- Name and briefly describe one method of divination or seership technique common to three paleo-pagan Indo-European cultures. (minimum 100 words each)
Cultures from around the world have various methods and systems for divination. This includes the Indo-European cultures. One method that several of these cultures have in common is something that everyone does: Dream. Receiving information in dreams and dream interpretation has been around for millennia. It even played a prominent role in some biblical tales. This really should not come as a surprise. Everyone dreams. In fact out brains REQUIRE us to dream for proper function. Since this method was available to everyone and not just seers, it was also fairly popular. It shows up in Celtic, Greek and Roman cultures.
Homer wrote of Agamemnon receiving deceptive dreams from Zeus in The Iliad. (Luck 233) Hesiod associates dreams with the dark side of nature and includes them with “Doom and Death” (Luck 233). Xenophon reported that the Greek Orphics believed that sleep allowed a person’s soul to leave their physical body (234). Once disconnected the soul could go to higher planes and access knowledge and information not available during waking hours (234). Even Socrates reports receiving instructions in dream form while he was waiting to die (234). He took the instructions he received in the dreams as a direct order from deity. (234)
Artemidorus wrote a book about dream interpretation. (290-291). He believed there were two types of dreams; literal where no interpretation was needed and figurative where the dreamer may need the assistance of a dream interpreter. He also believed that only complete dreams could be properly interpreted so he put emphasis on remembering every detail.
The Romans also believed in the power of dreams. Marcus Aurelius purportedly received medical advice in a dream (Lock 237). Iamblichus urged people to make sure they were in a soothing state of mind in they wanted to have dreams where they gathered meaningful information so much so that certain substances were outright forbidden. Macrobius believed that someone close or important to the dreamer could appear and give a person advice. These dreams would be very straight forward and would need no interpretation (234). Synesius thought that, rather than show the future, dreams prepared us for things that may happen. He also believed, in contrast to Artemidorus, that there was no set interpretation for dreams because every person is different.
The Romans also pulled theories and practices from the Greeks. Cicero, leaning on Posidonius, wrote about three ways that information may be passed via dreams (174-175). These are: The mind is able to see the future, we are surrounded by sprits that must tell the truth and they use dreams to reveal their knowledge, and that the Gods can verse with people while they are asleep (174-175).
Dreams also show up in the Celtic culture. In the “First Battle of Moyotra” the invasion of the Tuatha de Danann is foretold in a King’s dream about birds taking over (Matthews 331). This is a spontaneous dream. It is not sought after and no preparation went into it. Other types of dreams were induced by various methods. There are reports of people sleeping in between to stones (333) or wrapped in animal skins (333). There are those that would sleep on a grave or in a tomb so that they would obtain knowledge from the person buried there (335).
One other way of inducing a dream as the “tarbh feis” wherein a person would kill a bull and make a broth. Once the broth was consumed they would wrap themselves in the skin of the bull and go to sleep. While dreaming they would receive a vision that would allow then to solve a problem (Matthews 242).
- 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 each).
In ancient Greece, the word for oracle could mean either the place where divinations were performed or the divination itself (Luck 244). The methods used could vary from place to place. One of the methods used, and one that is still used today, is that of casting lots. A person who practiced this form of divination was called a sortilegus. That title eventually became the English word sortilege which, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means “The practice of foretelling the future from a card or other item drawn at random from a collection.” This is, of course, only one of many forms of divination and seership practiced in the ancient world.
When speaking about divination and seership and its practice by ancient IE cultures, the Pythia at the Oracle at Delphi spring immediately to mind. It is thought that the Pythia gained their insight during trance, though the exact method used to induce this altered state is so far unproven (Luck 245). Whatever the method, this trance state most likely appeared to be a possession to the ancients (246) especially considering that most of the verbalizations and communication from the Pythia came out in gibberish (230). One theory is that naturally occurring fumes from a fissure in the ground caused the change in mental state, but so far there has been no good geologic evidence found for this (246). Another theory is that the trance state was achieved through a combination of sleep deprivation and fasting (246). It is also possible that while in a trance state the Pythia acted as a medium and the spirits spoke through her (246).
