[Note: I’m posting this article from an e-newsletter I sent out in January. If you want to get such articles in a timely manner, sign up for my e-newsletter on the left.]
It is probably a myth that times were once more certain, more carefree. But is a verifiable reality that people I know – and often myself! – wonder how they can keep up with the pace of their life right now. We feel the pull of chaos lurking just beyond the next corner, experience time as a capricious master who never lets us rest.
Each day we rise and the journey seems uncertain, not clearly marked. In these times, we need guides to aid us. After all would you go on a trip to a new place without a map? OK, or today, a GPS?
On their journeys our ancestors consulted oracles: people or objects who allowed the voice of the Greater Than, the Whole, the Gods and Goddess to come through into the everyday. They contemplated the signs of nature, had their dreams interpreted, read Runes, or tossed yarrow sticks to determine which hexagram of the I-Ching to explore. By the 18th century, Tarot cards were identified as an oracular tool that contained the wisdom of the ages.
One of the most famous and alluring oracles was the Oracle at Delphi inGreece. Called the Pythia, the woman, who directly spoke the words of the God Apollo, was drawn from the local peasantry. She was a common person who spoke uncommon, riddling words in response to the questions she was asked. The Questioner had to do some contemplation of their own to understand her offerings.
Art critic and writer Alexander Eliot describes the real power of the women who took on this role over the years: “The real secret lies in the riddling nature of the Oracle’s responses. They left a wide margin for error, but that is not the main point. They opened up the same margin for the sense of wonder to fill in. The Oracle of Apollo always spoke in ‘certainties’ but at the same time her words always pointed to the underlying mysteries of existence” (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, p. 89).
Like Emily Dickinson, a powerful Oracle “tells the truth, but tells it slant” so the Questioner must build their own bridge between mystery and certainty. The Questioner retains their own agency and choice making, and keeps learning how to play the game of life and grow in wisdom.
The Oracle at Delphi is gone. We can’t consult her. But oracles are available to us today. Many oracles from the past are being re-claimed and updated to integrate the ancient and the modern.
And a wonderful lesson of the Pythia is that you don’t have to be “special,” have degrees, be from a priestly caste. She was a common woman. She shows us that anyone can be their own Oracle.
My chosen oracle is the Tarot. I find it to be both comprehensive and concise. Its symbols contain millennia of meaning. Its 78 cards have been connected to wisdom systems such as Astrology, Kabbalah, Alchemy, and more. And each year dozens, if not hundreds, of inspiring decks are created to convey a new view on the deck. This could all become overwhelming if it weren’t for the clear structure of suits connected to elements that help me to create a spine of constant meaning from which I can hang my ever evolving view of the cards. I never grow tired of the Tarot and find it to be a lifetime companion who constantly surprises and delights me.
I invite you to find – or deepen your connection to – your oracle in 2011. It may or may not be the Tarot. Each oracle – runes, Ogham cards, nature signs, dreams, ect. – offers something different to the Seeker. Find the one that works for your and become your own Oracle. In these times, we need all the guidance we can get.