The numerous mystical ancient Greek sites located across the country are open to be explored, but can you truly unravel all of their secrets?
The Top Mystical Ancient Greek Sites
The origins of the word mysticism come from Greek roots. But what exactly is mysticism or the mystical? These words have come to be associated with superstitions, occultism, magic and irrational practices. Others say mysticism – at its core – is simply about the relationship of humans to divinity or deity.
Whatever your definition may be, the ancient Greek world was truly a mystical place. Here’s our pick of the top mystical ancient Greek sites where you’ll discover a world of priestesses, oracles and mysterious rituals.
The oracle of Delphi
Delphi was built on the slopes of lambent cliffs in the Peloponnese, a place known for its natural light and energy. It was considered the center of the earth by the ancients. First, it was dedicated to Gaia, the goddess of the earth. According to Greek mythology, that didn’t last because Apollo, the god of light, took over the site. Afterwards, Delphi’s oracle solidified its place as the holiest sites in the ancient world.
The oracle was a priestess called Pythia, and she was said to have inhaled ethylene gas and mutter words that would foretell the future. In fact, no major decision was made without consulting Pythia’s view. This was proved by the fact that dignitaries from Greece and around the globe made a special pilgrimage to the Delphi sanctuary, paying good money to be told of their futures.
The oldest of oracles in modern day Epirus
Just southeast of Ioannina, one of the most mystical ancient sites of Greece can be explored called Dodoni, known for the oldest Hellenic oracle. The oracle would observe the rustle of leaves on a sacred oak tree and how the birds would nest in the tree to determine the fortunes of visitors. Other natural sounds like the sound of spring waters could also affect what the oracles, both men and women, predicted. These women priestesses, called Pleiades, came to be at a later date. They were known to walk barefoot and slept on the ground in order to be closer to the earth.
Dodoni also has the remains a temple dedicated to Zeus and a 17,000-seat theatre that is larger than the one at Epidavros. Secrets still remain here, no doubt because of the ancient presence of the oracle.
A road to Elefsinian Mysteries…
The Elefsinian Mysteries were mystical rituals indeed. To this day, no one knows what the ancient Greeks were doing at Elefsis, a town just 14 miles northwest of Athens. The rituals that took place were so important at the time that the only road in all of central Greece was leading directly from Athens to Elefsis. The archaeological site and museum at Elefsis can be visited today.
The Elefsinian Mysteries are said to have been a cult like gathering to worship the gods Demeter and Persephone. Those who participated were promised a reward in the afterlife and sworn to never tell of the rituals performed. In fact, the rites and ceremonies were successfully preserved from antiquity. Clues have been taken from paintings and pottery art that depict some aspects of the ceremonies. Some scholars say the power and longevity of the Elefsinian Mysteries came from psychedelic drugs.
Kaviria mysteries on Samonthraki island…
The Kaviria Mysteries are considered of equal mystic importance when compared to the aforementioned Elefsinian Mysteries. On the Aegean island of Samonthraki, also known as Samonthrace, the mystical sight of Kaviria was unearthed in 1937. It is one of the oldest shrines in the Aegean Sea. It was where the famous marble sculpture The Winged Victory of Samothrace was unearthed. Today, the beautiful Hellenistic sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike (a name which means victory) is on display at the Louvre in Paris.
Back in ancient times, in Kaviria, the Kaviria Mysteries took place. What exactly happened during the mystical ceremonies are not completely known to this day. It is believed that the Kaviria Mysteries took place to honor the rebirth of nature and fertility of the land. According to legend, the ritual participants were women who could not conceive. However, after the rituals inside of the mystical sanctuary, they could become pregnant.
Have you ever heard about these mystical ancient Greek sites? Which one would you love to learn more about in person during a trip to Greece?