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"Consulting the Oracle" by John William Waterhouse, showing eight priestesses in a temple of prophecy

An oracle is a person or agency considered to be a source of wise counsel or prophetic opinion. It may also be a revealed prediction or precognition of the future, from deities, that is spoken through another object or life-form (e.g.: augury and auspice).

In the ancient world many sites gained a reputation for the dispensing of oracular wisdom: they too became known as "oracles," and the oracular utterances, called khrēsmoi in Greek, were often referred to under the same name—a name derived from the Latin verb ōrāre, to speak.


Ancient civilizations


Oracles were common in many civilizations of antiquity. In China, the use of oracle bones dates as far back as the Shang Dynasty, (1600–1046 BC). The I Ching, or "Book of Changes", is a collection of linear signs used as oracles that are from that period. Although divination with the I Ching is thought to have originated prior to the Shang Dynasty, it was not until King Wu of Zhou (1046–1043 BC) that it took its present form. In addition to its oracular power, the I Ching has had a major influence on the philosophy, literature and statecraft of China from the time of the Zhou Dynasty (1122 BC – AD 256).


The earliest tradition of oracular practice in Hellenic culture is from the Archaic period shortly after arrival of the Hellenes in their current place of settlement c. 1300 BC. The oracle was associated with the cults of deities derived from the great goddess of nature and fertility, the preeminent ancient oracle—the Delphic Oracle—operated at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Oracles were thought to be portals through which the gods spoke to man. In this sense they were different from seers (manteis in Greek) who interpreted signs sent by the gods through bird signs, animal entrails, and other various methods.[1]

The Pythia, the oracle at Delphi, only gave prophecies the seventh day of each month, seven being the number most associated with Apollo, during the nine warmer months of the year; thus, Delphi was not the major source of divination for the ancient Greeks. Many wealthy individuals bypassed the hordes of people attempting a consultation by making additional animal sacrifices to please the oracle lest their request go unanswered. As a result seers were the main source of every day divination. For more on Greek seers (manteis) see Divination.[2]

The temple was changed to a center for the worship of Apollo during the classical period of Greece and priests were added to the temple organization—although the tradition regarding prophecy remained unchanged—and the apparently always-female priestess continued to provide the services of the oracle exclusively. It is from this institution that the English word, oracle, is derived.

The Delphic Oracle exerted considerable influence throughout Hellenic culture. Distinctively, this female was essentially the highest authority both civilly and religiously in male-dominated ancient Greece. She responded to the questions of citizens, foreigners, kings, and philosophers on issues of political impact, war, duty, crime, laws, even personal issues.[3]

The semi-Hellenic countries around the Greece world, such as Lydia, Caria, and even Egypt also respected her and came to Delphi as supplicants.

Croesus, king of Lydia beginning in 560 B.C., tested the oracles of the world to discover which gave the most accurate prophecies. He sent out emissaries to seven sites who were all to ask the oracles on the same day what the king was doing at that very moment. Croesus proclaimed the oracle at Delphi to be the most accurate, who correctly reported that the king was making a lamb-and-tortoise stew, and so he graced her with a magnitude of precious gifts.[4] He then consulted Delphi before attacking Persia, and according to Herodotus was advised, "If you cross the river, a great empire will be destroyed." Believing the response favorable, Croesus attacked, but it was his own empire that ultimately was destroyed by the Persians.

She allegedly also proclaimed Socrates to be the wisest man in Greece, to which Socrates said that, if so, this was because he alone was aware of his own ignorance. After this confrontation, Socrates dedicated his life to a search for knowledge that was one of the founding events of western philosophy. He claimed that she was "an essential guide to personal and state development."[5] This Oracle's last recorded response was given in 393 AD, when the emperor Theodosius I ordered pagan temples to cease operation.[citation needed]

The oracle's powers were highly sought after and never doubted. Any inconsistencies between prophecies and events were dismissed as failure to correctly interpret the responses—not an error of the oracle.[6]

Dodona another oracle devoted to the Mother Goddess identified at other sites with Rhea or Gaia, but here called Dione. The shrine of Dodona was the oldest Hellenic oracle, according to the fifth-century historian Herodotus and, in fact, dates to pre-Hellenic times, perhaps as early as the second millennium BC when the tradition spread from Egypt. It became the second most important oracle in ancient Greece, which later was dedicated to Zeus and to Heracles during the classical period of Greece.

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. Only the Delphic Oracle was a female; all others were male.[7]

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.


In ancient India, the oracle was known as Akashwani, literally meaning "voice from the sky" and was related to the message of God. Oracles played key roles in many of the major incidents of the epics Mahabharat and Ramayana. An example is that Kans, the evil uncle of lord Krishna, was informed by an oracle that the eighth son of his sister Devaki would kill him.

