In Ancient Greece, the Delphic oracle, also known as the Pythia, was one of three priestess who served at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi. People would come from all over to ask the Oracle for her wisdom about important matters of public policy to personal affairs. The Oracle would also be consulted before any kind of important decision, including war or the founding of colonies. Priests and priestesses at an oracle spoke on behalf of the gods. The advice from the gods was usually so vague that it always seemed to be right. Other people from as far as Lydia, Caria, Rome, and even Egypt would send a representative to consult the Oracle. Eventually, the Oracle was placed under the protection of the Roman Empire for a short while to protect her from barbarians and thieves. However, the temple was eventually destroyed after years of war, earthquakes, and being burned by barbarians. The spirit of the Oracle of Delphi was passed on from maiden to maiden to continue to speak the prophecies of Apollo and Delphi in ancient times was considered the center of the known world, the place where heaven and earth met. In mythology, Delphi was the meeting place of two eagles, released by Zeus and sent in opposite directions. Where they met indicated the center of the earth. Delphi is known as the center of worship for the god Apollo, who embodied moral discipline and spiritual clarity, but even before the area was associated with him there were other deities worshipped at Delphi including the earth goddess, Gaea, Themis, Demeter, and Poseidon, god of the sea. By the end of the Mycenaean period, Apollo had displaced these other deities and became the guardian of the Oracle.
In Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, the origins of the Oracle of Delphi are shown. Originally, it was a spring that whispered the future to those who listen. The Greeks called it omphalos, meaning navel of the world since it was at the geographic center. The titaness, Phoebe, lived there and was the first to figure out how to hear the voices. When Zeus brought a flood to punish mankind, Gaea gave birth to Python to guard the cave. Leto, Phoebe's daughter, came looking for a place to give birth after Hera cursed her but Python chased her out. When Leto gave birth to Apollo and Artemis on Delos, Apollo decided to kill Python for what he did to his mother. He was successful and he threw the snake's body into a fissure to let its corpse rot and smell. Then Apollo took over the oracle and welcomed the priest and pilgrims back. A priestess referred to as the Pythia, named after Python, stood on a tripod stool next to one of the fissures that spewed gas and would always get riddles from Apollo.
In the Series
Much like how the gods would move with Western Civilization, so did the spirit of the Oracle. Human maidens who had the gift of clear sight could inherit the power and pass it on to another when the time came. This continued until the death of Maria di Angelo, a lover of Hades, right before the start of World War II. The Oracle had given the first Great Prophecy, claiming that a child of Zeus, Poseidon, or Hades would have to make a choice that would preserve or raze. Not wanting to take any chances, Zeus ordered that Hades two children, Bianca and Nico di Angelo, be sent to Camp Half-Blood to be trained. Hades however was mistrusting of his brother and asked Maria to follow him into the Underworld where he could protect them and that there wasn't much time as Zeus' deadline had already passed a week ago. Maria didn't believe the gods would be so cruel as to kill them and went upstairs to grab her purse. At that moment, Zeus sent down a bolt of lightning to kill the children. Hades managed to protect the children, but was not able to save Maria and cursed Zeus in his anger.
After Hades' children and Maria's body were taken away by the Furies, the current Oracle appeared before Hades. While Hades blames the girl for the death of his lover and threatens to destroy her, she counters saying the power of Delphi protects her and that she had warned him to hide the children sooner. Hades still blames her as this all came about because of her prophecy. The Oracle remains unflinching until Hades claims that even if he can't kill her, he can curse her. Hades then claims that as long as his children remain outcasts and he is forced to labor under her Great Prophecy, the spirit of the Oracle would never pass on to another host. Even after death, the spirit would never move on and would continue to speak prophecies until her body withered away to nothing but dust.
While the Oracle could no longer change bodies, after her death the only person to know this was Hades. Eventually, May Castellan attempted to take on the spirit of the Oracle of Delphi after she had been dead for over twenty years. While Chiron encouraged her, Hermes (her lover) protested against it as it seemed humanity had lost the power to hold the spirit. May however wanted to host the Oracle and pushed for it knowing the risks. The process didn't work however and May was cursed with horrible visions of the future about her son and small occasions where she would talk about his fate in a crazed manner. The body of the Oracle continued to remain in the attic and no one else was allowed to try and take on the spirit until Rachel Elizabeth Dare.
The Oracle of Delphi first appeared when Percy Jackson was told by Chiron to get a prophecy so he could go on a quest. Luke explained that there hadn't been a quest since his own quest two years ago failed. The Oracle had also told Chiron that Annabeth couldn't go on a quest until someone special arrived, leading Annabeth to think anyone new to camp could be the omen she had been waiting for.
