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        Oracles: (Oracle centres, Sybils)

The earliest known oracle was in the renowned temple of Per-Wadjet. This was an important site in the Predynastic era of Ancient Egypt, which includes the cultural developments of ten thousand years from the Paleolithic to 3.100 BC The temple was dedicated to the worship of Wadjet and may have been the source for the oracular tradition that spread to Ancient Greece from Egypt. The Per-Wadjet tradition continued through the entire history of the Ancient Egyptian culture. The later Greeks called both the goddess and the city Buto. (6)

 

Livvio Stecchini suggested that the ancient oracle centres were placed according to geodetic principles at which 'Omphalus' or 'Navel stones' were placed.

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   The Ancient Oracle Centres:

Essentially, an oracle was a means of making a personal request to a deity to answer a question. Evidence for the use and belief in oracles comes from the many oracular decrees engraved on temple walls or delivered on papyrus to private persons who then wore the oracle as an amulet; references made in administrative or private records; original petitions on papyrus or ostraca and laid before the god; and statues and reliefs associated with oracles.

 

The Following Oracles are amongst the Best Known :

Karnak (Thebes), Egypt - Karnak is the mother oracle to all other oracle centres. The name translates as 'The most perfect of places'. It is the site from which all other oracles are said to originate. It is suggested that they were able to communicate with each other by the use of 'homing' doves, enabling them to 'see into the future'.. 

Nestled between the ancient cities of Luxor and Thebes, lie the remains of Karnak, one of the most magnificent temple complexes ever constructed. It became a religious center during the period known as the New Kingdom (founded c. 1550 B.C ). Dedicated to the sun deity Amon-Ra (also Amun-Re) and built around 1500 B.C. Karnak consists of massive pillars, towering columns, avenues of sphinxes, and a remarkable obelisk that stands 97 feet tall and weighs 323 tons.

Two relevant texts can be seen at Karnak, they read as follows:

‘Ye people from south and north, all ye eyes that see the sun, all ye who come from south and north to Thebes to entreat the lord of gods, come to me! What ye say I shall pass to Amun at Karnak. Say the "offering spell" to me and give me water from that which ye possess. For I am the messenger whom the king has appointed to hear your words of petition and to send up to him the affairs of the Two Lands.’

and:

‘Ye people of Karnak, ye who wish to see Amun, come to me! I shall report your petitions. For I am indeed the messenger of this god. The king has appointed me to report the words of the Two Lands. Speak to me the "offering spell" and invoke my name daily, as is done to one who has taken a vow.’

An Omphalus was excavated in the sanctuary of the Great Temple of Amon at Karnak, by G. A. Reisner. It supports the Greek traditions of doves flying between Delphi and Karnak. (1)

(More about Karnak-Thebes, Egypt)

 

Delphi (Greece) - Delphi, which had the most famous oracle of ancient Greece. Delphi was regarded as the centre of the world. According to mythology, it is here that the two eagles sent out by Zeus from the ends of the universe to find the navel of the world met. The sanctuary of Delphi, set within a most spectacular landscape, was for many centuries the cultural and religious centre and symbol of unity for the Hellenic world. The history of Delphi begins in prehistory and in the myths of the ancient Greeks. In the beginning the site was sacred to Mother Earth and was guarded by the terrible serpent Python, who was later killed by Apollo. Apollo's sanctuary was built here by Cretans who arrived at Kirrha, the port of Delphi, accompanied by the god in the form of a dolphin. This myth survived in plays presented during the various Delphic festivals, such as the Septerion, the Delphinia, the Thargelia, the Theophania and, of course. the famous Pythia, which celebrated the death of Python and comprised musical and athletic competitions.

The earliest finds in the area of Delphi, which date to the Neolithic period (4,000 BC), come from the Korykeion Andron, a cave on Parnassos, where the first rituals took place. (7)

(More about Delphi, Greece)

 

Siwa Oasis. Libya: The Siwa oasis must not be forgotten as it is was specifically mentioned in relation to Karnak and Dodona by Herodotus. Its rich history includes a visit from Alexander the Great to consult the Oracle of Amun in 331 BC, and another by the King of Persia who led an army of 50,000 to destroy the oracle, with the entire army lost to the desert. 