There are still a few existing and publicly accessible Oracles in India. One such example is the Copper Oracle of Sri Achyutha ( Description about a few such oracles are also provided at:


In the migration myth of the Mexitin, i.e., the early Aztecs, a mummy-bundle (perhaps an effigy) carried by four priests directed the trek away from the cave of origins by giving oracles. An oracle led to the foundation of Mexico-Tenochtitlan. The Yucatec Mayas knew oracle priests or chilanes, literally 'mouthpieces' of the deity. Their written repositories of traditional knowledge, the Books of Chilam Balam, were all ascribed to one famous oracle priest who correctly had predicted the coming of the Spaniards and its associated disasters.


The Igbo people of southeastern Nigeria in Africa have a long tradition of using oracles. In Igbo villages, oracles were usually female priestesses to a particular deity, usually dwelling in a cave or other secluded location away from urban areas, and, much as the oracles of ancient Greece, would deliver prophecies in an ecstatic state to visitors seeking advice. Though the vast majority of Igbos today are Christian, many in Nigeria today still use oracles.

In Igboland of present-day Nigeria many different oracles were regularly consulted. Two of these became especially famous: the Agbala oracle at Awka and the Chukwu oracle at Arochukwu.[8]


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).


In Tibet, oracles have played, and continue to play, an important part in religion and government. The word "oracle" is used by Tibetans to refer to the spirit that enters those men and women who act as media between the natural and the spiritual realms. The media are, therefore, known as kuten, which literally means, "the physical basis".

The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in northern India, still consults an oracle known as the Nechung Oracle, which is considered the official state oracle of the government of Tibet. The Dalai Lama has according to custom, a custom that has endured for centuries, consulted the Nechung Oracle during the new year festivites of Losar.[9] Before fleeing from Tibet however he consulted the oracle of Dorje Shugden[citation needed]. Another oracle he consults is the Tenma oracle, for which a young Tibetan woman is the medium for the goddess. The Dalai Lama gives a complete description of the process of trance and spirit possession in his book Freedom in Exile. [1].


  1. ^ Flower, Michael Attyah. The Seer in Ancient Greece. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.
  2. ^ Flower, Michael Attyah. The Seer in Ancient Greece. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.
  3. ^ Broad, W. J. (2007), p.43
  4. ^ Broad, W. J. (2007), p.51-53
  5. ^ Broad, W. J. (2007), p.63. Socrates also argued that the oracle's effectiveness was rooted in her ability to abandon herself completely to a higher power by way of insanity or "sacred madness."
  6. ^ Broad, W. J. (2007), p.15
  7. ^ Broad, W. J. (2007), p.19
  8. ^ Webster J.B. and Boahen A.A., The Revolutionary Years, West Africa since 1800, Longman, London, p. 107–108.
  9. ^ Gyatso, Tenzin (1988). Freedom In Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama of Tibet. Fully revised and updated. Lancaster Place, London, UK: Abacus Books (A Division of Little, Borwn and Company UK). ISBN 0 349 11111 1. p.233

Further reading

  • Broad, William J. 2007. The Oracle: Ancient Delphi and the Science Behind Its Lost Secrets. New York: Penguin Press.
  • Broad, William J. 2006. The Oracle: The Lost Secrets and Hidden Message of Ancient Delphi. New York: Penguin Press.
  • Curnow, T. 1995. The Oracles of the Ancient World: A Comprehensive Guide. London: Duckworth – ISBN 0-7156-3194-2
  • Evans-Pritchard, E. 1976. Witchcraft, oracle, and magic among the Azande. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Fontenrose, J. 1981. The Delphic Oracle. Its responses and operations with a catalogue of responses. Berkeley: University of California Press (main page)
  • Temple, Robert 2002. Netherworld. London: Century.

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Oracle is a town in Pinal County, Arizona.

