|©Filidoro & Penco|
A woman sits on a three-legged stool, with mist around her feet. She wears a diaphonous dress that leaves one breast uncovered, and a gold and jewelled necklace. Her arms are raised, and we cannot see her hands. What we do see is a crowd of people watching her, and a stone edifice all around, with a couple of candles shedding light behind her.
The Oracle at Delphi, often called the Pythia, was the most renowned prophesier of the ancient world. Many ancient Greek tales tell of her being consulted by the rich and famous, kings and the like. She is most famously described as the priestess of Apollo, but I have read in several sources, including here, that she was first priestess to the Goddess, and only later taken over by Apollo's cult. Later, Christian, writers, portray her as crazed by volcanic fumes and speaking gibberish "translated" by a male priesthood, but that isn't the impression given in original Greek texts.
What has she to do with the Eight of Swords? Well, certainly in a number of Greek myths her prophecies acted as mental traps for people. For example, in the case of Oedipus, because people believed her prophecies they acted in ways that were unusual, and actually made them come true. A father abandoning his first-born son to die, a prince leaving his home fearing he would commit atrocities.
In terms of the image, the priestess herself was in some ways trapped by convention. As the priestess at Delphi, she had to fulfil her role, unable to leave and live a normal life. Once again, trapped by social expectations and her own ideas.
What role do you feel duty-bound to fill? How might your ideas be limiting you? What do you gain from staying within the framework you have established for yourself?