Thursday, December 17, 2009


One of the phenomenon’s of the ancient world was the Oracle at Delphi. Delphi is located in central Greece along the slope of Mount Parnassus where three tectonic plates meet and numerous faults intersect venting fumes from deep within the earth. The Oracle, an older woman chosen from the local villages, sat over a crack in the earth where the gaseous emissions from the rock put her into a trance that allowed her to foretell the future and answer questions. Visitors from around the Mediterranean region and even Egypt came to consult with the Oracle about their future, families, aspirations, when to declare wars, when to plant crops, and how to deal with famine. From 1400 BC to 390 AD, pilgrims to Delphi could make an appointment with Oracle and after paying a fee, hike up a path, file one by one into the temple, and get earthly-emission-based advice.

Stories of the Oracle’s renowned visitors and powerful advice abound. Over a span of 1800 years the Oracle advised notables such as Aegeus, Cadmus, Herakles, Oedipus, Perseus, Xerxes, Lysander, Philip II of Macedon, Cicero, Nero, Hadrian, Diocletian. The Oracle also declared Socrates the wisest man in Greece, to which Socrates said that if so, this was because he alone was aware of his own ignorance.

When we visited Delphi many years ago and stood near the vent, we felt dizzy and light headed after a while. It is very similar to how we feel after being in heavy VOG (volcanic emissions) here on the Big Island. Exposure to VOG affects our state of mind and makes the modern world feel far, far away. On days when it is really thick, it completely obstructs our view of Hilo Bay by whitening it out leaving visible only wisps of grey colored clouds that encircle the trees and houses. The VOG mutes the sounds of passing cars and bird songs making it seem like our ears are plugged. It feels like we are living on the Isle of Mists visited by Odysseus. On the really heavy VOG days we wonder if it was like this in final days of Pompeii and we are about to be buried in 30 feet of hot ash.

The VOG reminds us that the earth is a living thing. When the sulfur burns our eyes and throats we find it easier to mediate, easier to contemplate life, and gain a sharpened appreciation of the small but wonderful things in life like seeing blue sky and taking another breath.


Grif Frost said...

Aloha Tyler! Now that is a postive spin on VOG! Nicely written.

Leslie Lang said...

I must agree. What a talent to be able to find this positive take on the vog. I'll try to remember this when next suffering -- life is always more pleasant when we concentrate on the positive.


Anonymous said...

It has been pretty thick on the east side of The Big Island lately! I appreciate your uplifting take on this phenomenon, but my girlfriend is hard pressed to share in your perspective as she suffer from asthma. When Pele expresses herself like this, it is pretty hard for her to take. I don't know how much longer she will be able to stay here because of the vog. I read in the Herald that The Big Island was recently declared a disaster area because of the vog in an effort to get federal assistance for the crops that have been affected. There is a hawaiian term for the mists of Pele that I seem to not be able to recall right now. Maybe someone will chime in with a few olelo noeau about this. Mahalo for the post.

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I did a similar one last week while on Maui and inundated with VOG that had blown over from TBI. I referred to it as volcano breath.