– information about future events, obtained through a super-sensory (intuitive) perception. At the same time, no magic intervention, nor any other mental impact on future events is made.

люди From time immemorial people sought to learn about the future, and such information was helped to receive fortune tellers and soothsayers who, it was believed, directly communicated with the deities, and could see the future for thousands of years ahead. Such seers were among many peoples of the world. In the Greeks they were called oracles and sibyls, Slavs – sorcerers, Celts – druids, etc.


Modern researchers subdivide the oracles into several groups according to the method of obtaining and proclaiming prophecies:
• Oracles of signs that form a prophecy as a result of observations of natural phenomena (rustling of leaves, flight of birds, etc.) or after performing certain rituals for example, tossing lots). The oracles of inspiration (ecstasy) or the Apollonian oracles (prophesies where such predictions were made were the place of worship of Apollo or Phoebus – the ancient Greek god who was the embodiment of the Sun, the patron of the fortune-tellers, the muses and poets, travelers and sailors, doctors, sciences and arts) – received answers to questions, entering the ecstatic state. It was they who enjoyed the greatest authority in many countries of the ancient world.
• Oracles of dreams that received information from dreams or visions (those that prophesied after divine revelations were respected and respected by believers of religions of revelation – Islam, Judaism and Christianity).
• Necromancer Oracles or Oracles of Calling the Dead – those who questioned are not deities, but the souls of the dead, called to receive answers to the questions of the living.
In some cases, one prophet combined the properties of several oracles.

Prediction, divination, clairvoyance and foresight are one and the same.

Most often these words are used interchangeably, but in their meaning there is a significant difference. Predictions are based only on intuitive perception, while foresight is a form of scientific cognition and, like forecasting, is based on generalized data (both theoretical calculations and preliminary practical experiments and observations of certain processes and phenomena).

From divination and clairvoyance, the predictions differ in that they only report information about an event originally predetermined and not dependent on any changes (behavioral, worldview, etc.) of a person (and according to, for example, the mythology of the inhabitants of Germany and Scandinavia – even a god). Divination, as well as clairvoyance, most often answers the question about events with a variable outcome (which can be influenced, for example, by fulfilling certain vows, reading prayers, forgiving abusers, etc.) or about the consequences of these or those actions.

The presence or absence of a prophetic gift can be determined by inviting a person, for example, to predict a particular combination of figures on the faces of dice, numbers in the lottery, and so on.

Wrong opinion. If a person can determine which combination of numbers falls in a lotto, roulette or when throwing dice – most likely, he has extrasensory abilities (in this case – clairvoyance). If he can easily guess which card is currently being pulled out of the pack – this may just be a manifestation of another extrasensory ability (telepathy). Whether a person has the gift to predict a predetermined future can not be determined in the ways mentioned.

In ancient times, methods of this kind were actually used to determine the most accurate oracle. For example, according to legend, Croesus (king of Lydia) sent messengers to the predictors of Hellas. The oracles had to answer one question: “What does Croesus do?” (only time was indicated, the type of activity should be called).To give the correct answer (that in the mentioned time the tsar cooked a tortoise and a lamb in a copper cauldron) only the Pythia of Delphi could.

However, to show the same accuracy in the answer to the next question of Krez (on the expediency of unleashing a war with the ruler of Persia, Cyrus), who in fact decided the fate of King Lydia, the Pythia was no longer able. In general, according to the research of modern scientists, accurate predictions that do not allow misunderstanding make up only 2% of all the predicted predictions given by the Delphic oracle.

Michel Nostradamus (France), who correctly foretold the fate of two dairy piglets, passed the test of this kind. His prediction came true precisely, despite all the tricks of de Florinville, in whose castle the seer stopped.

The ability to predict the future can be trained.

Today, there are many different techniques (for example, online simulators), which, according to the assurances of their creators, contribute to the development of the gift of divination. However, the mentioned methods, at best, train extrasensory abilities, they can not reveal and strengthen the gift to predict future events.

Diligent prayer, fasting and refusal of worldly joys help to receive the gift of prophecy.

In some cases, people who earnestly asked for the gift of a prophetic gift did receive it (and sometimes the gift of prophecy was not shown by the praying woman, but by her child). Also, many fasting and praying holy elders acquired the gift of providence (and were later called “perspicacious”).

