Contemplating One’s Omphalos

  By Joshua Fox

            When it comes to navels, you have your “innies”, where your navel caves in on itself, and your “outies”, where the tip is sticking out for the entire world to see. Finally, you have the lesser known, but still culturally relevant, omphalos. Omphalos, coming from the Greek word for “navel,” refers to stone artifacts of a religious nature, and each has their own unique history worth noting.

            The origin of the omphalos goes back to ancient Greek mythology. In one legend, Zeus sent two eagles flying from opposite ends of the world, and at the place where their paths intersected, he dropped a stone to mark the center, or “navel”, of the world. That spot was the sanctuary of Delphi, which is where the famous Omphalos of Delphi currently resides. This same stone is also meant to represent the stone that Cronus ate under the misbelief that it was an infant Zeus, adding a sort of poetic edge to the previous myth.

            The omphalos has significance in areas outside of Greek mythology as well. At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, there’s an omphalos that the Ark of the Covenant was said to have rested upon at one point, a clear sign of its historical relevance. The Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, while not having anything specifically referred to as an omphalos, does contain a stone known as the Black Stone, a mystical stone set into the Kaaba by Muhammed that was said to have guided Adam and Eve to build the first temple. Certain locations have also been referred to as “navels”: the city of Nishikawa is called “The Navel of Japan”, the Hill of Uisneach is said to be the center of Ireland in the country’s mythology, and Mexico’s name is possibly derived from two Nahuatl words metztli and xictli that, when combined together, give you “navel of the moon”.

            Based on these details, it’s clear that the omphalos, both the actual stone and the meaning behind it, has a great deal of cultural significance not only in its homeland of Greece, but also in the culture of countries around the world. It just goes to show you how rock solid the idea of an omphalos is.


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