Chiron told Percy to go get a prophecy from the Oracle as events were starting to become clear to him after he learned of Percy's parentage. Percy climbed to the Big House Attic and found the decomposing corpse of the long dead Oracle. However, when he asked her what was his destiny, the Oracle began to come to life and showed a vision of Gabe Ugliano and his friends playing poker as she spoke of a prophecy telling him to go west and face the god who has turned. While the last line of the prophecy made it sound like Percy would fail, Chiron told him prophecies usually had double meanings and to not dwell on them too much. As events unfold, Percy regularly looked back on the words of the Oracle as the events she spoke of began to pass.
While the Oracle doesn't appear, Clarisse La Rue is allowed to be given a prophecy by the current head of the camp, Tantalus. This is most likely, because Annabeth Chase and Percy devised the plan for a quest, and Chiron had been fired. Clarisse is given a quest to search for the Golden Fleece located in the Sea of Monsters.
When Percy returns to Camp Half-Blood after Annabeth had been captured by the manticore, he confronted the Oracle and asked her to give him a prophecy to allow him to find Annabeth. When she remained unmoving, Percy became angry, saying he would find a way to save her himself.
After a game of Capture the Flag between the campers of Camp Half-Blood and the Hunters of Artemis, a fight began between Thalia Grace and Percy. Before things could escalate any more, Percy calls off his attack when he sees the Oracle walking toward one of the Hunters, Zoë Nightshade. She gives the girl a prophecy in the vision of her maiden, Artemis, chained to rocks to find her and that she will only succeed if hunters and campers work together. After the Oracle became still once again, Grover and Percy were elected to carry her back to the attic. (Percy mentions "that probably doesn't mean they are the most popular.") Percy knocks her head, climbing the stairs back up to the attic and checks for broken bones.
Once again, the Oracle is not seen, but she gave Annabeth a prophecy so that she could travel into the Labyrinth and find the inventor, Daedalus. The prophecy told her that she would lose a love to something worse than death, and she avoided mentioning the last line when Chiron asked about it; claiming she had forgotten the line.
|“||I forsee the future. I cannot change it.||”|
–The old Oracle
When Percy returned to camp after spending some time with Poseidon in Atlantis, he gave Chiron the message that he was ready for the Great Prophecy. Annabeth Chase and Percy went up to the attic and Percy questioned why she was dead. Annabeth however held herself back and asked the Oracle for the Great Prophecy. Percy expected something amazing to happen, but instead Annabeth grabbed a small scroll from around her necklace.
During the events of the Battle of Manhattan, the powers of the Oracle called out to Rachel Elizabeth Dare, a mortal who could see through the Mist and who had helped Percy and Annabeth in the Labyrinth. She began having visions of the battle and flew to New York City during the battle to tell Percy he was not the hero of the Great Prophecy. She also has a vision about a drakon, saying that it was its destiny to only be killed by a child of Ares.
Percy also has several visions of the Oracle in the past, seeing how the spirit was trapped in her current body forever. He was also shown a vision of when May Castellan tried to take in the spirit, only for her to go insane when Nico had taken him to see her earlier before the battle. This curse is because of Hades, who had said, "I swear, as long as my children remain outcasts, as long as I labor under the curse of your Great Prophecy, the Oracle of Delphi will never have another mortal host. You will never rest in peace. No other will take your place. Your body will wither and die, and still the Oracle's spirit will be locked inside you. You will speak your bitter prophecies until you crumble to nothing. The Oracle will die with you!"
While Rachel talks to Hestia, Rachel finally understands her visions and had decided to become the new Oracle, making her unable to date and so she dumped Percy (even though they had never actually dated). After the battle, Rachel takes Percy's pegasus, Blackjack, back to Camp Half-Blood and takes on the spirit of the Oracle successfully. She then began to speak the next Great Prophecy for the entire camp to hear.
A new demigod named Jason Grace appears at camp, along with two others named Piper McLean and Leo Valdez. During the campfire, several campers asked Rachel, the new Oracle, if the events of the Prophecy of Seven were coming to pass. She says they are and began to repeat the prophecy, only for Jason to finish it in Latin, much to everyone's surprise. Rachel then began to speak a new prophecy to Jason, telling him to go and rescue Hera from a cage. After this, Rachel collapses, but a team that seemed to be prepared for this places a seat under her before she hits the ground.