 

Dodona (Greece) - Was a prehistoric oracle devoted to the Earth-Mother Goddess identified at other sites with Rhea or Gaia. The shrine of Dodona was the oldest Hellenic oracle according to the fifth-century historian Herodotus and in fact dates to pre-Hellenic times, perhaps as early as the 2nd Millennium BC. Aristotle considered the region to have been the most ancient part of Greece and where the Hellenes originated. Priestesses and priests in the sacred grove interpreted the rustling of the oak (or beech) leaves to determine the correct actions to be taken.

Herodotus (Histories 2:54-57) was told by priests at Egyptian Thebes in the 5th cent. B.C. that: 'two priestesses had been carried away from Thebes by Phoenicians; one, they said they had heard was taken away and sold in Libya, the other in Hellas; these women, they said, were the first founders of places of divination in the aforesaid countries'.

(More about Dodona)

 

Delos (Greece) -  According to Greek mythology, Delos was the birthplace of Artemis and Apollo, but it had a position as a holy sanctuary for a millennium before Olympian Greek mythology made it the birthplace of Apollo and Atremis.

The omphalos at Delos (left), contains the symbol of the Pythona coiled around the navel-stone.

(More about Delos)

 

 

It has long been argued that there exists a geometric connection between such sites, with a clear geodetic connection between Delphi, Dodona and Karnak (Egypt), as established by Livvio Stecchini. (See below)

(Other Earth Navel's)

 

 

   The Oracle 'Octave':

The Geodetic placement of Oracle centres.

Livvio Stecchini suggested that certain ancient oracle centres were placed according to geodetic principles at which 'Omphalus' or 'Navel stones' were placed.

This idea is supported by the historical narratives of Herodotus, who wrote that the oracle centre of Amon in Libya was founded by flying doves from Thebes, which was long considered the geodetic centre of ancient Egypt, and is located 2/7ths of the distance from the equator to the North pole (and at which an Omphalus was later discovered). Herodotus also wrote that the oracle centre at Dodona was said to have been founded by Egyptian priestesses from Thebes and that doves flew between the two sites.

A milestone of literature on the subject of the geodetic placement of oracle centres already exists, written by Livio Stecchini (22), who concluded that several ancient oracle centres in the Mediterranean and Middle-east, were deliberately placed along specific latitudes and separated by units of 1°, which he suggested composed an 'oracle octave', along which the seven major centres were placed, each devoted to one of the seven known planets and symbolised by different sacred trees (for more on this subject refer to the 'Tree alphabet' in R. Grave's book, 'The White Goddess'). Underlying this geodetic placement, he believed was a set of knowledge that that formed the basis of the 'Eleusian mysteries'. Much of the following work should be credited to Stecchini.

 

Stecchini said this about the subject:-

‘The Temple of Ammon at Thebes at latitude 25° 43’ N was considered, and is, located at 2/7 of the distance between the Equator and the pole. Ancient geographers divided the space between the Equator and the Pole into 7 zones. Egyptologists have vainly tried to explain why the Greeks gave the name of Thebai to the city called Wast by the Egyptians; the explanation is provided by the Hebrew word thibbun meaning “navel”. From the Bible (Jud. 9:37) we learn that “a navel of the earth” was located at Mt. Gerizim where there was originally the sacred center of the Hebrews before it was moved to Jerusalem; the Samaritans never accepted such a shift, and geographically they were right, since the claim of Jerusalem to be the navel of the earth was not correct. The eastern gate of the Second Temple, where the standards of length were located, was called Gate of Susa, but Susa was located at the latitude of Mt. Gerizim which is 32° 11’ N. The sanctuary of Mt. Gerizim was located at a latitude that is 2½ sevenths from the Equator. Egyptian benchmarks had the shape of the “navel” found at the Temple of Delphoi in Greece. These “navels” had the shape of a hemisphere with the meridians and parallels marked upon them; at times they are half a sphere and at times they are elongated at the Pole. The sanctuary of Delphoi was considered a “navel of the earth,” as being located at 3/7 of the distance from the Equator to the Pole. This would correspond to a latitude 38° 34’ N; the Temple of Delphoi is actually located at a latitude 38° 29’ N, … which makes it 6° to the North of one of two Egyptian anchor points, the original apex of the Nile Delta at latitude 30° 05’ N on the axis of Egypt which is 31° 13’ E. Susa was computed as being 17° to the East of this point; it is at latitude 48° 15’ E. When the Assyrians established their religious capital at Nimrud in 875 B.C. they chose a point that was 6° to the North and 12° to the East of this Egyptian anchor point. (22).

