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Lecture

Omens and Oracles Lecture notes from guest professor about omens, oracles, inductive divination and intuitive divination.


Department
Classical Studies
Course Code
CLAS100
Professor
Sheila Ager

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Omens and Oracles
October-20-10
11:48 AM
Omen: something that is observed, happens naturally but are extraordinary. Messages from the
gods; breaks natural order of things. Can be provoked (ie. Starving chickens and then observing how
they peck at food)
Children born with deformities
Oracle: 3 meanings
Place of prophecy: tradition attached to the places; oracle of Apollo at Delphi
Speaker of the prophecy: person who speaks the prophecy is an oracle (Matrix)
Oracle itself: the prophecy being spoken.
Oracles are sought; human initiated. Are answers to specific questions from individuals or
representatives (for a city). Answers usually interpreted as a 'yes', 'no', or 'sacrifice to...'. Oracles
must be interpreted by a professional
Omens + oracles = divination
Aka prophecy
Also involved in magic which is less socially acceptable
Key human activity; people have always wanted to know the future
2 types: inductive and intuitive
Inductive Divination
October-20-10
11:56 AM
Is the interpretation of omens. It is indirect and artificial because it requires a human interpreter
(diviner). These people are not always priests.
No omen is left un-interpreted
Diviners were high profile; only certain people were qualified to interpret a prophecy, often advisors
to kings
Natural phenomenon required interpretation: stars, eclipses, comets, thunderstorms
Divination in nature; animals
Prophetic depending on behaviour: snakes, frogs, birds
Some animals only sometimes prophetic: horses, dogs
Never prophetic: fish (they don't make sounds, people can't observe them in natural space)
Numinous : filled with divinity
Humans as channels for the divine:
Chance remarks: people just blurt things out
Noise in a crowd: walking in a crowd and hearing random snippets of information
Seizures: divine spirits possessing people
Children: 'new people', closer to the divine world than adults because they are new to earth.
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