  • Drive to Oracle; there is no mass transit nor trains, and the airport closed years ago. It is located 38 miles from downtown Tucson.
  • Bicycle to Oracle: especially on Saturday mornings, a surprising number of people can be seen bicycling up State Highway 77 from as far as Tucson. Bicycling to Oracle from Tucson involves an uphill slog of 25 or 30 miles and a climb of about 2000 feet in elevation. It's for serious cyclists only, but there sure are a lot of them!
  • Hiking to Oracle is more practical than you might expect; Oracle is on the edge of the Coronado National Forest, and the state-spanning Arizona State Trail skims Oracle's outskirts.
  • Hitchhike to Oracle: sometimes possible.
  • Driving is usually easiest.
  • Bicycling requires the ability to do mild hill climbs and to cover a few miles, even within Oracle itself.
  • Horses are for some a fun way to travel through Oracle and vicinity.
  • Walking, if you don't mind covering a few miles on foot.
  • Hitchhiking is sometimes possible.
  • Biosphere Two, 32540 S. Biosphere Rd., Earth's largest fully enclosed and sealed terrarium, covering over three acres. Originally built by a strange (but very well-funded) organization with alleged cult connections, for conducting ecological experiments. More recently Biosphere Two has been turned over to Columbia University and then the University of Arizona for scientific research. Oracle and Oracle Junction are the nearest town and village respectively. Tours are available; standard price is $20/person, with discounts for old people, students, children, and people with convincing fake student IDs.
  • Oracle State Park has an "Environmental Learning Center", but no camping.
  • The Acadia Ranch Museum, 825 Mount Lemmon Rd., has several exhibits relating to the history and culture of Oracle. Hours are somewhat minimal: probably 1pm-5pm Friday and Saturday.
  • The Ranch Store Center, 1015 W American Ave., includes an open-air gallery of large metal sculptures. Open Tuesday-Sunday.
  • Snow, on those occasions when a few inches fall, if you've been living in Tucson too long and have forgotten what it looks like. The Tucson media will tell you when it's time. Oracle is much easier to drive to in snowy weather than it would be to use the narrow, twisty, cliff-bordered roads into the Santa Catalina Mountains, that's for sure. For extra thrills, shovel someone's walk or driveway (after asking permission of course.)
  • Hanging out in front of a Circle K[TM], is one of the most popular and exciting social activities in Oracle among the 15-35 age group, sometimes drawing up to 3-4 people at a time.
  • The Station, 1395 W American Ave, provides organic and natural foods, vitamins, and other health products, a function room for classes and meetings, and a comfy space to use wireless Internet, or just hang out. Update as of May 2009: the Station has gone out of business.
  • Lupe's, 35530 N Highway 7779, Oracle, (520) 818-7855. Simple, but tasty Mexican food. If you get the beef, make sure it's the machaco (shredded). $7-$10.
  • Nonna Maria's Pizza, 2161 Rockliffe Blvd., Oracle, (520) 896-3522. Tasty Italian food (pizza, pasta, calzones) in a casual, but attractive setting. Family run, with paintings by the chef/owner on the wall. $8-$12.
  • (ten or twelve A-frames by the side of American Avenue), The only motel in Oracle that I know of.
  • Is good advice, frankly.
This article is an outline and needs more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. Please plunge forward and help it grow!

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ORACLE (Lat. oraculum, from orare, to pray; the corresponding Greek word is ,uavmEiov or xpn6Tnpeov), a special place where a deity is supposed to give a response, by the mouth of an inspired priest, to the inquiries of his votaries; or the actual response. The whole question of oracles - whether in the sense of the response or the sacred place - is bound up with that of magic, divination and omens, to the articles on which the reader is referred. They are commonly found in the earlier stages of religious culture among different nations. But it is as an ancient Greek institution that they are most interesting historically.

A characteristic feature of Greek religion which distinguishes it from many other systems of advanced cult was the wide prevalence of a ritual of divination and the prominence of certain oracular centres which were supposed to give voice to the will of Providence. An account of the oracles of Greece is concerned with the historical question about their growth, influence and career. But it is convenient to consider first the anthropologic question, as to the methods of divination practised in ancient Greece, their significance and the original ideas that inspired them. Only the slightest theoretical construction is possible here; and the true psychologic explanation of the mantic facts is of very recent discovery. In the Greek world these were of great variety, but nearly all the methods of divination found there can be traced among other communities, primitive and advanced, ancient and modern. The most obvious and useful classification of them is that of which Plato' was the author, who distinguishes between (a) the " sane " form of divination and (b) the ecstatic, enthusiastic or "insane" form. The first method appears to be cool and scientific, the diviner Guavas) interpreting certain signs according to fixed principles of interpretation. The second is worked by the prophet, shaman or Pythoness, who is possessed and overpowered by the deity, and in temporary frenzy utters mystic speech under divine suggestion. To these we may add a third form (c), divination by communion with the spiritual world in dreams or through intercourse with the departed spirit: this resembles class (a) in that it does not necessarily involve ecstasy, and class (b) in that it assumes immediate rapport with some spiritual power.

It will be convenient first to give typical examples of these various processes of discovering the divine will, and then to sketch the history of Delphi, the leading centre of divination. We may subdivide the methods that fall under class (a), those that conform to the " omen "-system, according as they deal with the phenomena of the animate or the inanimate world; although this distinction would not be relevant in the period of primitive animistic thought. The Homeric poems attest that auguries from the flight and actions of birds were commonly observed in the earliest Hellenic period as they occasionally were in the later, but we have little evidence that this method was ever organized as it was at Rome into a regular system of state-divination, still less of state-craft. We can only quote the passage in the Antigone where Sophocles describes the method of Teiresias, who keeps an aviary where he studies and interprets the flight and the cries of the birds; it is probable that the poet was aware of some such practice actually in vogue. But the usual examples of Greek augury do not suggest deliberate and systematic observation; for instance, the phenomenon in the Iliad of the eagle seizing the snake and dropping it, or, in the Agamemnon of Aeschylus, of the eagles swooping on the pregnant hare. Other animals besides birds could furnish omens; we have an interesting story of the omen derived from the contest between a wolf and a bull which decided the question of the sovereignty of Argos when Danaus arrived and claimed the kingdom; 2 and the private superstitious man might be encouraged or depressed by any ominous sign derived from any part of the animal world. But it is very rare to find such omens habitually consulted in any public system of divination sanctioned by the state. We hear of a shrine of Apollo at Sura in Lycia,3 where omens were taken from the movements of the sacred fish that were kept there in a tank; and again of a grove consecrated to this god in Epirus, where tame serpents were kept and fed by a priestess, who could predict a good or bad harvest according as they ate heartily or came willingly to her or not.4 But the method of animal divination that was most in vogue was the inspection of the inward parts of the victim offered upon the altar, and the interpretation of certain marks found there according to a conventional code. Sophocles in the passage referred to above gives us a glimpse of the prophet's procedure. A conspicuous example of an oracle organized on this principle was that of Zeus at Olympia, where soothsayers of the family of the Iamidai prophesied partly by the inspection of entrails, 1 Phaedrus, P. 244.

