At the foot of the southern slope of Mount Parnassus, in the temple of Apollo, a woman known as the pythoness (a priestess) sat on a gold three-legged chair, called a tripod, perched above a chasm in the rocks. She chewed laurel leaves, which were sacred to Apollo, and inhaled the fumes that drifted upward from the chasm. Entranced by the leaves and the fumes, she muttered unintelligibly while a priest stood nearby and interpreted her mutterings. This was the famed oracle of Apollo at Delphi, from whom ancient Greece’s wealthy and powerful sought advice. Commoners went to the oracle at Dedona, dedicated to Zeus, to get answers to their questions. Petitioners wrote yes-or-no questions on strips of lead and put them in a jar. The priestess then picked out questions and answered them.

Three thousand years ago, the Chinese court astrologers of the Chou dynasty read not only the stars but the clouds, rain, and wind as well. These seers interpreted the relationships between heaven and earth in order to foretell what lay ahead.

The rulers of ancient Sumeria and Babylonia employed an elite group of priests to read the future and provide guidance. Often a mas-su-gid (a Babylonian diviner) interpreted patterns in the entrails of sacrificial animals. The predictions reported by these priests were considered to be divinely inspired.

In the Scottish Highlands, Celtic oracles known as frithirs served as prognosticators for their people. Four times a year, on the first Monday of each quarter, the frithir would fast, then step outside blindfolded just before sunrise. Upon removing her blindfold, the frithir opened her eyes and interpreted the significance of the first thing she saw.

Oracles serve as a direct link between your conscious self, your subconscious, and Divine Wisdom. When you shuffle tarot cards, cast runes, or use any other oracle, you open your consciousness to perceive what your higher mind already knows and wants to communicate to you.

Today, despite the modern world’s movement toward the rational and away from the mystical, countless people still turn to psychics, astrologers, and other readers for many of the same reasons their ancestors did. The same questions and concerns continue to cause consternation: Should I marry this person? Is this job right for me? What will happen if I take this trip? How can this illness be healed?

You don’t have to consult another person to get answers to the pressing questions in your own life, however. Instead, you can use a different type of oracle, a divination device such as those discussed in the following sections of this chapter. These tools enable you to access your own inner knowing. By showing you what’s going on beneath the surface of a situation, they help you find ways to solve your own problems.

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