Friday, April 18, 2014

PBP: Interpretation of signs

Divination played a fairly large role in Hellenic every day life. Oracles given directly, like at Delphi, were rare and called chesmomancy. All other forms of divination practiced in ancient Hellas were performed by seers, not oracles. Seer staples were divination through the spotting of birds (ornithomancy and augury), dream interpretation (oneiromancy) and animal sacrifice (hieromancy, haruspicy, empyromancy and extispicy), but other forms of divination were definitely used, including cledonomancy (listening to words spoken by a crowd), oneiromancy (divination through the reading of birthmarks) and phyllorhodomancy, the reading of the sound rose petals make when slapping them together with your hands. The biggest difference between oracles and seers was that oracles gave long answers which usually needed some for of interpretation while seers usually answered yes-or-no questions.

Divination of any kind was rarely turned to, to predict the future. To desire knowledge of the future was considered hubris. Instead, oracles and seers were petitioned to help answer questions about the present or to advice on a decision which had to be made in the very near future. 'Shall I go to war?', ' Shall I put my sheep out on the high pasture?'. Most often, oracular questions were posed in a way which made it easy for the God(dess)--and the seer--to answer; they did not ask 'Shall I go to war?', they asked 'Don't you think I ought to go to war?'. Most likely, the answer of seers (and perhaps even oracles) depended on the offertory; if it was large enough, the answer was 'yes', if the offertory was dissatisfactory, the answer would be 'no'.
Seers, in general, were considered touched by the Gods, and their gift was passed down through the blood line, often traced back to famous seers from mythology. These mythological people were considered gifted with the gift of sight and interpretation, and it could be passed by blood all the way down to the then-present. Some seers managed to make a good living from their job, others not so much and were rushed out of cities and towns when the answers they gave were not the desired ones.

In modern times, divination has become a game everyone can play. There are some who still position themselves as seers or oracles, but in general, many of us perform at least one type of divination, and all of us keep our feelers out to maybe find out what the Gods want from us--be it sacrifice, taking or not taking a job, going or not going somewhere, etc. There is an art--a skill--in interpreting signs, and it comes with a lot of practice. I remember starting out many, many, years ago and thinking everything was a sign while doubting every sign I got. In general, I have discovered a few things about interpreting signs:
  • Almost always, that sign you think you have gotten is either some random occurrence without meaning or your inner sockpuppets talking to you
  • It doesn't matter if it's the inner sockpuppets or it's simply a bird flying overhead; if you feel you must or must not do something in your gut, then do or do not do it--the opinions of the Gods matter, but yours do as well
  • Saying you speak for a certain God had best come with a boatload of proof
  • Making fun of someone who says they speak for the Gods is never okay
  • It's okay to believe someone speaks for the Gods, and it's equally okay not to make use of their talents if you don't believe--or even if you do
  • Divination is a beautiful practice, but it's hard to find true meaning in--mostly because of said needed skill and the inner sockpuppets; use divination as a guide, not a law, if you make use of it at all
  • Don't be afraid to interpret (or misinterpret) signs; the Gods will steer you right eventually, and most likely you won't even notice
  • Go with your gut; always go with your gut--an always be respectful to the Gods and those who serve them
Divination is a hot topic in the Hellenic community, mostly because of the historical foundation the practice is built upon. I rarely--if ever--use divination, but I do listen to my gut all the time. If I feel someone requires sacrifice, I'll do it, if I feel I'm meant to do something or walk away from something, I do it. Are those the Gods talking to me? I don't know, but I tend to believe they have instilled in me the qualities and wisdom to figure out my own life, and I have faith in Their willingness to steer my actions whenever I do something incredibly stupid. Interpreting signs is hard, and you will get it wrong many times over; that's fine. Keep at it, and once day you'll find the delicate balance between hope and faith.

1 comment:

aziraphael said...

This is one of my favorite posts. It's a very interesting subject and you wrote about it exceedingly well. Nice job.