I go down my well.
This time is thick with muck, rotting things.
It foams with rancid matter.
The fetid detritus clears as I sink,
but then the liquid thickens like congealed blood.
Finally, I ascend and emerge sticky with gore.
My familiar is waiting for me.
I apologize for not visiting her more often.
She leads me to the World Tree.
This time it is up on a hill.
Its web-like branches fill the sky.
My familiar turns and leads me past the tree and into the almond valley of the Pythia’s Temple.
She flashes her tiny key and I realize I am holding my own.
I remember that at my last esbat I used a key as a symbol for the center of the circle, the self.
Maybe that’s what my temple key unlocks.
My familiar snarks,
“Now you’re getting smarter.”
I enter and the great python slides aside to let me enter the inner sanctum.
I greet her nose to nose and inhale her breath.
I cautiously step towards the dais and state that I wish to learn more about the oracle’s practice.
Are there any taboos I ought to observe? Tasks? Tools? Techniques?
a red cord,
a dry spring of wormwood smoldering as incense
appear in my hands.
My red robe is over my shoulders.
The Pythia instructs me to sit.
I close my eyes, clutch my cord, and perch on the high seat, then open my eyes.
Back in the world, I hear a plumbing pipe clang.
Oracle work is not a tap to turn on when you wish or to turn off when you choose.
I feel a drop of water fall on my face.
The visions come in drops or floods as needed like rain.
I feel the water of the bath ripple.
You must learn to be immersed. Be carried by the current of the flow.
I feel hot, cramped, and uncomfortable.
I ask if it is time to go.
The Pythia insists I submit to the water
and directs me to sink down.
In the world, I plug my fingers in my ears,
lay back, and sink further.
My head hurts and I feel feverish.
Does your skull hurt?
You must learn to unhinge it as I do.
Open up you head.
You cannot take small bites of the visions,
you will choke.
You must swallow them whole.
I think I finally understand.
I am permitted to go.
I turn back, unsure if I should leave an offering to the python.
I reach back and red rose petals spill from my hand.
I see that they and falling like drops of blood from a wound in my hand.
My familiar leads me back the way we came.
I open my eyes.
Just to clarify, this journey took place in the bath.
This journey was unusual because I was especially aware of certain sounds and sensations that either actually were or seemed like they were occurring to my body in the mundane world. Specifically, the sound of pipes and the feel of water. For the most part, I try to tune out those types of things. Usually, if something is too obvious to ignore, it becomes distracting and can break the trance. The fact that the sensations in the world were intimately related to the occurring events in the journey seemed to highlight the nature of trance being a lateral shift in consciousness rather than an outright change in consciousness like sleep or dream, for example.
In ancient Greece, “pythia” was the title given to the oracular priestesses themselves. In this text, I have used that title interchangeably with the word “python” to describe the snake spirit as a personification of the Delphic tradition.