Monday, May 28, 2012

Goddesses in the Dirt: Athena, the Round Temple, and Me

Unearthing the Divine Feminine, one archetype at a time...


Ever since I was a young girl, I have been attracted to round temples. And I have had the pleasure of visiting one of the world's most famous round temples on many occasions - the temple of Athena Pronaia, which is the gateway to the sanctuary of Delphi in Greece. The word pronaia means entrance, and the temple is the first place worshippers would come before entering the precinct. Athena means wisdom, and as the guardian of the feminine principle, it is through her that the veneration of the ancient Earth Goddess and the feminine archetype itself was brought from prehistoric times into the Classical period of Greece.


Delphi began as a small Mycenaean community in the 16th - 12th centuries B.C. with an oracular cult devoted to worship of the Earth Goddess. Around 1000 B.C. a new god was brought in by invading tribes and Apollo became the main god of worship. Yet the need to consult the oracle remained a key reason to visit Delphi throughout antiquity.


The ancient Earth Goddess cult on which the site was founded remains alive in the round temple. Delphi is the site of the omphalos, or 'navel' of the earth. The circular building (known as a tholos) was thought to be adorned with Corinthian capitals in the temple's interior. Standing in the center of the columns, all capped with the distinctive leaf-adorned capitals distinctive of the Corinthian style, was possibly meant to recreate the sacred forest glens of the Earth Goddess cult.


The architect Vincent Scully has been quoted as saying, "the omphalos, or navel, which was supposed to mark the center of the world, was kept in the sanctuary of Apollo's temple itself (in the center of nearby Delphi), but the tholos of Athena's sanctuary more clearly seems to evoke the navel of the earth than does the other building there."


I could tell you that the tholos was built around 400 − 375 B.C. and was constructed of Pentelic marble. I could tell you that it is 13.5 meters in diameter and consisted of twenty Doric style columns on the outside of the structure and 10 Corinthian columns lining the inner circle. The archaeologist in me recounts the facts and history of ancient sites. But on her first visit to Delphi, the girl in me felt a visceral connection to this terrain. I have no facts for that, no logic. In this place, at the intersection of Apollo and Dionysus, facts and logic give way to mystery and unknowing.


I remember the first time I saw the temple. I was traveling through Greece with my parents and sisters. This hillside location was formidable and awe-inspiring, and I knew in my bones that this place was sacred and powerful. This image captures the moment, my mother looking at the camera, my father staring off into the ethers, like Apollo surveying his kingdom. And me, a young girl in a red sundress, on my way down the path into the valley below, in search of whatever mysteries awaited me in the Greek landscape. There would be many in the decades ahead, and a small round temple lying just off in the distance would only mark the beginning.


27 comments:

  1. A totally awesome post, dear Amanda. I know the visceral connection of which you speak. I often feel myself, in places of power and mystery.
    PS I would have loved to see that pink scooter ;)

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    1. thanks loree - i don't know if i could choose between lavender, pink or turquoise!

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  2. Such a wonderful post. I can understand your visceral experience of the place; that has happened to me to (but not there).

    The "intersection of Apollo and Dionysus" would also be a place of incredible energy for devotees. Apollo, god of light and the sun, prophesy and truth, healing and plague, archery, music, visual art, poetry connecting with his half-brother, Dionysus god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy would made the place "interesting" (to put it mildly).

    Thanks for another great story. But a long stretch from the divine feminine, it seems.

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    1. i would enjoy learning what landscape has inspired you in this way.

      no stretch, in my opinion. the site of an earth goddess cult and a temple to the goddess of wisdom are both manifestations of the divine feminine.

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  3. what history! yes, yes, of the temple, but more formidable (always for me) your history. and a photograph to mark it. how lucky for all of us.


    you speak of a visceral connection, the lack of logic, the birth of mystery and unknowing (closely related to knowing). this is where i know you. this is where i see myself reflected. this is where we are sisters.

    xo
    erin

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    1. heartily agree, dear erin. we are sisters navigating the birth of mystery. i like the sound of that ;-)

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  4. How marvelous to know what you were attracted to at an early age!

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    1. rosaria, don't you think we all know these things, as children? and then, perhaps along the way to adulthood, there is a forgetting and we need to reclaim that childlike fascination.

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  5. Although I've only seen the temples and countryside in pictures and the stories in print, I also feel an attachment to Greece. What a beautiful picture this is Amanda!
    I can look at pictures from Europe of castles, some of which I have visited, but have never been moved by them or any other place like I am by Greece. And I've never even been there. But, the temples, the Parthenon, the islands, the sky and water, and most of all the history, they send me there. Go figure.

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    1. sometimes i think places call us. and if it is at all possible, we should answer that call, because i believe there is something waiting there that we are meant to learn.

      i dearly wish for you to be able to visit greece, someday, rubye. you and this landscape already have a connection.

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  6. Amanda, I mentioned over at my place in response to one of your comments but just wish to reiterate, here. I am very interested in reading your memoir. You have led a life so filled with events, places and situations that need to be recorded and read by others.

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    1. thank you, dear suze, for these words. this gives me the motivation to move ahead with that project (already half done, but languishing...)

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  7. tuning in started early for you....true goddess material!....following the dusty path to your happiness and always following the clues.....i live by that!....

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    1. i know you follow your muse, sue. you must have 'tuned in' early to your goddess material as well!

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  8. I had the pleasure of visiting this temple on a recent trip to Greece and it is, indeed, a mystical magical place of power where the Goddess energy can still be felt.

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    1. lucky you, karen! one thing i want to do someday is to visit the source of the castalian spring near the site - it is supposed to be magical..

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  9. Hi Amanda..what a super-gorgeous post..I love everything that you share and the special photo at the end with you in the red sundress..how magical is that!Beautiful photos!I always had an affinity with Delphi (and the oracles/myths and Goddess stories, Pythia etc)..and named my horse after Delphi and also a band I was in many moons ago! Thanks for another beautiful adventure!
    Victoria

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    1. delphi is a fabulous name for a horse — and you were in a band also named delphi? how cool is that!

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  10. Oh my, Amanda, I can understand your visceral connection to this terrain. I'd think it would be hard to suppress those emotions. But what is even more of a wonder is that your connection, even at a young age, led you to a lifelong romance with unearthing mysteries. It's a fabulous story, and I so enjoy hearing more and more about it. :)

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    1. thank you jayne. while the memoir project is currently on the back burner, i hope to be sharing glimpses from it in future posts..

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  11. you may have already, but you should write a book about all this... Your attachment and description of your posts are so unique..

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    1. hi glenn - thank you for your kind words. i am writing a book and plan to share more excerpts in future posts~

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  12. What an incredible image, Amanda! (♥)

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  13. adelphia mou ~ Apollo and Athena together - the masculine and feminine conjoined - Delphi has been your place to conquer your fears and pull it all together...the heights and the depths have merged into safe ground...walk like the goddess you are.

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  14. Der Amanda, these images bring back memories of ruins of an antique city I once visited as a young girl while vacationing in Crete with my parents. I think it was called Lato. It was a stunning layout over a hillside with a gorgeous view of the landscape and with the azure blue Mediterranean in the background - we were the only ones there. A place of pure magic...
    xoxo

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