History of ancient oracles

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The History of Ancient Oracles and Pre Modern Spiritualism

Distant Learning ProgrammeThis is part of our Distance Learning Project (DLP) specially written for us by Violet Kipling DLP4 part 1. Edited by Craig Hamilton-Parker. Click the logo on the left for more info about our online classes.

Mankind has always had an interest in the occult, or that which is unknown, and the pages of history are filled with the many instances of people seeking information, either through divination or by spirit contact.  It can also be safely assumed that unrecorded history also evidenced such interest; it appears to be inherent within man.

There are many reasons put forward for why this should be the case, one being that primitive man, being unable to understand the evolvement of the earth and the forces of nature would attribute anything he did not understand to ‘Gods’. He deemed it wise to placate these Gods by supplications, sacrifices and offerings. He also consulted with the shamans or priests who claimed to know the workings of these Gods’ minds in order to ensure a better life for himself.

It should also be considered that primitive man was more at one with nature than is possible today and because of this he was probably more aware of the psychic faculty which is inherent in everyone. There have always been psychics and spirit mediums who were consulted on a regular basis, not necessarily to learn about life after death; that was an accepted fact, but to enquire about the hunting; the outcome of a  proposed war; when the drought would end etc

Many ancient people buried their dead with food and implements to help them in their new life. Egypt is a culture famous for the way in which the dead were prepared for the afterlife. Even today, many religions believe in the resurrection of the physical body, as a body will be needed in ‘heaven’. People who do not believe in magic and who know that the physical body decays until only a skeleton remains, appear to have a need to believe that their bodies will be reclothed in flesh and be re-animated in order that the worthy amongst them, can live in glory.

Many of the ancient cultures venerated their ancestors to such an extent there were festivals held in order that people could consult, through the shamans or priests, with their dead relatives. Ancestor Worship has flourished in many cultures and to a certain extent, continues today as so many people who become aware of the spirit world elevate their relatives and attribute all-knowledge to them and expect them to direct their lives for them.

History of ancient oracles

There were numerous methods of divination that were used throughout the ages and some of these are:


Augury is the observation of, and interpreting, the divine omens and the people who were qualified in this field were called Augurs. The Romans had many augurs who examined the signs to establish whether the auspices for any new venture were good or bad. Even the armies had their own Augurs who were consulted at every opportunity and before any major action was undertaken. Some of the signs used by Augurs were:

Weather Omens

Thunder was considered to be a good omen, depending upon which side of the Augur it was heard; the same with the direction of lightning, it could be good or bad. Needless to say, eclipses and meteorites were not good omens. Today’s omen?  Red sky at night shepherd (or sailor’s) delight etc. and people are convinced, through observation, that it is true. If it rains on St Swithin’s Day it will rain for 40 days and 40 nights? So people are still very interested in auguries and omens.


Bird watching was one of the major auguries. The flight of birds was examined; the type of  bird; the number; the direction. An eagle, flying alone was a good auspice as the eagle was considered to be the messenger of God. The ancient superstitions persist even today, eg ‘One for Sorrow, Two for Joy’ etc. Magpies are counted in order to find out what is going to happen.


A howling dog is a bad omen; a black cat crossing one’s path is a good omen. The actions of live animals were used extensively by Augurs. In some cases, animals were sacrificed and their entrails examined to see whether it was to be good or back luck; it was certainly bad luck for the animal. Injury or damage to any internal organ was considered to be inauspicious and action should be deferred.

Geomancy or Random Selection

This method of divination is used a lot today in many forms. Shuffle a pack of cards and draw one, then examine the meaning of the card. The throwing of coins was used similar to that of the I Ching and withdrawing stones or pebbles from a bag, similar to the Runes.

It can be seen how these methods have continued through the ages into their current forms used today. Tarot Cards, possibly the most widely used method of divination is random selection of a number of cards from the shuffled pack with the cards selected being interpreted by the Diviner.


Astrology has been used by mankind for centuries and the stars are still consulted today for auspicious omens. People’s birth signs are used as a guide to their personalities and to the compatibility of prospective partners. It is said that the birth of Jesus was predicted in the ‘Stars’ and hence the journey of the three magi who would have knowledge of astrology. People today, who dismiss astrology as ‘mumbo jumbo’ still tend to read their stars in the daily journals so the ancient superstitions still persist.


A method of divination that is not very old is checking biorhythms. Biorhythms are the rhythms of life and life is said to go in cycles. There is a health cycle, a mental cycle and an emotional cycle. The physical cycle which affects resistance to disease takes 23 days to complete; the emotional cycle takes 28 days and the mental cycle which covers intelligence and memory takes 33 days to complete. The cycles commence from a person’s date of birth and can be charted on a graph starting at zero and rising for the first half of the cycle and then dipping for the second half.

