heart was a dark, strange place: the mysterious sanctuary where the priestess of Apollo prophesied.

The priestess, called the Pythia, sat above a chasm in the earth, which belched forth fumes. She breathed deeply – some believe that the fumes possessed hallucinogenic properties - and slipped into semi-consciousness. Her prophecies were opaque, often frantic. This was the Oracle of Delphi: the Greeks’ most famous and most feared window into the will of the gods. It lay in “a cavern hollowed down in the depths” of the hillside, as the historian Strabo reported, underneath the great Temple of Apollo.

Today, the ruins of the Temple sit on the slopes of Mount Parnassus. It was destroyed by the Emperor Theodosius I, in 390 CE, in an attempt to eradicate the old pagan beliefs. Few traces of the Oracle remain, but the site is still an eerie one: mist clings to the hills, and you can almost hear the ghosts of Croesus, Nero, and Alexander.

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