The manteion of Trophonius is among the best documented of ancient oracles, thanks to a striking chapter of Pausanias. There we hear how consultants underwent a long and unique preparation, after which they descended into the earth for the consultation itself, an experience so harrowing that for days after they found themselves unable to laugh. Students of Greek religion have tended to seize on the exotic details, sometimes ignoring issues of importance; more unfortunate yet, they have seen the consultation procedure as a late development, elaborated by the priests to add interest and draw clients to a threatened institution. In the present chapter I shall be giving a very different view.1