The Greeks also divined by observing nature (Luck 247). At Dodona a priest observed the rustling of the leaves on a sacred tree. At Epirus snakes were observed to see how well they ate. At Sura, the priests watched the fish as they swam. The behavior and sounds produced by birds was so popular that it earned its own name: Augury (247). This form of divination was so popular that the word augur was used as a generic title to describe diviners (250). The Greeks put so much stock in this form of natural divination that no important decisions were made without consulting the birds (250).
The observation was not limited to living things, however. The Greeks also used inanimate objects for divination. These names of these methods generally end in –mancy (253_. Geomancy was looking at how thrown dirt appeared on a flat surface (253). Aeromancy entailed watching how dirt that had been thrown into the lair landed on the ground (253). Pyromancy involved watching fire (253). A less attested form of this divination type is rhabdomancy which is divining using rods (253). Hydromancy was another form of divination using inanimate objects (253). This could also be called scrying (253. Any shiny or reflective surface could be utilized for this divination method (253).
- 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 200 words)
There is an interesting split in the treatment of seers within the Roman culture. On the one hand are the well-known and often visited Oracles like the Sybil of Cumae and the state sponsored Augurs on the other are the independent seers that were not associated with the state.
Cicero noted that visiting the oracles was something that people from every walk of life did (Luck 273). Pilgrimages were common and people would send questions with friends if they themselves could not make the journey (263). These oracles were important enough that the government made sure that the maintenance was kept up (267). In times of emergency or extreme crisis the Senate would consult a book of oracles from the Sibyl at Cumae for advice.
Whereas the Oracles were consulted to get a glimpse into the future, the Augurs were there to confirm that an action was something that the gods approved of (251). The Romans checked with the Augers before every important event or before making any major decisions so the Augurs were very much in demand and could, if they were so inclined, affect the outcomes of things to their benefit. The Augurs were state sanctioned employees and they enjoyed a high place Roman society.
On the other side of things were the wandering diviners. These seers where associated with those on the fringes of society (Graf 25). Cato even went so far as to demand that none of his staff allow any kind of wandering seer into the house (49). Graf theorizes that one reason for this was because the diviners would charge a very high price for their services (49). They were not paid by the state nor did they work at a state sanctioned oracle that received generous donations, so they made their living by charging people for information. Dream interpreters were also looked down upon. When Artemidorus was working on his book, he found these seers in the markets offering their services to the lower classes of society (Luck 290-291). Not only were these types of diviners looked down upon, if it was thought they were using their abilities to affect politics or other state business, they could be deported (Graf 49).
- Identify and describe one method of divination to which you find yourself attracted, and discuss its relationship to paleo-pagan divination. (minimum 300 words)
A few years ago I began studying the Ogham. I was fascinated by the simplicity of the lines and wondered how interpreting them would be in contrast to a highly ornate method like tarot. The ogham is a writing system that is estimated to have appeared around the 4th century CE (Ellison 1). It appears on what are believed to be grave sites and some other markers (2). According to Ellison many different systems of ogham have existed within the Celtic culture. (Ellison 3). The most popular uses seem to have been as an alphabet, secret writing or code, as a mnemonic device and for divination and magic (3). Per Ellison, use as an alphabet was probably the primary function. (6) As a written language ogham is to be read from left to right then down the right side or, if the writing is only vertical, from bottom to top (2). Ogham may have been used to encode messages that the writer did not want anyone else to know (Matthews 28). He mentions using the ogham as a divinatory way to determine if a baby would be a boy or a girl (6). There have also been bones and beads found that have ogham inscribed on them for no apparent linguistic purposes. It is theorized that these may have been used as talisman or amulets (7). Sortilege of casting of lots is probably the most popular and well known way of using the ogham as divinatory tools though there are few references to this practice as we see it today. Ellison does refer to a story in ‘The Wooing of Etain’ where a druid learns the location of Etain by using four staves carved with ogham. (Ellison 6) There is a word that means “casting of lots” in Old Irish (7), so that divinatory method was most likely used, but the exact methodology and symbol system cannot be fully determined at this time.
- Briefly describe the symbology and specific symbols of your chosen method of divination including the method of application of the system. (minimum 100 words overall description plus at least one sentence or line per symbol)
Ogham is ancient Celtic writing system (Ellison 1). It consists of five groups of 5 symbols each. One of these groupings is called an aicme (Ellison 8). Each aicme contains five letters or few (8). The first four aicmes contain the basic letters. A fifth aicme called the forfeda was added later (4). These symbols represent diphthongs that were needed to deal with additional sounds that did not appear in the original Old Irish language (4).
