What is Omphalos? (history of Greece and elsewhere)

Few people are familiar with the concept of “omphalos”.

Coming from the glossary of ancient Greece, this term could be translated as “navel”.

On a purely architectural level, an omphalos is a type of large stone standing in the middle of certain Hellenic temples. There are therefore several omphalos spread all over the world which can carry different messages.

On a spiritual level, it is rather something linked to the “central point” of our world (in a way, to its navel), a place which represents the source of all life and creation.

On a religious level, Greek priests used it to communicate with certain gods, particularly during oracles and divinatory practices.

So it's clear: with so many different avenues, describing what an omphalos is promises to be a complicated task.

However, we will now face it together!

Contents :

The omphalos of Delphi: central point of the Greek world

Two Greek legends about this

Omphalos in other religions

Archaeological site of Delphi with its ruined temples.

The omphalos of Delphi: central point of the Greek world

Proudly placed in the middle of the main archaeological site, the omphalos of Delphi is undoubtedly the most famous of them all.

Despite its central place in the temple grounds, few visitors pay attention to it... and that's a shame (although understandable: the omphalos of Delphi only looks like a simple rock vaguely larger than the others).

However, its meaning is very profound.

Thousands of years ago, it was customary for followers of the god Apollo (to whom the site of Delphi was dedicated) to practice certain prayers by touching this building.

In particular, certain cases of prophetic visions were reported, and many mystics from the ancient world came to visit the place in the hope of receiving them too. Truly, this sanctuary was central in Greek (and even Roman) civilization.

Numerous myths mention it, and some of the most influential Greek cities (like Athens or Sparta) showed it a certain reverence. Authors like Socrates or Homer mention it, as do the vestiges of the peoples who succeeded one another on the Peloponnese (Mycenaeans, Achaeans and many others).

The omphalos of Delphi can in some way be seen as a “tourist attraction” from Greek Antiquity… with an added religious and spiritual side!

Even today, the site attracts many people. If you are one of the curious, you can for example start finding out about the UNESCO page dedicated to the temple of Delphi.

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Two Greek legends about this

As a concept, an architectural feature or an object of worship, the omphalos is also a mythological element present in many Greek legends.

We have selected two here for you.

The first describes how the god Zeus would have released two golden eagles at the two most distant points of our world. He then ordered them to cross the entire earth, one from top to bottom and the other from left to right. (Some Greeks still thought the earth was flat).

The place where they met was then described as the center of the world, its navel... in short, its omphalos!

A stone was then erected in this very special place, namely Mount Parnassus on which the temple of Delphi still stands today.

The second myth tells us not about the place where the omphalos is located, but rather about the nature and purpose of this stone.

A long time ago, the famous titan Cronos, for fear of one day being overthrown, decided to devour all his children. Poseidon, Aphrodite, Artemis, Hades: they were all swallowed. (This is particularly cruel, but Greek mythology is made up of these types of events to be understood from a symbolic point of view).

The mother of the little ones still managed to save one (known as Zeus), which she exchanged at the last moment with an enormous stone which deceived Cronus.

This stone, as you can imagine, constitutes our famous omphalos.

Later, the legend ends with the revenge of Zeus who sought his brothers and sisters from their father's womb.

This type of story with a deep spiritual meaning is truly typical of Greek culture. To learn more about this, discover our different Greek symbols and lucky charms here.

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Omphalos in other religions

Omphalos is therefore above all a Greek concept linked to the very rich mythology that this people was able to develop.

Alongside them, a whole bunch of peoples were able to develop similar concepts, and sometimes even surprisingly similar ones.

It is precisely them that we are going to talk about now.

The original serpent: a near constant

The idea of ​​a being central to our world is something very widespread in ancient cultures, not limited to Hellenistic culture.

In India, for example, the sages conceptualized a sort of gigantic serpent coiled around an orb of energy placed at the center of the universe.

If we look towards the Mayans, we can meet similar characters who would guard a hidden door giving access to the realm of spirits, also placed at the center of the known worlds.

The Vikings were able to imagine similar things with their famous Ouroboros, the giant snake which infinitely bites its tail.

The Baetylus of the Jews

According to many linguists, the Hebrew term "baetylus" is a perfect translation of omphalos. Apparently, this image was transmitted by the Persians or, according to a more mysterious legendary myth, following the flight of certain citizens during the Trojan War.

Even though it would seem that the Jews, practicing by definition a monotheistic religion, did not worship them in any way, it is still interesting to note that they knew the concept behind it.

Japanese raiju

Japanese folklore tells us of something very similar to our omphalos: raiju.

How often in Japanese, this term can designate several things.

On the one hand, it is used to talk about lightning. From another, it describes the navel (of men, but also of worlds)

If there is a link to be made between these two concepts, for our part, we have a hard time finding it…

Monuments of the Christian world…

As surprising as it may seem, Christians have sometimes been able to include certain elements of pagan rites in their doctrines. (Obviously, after having modified them and given them a more pious meaning.)

It would seem that this was the case for the omphalos, of which we can find certain “copies” in temples and churches.

We use the conditional because, ultimately, this information does not bring historians into agreement.

…and others specific to Islam

When we think about the Muslim religion, there is one central monument that is quite easy to compare to the omphalos: the Kaaba of Mecca.

Although never clearly connected to the omphalos of the Greeks, this monument itself constitutes a giant rock serving as a center for Islam and Muslims.

Establishing a connection is therefore not without meaning.

author picture(Cyril Gendarme)

Discover the author: Cyril Gendarme

Cyril Gendarme is a writer whose website "The Lucky Door" ("La Porte Du Bonheur" in French, his native language) has become a reference in the field of esotericism. Born in Belgium, Cyril has been attracted to the mysteries of the world since he was a child. When his interest in occultism was awakened, a particular subject caught his attention: lucky charms.

After years of study and in-depth research on esoteric traditions from around the world, Cyril decided to share his knowledge with the public through the internet. In 2019, he launched "The Lucky Door," a website dedicated to exploring lucky charms, magical symbols, and esoteric arts.

The Lucky Door is much more than just a showcase for those curious about magic, divination, or tradition. It is the result of Cyril's passion for researching and understanding the mysteries of the universe. Every piece of information available on the site testifies to his dedication to sharing his knowledge of the most hidden symbols and their unique powers.

In addition to his online work, Cyril regularly organizes workshops and conferences in different countries. His presence on social media is also highly appreciated, where he offers personalized advice and happily answers questions from his community.