I'm probably going to regret this by the time the Pagan Blog Project reaches the 'O's, but today, I'll be talking about the navel of the world at the ancient holy site of Delphi. The navel of the world was called the 'omphalos' (ὀμφαλός) and was not so much a hole in the ground but a religious stone artifact. I guess this makes the world an 'outty'.

I might still discuss omphalos stones in general for the 'O's, but today, I want to talk only about the omphalos stone found in Delphi and the mythology that surrounds it.

There are two myths connected to the stone that is said to be the bellybutton of the world: The first is the birth of Zeus, blessed King of the Theoi. It is said that when He as born, His father Kronos intended to swallow Him whole as He had done all His brothers and sisters. Rhea, His mother, fed him a large stone instead, which Kronos regurgitated once Zeus grew up and confronted His father.

A beautiful retelling of this myth can be found in Hesiod's Theogony:
"But Rhea was subject in love to Cronos and bare splendid children, Hestia, Demeter, and gold-shod Hera and strong Hades, pitiless in heart, who dwells under the earth, and the loud-crashing Earth-Shaker, and wise Zeus, father of gods and men, by whose thunder the wide earth is shaken. These great Cronos swallowed as each came forth from the womb to his mother's knees with this intent, that no other of the proud sons of Heaven should hold the kingly office amongst the deathless gods. For he learned from Earth and starry Heaven that he was destined to be overcome by his own son, strong though he was, through the contriving of great Zeus. Therefore he kept no blind outlook, but watched and swallowed down his children: and unceasing grief seized Rhea. But when she was about to bear Zeus, the father of gods and men, then she besought her own dear parents, Earth and starry Heaven, to devise some plan with her that the birth of her dear child might be concealed, and that retribution might overtake great, crafty Cronos for his own father and also for the children whom he had swallowed down. And they readily heard and obeyed their dear daughter, and told her all that was destined to happen touching Cronos the king and his stout-hearted son. So they sent her to Lyetus, to the rich land of Crete, when she was ready to bear great Zeus, the youngest of her children. Him did vast Earth receive from Rhea in wide Crete to nourish and to bring up. Thither came Earth carrying him swiftly through the black night to Lyctus first, and took him in her arms and hid him in a remote cave beneath the secret places of the holy earth on thick-wooded Mount Aegeum; but to the mightily ruling son of Heaven, the earlier king of the gods, she gave a great stone wrapped in swaddling clothes. Then he took it in his hands and thrust it down into his belly: wretch! he knew not in his heart that in place of the stone his son was left behind, unconquered and untroubled, and that he was soon to overcome him by force and might and drive him from his honours, himself to reign over the deathless gods." (ll. 453-491)

The 'great stone wrapped in swaddling clothes' swallowed by Kronos obviously became the stone located in Delphi; the place where it was either regurgitated or placed after the events of the next myth, which labels Delphi as the center of the world, and the stone its navel. it is said that Zeus sent out two golden eagles, one from the western edge of the world, and one from the eastern edge. Where the two met, must be the center of the world. The animals met over Delphi, and thus, this became its center. The myth is well-known, but finding the source is ridiculously hard. It is mentioned by Pindar, but retold by Strabo in his 'Geography':

"Now although the greatest share of honor was paid to this temple because of its oracle, since of all oracles in the world it had the repute of being the most truthful, yet the position of the place added something. For it is almost in the center of Greece taken as a whole, between the country inside the Isthmus and that outside it; and it was also believed to be in the center of the inhabited world, and people called it the navel of the earth, in addition fabricating a myth, which is told by Pindar, that the two eagles (some say crows) which had been set free by Zeus met there, one coming from the west and the other from the east. There is also a kind of navel to be seen in the temple; it is draped with fillets, and on it are the two likenesses of the birds of the myth." [9.6.3]

Pausanias in his 'Description of Greece' expands upon this knowledge, and references Pindar as well:
"What is called the Omphalus (Navel) by the Delphians is made of white marble, and is said by the Delphians to be the center of all the earth. Pindar in one of his odes supports their view." [10.16.3]

The stone itself has a carving of a knotted net covering its surface, and has a hollow center, which widens towards its base. The stone may have been a copy of the original, even in ancient times, but was still located in the Adyton of the Temple of Apollon, and was viewed only by the priests and priestess who had access to the chamber. It was used as a seat--either literally or figuratively--for the oracle of Delphi. Euripides says this most beautifully in 'Ion':

"I have come to this land of Delphi, where Apollo, sitting on the central navel, chants to mortals, always prophesying the things that are and will be." [5-7]
The omphalos from Delphi currently resides in the museum of Delphi.

Image source: omphalos watercolor image