1. Name and briefly describe one method of divination or seership technique common to the three paleo-pagan Indo-European cultures. (minimum 100 words each)
Scrying is defined as “to foretell the future using a crystal ball or other reflective object or surface”
(Oxford Dictionary). There are many different types of scrying
throughout history, including using bodies of water, oil, reflective surfaces,
mirrors, and crystal balls. Many
different Indo-European cultures had their own use and method of scrying just
as diverse as the cultures themselves.
Greek: Ancient Greeks had many different forms of divination that they relied on to gather information and knowledge. One type of divination they practiced was scrying. At the temple of Demeter at Patrae they would lower a mirror into a fountain, make offerings and give prayers, and then use the reflective surface of the mirror to divine messages
(Thomas 64). Another method of scrying in ancient Greece
was oil scrying. They would anoint the
forehead and thumbnail of a person. They
would then use the reflection in the oil on the person’s thumb to see images
and spirits linked to the person (Crystal). They would then interpret meanings from those
Celtic: Ancient Celts also had multiple ways in which they practiced divination, including scrying. One method of scrying that appears to have been popular in Celtic society was cloud scrying, or neladoracht
(Carr-Gomm 71). The word “nel” or “neul” translates to “cloud”
A Gaulish tablet called the “Coligny Calendar” describes cloud scrying
amongst the druids and shows that they spent several years watching the weather
in order to get a list of favorable and unfavorable conditions from the
different combinations of meteorological conditions (Matthews and Matthews 244-245). They would
look for specific shapes and forms in the clouds and interpret those shapes to
give s information, which included insight in battles, spiritual rites, or harvest
Persian: Divination practices in the Persian culture were just as diverse as the Celts and Greeks. Scrying appears to have been a popular method of divination for them. “Bahar-i-Danish”, or “Springtime of Knowledge” describes a method of divination using a mirror. The mirror would be coated in ink and the reflections in the surface were used to divine any knowledge
(Thomas 57). There are also numerous tales of a cup or
globe that could be used to see the entire universe. The cup would be filled with liquid and by
looking into the liquid they believed you could see all worlds and the seven
layers of the universe. (Canfield, Art of Scrying).
As you can see, each culture had their own methods of divination. However, the results and uses were all nearly identical. Divination was a practice used to gather information and communicate with other realms and beings. These practices were popular throughout Indo-European cultures and across the globe.
2. Within the context of a single paleo-pagan Indo-European culture, discuss three different forms of divination or seership, and give an example of each (minimum 100 words)
The ancient Greek culture had numerous methods of divination that they practiced. They were a culture that valued oracles, read entrails, appreciated scrying, and used so many other methods of divination that it can be overwhelming. Typically in Greek culture divination was used to receive messages from the Gods, but how these messages were received varied greatly.
Oracles: One of the most popular methods of divination in ancient Greece was the use of oracles. Oracle is defined as “a person (such as a priestess) through whom a god was believed to speak”
These oracles lived in temples, such as the one in Delphi, and were
often consulted upon matters of law, war, and religion. The oracles of Greece held the power to
establish new cults, institute new festivals, and require sacrifices. They were
also consulted when there were changes to be made to the property of the gods,
or if there was a new priest that was to be dedicated (Mikalson 42). The oracles were very important and highly
honored within the Greek culture, and their word was often the final say in
debates and arguments.
Augury: Another method of divination that was popular in Greek culture was the use of Augury. Augury is defined as “the art or practice of divination from omens or signs”
(Farlex). In ancient Greece this frequently presented
itself as the interpretation of the sounds and movements of birds. The flight and songs of birds would be used
as omens with different types of birds meaning different things. An owl hooting may be ominous while a hawk
swooping may be a sign of victory (Halliday 247).
Animals in general had a deeper meaning in Greek society. Often certain types of animals were tied to
different deities, and so the appearance of one of these animals would be seen
as a message from a specific God, such as the owl for Athena, the doe for
Artemis, and the eagle for Zeus (Bonnefoy 128).
Cleromancy: The third method of divination that I am going to discuss is Cleromancy. Cleromancy is defined as “divination by means of casting lots
This type of divination was very popular amongst Indo-European cultures
and includes the use of runes in Norse cultures and ogham in Celtic
culture. In Greece, cleromancy took the
form of drawing stones. One method would
include placing two stones into a pocket, which represented negative and
positive. A single stone was taken out
and that was the answer to the question at hand (Halliday 205). The oracle at Delphi used a similar
method. The oracle had a cup containing
pebbles, which were drawn to determine if Apollo was willing to disclose
information to the requestor. While
these ideas are different than those of the Celtic and Norse methods of
cleromancy, the basic premise remains at least similar.
The Greeks had very diverse practices when it came to divination. The three methods I described here are all very different, and there are many others that I haven’t discussed. It is this flexibility that allowed them to adapt to their surroundings and perform their workings wherever they were.