Serv. Verg. Aen. iv. 377; Paus. ii. 1 9.3.

Steph. Byz. s.v. Eoupa. Plut. De sollert. anim. p. 976 c. Ael. Nat. anim. xii. 1.4 Ael. Nat. anim. xi. 2.

partly by the observation of certain signs in the skin when it was cut or burned.' Another less familiar procedure that belongs to this subdivision is that which was known as divination &a KXrtbovcov, which might sometimes have been the cries of birds, but in an oracle of Hermes at the Achaean city of Pharae were the casual utterances of men. Pausanias tells us e how this was worked. The consultant came in the evening to the statue of Hermes in the market-place that stood by the side of a hearthaltar to which bronze lamps were attached; having kindled the lamps and put a piece of money on the altar, he whispered into the ear of the statue what he wished to know; he then departed, closing his ears with his hands, and whatever human speech he first heard after withdrawing his, hands he took for a sign. The same custom seems to have prevailed at Thebes in a shrine of Apollo, and in the Olympian oracle of Zeus.3 Of omens taken from what we call the inanimate world salient examples are those derived from trees and water, a divination to be explained by an animistic feeling that may be regarded as at one time universal. Both were in vogue at Dodona, where the ecstatic method of prophecy was never used; we hear of divination there from the bubbling stream, and still more often of the " talking oak "; under its branches may once have slept the Selloi, who interpreted the sounds of the boughs, and who may be regarded as the depositories of the Aryan tradition of Zeus, the oak god who spoke in the tree.' At Korope in Thessaly we hear vaguely of an Apolline divination by means of a branch of the tamarisk tree, 5 a method akin no doubt to that of the divining rod which was used in Greece as elsewhere; and there is a late record that at Daphne near Antioch oracles were obtained by dipping a laurel leaf or branch in a sacred streams Water divination must have been as familiar at one time to the Greeks as it was to the ancient Germans; for we hear of the fountain at Daphne revealing things to come by the varying murmur of its flow;' and marvellous reflections of a mantic import might be seen in a spring on Taenaron in Laconia; 8 from another at Patrae omens were drawn concerning the chances of recovery from disease.9 Thunder magic, which was practised in Arcadia, is usually associated with thunder divination; but of this, which was so much in vogue in Etruria and was adopted as a state-craft by Rome, the evidence in Greece is singularly slight. Once a year watchers took their stand on the wall at Athens and waited till they saw the lightning flash from Harma, which was accepted as an auspicious omen for the setting out of the sacred procession to Apollo Pythius at Delphi; and the altar of Zeus Xflµ0401, the sender of omens, on Mount Parnes, may have been a religious observatory of meteorological phenomena.1° No doubt such a rare and portentous event as the fall of a meteor-stone would be regarded as ominous, and the state would be inclined to consult Delphi or Dodona as to its divine import.

We may conclude the examples of this main department of µavrucrt by mentioning a method that seems to have been much in vogue in the earlier times, that which was called ata ,Hj4xov µavTUd7, or divination by the drawing or throwing of lots; these must have been objects, such as small pieces of wood or dice, with certain marks inscribed upon them, drawn casually or thrown down and interpreted according to a certain code. This simple process of immemorial antiquity, for other Aryan peoples such as the Teutonic possessed it, was practised at Delphi and Dodona by the side of the more solemn procedure; we hear of it also in the oracle of Heracles at Bura in Achaea." It is this method of " scraping " or " notching " (XpaeLv) signs on wood 1 Schol. Pind. 01. 6. T. 2 vii. 22.2.

3 Farnell, Cults of the Greek States, iv., p. 221.

4 Horn. II. xvi. 2,33, Od. xiv. 327; Hesiod, ap. Schol. Soph. Trach. 1169; Aesch. Prom. Vinc. 829.

5 Nikander, Theriaka, 612; Schol. ibid. ° See Robertson-Smith, Religion of the Semites, p. 128, quoting Sozomen v. 19.

Ammian. Marcell. xxii. 12; cf. Plut. Vita Caes. c. 19.

8 Paus. iii. 25.8. 9 Paus. vii. 21. I I. 10 Paus. i. 32.2. 11 Cic. De div. i. 76. Suid. s.v. irv9w. Paus. vii. 25. Jo.

that explains probably the origin of the words X0270µ6s, Xp?7ceaL, avacpeiv for oracular consultation and deliverance.

