Create Your Own Oracle

3:13:00 AM

For hundreds of years the Pythia of Delphy was the most powerful woman of the Ancient times. She resided inside the Apollo temple and prophesied oracles that influenced the course of history. Lycurgus, Spartan lawyer consulted the oracle before writing the first Spartan law in the 8th century BC, Solon, the Athenian lawyer, did the same in the 6th century BC. The Spartans regularly consulted it, so did Philip II of Macedon and Roman emperors Nero and Hadrian - to mention just those of whom we have historical records. For thousands of years it was a mystery how the oracle worked, until the modern times. And the secret revealed proved to be so simple that it allows you too to create your own oracle.

The ancient Delphi oracle was built on the Mount Parnassus on the spot where Apollo slew Python, a dragon who lived in the mountain and protected the navel of the Earth. Underneath the oracle there was a deep chasm into which dead Python fell and where it body rotted letting out vapours. The oracle itself was inside the temple built to celebrate Apollo, the god of light, sun, music, poetry, healing and more. The keeper of the oracle was a sibyl, priestess known as the Pythia. She was chosen among elderly women in the village and she had to be of the blameless reputation to be able to perform this duty. The priestess was the medium through which Apollo spoke. The Pythia would sit on a tripod right above the chasm and being exposed to vapours, she would fall in trance and start ranting answers to the questions that the worshipers asked the oracle. Her ravings were translated by the temple priests who would present them in hexameters, verse lines consisting of six metrical feet which represents the oldest form of Greek poetry.

Delphi oracle was the most revered of all ancient oracles and the Pythia’s prophesies were followed both by the simple people and nobles from as early as the 15th century BC till 83 BC, when the Apollo temple was destroyed in a massive earthquake. In the following years it fell victim to Roman and later barbarian raids until it was closed by emperor Theodosius I in AD 395. The oracle came in the focus of attention again in modern times when historians, geologists and psychologists tried to explain the ancient secret that it was hiding.

According to the latest geological findings it appears that the tectonic activities which were very common in those times in Greece were creating passages in the ground which allowed the earth gases to rise through the crevice under the oracle. The gas that can still be found on the location is ethylene, sweet smelling gas that produces a narcotic effect described as a floating or disembodied euphoria. The room in which the oracles were made was in fact a small, enclosed chamber so the concentration of the ethylene easily reached levels that were high enough to intoxicate the Pythia into a raving trance. The priests, who were assisting the sibyl by translating her gibbering into meaningful messages, would actually use the Pythia’s words to compose their own creative interpretations of answers.

Here is how you can create your own Delphic oracle. In the absence of the Pythia we will use a book, any book that you have at hand. First, you have to think of a question that you want to ask your oracle. Then, open the book at a random page and read the first sentence that catches your eye. Now, try to connect the content of that sentence and the question. Do you read any message inside that sentence? Does it give you any idea how to solve your problem? Can you associate it somehow to your current situation and translate it into an original answer?

To show you how this creative thinking technique works, I will share with you some of the prophecies from my personal oracle.

I asked:
Dear Oracle, I have just decluttered my house and with my birthday approaching, I can already see my friends dropping by to say hello bringing me the presents that I will probably never, ever use. I love my friends very much and I appreciate their attention but I do not need things that will only collect dust on my shelves.  

Oracle spake:
She had a round face and seemed like a nice person, and she and Midori shared a lot of small talk.
(Haruki Murakami – Norwegian Wood, Vintage, page 242)

Oracle advised:
When sharing a small talk with your friends, you should mention in a roundabout way the things that you have been wanting to buy but you never seem to have enough time to do the shopping yourself. This should give them ideas about your birthday present.

I asked:
Dear Oracle, I have entered some tough negotiations with a client who does not like making compromises and insists on having things his way. What should I do?

Oracle spake:
It was his habit to walk swiftly in the street even by day, and whenever he found himself in the city late at night he hurried on his way apprehensively and excitedly.
(James Joyce – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Penguin Books, page 78)

Oracle advised:
Maybe it is in the strategy of your client to stubbornly stick to the terms that he finds convenient for himself because he is counting on your urgency to get the deal done. You should not hurry and be excited about the whole project. Instead, you’d better calm down, and form a habit of being patient and taking small steps in negotiations with this client.

How does this appear to you? Are you inspired to start your own Oracle?

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If you wish to further explore this topic, you can check out the selection of my favourite books about creative thinking.

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