Myths, folklore & symbolism
omphalos: (Greek, literally "navel") In many parts of the ancient world, a familiar symbol for the birthplace of the cosmos or the site of Creation. The most famous omphalos was in the temple of Apollo in Delphi and is now displayed in the museum of that city: a rock carved in the form of a beehive with the suggestion of a net covering it, it symbolized the ideal midpoint of the cosmos, the point at which the subterranean, terrestrial, and celestial worlds all met. For this reason, it was also believed to inspire oracles A similar ompholos stone (umbilicus urbis Romae) stood in the Forum. Similar shrines were to be found in Gordium (the Phrygian capital) and in Baghdad. A rock in the Holy of Holies of the Jerusalem temple (located in the space underneath the altar for burnt offerings) was likewise thought of as the site of the Creation and the ideal midpoint of the world - and also as sealing in the subterranean waters of the "Tehom," which, according to Talmudic tradition, came gushing forth whenever the omphalos was removed...
Polaris, the pole star, around which the other fixed stars appear to rotate, was frequently referred to as the "navel of the heavens." Its terrestrial counterpart was often a sacred mountain (e.g., Mount Meru in India).
In general, the omphalos, as a stone sealing off the conduit between realms, combines elements of stone worship, shamanism, and the worship of "mother earth." THe Delphi omphalos is said to have been sacred first to the earth goddess Gaea and only later to Apollo. A similar stone is said to have been in the Hall of the Mysteries at Eleusis. (Biedermann)