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The scholar Martin Litchfield West writes that the Pythia shows many traits of shamanistic practices, likely inherited or influenced from Central Asian practices, although there is no evidence of any Central Asian association at this time.
Echecrates the Thessalian, having arrived at the shrine and beheld the virgin who uttered the oracle, became enamoured of her because of her beauty, carried her away and violated her; and that the Delphians because of this deplorable occurrence passed a law that in the future a virgin should no longer prophesy but that an elderly woman of fifty would declare the Oracles and that she would be dressed in the costume of a virgin, as a sort of reminder of the prophetess of olden times.Authors who mention the oracle include Aeschylus, Aristotle, Clement of Alexandria, Diodorus, Diogenes, Euripides, Herodotus, Julian, Justin, Livy, Lucan, Nepos, Ovid, Pausanias, Pindar, Plato, Plutarch, Sophocles, Strabo, Thucydides and Xenophon.Nevertheless, details of how the Pythia operated are missing as authors from the classical period (6th to 4th centuries BC) treat the process as common knowledge with no need to explain.A shrine was erected at the site, where people began worshiping in the late Bronze Age, by 1600 BC.After the deaths of a number of men, the villagers chose a single young woman as the liaison for the divine inspirations. the office of the oracle was initially possessed by the goddesses Themis and Phoebe, and the site was initially sacred to Gaia.
Subsequently, it was believed to be sacred to Poseidon, the "Earth-shaker" god of earthquakes.