In the center of the world, at a place where roads crossed, the intersection of two fault lines enter into one another, symbolizing the union of opposites, a fissure opened into the black depths of the earth. Water flowed from the Castalian spring revealed by the fissure. These waters carried the sacred understandings of the mother, the beginning of all things. This place was called Delphi (Delphhoi), the womb, and in its cave sanctuary lived a shamanic priestess called the Pythia—serpent woman. Her prophetic power came from a she-dragon in the Castalian spring, the unconscious psyche, the evanescent unconscious which she brought into the light, providing the original moment of suture between what lay in the dark and the unknown and what is illuminated by the sun, by consciousness.
The chthonic Python, Pythia was vanquished by the sun-hero Apollo. He demonized the she-serpent (as told by Homer, in his Hymn to Apollo) and separated her from the waters of the shrine whose guardian she was. He violently seized the sanctuary and created a shrine to himself. His seizure was accompanied by rape and murder and thus power, and dominance was introduced. With this conquest, the unconscious feminine descended deep into the earth and disappeared. Now, there was only one element, the bright sun, and consciousness. It is said, that the Earth, however, struck back, sending up dreams from the deep, “which revealed unto the city of mortals, the past and the future,” preventing the she-serpent’s voice from being permanently silenced. (Dempsey, 21)
With this Apollonian victory, conquest, colonization of the other replaced dialogue; hostile take-over replaced union; rape replaced conjunction—the transformation of consciousness by the unconscious.
We are now left trying to re-create this space of reflection, the space where consciousness is enlarged through its relationship with the unconscious, the space where heart and mind meet and transform one another. Every now and then we are blessed to hear the voice of the chthonic feminine again. Sometimes a man speaks it, a man who is gifted with holding the opposites, a consciousness informed by its unconscious opposite. In this case however, the perfect voice emerges, the voice of the cast aside, devalued feminine, comes back to haunt us with its numinous truth.
I count the grains of sand on the beach and measure the sea
I understand the speech of the mute and hear the voiceless
—Delphic Oracle (The Pythias and other prophetic women)
By Joan Golden-Alexis, Ph.D. is a Jungian psychoanalyst and psychologist