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From Late Latin pythonissa, from Ancient Greek Πυθία (Puthía). Compare Pythia.


Pythoness (plural Pythonesses)

  1. (historical) The priestess of the oracle of Apollo at Delphi.
    • 1784, William Mitford, The History of Greece, volume 1:
      The office of Pythoness appears not to have been desirable. Either the emanations from the cavern, or some art of the managers, threw her into real convulsions. Priests entitled prophets led her to the sacred tripod, force being often necessary for that purpose, and held her on it till her frenzy rose to whatever pitch was in their judgement most fit for the occasion.
    • 1857, William Chambers, Robert Chambers, Chambers's Information for the People,‎
      The unconnected words which the Pythoness screamed out in her madness were arranged into sentences by the attendant priests, who could easily place them in such an order, and fill up the breaks in such a way, as to make them express whatever was most suitable to the interests of the shrine, which was the main object.
    • 1913, Elsie Worthington Clews Parsons, Religious Chastity: an Ethnological Study‎:
      Less becomingly Origen states that when the Pythoness sat down at the mouth of the cave, "the prophetic spirit of Apollo entered her private parts"; ...
    • 1970, Esmé Wynne-Tyson, The Philosophy of Compassion: The Return of the Goddess:
      But at Delphi the sun-god's spiritual bride was known in the days of Herodotus as the Pythoness, and later as Pythia.


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