The processes described above are part of a world-wide system of popular divination. And most of them were taken up by the oracular shrines in Greece, Apollo himself having no special and characteristic mantic method, but generally adopting that which was of local currency. But much that is adopted by the higher personal religions descends from a more primitive and lower stage of religious feeling. And all this divination was originally independent of any personal divinity. The primitive diviner appealed directly to that mysterious potency which was supposed to inhere in the tree and spring, in the bird or beast, or even in a notched piece of wood. At a later stage, it may be, this power is interpreted in accordance with the animistic, and finally with the theistic, belief; and now it is the god who sends the sign, and the bird or animal is merely his organ. Hence the omen-seeker comes to prefer the sacrificed animal, as likely to be filled with the divine spirit through contact with the altar. And, again, if we are to understand the most primitive thought, we probably ought to conceive of it as regarding the omen not as a mere sign, but in some confused sense as a cause of that which is to happen. By sympathetic magic the flight of the bird, or the appearance of the entrails, is mysteriously connected, as cause with effect, with the event which is desired or dreaded. Thus in the Aztec sacrifice of children to procure rain, the victims were encouraged to shed tears copiously; and this was not a mere sign of an abundant rainfall, but was sympathetically connected with it. And in the same way, when of the three beasts over which three kings swore an oath of alliance, one died prematurely and was supposed thereby to portend the death of one of the kings, 12 or when in the Lacedaemonian sacrifice the head of the. victim mysteriously vanished, and this portended the death of their naval commander, 13 these omens would be merely signs of the future for the comparatively advanced Hellene; but we may discern at the back of this belief one more primitive still, that these things were somehow casually or sympathetically connected with the kindred events that followed. We can observe the logical nexus here, which in most instances escapes us. This form of divination, then, we may regard as a special branch of sympathetic magic, which nature herself performs for early man, and which it concerns him to watch.

The other branch of the mantic art, the ecstatic or inspired, has had the greater career among the peoples of the higher religions; and morphologically we may call it the more advanced, as Shamanism or demoniac or divine possession implies the belief in spirits or divinities. But actually it is no doubt of great antiquity, and it is found still existing at a rather low grade of savagery. Therefore it is unsafe to infer from Homer's silence about it that it only became prevalent in Greece in the post-Homeric period. It did not altogether supersede the simpler method of divination by omens; but being far more impressive and awe-inspiring, it was adopted by some of the chief Apolline oracles, though never by Dodona.

The most salient example of it is afforded by Delphi. In the historic period, and perhaps from the earliest times, a woman known as the Pythoness was the organ of inspiration, and it was generally believed that she delivered her oracles under the direct afflatus of the god. The divine possession worked like an epileptic seizure, and was exhausting and might be dangerous; nor is there any reason to suppose that it was simulated. This communion with the divinity needed careful preparation. Originally, as it seems, virginity was a condition of the tenure of the office; for the virgin has been often supposed to be the purer vehicle for divine communication; but later the rule was established that a married woman over fifty years of age should be chosen, with the proviso that she should be attired as a maiden. As a preliminary to the divine possession, she appears to have chewed leaves of the sacred laurel, and then to have drunk water from the prophetic stream called Kassotis which flowed underground. But the culminating point of the afflatus was reached when she seated herself upon the tripod; and here, according to the belief 12 Plut. Vita Pyrrh. c. 6.13 Diod. Sic. xiii. 97.

of at least the later ages of paganism, she was supposed to be inspired by a mystic vapour that arose from a fissure in the ground. Against the ordinary explanation of this as a real mephitic gas producing convulsions, there seem to be geological and chemical objections; nor have the recent French excavations revealed any chasm or gap in the floor of the temple. But the strong testimony of the later writers, especially Plutarch,2 cannot wholly be set aside; and we can sufficiently reconcile it with the facts if we suppose a small crack in the floor through which a draught of air was felt to ascend. This, combining with the other mantic stimulants used, would be enough to throw a believing medium into a condition of mental seizure; and the difficulty felt by the older generation of scholars, who had to resort to the hypothesis of charlatanism or diabolic agency, no longer exists in the light of modern anthropology and the modern science of psychic phenomena. The Pythoness was no ambitious pretender, but ordinarily a virtuous woman of the lower class. It is probable that what she uttered were only unintelligible murmurs, and that these were interpreted into relevance and set in metric or prose sentences by the " prophet " and the " Holy Ones " or "Outoc as they were called, members of leading Delphic families, who sat round the tripod, who received the questions of the consultant beforehand, probably in writing, and usually had considered the answers that should be given.