Overall the ogham symbols are very simple. Each symbol begins with a vertical line. In the first four aicme, the different letters are designated by the type and number of lines drawn to the right, left, or through the central line. In the last aicme, the forfeda, the symbols are more complicated and may extend to the right or through the central vertical line.
One of required tasks for the Ogham course that I took was to write short poems that encapsulated the meaning of each symbol. I have listed those poems below. I have found that these poems have help tremendously when trying to remember the basic meaning of each ogham.
Beith – Birch:
White bark glows
Purge what does not serve
Luis – Rowan:
A tree’s embrace
Ward the path I walk
Fearn – Alder:
Divine the path
Saille – Willow:
Guides through the darkness
Niun – Ash:
Link the Worlds
Huathe – Hawthorne:
Purge the staleness
Welcome to Springtime
Duir – Oak:
Strong and sure
Welcome the light
Door to mysteries
Tinne – Holly:
Never miss the mark
Coll – Hazel:
Dive straight to the source
Quert – Apple:
Both can be chosen
Muin – Vine:
Let go of logic
Gort – Ivy:
Spiral through life’s maze
Ngetal – Reed:
Path straight and true
T’ward goal from within
Straif – Blackthorn
Pain all around
Must push through to heal
Ruis – Elder:
One cycle ends
Ailim – Silver Fir:
Climb up high
Into blue skies
Sight extends for miles
Ohn – Furze:
Which shall I keep?
Collect them wisely
Ur – Heather:
Bridge the realms
You know the path
Find healing and strength
Eadha – White Poplar:
Tree that shields
Speaks nature’s wisdom
Ioho – Yew:
Change is a process
Koad – Grove:
Keeps all knowledge
Past, Present, Future
Oir – Spindle:
Long term task
Sudden insight comes
Uilleand – Honeysuckle:
Maze of life
Guides the travl’r through
Phagos – Beech:
Needed for Journey
Mor – Sea:
Into the Sea
Go forth fearlessly
- Describe the results of three divinations performed by you. These divinations may be text assisted. (minimum 100 words each)
Omen at Yule 2016
Nuin – Ash
Ioho – Yew
Luis – Rowan
Ash speaks on interconnections; how everything is connected to each other. Ioho is about beginnings and endings. Luis is about protection along your journey.
Overall this omen is in line with the season. One calendar year is coming to an end and another is beginning. The Holly King is defeated by the Oak King and the cycle starts again. Endings and beginnings are not separate from one another. The endings are intertwined with, and can exert influence upon, the new phases that are just beginning. Sometimes this is good and sometimes not so much. Luckily, the protection indicated by Luis can ward us as we begin our new journeys so that the influence of the negative entanglements from the past may be lessened or negated while allowing the positive influences to continue to bless us.
Divination for a querent at Samhain
Ruis – Elder
Phagos – Beech
Ioho – Yew
Ruis and Ioho are both about endings and beginnings. Phagos is about finding and using the wisdom from the past for a current journey.
Many Pagans see Samhain as the end of one year and the beginning of another. This is indicated by Elder and Ruis. This also indicates that there is a major transition coming for the querent. The querent will do well to look to the past, either their own experience, or of those that have come before. This will help them navigate the change that is coming. Something is ending but Ioho is also about renewal. The transition will, overall, be positive and is necessary for the individual’s personal and spiritual growth.
Divination for a querent on their birthday
Saille – Willow
Mor – The Sea
Koad – The Grove
Saille speaks to intuition mystery. Mor is the end of a major or prolonged journey and Koad is related to the ability to access all information.
A long journey is being completed. That is what Mor tells us. Mor is the final ogham of the final aicme. All other endings and beginnings lead to this one. The thing is, when a big, long term task or journey is completed, we are faced with a void. What do we do now? Usually we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory and are a bit skittish about moving forward. Thankfully, much like the other 4 oghams that end their aicmes, there is a beginning in Mor. Like Star Trek, when this Ogham shows up it is telling you to “Boldly go!” Don’t be afraid to go on to the next thing. Yes it is unfamiliar and frightening, but there is excitement there too. Additionally, Koad indicates that all they knowledge needed to be successful on this strange new journey is accessible IF you are brave enough to look for it and willing to learn. Saille offers the key to doing this. It tells us to use intuition as a guide. Look to the moon and its mysteries. Use non-linear thoughts and methods such as trance or free writing. These are the ways to access the vast stores of knowledge waiting for you.