 

Stecchini's theory was later included as a part of R. Temples book 'The Sirius mystery', (22) in which he suggested that the distribution of oracle centres embodied an ancient knowledge which had been stored in myth and tradition. Significantly, he states that the pre-dynastic capital of Egypt, Behdet 'existed before 3,200 BC', and was replaced by the city Canopus, (The same name as the star that represents the 'rudder' of the constellation Argo). He suggested that this was the key to the connection between the two mythological narratives of the ‘Ark’ of the Hebrews and the ‘Argo’ of the Argonauts, which he believed, revealed evidence of a prehistoric system which included an understanding of astronomy mathematics and geo-metry (as in the sense of measuring the earth).

We shall not focus on his work overly as it has already been done, but rather, by taking his lead, have a closer look at the two most famous Greek oracle centres, namely the first ever oracle at Dodona, and the most famous one at Delphi to see if they might have been situated specifically, and according to geodetic principles:

The importance of the oracles to the ancient Greeks is apparent from their prominence in mythological and historical texts; however, they were never exclusive to Greece, nor did they originate there, having been clearly recorded as an Egyptian introduction. Herodotus repeated what he was told by the priestesses of Dodona, the first Greek oracle, concerning its introduction:

‘Two black doves flew away from Egyptian Thebes, and while one directed its flight to Libya, the other came to them. She alighted on an oak, and sitting there began to speak with a human voice, and told them that on that spot where she was, there should thenceforth be an oracle of Jove (Zeus). They understood the announcement to be from Heaven, so they set to work at once and erected a shrine. The dove that flew to Libya bade the Libyans to establish there the oracle of Ammon (Amon).’ (Herodotus II, 53-5).

In Egypt however, Herodotus was given a different version of the legend. The priests of Jupiter (Amon) at Thebes said:

‘Two of the sacred women were once carried off from Thebes by the Phoenicians. The story went that one of them was sold into Libya, and the other into Greece, and these women were the first founders of the oracles of the two countries’

Regardless in the differences between versions, the concept of the oracle (otherwise named ‘sacred women’, Sybil’s or Pythona’s); perhaps found easy favour in Greece through their close affinity to the already extant and universal mother-earth-goddess cults in the Mediterranean and beyond. So strong are the similarities between the two, that an earlier connection between cultures can be easily inferred. The pictures below illustrates how the peculiar mixture of symbolism was already present in Greece long before the arrival of the Egyptian oracles.

(Cretan goddess with snakes in hand and dove on head)…

Mackenzie (24) had the following to say concerning the subject of the Minoan mother-goddess worship before the advent of the Egyptian pantheon:

In Crete there were three outstanding forms of the mother-goddess – the snake-goddess, the dove-goddess, and the “lady of the wild creatures” … As in Egypt, and Babylonia, it is found that one goddess tends to absorb the attributes of the other’

 

The similarities between the Cretan, Egyptian, Babylonian mother-goddess find parallels in several other primitive cultures from the same time. It is interesting to note that on pre-Hellenic Crete, she was depicted in a strikingly similar way to the Babylonian Ishtar, and is flanked by felines (as seen at Malta and Metsamor: Right). Mackenzie goes on to say:

‘The great goddess was depicted wearing a flounced gown suspended from her slim waist, round which a girdle is clasped. The upper part of the body is bare, and she has enormous breasts. Sometimes she stands on a mountain top, guarded by two lions’. (24)

(More about the Earth-mother goddess)

We are told by Larousse that: ‘Cretan iconography is associated with the survival of the Neolithic mother goddess, symbol of fertility with her bare breasts, the serpent, the bull’s horns, which recur in the architecture, and the bird, which precedes the dove of Aphrodite’. We can see that all of these icons are repeated in the set of myths surrounding the oracle centres, which are later imported from Egypt, and which  relate to a deeper set of myths with only a trace of memory in them.