Examples of the same enthusiastic method can be found in other oracles of Apollo. At Argos, the prophetess of the Apollo Pythius attained to the divine afflatus by drinking the blood of the lamb that was sacrificed in the night to him; 3 this is obviously a mantic communion, for the sacrificial victim is full of the spirit of the divinity. And we find the same process at the prophetic shrine of Ge at Aegae in Achaea, where the prophetess drank a draught of bull's blood for the same purpose. 4 In the famous oracle shrines of Apollo across the sea, at Klaros and Branchidae 5 near Miletus, the divination was of the same ecstatic type, but produced by a simple draught of holy water. The Clarian prophet fasted several days and nights in retirement and stimulated his ecstasy by drinking from a subterranean spring which is said by Pliny to have shortened the lives of those who used it.6 Then, " on certain fixed nights after many sacrifices had been offered, he delivered his oracles, shrouded from the eyes of the consultants." 7 The divination by " incubation " was allied to this type, because though lacking the ecstatic character, the consultant received direct communion with the god or departed spirit. He attained it by laying himself down to sleep or to await a vision, usually by night, in some holy place, having prepared himself by a course of ritualistic purification. Such consultation was naturally confined to the underworld divinities or to the departed heroes. It appears to have prevailed at Delphi when Ge gave oracles there before the coming of Apollo, and among the heroes Amphiaraus, Calchas and Trophonius are recorded to have communicated with their worshippers in this fashion. And it was by incubation that the sick and diseased who repaired to the temple of Epidaurus received their prescriptions from Asclepius, originally a god of the lower world.

After this brief account of the prevalent forms of prophetic consultation, it remains to consider the part played by the Greek oracles in the history of Greek civilization. It will be sufficient to confine our attention to Delphi, about which our information is immeasurably fuller than it is about the other shrines. In the earliest period Dodona may have had the higher prestige, but after the Homeric age it was eclipsed by Delphi, being consulted chiefly by the western Greeks, and occasionally in the 4th century by Athens.

The gorge of Delphi was a seat of prophecy from the earliest 1 See Oppe on " The Chasm at Delphi," Journ. of Hellenic Studies 0904). 2 De defect. Orac. c. 43.3 Paus. ii, 24, I.

4 Farnell, op. cit. iii.

5 The prophetic fountain at Branchidae is attested by Strabo, p. 814, and in a confused mystic passage of Iamblichus, De Myst. .3, II.

6 Nat. Hist. ii. 232.7 Iambi. loc. cit. days of Greek tradition. Ge, Themis and perhaps Poseidon had given oracles here before Apollo. But it is clear that he had won it in the days before Homer, who attests the prestige and wealth of his Pythian shrine; and it seems clear that before the Dorian conquest of the Peloponnese a Dryopian migration had already carried the cult of Apollo Pythius to Asine in Argolis. Also the constitution of the Amphictyones, " the dwellers around the temple," reflects the early age when the tribe rather than the city was the political unit, and the Dorians were a small tribe of north Greece. The original function of these Amphictyones was to preserve the sanctity and property of the temple; but this common interest early developed a certain rule of intertribal morality. By the formula of the Amphictyonic oath preserved by Aeschines, which may be of great antiquity, the members bound themselves " not to destroy any city of the league, not to cut any one of them off from spring-water, either in war or peace, and to war against any who violated these rules." We discern here that Greek religion offered the ideal of a federal national union that Greek politics refused to realize.

The next stage in the history of the oracle is presented by the legend of the Dorian migration. For we have no right to reject the strong tradition of the Delphic encouragement of this movement, which well accounts for the devotion shown by Sparta to the Pythian god from the earliest days; and accounts also for the higher position that Delphi occupied at the time when Greek history is supposed to begin.

We have next to consider a valuable record that belongs to the end of the 8th century or beginning of the 7th, the Homeric hymn to Apollo, which describes the coming of the Dolphin-God - AeX Lvcos - to Pytho, and the organization of the oracle by Cretan ministers. Of this Cretan settlement at Delphi there is no other literary evidence, and the "Ovcoc who administered the oracle in the historic period claimed to be of aboriginal descent. Yet recent excavation has proved a connexion between Crete and Delphi in the Minoan period; and there is reason to believe that in the 8th century some ritual of purification, momentous for the religious career of the oracle, was brought from Crete to Delphi, and that the adoption of this latter name for the place which had formerly been called HAOc) synchronized with the coming of Apollo Delphinius.

The influence of Delphi was great in various ways, though no scholar would now maintain the exaggerated dogma of Curtius, who imputed to the oracle a lofty religious enthusiasm and the consciousness of a religious political mission.

We may first consider its political influence upon the other states. The practice of a community consulting an oracle on important occasions undoubtedly puts a powerful weapon into the hands of the priesthood, and might lead to something like a theocracy. And there are one or two ominous hints in the Odyssey that the ruler of the oracle might overthrow the ruler of the land. Yet owing to the healthy temperament of the early Greek, the civic character of the priesthood, the strength of the autonomous feeling, Greece might flock to Delphi without exposing itself to the perils of sacerdotal control. The Delphic priesthood, content with their rich revenues, were probably never tempted to enter upon schemes of far-reaching political ambition, nor were they in any way fitted to be the leaders of a national policy. Once only, when the Spartan state applied to Delphi to sanction their attack on Arcadia, did the oracle speak as if, like the older papacy, it claimed to dispose of territory 8 -" Thou askest of me Arcadia; I will not give it thee." But here the oracle is on the side of righteousness, and it is the Spartan that is the aggressor. In the various oracles that have come down to us, many of which must have been genuine and preserved in the archives of the state that received them, we cannot discover any marked political policy consistently pursued by the " Holy Ones " of Delphi. As conservative aristocrats they would probably dislike tyranny; their action against the Peisistratidae was interested, but one oracle contains a spirited rebuke to Cleisthenes, while one or two others, perhaps not genuine, express the spirit of temperate constitutionalism. As exponents of an 8 Herod, i. 66.

