Friday, October 5, 2012
Divination part 4: One method of Paleo-Pagan divination
As far back as I can remember my chosen method of divination has been that of Tarot. But of all the methods I have used over the years, the one I have found myself drawn to the most is a form of alphabet oracle that was created by the ancient Greeks. The Greek Oracle Alphabet was found in the ruins of Delphi as inscriptions on the walls. In this system the Oracles were written on a tablet. This table of Oracles had two listings with each Oracle phrase; one numeric and one alphabet letter. Either of the numeric or alphabetic values allowed the seeker to gain answers to questions. The two of the most notable tools used for this kind of divination were the use of astragaloi (knuckle bones) and alphabet oracles. From what I have been able to find, most resources mention that the astragaloi were usually made from sheep (Encyclopedia Britannica 11th Edition). The astragaloi numbered five in number and cast on a flat surface. They have four readable about sides, which each side had a number to it:
(trias=3, tetras=4, monas=1, hexas=6 )
The total possible range of values 5 to 30, with a few numeric values missing due to the fact that there was only 4 sides per astragaloi. The missing numbers were 6 and 29, which are impossible to achieve with only 5 four sided objects. Heinevetter believed that the largest possible value, 30, was associated with Alpha (Heinevetter pge 35). All other numbers assigned in decreasing value to the remaining letters from there. There seems to be a possible debate on the ordering of the numeric value, but Heinevetter’s view was the only one available on the resource page. These numeric values added up from the way the astragaloi landed. There would be tablets on hand, especially in temples, which would have a listing for the total numerical value of the astragaloi and its corresponding Oracle meaning. In modern times it is more feasible, not to mention moral, to use dice instead of knuckle bones. They come in a variety of different materials as well as sizes and colors. On the site by Apollonius Sophistes, there is a listing for the numeric values possible with five sided dice. This makes using modern five sided dice a much better option. Sophistes comments that on the Olympian table there were no Oracles for Digamma and Qoppa. This meant that any casting of 13 or 25 have not Oracle meaning. I can see the use of astragaloi being a much better option as there were only
five, where as the alphabet tiles numbered 24. This could be a cumbersome divination tool to carry
around compared to the use of the astragaloi or dice.
As for the alphabet tiles, each letter of the alphabet on the tiles had a corresponding oracle on the same tablet as those used with the astragaloi. The first word of each Oracle started with the letter on the stone or pottery shard. The numeric value of the astragaloi corresponded to numeric values associated with the alphabet oracle, being drawn in a similar fashion as Runes. (Sophistes) . When a tile was drawn, the Greek letter that was painted on it was compared to Oracle associated with that letter. The following is the link of the Greek Alphabet Oracle which Sophistes provides on the
When I use this form of divination, I will mostly use the tiles I have made with the Greek
alphabet on them. Mostly this is because I do most of my divination readings at home or in a ritual
sitting. Other times I use the dice which I keep on me all the time. I have a word document which I
keep on my phone so I can translate the meaning when I toss the dice. I have found this to be a
wonderful method for daily divinations.