- Discuss your view of the purpose of divination. (minimum 100 words)
I personally believe that the future is not set in stone so while divination may indicate patterns and possible outcomes, it does not necessarily indicate what will happen. I also see divination as a way to reveal hidden knowledge. Whether this knowledge comes from deep in the subconscious, a collective consciousness, or the gods, I don’t know, but I believe that it is knowledge that is not accessible by our waking, active, logical minds. Divination can also serve to offer alternate ways of looking at a current situation. Often we get stuck on a few options for solving a problem or dealing with an issue and we become blind to any other possibilities. Divination is a way to get past our own blind spots and explore situations from new perspectives.
- Discuss the relative importance and effect of divination within your personal spiritual practice. (minimum 100 words)
I am not one to check every decision or action by divination. I typically use it when I am feeling stuck and need an outside opinion. I also use divination on special occasions to get a feel for where I am, where I am going and any patterns, good, bad, or neutral, that may be affecting me. For example, as a gift to myself, I schedule a tarot reading on or near my birthday. I do, however, pull an ogham, tarot or oracle card on a daily basis that serves as a kind of theme for the day. I see this as something that I need to focus or be more aware of. When I do any kind of ritual, be it public or at my home grove, I will use divination to see what blessings have been sent by the Kindred.
- Discuss your view and understanding of the function of the Seer within ADF. (minimum 100 words)
My view of the seer’s function within ADF is that of communication and interpretation. While we all have access to the Kindred and many use various divinatory methods, the Seers seem to have a more open or clearer connection to them. I personally believe that this ability is a combination of natural talent and the hard work of study and practice. Using this enhanced connection they are able to not only receive the knowledge and information, but to translate it into language that can be easily understood. Both of these parts of the process are equally important. The Seer must first be able to receive the information. If they cannot do this then the other parts of the process do not matter. Once the information is received, they have to have the ability to understand that the information means. It doesn’t go any good if words, pictures, feeling come through but the person receiving them cannot find any order to them. Lastly, the Seer must be able to translate the knowledge into a form that can be understood by the querent. This may be the most difficult part of the process. If the information cannot be passed on or understood it is worthless. In ADF the Seer may perform this function for individuals as well as groups in ritual. In ritual they are the conduit through which the Kindred indicate the blessings that they wish to bestow upon the Folk. Without a knowledgeable Seer, the information would be garbled at best, and completely wrong, at worst.
- Discuss the importance and value of divination as it relates to ADF group worship.
(minimum 100 words)
The most apparent value of divination in ADF group worship is the taking of the omen in ritual. The Kindred’s acceptance of the offerings as well as the communication of their blessings is divined by the Seer in an ADF Core Order of Ritual. The divination and communication of the omen provides a sense of unity in the group. The worshipers know that they are all receiving the same blessings from the Kindred and those blessings can be used, not only in their individual lives, but in the group as a whole as well. This unifying feeling can strengthen the bond between group members and add to the sense of familiarity that the worshipers feel for one another. This in turn can aid in strengthening the groups cohesiveness in and out of formal ritual.
The taking of the omen also reflects the *ghosti relationship we strive for. It is a relationship of hospitality. We give to the Kindred in hopes that they will return blessings upon us. We use divination as the medium through which the Kindred communicate their acceptance (or not) of the offerings that we have made as well as the blessing they choose to bestow upon us in return.
Ellison, Rev. Robert Lee “Skip”. Ogham, The Secret Language of the Druids. Ar nDraioght Fein Publishing.
Tuscan, AZ 2007. Print
Graf, Fritz. Magic in the Ancient World. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, MA 1997. Print
Luck, George. Arcana Mundi. The John Hopkins University Press. Baltimore, MD. 1985. Print
Matthews, Caitlin & John. Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom. Element Books. Rockport, MA. 1994. Print
“Sortilege”. Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. 2016. Web. 2/4/2016.