 

Herodotus noted the religious transference from the earlier earth-mother-goddess to a pantheon of gods between Greece and Egypt, at the same time confirming the status of Dodona as the first Greek oracle site, and places the existence of oracles before the gods. He said:

‘After a long lapse of time the names of the gods came to Greece from Egypt… not long after the arrival of the names, they sent to consult the oracle at Dodona about them. This is the most ancient oracle in Greece, and at that time there was no other.’ (24)

 

In addition to having been recorded as the first Greek oracle centre, Dodona has a still greater, and older claim to fame being located at the foot of Mount Tomaros, which is named in Greek myth as the refuge for Deucalion and his wife, the sole survivors of the great ‘flood of Deucalion’. It is within this myth that an older, perhaps hidden significance (and connection), can be found in the location of Dodona, for while Mt. Tomaros is the reputed resting place of the Greek ark, the Hebrews record the final resting place of their ark as being on geodetic oracle centres: ancient-wisdom.comMount Ararat in Turkey (near Metsamor), both of which sit on the same latitude as Dodona and happen to be equidistant from Thebes, so that the three locations form an almost perfect equilateral triangle. It is also interesting to note the location of the 30th parallel in connection to this triangle, as it runs across it a third of the way its height.

Having already seen that certain prominent sacred sites from Northern (Lower) Egypt share a geometric and geodetic connection with the region of Mount Ararat, we can see now that Thebes, the geodetic centre of Southern (Upper) Egypt, also shares a similar relationship. The accuracy between the locations of these three important sites lends favour to Stecchini’s suggestion of a deliberate placement of ancient oracle centres. It is also apparent that as well as having a geometric relationship, a geodetic one can be seen at both Egyptian sites (namely, Heliopolis being on the 30th parallel in the North, and Thebes being located exactly 2/7th’s of the distance from the Equator to the North pole).

While it is possible that such a geometric connection between sites may be a coincidence, the earlier mythological connections (of earth-mother and ark) are harder to explain. It is not possible to know if the significance of the site was already known to the Egyptian priests at Thebes (or Phoenicians) when the oracle at Dodona was established, but there is little doubt that the location had a special significance from before the arrival of the Egyptian oracles.

Geodetic oracles. Ancient-wisdon.co.ukAs if to confirm that the placement of sacred sites was ordained through geodetic principles, a look at the most famous of all Greek oracle centres brings us to Delphi which contains a tradition of geodesy in its origin myth, which says that it was located by Zeus who released two birds from the eastern and western ends of the earth, with the point where they flew past each other being considered the centre of the world and therefore marked with an omphalus stone. As well as being located almost exactly one degree south of Dodona, it also happens to be placed 3/7th’s of the distance from the equator to the North Pole. Delphi also lies along the same alignment formed by connecting Dodona to Behdet in Egypt (which was the geodetic capital of Northern Egypt before 3,000 BC according to Stecchini), and which sits at the same Latitude as Alexandria. It is noticeable that as well as forming an alignment, these three oracle sites are separated by almost exact degrees of latitude (based on a division of 360).

Dodona (39° 30' N. 20° 51' E)

Delphi (38° 29' N, 22° 26' E)

Behdet (31° 30' N, 31° 14' E)

The oracle centre at Delos also had an omphalus (with a serpent wrapped round it), and we can see that it too was located almost exactly one degree south of Delphi.

Delos – (37° 26’ N, 25° 17’ E)

It is sufficient for present to demonstrate the strength of the connection between the regions of Mt. Ararat and that of Dodona, both sharing the same mythological ‘fingerprint’, both on the same latitude, and both equally distanced from Thebes, the ancient navel of Egypt. However, it is clear from Santillana’s work that there is evidence of a complex set of traditions involving the following themes: navel-stones, Geometry and Astronomy in some way related to a flood event.

