The Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo is an excellent source for the story of Apollo founding his temple at Delphi and his intention to "welcome the tribes of mankind / who gather here, and tell them / most important of all, / what [his] will is," but it makes no mention of the Pythia (161-81). Theognis is the first to mention the Pythia, and the second is Aeschylus in his play Eumenides (Fontenrose 204). The first two lines of Eumenides open with the prophetess's reference to Gaia as the original god of the temple at Delphi.
Many scholars offer evidence to support the idea that the Pythia was an office originating in the cult of Gaia. Dempsey states that the office of the Pythia was always held by a female (originally a virgin, but later at least fifty years old and married) and he points out the connection between the Pythia's gender and the cult of Mother Earth (53-55). Dempsey also points out that the ecstatic nature of the Pythia's prophecy was an abundant characteristic in the cult of Gaia (53-5). A detailed account of the frenzy or mania of the Pythia is presented when Appius Claudius Pulcher visits the oracle at Delphi in Lucan's Civil War (5.64-236). Additionally, many scholars believe that the Python's death at the hand of Apollo symbolized the change in oracles at Delphi (Powell 172).
It is often difficult to piece out the historical elements in myth. Some scholars believe that the Pythia did go into crazed trances. However, scholars such as Joseph Fontenrose question the historical accuracy of the manic and possessed Pythia. As Powell points out, there is no evidence of a chasm, and laurel leaves are not hallucinogenic (172). The debate remains open.