The Syllable “Delph”

The syllable delph/delphy/delphys means “womb”. That’s why the dolphin (Greek “delphi”), sea creature (the waters were associated with the amniotic fluid) provided with a womb, was seen by the Greeks as a symbol of the female principle and of the womb from which life is generated. Poseidon, if seen as the god of the “watery abyss of the sky” (the Universe), has the dolphin as one of his symbols, because the Universe is the eternal and infinite womb that contains all the forms of life that have been, that are and that will be, the womb from which new life is unceasingly and eternally generated.

Art from the Minoan civilization:
25-crete_2_fs

Tile from Ancient Greece:
11-il-ragazzo-sul-delfino

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Delphi (originally “Delphoi”), the Greek city in antiquity known as “navel of the world”, was mostly famous for the presence of the oracle of the god Apollo (that, by the way, had among his epithets the one of “Delphinius”, since in certain occasions he took the form of a dolphin, animal that was sacred to him), the Oracle of Delphi (the most important of the archaic Greek religion).

Ruins of the Oracle of Delphi:
delphi

Under the flooring of the oracular temple was located the Omphalos (“navel”), the sacred stone that indicates the center of  the world.

The Omphalos resembles a beehive with a web of bee symbols (the child who went inside the burial mound/beehive – bringing honey to face the initiation – and the sorceress/priestess who was inside it, were seen as bees):

We find here the same symbolism: delphi, the name of the city, means “womb”, and the city was defined “navel of the world” because the navel was archaically symbol of the labyrinth, i.e. the burial mound that represented also the “womb of the earth”. There is then a symbolical connection between the name of the city and its epithet.

Representation of an archaic labyrinth:
trojeborg_nordisk_familjebok

The Oracle of Delphi was originally a cave (the cave of the she-bear, later replaced by the burial mound), guarded by the serpent/dragon Python, or by the dragoness Delphyne (again a name connected with the ancient syllable meaning “womb”), as it seems from the most archaic version of the myth. The serpent/dragon symbolizes the umbilical cord, therefore, in the case of Delphyne, we would have a symbolism that includes both the womb and the umbilical cord. Python/Delphyne gets killed by Apollo (the divine child that accomplishes the rebirth ritual), who later creates in place of the cave the Oracle of Delphi, presided by the Pythia (the Priestess called “Delphic Bee”).

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The serpent/dragon is the obstacle that the heroes of the mythologies encounter during their search of the source of immortality (i.e. rebirth/reincarnation), and is often the guardian of the Tree of Life (i.e. the placenta).

The Cup of Hygieia and the Caduceus of Hermes/Mercury: both represent the Tree of Life, entwined with one or more serpents (that is, a placenta with the umbilical cord):
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placenta-cake-3785393372d4f249a14850c2639e9bb9a

Immortality (i.e. rebirth/reincarnation) is hard to obtain, and a necessary condition is always the reaching of an almost inaccessible place (that always symbolizes the realm of death, i.e. the grave/burial mound), where a serpent/dragon guards a tree whose fruits, or an object hanging to it, will grant immortality if obtained. The heroes of the mythologies must fight with the serpent/dragon, and prevail, to get access to the tree. This fight must be seen as a test, as an initiation ritual. We can find a scheme of this type in numerous myths, like the one of Jason and the Golden Fleece, the one of Heracles and the Golden Apples of the Hesperides, and the one about Adam and Eve in Paradise.

Heracles fights against Ladon, the serpent/dragon that protects the Golden Apples of the Hesperides:
herakles_ladon_staatliche_antikensammlungen_sl89

The fight of the hero with the serpent/dragon isn’t always of the physical type, and sometimes the hero is defeated: the myth of Adam and Eve and the myth of Gilgamesh prove it.

Gilgamesh, after the death of Enkidu, decided he wanted to obtain immortality: he headed toward the dwelling of Utnapishtim, a man to which the gods conferred the gift of immortality. Gilgamesh overcomes every obstacle and meets the wise old man, but fails the tests that the latter imposes on him. Gilgamesh definitely wasn’t worthy of the immortality of the gods. At that point appeared the wife of Utnapishtim, who convinced her husband to reveal the existence, in the bottom of the ocean (the amniotic fluid, the waters of death), of a plant full of thorns, difficult to access. That plant would have extended indefinitely the youth and the life of those who would have eaten it. Gilgamesh manages to obtain it, but during the return to his own land he stops near a water source and meanwhile a serpent approaches and grabs the plant, renewing its skin after eating it. Gilgamesh, as Adam and Eve, has lost his immortality as a result of his naivety and of the astuteness of a serpent.

The snake steals the plant of immortality from the hand of Gilgamesh:
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Note: we should not forget the other symbolism related to the serpent/dragon, that is the figure of a serpent/dragon that eats its own tail, also known as Ouroboros. This figure expresses the concept of cyclical eternity, infinite time, circularity without beginning or end and eternal rebirth.

Egyptian art depicting an ouroboros, maybe to symbolize a womb:
1d7e526628689252e669ad39bad8c050

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The Omphalos (“navel”) could therefore be a womb during pregnancy: it has a central opening which widens towards the base (vagina-womb during pregnancy) and has engraved on the surface a knotted net, the net that “imprisons” the child to the mother until birth, or better the umbilical cord that “binds” the placenta to the fetus, through the navel (“omphalos”).

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7 thoughts on “The Syllable “Delph”

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