Thursday, April 17, 2014

Oracles in Mythology

Today is day 15 in the A to Z April Challenge. Participants are blogging about their favorite subjects every day except Sunday. To visit others in this blog hop, you can go to the main web page HERE.

I chose Fantasy for my theme and today I'll be talking about Oracles in Mythology. 

In classical antiquity, an oracle was a person or agency considered to interface wise counsel or prophetic predictions or precognition of the future, inspired by the gods. As such, it is a form of divination.

The word oracle comes from the Latin verb orare "to speak" and properly refers to the priest or priestess uttering the prediction. In extended use, oracle may also refer to the site of the oracle, and to the oracular utterances themselves, called khresmoi in Greek.

Oracles were thought to be portals through which the gods spoke directly to people. In this sense they were different from seers (manteis) who interpreted signs sent by the gods through bird signs, animal entrails, and other various methods.

The most important oracles of Greek antiquity were Pythia, priestess to Apollo at Delphi, and the oracle of Dione and Zeus at Dodona in Epirus. Other temples of Apollo were located at Didyma, on the coast of Asia Minor, at Corinth and Bassae in the Peloponnese, and at the islands of Delos and Aegina in the Aegean Sea. The Sibylline Oracles are a collection of oracular utterances written in Greek hexameters ascribed to the Sibyls, prophetesses who uttered divine revelations in a frenzied state.

The term oracle is also applied to parallel institutions of divination in other cultures. In Celtic polytheism, divination was performed by the priestly caste, either the Druids or the Vates. This is reflected in the role of "seers" in Dark Age Wales and Ireland. In Norse mythology, Odin took the severed head of the mythical god Mimir to Asgard for consultation as an oracle. The Havamal and other sources relate the sacrifice of Odin for the Oracular Runes whereby he lost an eye (external sight) and won wisdom (internal sight, insight) to be a consulted oracle.

The list goes on for examples of oracles. Have you used an oracle or a seer in one of your stories? How important was their message?


  1. From that definition, it seems that medieval Catholic clergymen fell under the term oracle.

    1. Yes, they did. I forgot to add that. Sorry.

  2. I've never used them but I've read books where they were used and I liked them.

    1. Most of the ones I've read about were good, but there was one that was just plain mean.