Amphictyonic system they would be sufficiently sensitive of the moral conscience of Greece to utter nothing in flagrant violation of the " jus gentium." In one department of politics, the legislative sphere, it has been supposed that the influence of Delphi was direct and inspiring. Plato and later writers imagined that the Pythoness had dictated the Lycurgean system, and even modern scholars like Bergk have regarded the n rpat of Sparta as of Delphic origin. But a severer criticism dispels these suppositions. The Delphic priesthood had neither the capacity nor probably the desire to undertake so delicate a task as the drafting of a code. They might make now and again a general suggestion when consulted, and, availing themselves of their unique opportunities of collecting foreign intelligence, they might often recommend a skilful legislator or arbitrator to a state that consulted them at a time of intestine trouble. Finally, a legislator with a code would be well advised, especially at Sparta, in endeavouring to obtain the sanction and the blessing of the Delphic god, that he might appear before his own people as one possessed of a religious mandate. In this sense we can understand the stories about Lycurgus.

There is only one department of the secular history of Greece where Delphi played a predominant and most effective part, the colonial department. The great colonial expansion of Greece, which has left so deep an imprint on the culture of Europe, was in part inspired and directed by the oracle. For the proof of this we have not only the evidence of the xpr16,uoi preserved by Herodotus and others, such as those concerning the foundation of Cyrene, but also the worship of Apollo 'ApXrn4rns, " the Founder," prevalent in Sicily and Magna Graecia, and the early custom of the sending of tithes or thanksgiving offerings by the flourishing western states to the oracle that had encouraged their settlements.

Apollo was already a god of ways - 'A-yvtci - who led the migration of tribes before he came to Delphi. And those legends are of some value that explain the prehistoric origin of cities such as Magnesia on the Maeander, the Dryopian Asine in the Peloponnese, as due to the colonization of temple-slaves, acquired by the Pythian god as the tithe of conquests, and planted out by him in distant settlements. The success of the oracle in this activity led at last to the establishment of the rule that Herodotus declares to be almost universal in Greece, namely, that no leader of a colony would start without consulting Delphi. Doubtless in many cases the priesthood only gave encouragement to a pre-conceived project. But they were in a: unique position for giving direct advice also, and they appear to have used their opportunities with great intelligence.

Their influence on the state cults can be briefly indicated, for it was not by any means far-reaching. They could have felt conscious of no mission to preach Apollo, for his cult was an ancient heritage of the Hellenic stocks. Only the narrower duty devolved upon them of impressing upon the consultants the religious obligation of sending tithes or other offerings. Nevertheless their opportunity of directing the religious ritual and organization of the public worships was great; for Plato's view 1 that all questions of detail in religion should be left to the decision of the god " who sits on the omphalos " was on the whole in accord with the usual practice of Greece. Such consultations would occur when the state was in some trouble, which would be likely to be imputed to some neglect of religion, and the question to the oracle would commonly be put in this way - " to what god or goddess or hero shall we sacrifice ? " The oracle would then be inclined to suggest the name of some divine personage hitherto neglected, or of one whose rites had fallen into decay. Again, Apollo would know the wishes of the other divinities, who were not in the habit of directly communicating with their worshippers; therefore questions about the sacred land of the goddesses at Eleusis would be naturally referred to him. From both these points of view we can understand why Delphi appears to have encouraged the tendency towards hero-worship which was becoming rife in Greece from the 7th century onwards. But the only high cult for which we can 1 Republ. 427 A.

discover a definite enthusiasm in the Delphic priesthood was that of Dionysus. And his position at Delphi, where he became the brother-deity of Apollo, sufficiently explains this.