3. Discuss both the role of seers within at least one Indo-European culture, and the relationship of seers to other members of the society, including in that discussion how seers or visionaries would have supported themselves or how they would have been supported by their people (minimum two paragraphs)
Divination was a very important part of ancient Greek life. It was often seen as a necessity to consult a seer before making any major decisions, both in personal and public events. Divination was a way to connect the known with the unknown. This emphasis on divination made the role of the seer very important in Greek culture. The prominence of divination made it essential for seers to be respected and honored throughout their culture. Seers were seen as advisors in political decisions and answered questions for those people who visited them, often for a fee. They made divinations about battles, and even had the power to establish new festivals and demand sacrifices. The influence of seers and oracles is evident throughout the history of the ancient Greeks.
The lives of seers in Greek culture is very interesting to me. Some seers would travel the country and perform divinations for people. They were often given gifts and gold for their services, which allowed them to provide for themselves. However, there were also many seers, such as the Oracle at Delphi, were viewed as a priestly class and lived in temples. These temples had numerous priests and servants who were there to support and care for the oracle. These people were responsible for providing the oracle food, interpreting their omens for requestors, and protecting oracles from harm.
4. Identify and describe one method of divination to which you find yourself attracted, and discuss its relationship to paleo-pagan divination (minimum 300 words).
My connection with the Greek culture has always given me a large interest in divination. This interest stems from the prevalence of divination in the daily lives of the Greeks. Being connected the Greeks also gives me the opportunity to research many different styles and methods of divination because they used so many different practices in their culture. Since I was very young, I was always drawn to scrying and seeing omens in the world around me. However, more recently I have discovered an interest in the Greek Alphabet Oracle.
The Greek Alphabet Oracle is a method of divination that was used by oracles and seers across the lands. The information we have comes from inscriptions that were found in different areas of Greece. This method of divination is a type of lot casting where 24 stones are marked with a letter of the Greek alphabet
Each letter has its own correlations and meanings, which can be interpreted by
the seer. This method of divination is very popular in Indo-European cultures
and is quite similar to the Runes of the Norse and the Ogham of the Celts.
There are multiple ways to use the Greek Alphabet Oracle for divination including the drawing of a single stone, using a type of knuckle bone numerology to determine which letter is your answer, or using 5 dice to determine a number and choosing the letter associated with that number
(Sophistes). In each of these methods described, the
letter selected has a specific meaning.
That meaning is tied directly to the mythology and deities of the
By tying the divination to the cultural mythology it allows people to memorize the information more easily, but also gives them a much larger pool from which to draw information about the message that is being received. This could lead to diverse interpretations of omens and also made the system more flexible, which allowed for it to be used by a wider group of people. It is this recurring flexibility that is present in the Greek religion and divination practices that has always made it an easy hearth for me to follow.
5. Briefly describe the symbology of your chosen method of divination, and include a method of application for that system. (minimum 100 words overall description plus at least one sentence or line per symbol)
The Greek Alphabet Oracle is one of the methods of divination that I have recently found an interest in. This lot-drawing form of divination is made up of 24 stones or other small items that have been marked with each of the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet. Each of those letters has its own meaning and a tie to a message that is based out of Greek mythology. My favorite method of divination in this system is probably also the easiest. Each of the stones is placed into a bag or container of some sort. The stones are mixed together in the bag and a single stone is blindly pulled from the bag. The answer to your question can then interpreted from the symbol that is on the stone that you have drawn. This can also easily be modified to pull multiple stones for different reasons, such as pulling three separate stones during an ADF ritual to determine the message received from each of the three Kindreds. This simplistic type of divination makes it so that you don’t have to memorize a layout or specific order of events in addition to the meaning of the stones themselves.
The Greek Alphabet was made up of the 24 Greek Letters instead of using abstract symbols for representation. However each of these letters was supposed to have a meaning of their own in this method of divination. This meaning is briefly described below
· Α – Alpha – To bring about success and good fortune
· Β – Beta – With luck you will find help but the responsibility is yours.
· Γ – Gamma – You will have a successful harvest.
· Δ – Delta – Inopportune force will not be effective.
· Ε - Epsilon – Desire to see offspring from a fruitful partnership.
· Ζ – Zeta – Avoid raging storms and flight is wiser than fight at times.
· Η – Eta - The Sun watches over you.
· Θ – Theta – The Gods will guide and help you.
· Ι – Iota – Work is never done, but hard work means success.
· Κ – Kappa – Over time it is easy to be warn down. Try to persevere.
· Λ – Lambda – A sinister thing may be a blessing in disguise.
· Μ – Mu – Change can be made through hard work.
· Ν – Nu – Something will be given that brings strife with it.
· Ξ – Xi – It doesn’t help a situation to be harsh or angry.
· Ο – Omicron – What goes around comes around.
· Π – Pi – If you persist in your struggles you will persevere.
· Ρ – Rho – You will go faster by waiting than by going right now.
· Σ – Sigma – Hold your ground.
· Τ – Tau – Growing apart or separating from a person in your life.
· Υ – Upsilon – There is an issue (or issues) that needs to be resolved.
· Φ – Phi – Take responsibility for your actions.
· Χ – Khi – Obtaining your goal.
· Ψ – Psi – Collective judgment of a situation will be fitting.
