Sibyls: Wandering between gods and humans.

The Almighty with Prophets and Sybils. Pietro Perugino, 1500, Collegio del Cambio, Perugia


Priestess of Delphi (1891) by John Collier, showing the Pythia sitting on a tripod with vapor rising from a crack in the earth beneath her

Michelangelo‘s Delphic SibylSistine Chapel

These paintings are surely familiar to most of you, or especially for Jungians who seen and used them often. It’s also good to know who they were (for me at least!), and we can see how interesting their story is.

A Sybil is a woman who prophesied, while in a state of frenzy, under the supposed inspiration of a deity. In the Jewish sense of persons who felt themselves spiritually impelled to speak to the people in the name of God, prophets were unknown to the ancient Greeks and Romans, among whom prophecy was limited to the deliverances of the sibyls (σίβυλλαι). The ancient sources differ as to the number and nativity of these sibyls. Plato speaks of only one sibyl, while Aristotle and Aristophanes mention several, and Varro (in Lactantius, “Divinarum Institutionum,” i. 6) enumerates ten, including a number from the East.

Also, Cassandra might be a Sibyl. Both Cassandra and Laocoön warned against keeping the horse, in the legend of Trojan War . While Cassandra had been given the gift of prophecy by Apollo, and also cursed not being believed. I can still see her crying out: “Don’t bring the horse in”!

The sibyls were female prophets or oracles in Ancient Greece. The earliest sibyls, according to legend, prophesied at holy sites. Their prophecies were influenced by divine inspiration from a deity, originally at Delphi and Pessinos.

Let’s have a look at the Biblical sources:

Connection with Biblical Personages

The connection of the sibyl with Biblical personages appears also in a statement found in the extant collection of the Sibylline Books to the effect thatshe asserted herself to belong to the sixth generation of man and to be descended from Noah (i. 298), while in another passage she termed herself a virgin cf the blood of Noah (iii. 827). On account of these statements the Erythræan pagan sibyl was likewise said to be descended from the sixth generation after the Flood (Eusebius, “Constantini Oratio ad S. Coetum,” xviii.). The Hebrew sibyl was alleged also to have been the wife of one of Noah’s sons, and consequently to have been saved in the ark (Plato’s “Phædrus,” p. 244b, note).

Along according to Marie Louise von Franz, Dr Carl Gustav Jung says great advice about the Oracle of Delphi:

Even I stunningly found out that there’s a Persian Sibyl:

The Persian Sibyl. Michelangelo, 1508 – 1512, detail from the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Rome

From an interesting article, more here

And here, we can read more about this fascinating symbol, with great thanks.

By SearchingTheMeaningOfLife

Sibyls: Wandering between gods and humans.

Sibylla was the collective name of a class of divinatory women with great prophetic power who had no real blood relationship with each other but shared many characteristics. They were exclusively women who had the ability to predict the future with lyrics….
Unlike the Pythians, they were not part of a temple or priesthood.
They were usually wanderers, descended and acted in and from many peoples and cultures, and their prophecies were in the form of sermons. It is noteworthy that these prophetesses gave their prophecies without being asked by anyone and nothing have to do with any oracle. Then, the word Sibyl was to describe any woman with divination, who prophesied spontaneously, without being asked, when she fell into ecstasy, future events, usually unpleasant or terrible. As the ancient Greeks and Romans believed, this happened because they accepted the visit of a divine spirit.

When they gave their prophecies, they were in an ecstatic state, and the people believed that their words were the voice of God. Each Sibyl was believed to have had the prophetic gift from birth.

They considered it an existence between God and man. She was not immortal, of course, but her lifespan far exceeded
human standards. And as the usurper God Apollo held the lyre, so Sibylla held another stringed musical instrument; the samviki (a kind of triangular lyre). Sibylla’s contact with her uncle presupposed her virginity.

A Sibyl, as we said, was not in the service of any oracle and did not make her prophetic power a profession. So she could go from one place to another where she was worshipped as a divine figure, and this was a serious reason for many Sibyls to bear witness.

Each place she had passed, acted in and worshipped a Sibyl created her own Sibylline Tradition, which could not be identified with the similar tradition of another place. So every place that had a Sibylline tradition believed in its own Sibyl.

The main difference between the Sibyls and the prophets of the various oracles is that the latter, such as e.g. Pythia in the Oracle of Delphi, prophesied only by answering well-defined questions, while the Sibyls prophesied, without accepting questions first.

The traditions of the Sibyls are very ancient.

It seems that relevant traditions from the countries of the Middle East passed to the Greek area through Asia Minor at a time when mystical tendencies prevailed and philosophical reflection, had not yet been born on the shores of Ionia. The belief of the ancient peoples in the sensitive and intuitive nature of women contributed to many quotations in the form of oracles or prophecies attributed to a Sibyl, and thus, the tradition was gradually enriched.