As regards the development of religious morality in Greece, we must reckon seriously with the part played by the oracle. The larger number of deliverances that have come down to us bearing on this point are probably spurious, in the sense that the Pythia did not actually utter them, but they have a certain value as showing the ideas entertained by the cultivated Hellene concerning the oracular god. On the whole, we discern that the moral influence of Delphi was beneficent and on the side of righteousness. It did nothing, indeed, to abolish, it may even have encouraged at times, the barbarous practice of human sacrifice, which was becoming abhorrent to the Greek of the 6th and 5th centuries; but a conservative priesthood is always liable to lag behind the moral progress of an age in respect of certain rites, and in other respects it appears that the " Holy Ones" of Delphi kept well abreast of the Hellenic advance in ethical thought. An oracle attributed to the Pythoness by Theopompus (Porph. De abstinentia, 2, 16 and 17) expresses the idea contained in the story of " the widow's mite," that the deity prefers the humble offering of the righteous poor to the costly and pompous sacrifice of the rich. Another, of which the authenticity is vouched for by Herodotus (vi. 86), denounces the contemplated perjury and fraud of a certain Glaucus, and declares to the terrified sinner that to tempt God was no less a sin than to commit the actual crime. A later xpr)vµos, for which Plutarch (de Pyth. Or. p. 404 B) is the authority, embodies the charitable conception of forgivenness for venial faults committed under excessive stress of temptation: " God pardons what man's nature is too weak to resist." And in one most important branch of morality, with which progressive ancient law was intimately concerned, namely, the concept of the sin of homicide, we have reason for believing that the Apolline oracle played a leading part. Perhaps so early as the 8th century, it came to lay stress on the impurity of bloodshed and to organize and impose a ritual of purification; and thus to assist the development and the clearer definition of the concept of murder as a sin and the growth of a theory of equity which recognizes extenuating or justifying circumstances. 2 Gradually, as Greek ethics escaped the bondage of ritual and evolved the idea of spiritual purity of conscience, this found eloquent expression in the utterances imputed to the Pythoness. 3 Many of these are no doubt literary fictions; but even these are of value as showing the popular view about the oracular god, whose temple and tripod were regarded as the shrine and organ of the best wisdom and morality of Greece. The downfall of Greek liberty before Macedon destroyed the political influence of the Delphic oracle; but for some centuries after it still retained a certain value for the individual as a counsellor and director of private conscience. But in the latter days of paganism it was eclipsed by the oracles of Claros and Branchidae.

Authorities.-A. Bouche-Leclercq, Histoire de la divination dans l'antiquite, in 4 vols., is still the chief work: cf. L. R. Farnell, Cults of the Greek States, vol. iv. pp. 179-233; Buresch, Apollo Klarios; Bernard Haussoullier, _Etudes sur l'histoire de Milet et du Didymeion; Legrand, " Questions oraculaires " in Revue des etudes grecques, vol. xiv.; Pomtow's article on " Delphoi " in Pauly-Wissowa Realencyclopcidie. ANCIENT Authorities. - Plutarch, De Pythio Oraculo and De defectu oraculorum; Cicero, De divinatione; Euseb. Praep. Ev. 4, 2, 14. (L. R .F.)

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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From Old French oracle.





oracle (plural oracles)

  1. A shrine dedicated to some prophetic deity.
  2. A person such as a priest through whom the deity is supposed to respond with prophecy or advice.
  3. A prophetic response, often enigmatic or allegorical, so given.
  4. A person considered to be a source of wisdom.


  • (priest acting as conduit of prophecy): prophet
  • (person who is a source of wisdom): expert


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.




From Latin oraculum.


oracle m. (plural oracles)

  1. oracle



Up to date as of January 23, 2010
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From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

The Oracle Database (also referred as Oracle RDBMS or Oracle) consists of a relational database management system (RDBMS) produced and marketed by Oracle Corporation. Oracle had become a major presence in database computing.


Table of Contents

See also: Oracle Programming

Oracle Database Management Tools

Oracle processes

The Oracle RDBMS typically relies on a group of processes running simultaneously in the background (computer software) and interacting to further and monitor database operations. Such processes (and their standard abbreviations) can include:

  • archiver processes (ARCn)
  • checkpoint process (CKPT)
  • coordinator-of-job-queues process (CJQn): dynamically spawns slave processes for job-queues
  • database writer processes (DBWn)
  • dispatcher processes (Dnnn): multiplex server-processes on behalf of users
  • memory-manager process (MMAN): used for internal database tasks such as Automatic Shared Memory Management
  • log-writer process (LGWR)
  • log-write network-server (LNSn): transmits redo logs in Data Guard environments
  • logical standby coordinator process (LSP0): controls Oracle Data Guard log-application
  • media-recovery process (MRP): detached recovery-server process
  • memory-monitor process (MMON)
  • memory-monitor light process (MMNL): gathers and stores Automatic Workload Repository (AWR) data
  • process-monitor process (PMON)
  • process-spawner (PSP0): spawns Oracle processes
  • queue-monitor processes (QMNn)
  • recoverer process (RECO)
  • remote file-server process (RFS)
  • shared server processes (Snnn): serve client-requests
  • system monitor process (SMON)

External links

  • Oracle Database, a view provided by Oracle Corporation
  • Oracle tutorial, a quick understanding and visualization of Oracle environment and administration
  • Oracle PL/SQL, an easy guide to learn Oracle PL/SQL. Also most of the Oracle Topics discussed.

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

In the Old Testament used in every case, except 2 Sam 16:23, to denote the most holy place in the temple (1 Kg 6:5, 19-23; 1 Kg 8:6). In 2 Sam 16:23 it means the Word of God. A man inquired "at the oracle of God" by means of the Urim and Thummim in the breastplate on the high priest's ephod. In the New Testament it is used only in the plural, and always denotes the Word of God (Rom 3:2; Heb 5:12, etc.). The Scriptures are called "living oracles" (comp. Heb 4:12) because of their quickening power (Acts 7:38).

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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