Apollo’s Sacred Fire

It was the last day of  the Sacred War when I first lay eyes upon the Tagos. I learned that he had come with many horsemen under his command and – together with the hoplites of Cleisthenes – finally razed Crisa to rubble on the Earth. As the cursed polis burned, however, a band of the rebels somehow escaped and stormed up the winding road to Delphi, where they set about slaughtering the saints in their beds.

I was thirteen years old. The saint Timocrates, who escaped the fate of the others while he was tending the holy lantern in the Corycian Cave, snatched me from my chamber and took me for hiding to the secret place of dedication. I saw the fear in his eyes as he spoke. “I must protect the temple. You will remain here, still and silent as a statue, and pray that the God stays with us.”

Then he was gone, leaving me to cower like a new-born goat in the cold, dark place, my only comfort God’s eternal flame as I listened to the sounds of death and destruction crashing like cymbals on the ground above. I do not know how long I was there, only that I moved neither lip nor limb as instructed and hoped the God would protect us, seeing as all else had failed.

I occupied myself with continual prayers to the beloved Deity, King of Light, until I was deep in his hypnotic embrace and did not even notice that the sounds of death progressively ceased, though I knew from the changing light that the sun had risen. When, with an immense clattering of noise – blood splattered but gleaming – a great warrior entered into that sacred space, the first thought to enter my sleep-stilled head was that Apollo himself had come to claim me. So it was that I ran with outstretched palms and tears of joy, right into the arms of the Tagos, my hair flowing like golden rain behind me.

The saints who tutored me were not like this man, who came to me clothed with the sun. He was handsome as only the God could be, that I recall clearly. When I recognised his costume and saw the insignia of Apollo upon his breast I fell into a trance, as if I were already the high priestess. I do not remember if he said a word then, only that he looked at me with a strange light in his eyes as he carried me up to greet the new Dawn.

The Menace of Time at the Centre of the Earth

Once I was asked when he – Dionysus – first came here.

Who can say! I should laugh at such a question, for what is time? There are only hours of sun, seasons and days marked by the passage of the moon. Most severely have I been warned by the priests to never fall under the sway of time, because that would bring death to all prophecy.

Daily I am reminded that time is of no consequence, as fate unfolds precisely as the gods command it to and ‘when’ this occurs is immaterial, the potential for all action being present in every moment.

We are concerned here with what is infinite. “For this reason”, Timocrates informed me – quite pompously, in fact – when I questioned him on the matter, “the League has taken it upon itself to regulate all of the calendars throughout the civilised world in order to subjugate for perpetuity the menace of time at the centre of the Earth.”

For the sake of the initial inquiry, however, it was sufficient to say to say that Dionysus comes at first sighting of the Pleiades, accompanied always by Euterpe, whose hypnotic sounds will soar over Parnassus from flutes poised like spears of moonlight on the muse’s lips. What happens then, who can say? It is one of the mysteries we cannot share easily, for like dark and endless dreaming, memories of those days are like mist in the fire of morning.

Temple of the Sun

It was at some stage during the Sacred War, when I was 13 years old, that a renegade party of Crissan soldiers fled from the carnage on their shores towards Delphi, where they set about slaughtering the saints in their beds.

I was already in hiding at that moment, alone in the most secret of secret places.

While I devoted myself to private prayer in this deep underground chamber, by their screams and the quickening of my heart I knew that a band of furies was raging above me.  I pulled my veil close about me to ward off the chill of that cold, dark grotto, my only comfort God’s eternal flame.

I counted sincerely on his protection, seeing as all else had failed, and as the night passed I fell deeper and deeper into his hypnotic embrace. Silence fell in stages.


It was the gradual appearance of light – awareness of the sun rising  – that brought about my return to consciousness. This and some previously unheard noise.

The noise grew much louder until – with a clanging of metal, blood splattered but gleaming – a great warrior revealed himself at the entrance of the cave.

I turned around quickly, startled and more than a little afraid. He had his sword drawn and the scent of the battle was strong, but I at once saw the insignia of God upon his breast. A glimmer of hope alighted on me like gold dust and grew with miraculous speed; in the blink of an eye I knew that my prayers had been answered and Apollo had come to my aid.

I arose and turned to face him, with palms outstretched in supplication, reciting a prayer of thanks for deliverance against the enemy.

He pointed the sword in the direction of my heart and addressed me in a cool voice. “Are you a Cretan maid?”

I shook my head and a look of what appeared to be relief crossed his face. As I stepped closer it was replaced by one of wonder and his eyes twinkled like stars in the half-light. Softly, he said: “Where are you from then child?”

I lifted my veil. “The Temple of the Sun, my Lord.”

He crouched down on one knee and scrutinized me with an air of fascination. Gently taking the weight of my hair in his hands, he spread his arms to measure the golden sections and then opened his fingers so it fell like skeins of silk around my shoulders.

My eyes rolled upwards of their own accord, and a split second before I fainted, he breathed between the parting of my lips.