The first half of the cycle being positive followed by a negative second half. These charts are checked to ascertain the best time to undertake various ventures; to be careful with health etc.


Many ancient civilisations had their prophets and oracles that people looking for answers to specific questions could consult. Greece is particularly famous for its outstanding Oracles, especially those at Delphi; the Hebrew Religion had its prophets and the Romans, their Soothsayers.

There was much ritual associated with consultation of the Oracles, both by the Oracle and by the enquirer. The Oracle would make preparation for the forthcoming consultation by bathing, drinking water from the sacred stream, by meditation, by fasting in order that s/he could be a pure vessel for the clairvoyant message or trance utterances. The enquirer sometimes sacrificed a lamb and spent the night sleeping on its skin before meeting with the Oracle the next day.

Ritual is very important and it is something to regret that it is so often dismissed today in an effort to prove to people that consulting with the spirit is a normal everyday affair. The Oracular rituals prepared the mind as well as cleansing the body and if more preparation was undertaken today, whether or not it be in the form of a ritual, the easier will be the attunement and the purer the message. The slaughter of lambs is not, of course, recommended.

A lot of the information received by the Oracles was symbolic in nature and great care had to be taken to ensure that it was accurately interpreted. It must be pointed out, however, that the proof of the pudding is always in the eating and if the Oracles, Prophets and Soothsayers were not ‘delivering the goods’ they would not have existed as long as they did. They still exist today, by other names maybe, but the information is still received and still has to be transmitted to the recipient as accurately as possible.

Other methods of divination, some of which are still used today, are:

Tarot Cards

There are numberless packs of these cards available which include a book of interpretations. It is suggested that whilst the book may be used in the initial stages of working with cards, the intuitive sense should be actively used when laying a tarot spread.


This is divination by interpreting the symbolic or prophetic contents of dreams. There are many books on the market which cover dream analysis for students interested in this area of study.


The patterns of sprinkled salt are interpreted and answers to questions given where required.


A pendulum, which is basically a weight attached to the end of a thread, is used by many practitioners to find objects or to answer questions. Some people use it to ascertain food allergies or to foretell the future.


Tealeaf reading. A cup of tea (made with tealeaves of course) is drained, the remains swirled three times then the cup is placed upside down on a saucer.

The residue left in the cup is examined; the dregs near the rim are said to refer to the present while those on the bottom represent the future. It is possible to purchase books which give information as to the interpretation of the symbols found within the cup.

It can be seen, therefore, that there are as many methods of divining as an imagination can dream up. There have only been a very few listed in this section. Interested students will find many books on the market and information on the Internet regarding current methods of divination available.

Contained within all this interest in divining the future and having questions answered, mediumship flourished; many of the oracles were mediums as were some of the psychics consulted. It was not always appropriate, however, to declare an ability to see spirit or even to have knowledge of herbs with healing qualities.

Psychics and mediums were put to the stake, along with many innocent men and women at an alarming rate during the reign of insanity which prevailed in the 17th century when Matthew Hopkins appointed himself Witchfinder General.

It was because people knew it was possible for mediums to contact the dead and for psychics to tune into energies of which others were unaware  that frightened so many people. Because it was not always possible to practice this gifts openly people were kept in ignorance of what is, in fact, their divine inheritance. It is difficult to ignore spirit when every person living is spirit and already has an inner awareness of this fact. Suppression of facts and a stranglehold on the populace by the Church must be held responsible for keeping people in such ignorance. Alexander Pope wrote: “A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring….” A little knowledge could have saved a lot of lives because knowledge casts out fear.


COPYRIGHT This article is part of our Distance Learning Project DLP – a course specially written for us by the great Spiritualist Violet Kipling and long time worker on this website and the charitable organisation  Rainbows End. No part may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. This material may not be published as web pages or in email correspondence courses without the permission of the copyright owner. World serial rights are owned by the “Psychics and Mediums Network” (www.psychics.co.uk)

Article Name
The History of Ancient Oracles and Pre Modern Spiritualism
The first signs of spiritualism arising in early cultures and oracles with the use of augury, weather omens, soothsayers and alomancy. DLP – Distance Learning Project. Written by Violet Kipling and Edited by Craig Hamilton-Parker for psychics.co.uk community classes.
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Meet the Author

Craig Hamilton-Parker

CRAIG HAMILTON-PARKER is a celebrated psychic medium who has confounded skeptics by the uncanny accuracy of his readings. Craig is the author of 15 books and together with his wife have their own TV series.

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