We have also seen that the two sites for the landing of the ark are geometrically connected; this reference to the ark leads us neatly to the aspect of Navel-stones, which were famously found at both Thebes in Egypt and at Delphi. In order to understand the significance of the oracle centres it has been necessary to look at the myths that surround them, this proves to be the case with the Omphalii too.

 

 

Omphalos: (Navel stones).

Omphalus stones have been found at several important oracle centres. (i.e. Delphi, Dodona and Thebes (Egypt). Within these stones lies a symbolism which is almost lost to us now.

Although not at first apparent, the Omphalus stones from Thebes and Delphi have several features in common through which it is possible to see the fusion of Egyptian and Greek iconography and mythology, and the thread of an older set of ideas.

    

Thebes, Egypt (left), Greek engraving of Delphi (Note: Apollo’s harp, Doves), (right).

Santillana (4), offers several examples to support the association between navel-stones and ‘the great flood’ by referring to their function as ‘plugs’; an idea typified by the following phrase “The opening of the navel brings the deluge”. The Doves on both the omphalus above reflect this suggestion

Service and Bradbury (2), state that 'Within concept of the Omphalus, there is also implied an umbilical cord, an invisible link reaching from the depths of the earth through the navel right up into the heavens' (Roscher 1913). 

(More about 'Earth-Navel's)

 

 

 

   The Sybils:

We can identify several features common to both the primitive earth-goddess and the Sibyl's of ancient Greece; They were invariably associated with the feminine, they were connected to both serpents and doves (birds), and shared a similar set of traditions with roots leading back to the primitive worship of an ‘earth-mother’ or ‘mother-earth’, in relation to agriculture and harvest.

The Delphic Sibyl was a legendary prophetic figure who was said to have given prophecies at Delphi shortly after the Trojan War. The prophecies attributed to her circulated in written collections of prophetic sayings, along with the oracles of figures such as Bakis. The Sibyl had no connection to the oracle of Apollo, and should not be confused with the Pythia.

Like Heraclitus, Plato speaks of only one Sibyl, but in course of time the number increased to nine, with a tenth, the Tiburtine Sibyl, probably Etruscan in origin, added by the Romans. (8)

 

 

The Maltese 'Oracle' centres.

Several of the prehistoric temples on Malta have 'oracle holes' in them. The underground Hypogeum contains the so-called 'speaking chamber', a depression in the wall which produces an echo which reverberates at the same speed as the beating heart.

(More about the Hypogeum)

Several other temples have small holes cut neatly into the large dividing slabs that compose the temple walls.

 

 

 

The 'African' Heads: La Venta.

Van Sertima suggested that one of the gigantic Olmec stone-heads found on the Mexican peninsula may have served as a 'Talking god'.

Extract from Van Sertima (5):

'Four  Negroid heads in all were excavated at La Venta. The largest of the four - nine feet high - had its domed top flattened so that it could function as an altar. A speaking tube was found going in at the ear and out at the mouth; it was used as an oracle, a talking god. It was also, according to Stirling, associated with the first construction phase of the ceremonial court.'

Olmec head, La Venta (Left), 'Jaguar Stone', Mexico (Right)

The 'Jaguar Stone' (Chalcatzingo, Morelos, Mexico), is another possible oracular relic. It was found at the entrance to a natural cave and is dated from 800 to 100 BC '

(More about the 'African' heads)       (Other examples of 'Holed-Stones')

(Divination)

(Shamanism)

(Earth Navels)

(Earth-Mother-Earth)

 

References:

1). G. Hancock. Heavens Mirror, 1998, Michael Joseph Ltd.
2). A. Service & J. Bradbery. Megaliths and their Mysteries. 1979. Macmillan.
3). Michael Wood. In Search of the First Civilisations. 1992. BBC Books.
4). Giorgio de Santillana & Hertha von Dechend. Hamlets Mill. 1983. D.R. Godine Publ.
5). Ivan. Van Sertima. They came before Columbus. 1976. Random House.
6). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oracle
7). http://www.culture.gr
8). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sibyl
22). Robert Temple. The Sirius mystery. (Appendix by Livvio Stecchini).
24). D. A. Mackenzie, Crete and Prehellenic. 1995. Senate Books.
Omphalos image courtesy of
whitneykrueger.com

 

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