Trophonius at Lebadeia (Livadhia)

According to the Greek traveller Pausanias, a visit to the Oracle of Trophonius at Lebadeia was a truly mind-bending experience.

"This is what happens when you go down into the holy place. First, during the night you are taken to the river Herkyna by two local thirteen year old boys , called Hermai, who rub you with oil and wash you.

After this you are escorted by the priests, not to the oracle straightaway, but to two streams which flow very close to each other. First you have to drink the water of Lethe, so you will forget all your current preoccupations. Then you drink the water of Mnemosyne, which makes you remember what you see after you go down. After looking at the statue of the god (which they claim was made by Daidalos), which is only shown by the priests to those visiting Trophonios, you worship it and pray. Then you proceed to the oracle, dressed in a linen tunic, and wearing stout boots. The oracle is up the mountain, past the grove. Round it is a circular white marble base, about one metre high and the size of a very small threshing-floor. On this base are bronze spikes,held together by bronze cross-pieces. You pass through a double door to enter the sanctuary. Inside is a man-made cave, shaped rather like a bread-oven, with the entrance 2 metres high and about 4 metres across.

Their is no fixed way down to the bottom of the cave, but when someone comes to Trophonios, they bring you a thin, light ladder. After climbing down you find a horizontal hole between the floor and the structure. The hole is about 25 centimetres wide, and 50 centimetres high. The descender lies with his back on the ground, holding barley-cakes kneaded with honey, pushes his feet into the hole, trying hard to get his knees into it. After his knees the rest of his body is immediately sucked in, just as a large quick-flowing river will catch a man in its eddy and suck him under.

After this those who have entered the shrine learn the future, not always in the same way, but sometimes they see something, sometimes they hear it. The return upwards is by the same hole, the feet sliding out first. After his ascent from Trophonios the inquirer is again taken by the priests, who sit him on a chair called the chair of Mnemosyne, not far from the shrine, and they ask him, when he's sitting there, all he has seen or learned. After gaining this information they then hand him over to his relatives. They lift him, paralysed with terror and unconscious both of himself and of his surroundings, and carry him to the building where he lodged before with Tykhe and the Daimon agathon [he'd had to stay there for some days before the visit to be purified while he made sacrifices to various gods, including Trophonios, Apollo, Kronos, Zeus, Hera and Demeter - these sacrifices were inspected by the priests to make sure he was a suitable candidate.]

Afterwards, however, he will recover all his faculties, and the ability to laugh will come back to him. What I write is not hearsay; I have myself inquired of Trophonios and seen other inquirers. Those who have gone down into the shrine of Trophonios have to dedicate a tablet on which is written all that they have heard or seen … "

Pausanias Guide to Greece 9.39.3