· Ω – Omega – There will be a poor harvest.
6. Describe the results of three divinations performed by you. These divinations may be text assisted (minimum 100 words each)
Divination 1 - March 2014: For the past two years I have been involved with the local Pagan Pride Day. I helped to plan and coordinate both events, which were the first two to happen in Nebraska. It’s something I’m very proud to be a part of, but during a time of excessive stress and frustration I decided to look for some guidance. I did a small ritual, made my offerings, and pulled out my Greek Alphabet Oracle to see what message the Kindreds had for me. The three stone that I pulled were:
· Ancestors – Epsilon – Desire for harvest of a harmonious partnership
· Nature Spirits – Rho – Wait it out for now
· Deities – Psi – Righteous judgment
Overall this message seemed to say that I should wait it out for the time being and that things would work out the way they were supposed to. It also showed that I have the desire to produce a successful event, but that I want to do so with people who will work harmoniously together.
Divination 2 – November 2013: In a similar theme, I am also one of the administrators for a local group called Pagans of Nebraska. This group works as a spiritual alliance for all things Pagan and hosts public rituals and study groups. It’s a cause that I’m passionate about, but I do not always see eye to eye with the founder of the group. After hearing numerous complaints from members regarding the founder, I turned to my Greek Alphabet Oracle once again for guidance.
· Ancestors – Alpha – Success and good fortune
· Nature Spirits – Lambda – Blessing in disguise
· Deities – Psi – Righteous judgment
Once again I received a positive affirmation from the Kindreds regarding my concerns for the group. The message for me says that the group can be successful, and the challenges may be a blessing in disguise. It also once again says that ultimately the judgment made will be respectable.
Divination 3 - May 2013 & May 2014: The third divination that I decided to discuss was the one that I did when I decided to officially apply to join the Clergy Training Program. Since I was a child I have felt drawn to the service of others, and I knew that I wanted to help people with their spirituality. However, becoming Clergy is a huge, life-long commitment, so I wanted to see what the Kindreds had to say before I jumped into it blindly.
· Ancestors – Rho – Wait it out
· Nature Spirits – Phi – Take responsibility for your actions
· Deities – Kappa – Endure through difficulty and persevere.
This message is obviously one that is not full of blessings and joy. After receiving this message I decided to wait it out. I waiting for a full year before I decided that I wanted to try again, but during that time I finished my degree and was able to establish a protogrove that I am very proud of. Approximately one year later I took a second reading to see what the message was for me about approaching the idea of clergy and this is the message I received:
· Ancestors – Iota – Hard work leads to success
· Nature Spirits – Pi – Perseverance through adversity
· Deities – Chi – Accomplishing your goal
This much more positive divination is what helped me to determine that my desire to become clergy within ADF was something that I could accomplish and that now was the time to try to undertake that working.
7. Discuss your view of the purpose of divination. (minimum 100 words).
For me, divination is a tool that I use to communicate with the Kindreds. Often I will have a specific thought in mind and use some method of divination to get feedback on the idea. In a way, it’s almost a way for me to validate my thoughts and feelings, or to decide if I am on the right path. It is through divination that I am able to determine what the Kindreds expect from me and hear any communication they may have to share. I personally don’t view divination as a way to foretell what is to come, but instead as a way to better see and understand the world around me.
8. Discuss the relative importance and effect of divination within your personal spiritual practice. (minimum 100 words)
Within my spiritual practice I use divination very similarly to how I use it in my daily life. It is a tool that I use to communicate to the Kindreds. By using divination, the Kindreds have the ability to guide me and give me feedback on my actions and thoughts. I use divination in rituals to determine if the rite and offerings were well received, or if I need to do something more. I also use it as a way to determine what blessings we will be receiving from the Kindreds in our protogrove rituals. Divination is a tool that is used to affirm that I am on the right path, and to help foster that *ghosti, two-way relationship between me and the Kindreds.
9. Describe your view and understanding of the function of the Seer. (minimum 100 words).
Within ADF, the Seer is a very significant role within a ritual. The seer is the person who is charge of taking and interpreting the omen within a ritual. The seer often determines what method of divination to use and it is their responsibility to perform and interpret the divination within a ritual. In ADF rituals, divination is used to determine the effectiveness of a ritual. This determination is based upon whether offerings have been accepted or if further actions need to be taken. In exchange for an accepted ritual a blessing is often given in return. The seer through divination can also interpret the form this blessing takes. This role is very important, as it is their goal to act as the messenger between the Kindreds and the group, to share the message of the Omen with the participants.
10. Discuss the importance and value of divination as it relates to ADF (minimum 100 words).
Divination within ADF is something that I have discussed quite a lot in this course because ADF practices are deeply ingrained into my own personal practices. Within ADF, divination is used as a tool to communicate to the Kindreds. By using divination, the Kindreds have the ability to both guide us and communicate with us. Divination is used in rituals to determine if the rite and offerings were well received. It is also used as a way to determine what blessings will be received from the Kindreds. Divination in an ADF context is very important because it helps to build a relationship with the Kindreds and allows for two-way communication to happen with them.
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