Pythia comes from the word "python". The skin of this serpent killed by Apollo decorated the prophetic tripod.

Here, nothing much has changed over the last five thousand years.  Sheep still travel through these mountains which have seen the combats of Philip and Alexander against Thracian warriors, the most bellicose of Antiquity.  Today, this countryside is known as “the Switzerland of the Balkans”.  But this discrete region possesses the most eloquent clairvoyant in the world.  Who, unlike her Greek sisters of Antiquity, does not need a tripod or volcanic gas to predict the future.

We are in Petrich in Bulgaria and the oracle lives in a little, low house in this mountain village.  But we are still in the time of Socialism where everything is planned, and Wanga’s astounding gifts provoke no spectacular public manifestation, nor even any of those long queues which are characteristic of the countries of the East at this time.  He who comes to consult Wanga Dimitrova, the Bulgarian prophetess, has to pass by a sort of committee which will fix an appointment a long time in advance.  Which avoids too long a wait, and any excessive fatigue for the clairvoyant, who is blind from childhood.  She can see the future and the past with confounding precision.  She can find missing people and reveal illnesses, in a way that only two or three other people in the world are able to do.  With this difference, that she hates performing as some sort of side-show attraction, just as much as she hates leaving her Rhodope mountains for an instant.

A few years beforehand, she had fallen ill, and two doctors were then able to examine her attentively.  She greeted them by telling them that she detested doctors, explaining that, when she was little, her eyes hurt and she had been so well treated that she was now blind.  She tells them to leave.  The doctors pretend to obey, but because they absolutely want to establish some sort of contact with her, they come back an hour later.  The clairvoyant is sitting alone on a Turkish divan, and is even less welcoming.  She tells them that she never sees anything about sceptics like themselves.  The two men seize this pretext to advise her to dine in peace, saying that they know that she had received more than forty people that day…  Perhaps they could come back later?

The prophetess does not reply.  Half-an-hour later she comes out of her kitchen and again wants to chase them away, saying that she had already told them that she would only receive them the next day.

Her visitors point out that they have come a long way, and that they have to leave that same evening.  Wanga is standing in the doorway at this moment.  Suddenly, her face changes.  She has difficulty breathing.  She seems to follow an object moving on the ceiling with her eyes…  Now she staggers, and the whole left side of her face collapses.  In a demented gesture, panting and upset, she slices her left palm with her five grouped fingers.  She cries out:

“Who is Gregor?”

One of her visitors replies:

“It’s the name of one of my sons-in-law… ”

“Who is Stephana?”

“It’s my son-in-law’s mother… ”

“Your father Alexander is dead?… ”

“Yes… ”

“Your mother Flora is dead too?… ”

“Yes.”

“You were five children… “

Little by little, Wanga’s tone becomes more affirmative.  As if she is now reading in an open book.

“Your brother Peter would really like me to say something very important.  But I don’t understand him very well…  I am so tired!  But it is very, very important!… “

Wanga’s face is congested.  Her eyes slowly roll in their sockets…  Suddenly, she again makes the same gesture with her hands, even more violently.  She shouts, as if she is suffering atrociously:

“Your wife is ill!  Very seriously ill!  You think that it is the menopause…  it is not that at all!  I see blood, an enormous amount of blood!  It is not the menopause…  It is cancer!”

Now, the paragnostic is in full hysterical trance.  With great dramatic gestures, she hammers out the same words, in prey to abundant perspiration.  In a provocative tone, she addresses the other visitor.

“So, my dear!  Why do you pass yourself off as a city man when you are from the country, born in the Plovdiv district?”

“It is true, but now I am both doctor and city-dweller… ”

“Your parents are still alive!  You have two sisters, one of whom is a school teacher and, at this moment, your parents and your sister are building a new house in your native village.  You should help them a bit more!  As for your wife, she is at the cinema at the moment!… “

All of these affirmations of course turn out to be true.  Upon returning home, one of the doctors finds his wife bathing in her blood, a victim of the haemorrhage provoked by a cancer that had not been suspected until now…

The Pythia of Delphi rendered her oracles after having breathed the mephitic vapours which seeped from a crevasse. Accused of political bias, she was sometimes attacked.

A young woman, who has a high position in the Bulgarian Government, recounts:

“Like a lot of other people, my father went one day to visit the clairvoyant.  There were a lot of people, but he didn’t have to wait long.  Wanga came to the door of her little house and received him first, saying that it was because he was the only one present who did not believe in her gift…  Then, she started to tell him numerous circumstances of his life with astounding precision, his three marriages in particular.

“She told him that he had another fourteen years to live, indicating that I, myself, would lose my husband after the birth of our first child.

“She added that I would re-marry, but that my new household would be destroyed following an error that I would commit.  Finally, to crown everything, she revealed to me that my brother would kill himself at the age of twenty in a “stupid” accident.

“Unfortunately, everything came true in the slightest detail, including the death of my brother who, by imprudently jumping from a tram, was run over.  How did the whole of my future existence pass in an instant behind the blind eyes of Wanda, when I was myself only a little girl?”

And this young woman adds thoughtfully:

“I don’t believe in either miracles or religion…  But this woman is installed on an observatory, from whence she can see how the ribbons of destinies are knotted, in their smallest details, and she makes me believe that there is something… “

To be continued.

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