Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The history of Oracles

I have recently been reading The Greek Myths, collected and commented upon by Robert Graves. I had previously known Graves' work from reading The White Goddess, and it has been a revelation to discover his commentary on the stories of my deep cultural past. I was delighted to discover a chapter titled The Oracles, which presents myths about how the Oracles of Greece began and came to be taken over by the patriarchal invaders.

All oracles were originally delivered by the Earth Goddess, whose authority was so great that successive waves of invasion make a practice of seizing the shrines and either appointing priests or retaining the priestesses in their own service. Thus Zeus took over at Dodona, and King Ammon took over the Oasis of Siwa, both oracles sacred to the dove and oak cult of Dia or Dione. Later Apollo captured the oracle at Delphi. Besides these, there were numerous other oracular shrines: those in the Lycaeum and on the Acropolis at Argos, at Boeotian Ismenium, at Clarus and at Telmessus. The sick received oracles at Pharae, Hera was consulted near Pagae, and Mother Earth spoke through her priestesses at Aegeira in Achaea. Dice were thrown at the oracle of Heracles at Achaean Bura; dreams were consulted at the oracles of Asclepius and Laconian Thalamae.

Perhaps Graves' most provocative statement, for me, is his comment that prophesy was the only skill not taken from women in the transition from a Goddess-centered to a God-centered culture. This first card I painted for the Journey Oracle seems in its image and phrase to be an echo of this unbroken tradition of women as soothsayers.