oracle


oracle

Source of a divine communication delivered in response to a petitioner's request. Ancient Greece and Rome had many oracles. The most famous was that of Apollo at Delphi, where the medium was a woman over 50 called the Pythia. After bathing in the Castalian spring, she apparently would descend into a basement cell, mount a sacred tripod, and chew the leaves of the laurel, sacred to Apollo. Her utterances, which were often highly ambiguous, were interpreted by priests. Other oracles, including those at Claros (Apollo), Amphicleia (Dionysus), Olympia (Zeus), and Epidaurus (Asclepius), were consulted through various other methods; for example, the oldest of the oracles, that of Zeus at Dodona, spoke through the whispering of the leaves of a sacred oak. At some shrines, the inquirer would sleep in the holy precinct and receive an answer in a dream.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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