After Gaea's forces took Delphi, the Oracle stopped working and Apollo and his children weren't able to foresee anything. At the senior meeting in Camp Half Blood, Clarisse La Rue blames Rachel Elizabeth Dare for not foreseeing the Romans gathering reinforcements. Rachel protests that she doesn't know what is going on in Delphi and if she could, she will stop it. Will Solace then agrees with her and tells Clarisse that his dad hasn't answered his prayers either and that although all gods have been silent lately, that this was not like Apollo to not answer his children and he didn't know what was going on at Delphi.
Apollo confirmed that he does not have absolute control over the Oracle or its prophecies. He oversees the Oracle, but does not always understand what the prophecy means nor does he always control when it is spoken. Prophecies are sometimes spoken whether or not Apollo wills it or even against his will.
While in the Labyrinth for the Three-Legged Death Race, Apollo and Meg McCaffrey wind up under Delphi and overhear a conversation between The Beast and Python about the serpent keeping the Oracle from seeing the future.
As mentioned about, Percy Jackson's Greek Gods reveals the origins of the oracle of Delphi. Besides that, the oracle appears several times to give the gods advice. Unlike the rest of the series, she tells all who ask what will happen in the future without any riddles.
Rhea first appears to it when her sister, Phoebe, had control over it, she wanted to save her last child from being eating by Kronos Alas, Phoebe had no advice to give her sister. Deucalion and Pyrrha encountered Delphi during the flood Zeus caused. She tells them: "When you leave this place, cover your heads and throw the bones of your mother behind as you go, and do not look back."
The oracle also appears in several chapters of Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes. There is a running gag in the book where she will end by saying "Thank you for your offering. Have a nice day".
She first appears when Acrisius asked why he couldn't have a son, she easily answers that it's because the son of Danaë, his daughter, will kill him and take his place as king. Then she tells Psyche's father that his daughter will marry a hideous monster and she must be placed on a high cliff. When Aegeus asked whether or not he can have a son, the Oracle told him to be patient. He must avoid all women until he reaches Athens, his son will arrive on his own will. Atalanta learns from the Oracle that her unavoidable marriage of a man will cause her to lose her identity. The Oracle tells Hercules that he must accomplish Eurystheus' labors to redeem himself for killing his family. When Pelias is told beware a man with one shoe, he ran out of the cave before the Oracle could wish him a nice day.
|“||I accept this role. I pledge myself to Apollo, God of Oracles. I open my eyes to the future and embrace the past. I accept the spirit of Delphi, Voice of the Gods, Speaker of Riddles, Seer of Fate.||”|
In The Last Olympian before Rachel Elizabeth Dare could take on the spirit of the Oracle of Delphi, she had to make this oath to Apollo. It can be assumed that all maidens who can see through the mist and with the gift of prophecy wanting to take on the Spirit of Delphi must make this same oath to Apollo. As Rachel said the words of the oath the green mist thickened and as she finished the mist enveloped her in a column and Rachel collapsed, the spirit either taking hold or not.
The Oracle has the power to speak the prophecies of Apollo. Also as shown before and after Rachel gained the powers of the Oracle, they are able to see the destinies of others. However, while an Oracle can see the future, they do not always remember what they have said while they are being possessed by the Spirit of Delphi.
The magic the Oracle uses to foretell the future originates from the earth at Delphi. If that magic is blocked, the Oracle, Apollo, and anyone who depends on them for the power of prophecy loses the ability to predict the future.
The Oracle is also protected from even the Gods, so much so that even Hades was unable to kill the Oracle though he could curse her.
Despite not appearing in the initial movie, the Oracle appears in the second installment of the Percy Jackson film series. She shows Percy the story of Kronos and sends him on his quest.
- Gaea was the first goddess to possess the Oracle of Delphi.
- There are four Oracles (but only Delphi is mentioned in the series), each belonging to a certain Titaness: the Oracle of Delphi was held by Phoebe (before passing it on to Apollo), the Oracle of Dodona was held by Reaha, the Oracle of Phthiotis was held by Theia, The Oracle of Trophonius was held by Mnemosyne and Themis shared the four.
- Its implied that the Oracle's powers are similar to the Three Fates.
- When a demigod goes to visit the Oracle, the experience is sometimes so traumatizing that they may return insane, go into a coma, or possibly die from the realistic images.
- The real-life Oracle of Delphi gave riddle-like answers, while in a trance, to the Ancient Greeks who asked her questions. It is theorized that psychedelic fumes from the Earth surrounding the woman might have caused her to go into a trance-like state and seem to be possessed by a god.