Many times they were given prophecies invented after great events, and because this was very impressive, it made many people pay attention to the prophecies of Sibylla.

This created a rich collection of sibylline oracles, the influence of which was felt by the people until the Middle Ages. In the Middle Ages, they kept many books written by the Sibyls, and the leaders seem to have consulted them frequently.

The first mention of these books is made during the narration of the reign of the semi-mythical Roman king Tarquin. From Kymaia Sibylla (the name refers to Kimi of Campania in Italy), the Roman king Tarquinius had bought the books of the “sibyl oracles“, which were kept in Rome, specifically in the temple of Zeus at the Capitol.

These books, of which only a few excerpts have survived, should not be confused with the “Sibylline Spells”, 12 books of prophecy allegedly written in a Judeo-Christian setting.

The oldest Greek texts speak of a Sibyl. Thus Heraclitus speaks first of Sibyl as a specific figure, followed by EuripidesAristotle and Plato. The first to speak of Sibyls in the plural is Aristotle. The sources after him know three, four or even ten Sibyls.

The Pausanias writes that the oldest of all the sibyls was Herophilus, who lived before the Trojan War, daughter of Zeus and granddaughter of Neptune. Younger than her was another Herophilus, who lived near a water source in the Reds of Asia Minor (Heraclitus, fr. 92). Sources after Aristotle mention three, 4 or even 10 Sibyls. According to ancient legends, there were a total of 12 Sibyls throughout antiquity.

The Greek report about the action of Sibylla covers the whole area of ​​Hellenism, from Central Asia to Italy. In the Greek East, the most famous was Sibylla, who was worshipped in the city of Erythres, and the Greek West, the one who was worshipped in Kymi of Campania.

One of the oldest was the Sibyl of Marpissos in Troy. They also called her Hellespontia and considered her the daughter of Dardanus and the Island, the daughter of Teucer. Maybe it should be identified with the Red Sibyl. Her action is connected with Aeneas, who left after the fall of Troy, to arrive in Italy after many wanderings and become the ancestor of the Romans. Sibylla had given auspicious oracles to Aeneas.

The Red Sybil was also known as Herophilus. The Jerome places the edge of around 744 BC … An inscription from our Red city informs that the Sibyl lived about 900 years. According to Pausanias, he lived for a time in DelphiDelos, and Samos. Perhaps the stay of this Sibyl in Samos created the tradition of Samia Sibyl, whose peak Jerome places in 712 BC.

There is also Sibylla from Kolofona, known as Lampousa. She was considered the daughter of the soothsayer Calchas.
Other traditions speak of the Phrygian, for Sardiniki (from Sardis) and the rhodium Sibyl.
The tradition of the Sibyl of Delphi brings it in relation to the sponsor god Apollo. She was his wife, his sister or his daughter.
The Thettali Sibyl was known by the name Mando and thought for a descendant of Tiresias . There was also Thesprotida Sibylla. The Sibyl of Kimi had the name Dimo, perhaps a diminutive of Demophilis. In Kymi, there was an underground chamber, the seat of Sibylla and a “ stone jug” with its remains.

Finally, a variety of other traditions tell us about Sibylla, the Cimmerians, the Italians, the Sicilians, the Libyans, the Persians, the Chaldeans, the Jews and the Egyptians. Even the queen of Sava has been identified with the face of Sibyl.
The etymology of the name “Sibylla” is not known with certainty. In ancient times, as the Latin writer Lactantius (4th century AD) informs us, the word was composed of the Doric form of the noun “god” (sios) and the aeolian form of the noun “vouli” = will (bullet). Sibyl, according to this version, therefore meant one that reveals the will of God. Various speculations have been made about the origin of the name, but the investigation has not been concluded.

The research was done by Giovi Vasiliki. Excerpts and paragraphs were collected from various sources.SOURCE: /

11 thoughts on “Sibyls: Wandering between gods and humans.

  1. Sibyls are truly fascinating! Thank you for sharing this Aladin. I’ve bookmarked this page and will return to take a deeper dive in the weeks ahead. The art you’ve shared is fantastic! On a personal note I’ve always been fascinated by Cassandra and enjoy exploring all her mythology that surrounds her. Hope you’re having a lovely weekend, today I’ve spent all day in the garden, mowing, planting and reading. Just perfect! Love and light, Deborah.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. elainemansfield

    Yes, the art is fantastic and I’ve used some of these images in the past. I need to spend more time with the details of this piece, but I appreciate all you’ve done to inspire me. There’s so much to learn.

    Liked by 1 person

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