But, moreover, this gift could be a consequence of an external influence on an unsuspecting person or manifested itself in people standing “on the verge of death” (for example, the prophetic gift of Socrates was found before execution, and the monk Abel – after a long serious illness) .

It is also believed that a prophetic gift can be obtained as a result of:
Communication with beings from other, magical worlds (the Celts believed that the representatives of the people of the Tuaths living in the Side-underground world could donate predictions).
• The effects of natural phenomena (most often lightning or severe storms).
• Divine revelations – a supernatural impact on people from above (when God reveals Himself either directly or through angels).
• Longer pilgrimages or wanderings (this is how Michel Nostradamus received the gift of foresight).

Oracle is a person who predicts the future.

Yes, in our days the oracle (oraculum, from Latin oro – “to ask, to speak”) is called either a fortuneteller or a person, all judgments and sayings of which are considered to be unquestionable truth. However, in ancient times this word had a broader meaning: the oracle was also called the priest-fortuneteller, and the text of the prediction itself, and the place where the predictions were announced (the “prophet”).

Oracles, Pythias and Sibyls are synonyms.

In some cases, this is indeed the case. For example, Pythia, Delphic prophetesses, in some sources called Sibyls (and according to legend, the daughter of Apollo himself), prophesied in Delphi, is called the first sibilla). But from oracles Sibyls still differed. Firstly, most often they lived in outlying areas of the country (with a lot of traveling), and the oracles were located in sanctuaries erected in large cities. Secondly, the Sibyls, unlike the oracles, did not answer the questions, but, falling into an ecstatic state, they talked about the events of the future (sometimes very far).

The oracles came to Hellas along with the ancient Greeks.

Wrong opinion. Herodotus claims that the most ancient oracle in the city of Dodona (Epirus district in the north-west of Greece) appeared before the Greeks arrived in Hellas. Initially, the prophet was the place of worship of the Mother Goddess, and was associated with the cult of chthonic deities (ie deities associated with the forces of the earth and the underworld). Information on future events predictors received, listening to the rustle of the foliage of the sacred tree (oak).Some historians believe that the oracles came to the territory of Ancient Greece from the countries of the Ancient East, since the prophesy, like the Greek, existed in ancient times in Assyria, Mari and Ancient Egypt.

The ancient oracles were mostly female.

This is not quite true. The most famous oracles of Ancient Greece were male, except for the Pythia, the prophetess of the temple of Apollo, located in Delphi, a city erected on the slope of Mount Parnassus. But the sibyls (prophetesses who traveled in ancient Greece) were really only representatives of the fair sex.

Prophetesses were most often young virgins.

In the beginning it was exactly like this, but later, for example, in the Delphi temple Pythia was chosen from women of 50 years of age. Yes, and innocence ceased to be an obligatory requirement – the pretender could be married, however, after taking the dignity, she kept chastity.


Priests could perform the functions of the oracle.

Most often priests and priestesses used other methods of obtaining information (for example, mantle, that is, different types of fortune-telling) to obtain information about future events or the will of deities. In prophetic priests, it was the priests who directed the movements of visitors when examining the temple, and also interpreted the oracle predictions (the wording of which sometimes allowed several interpretations, often diametrically opposite). But in some cases, the priestesses acquired a prophetic gift, and became sibyls. An example of such a transformation is the Cuma sibyl (in the beginning she was a priestess in the Ionian city of Erythra, but later, having obtained the gift of divination, she moved to the Italian city of Kuma).

Pythia uttered predictions in verse form.

The first prophecies were actually given in verse (the verse size changed according to the epoch – from the hexameter most often used in ancient poetry, to the iambic trimeter), often very far from perfect. However, over time, the poetic form of divination began to occur less and less, giving way to prose.

The prophets were completely independent people, and they always spoke only the truth.

No, often predictions were made to please those in power (who were seeking bribery or threats by the right answer). Demosthenes also publicly accused the Delphic pythia of being bribed by Tsar Philip of Macedonia. Also, in some cases, the texts of the predictions were compiled according to the instructions of the priests wishing to strengthen their positions in the state and for this purpose created a wide-ranging intelligence network throughout the country. Thanks to this, the ministers of the temples of Apollo knew well the moods in this or that region, what questions should be expected from representatives of various strata of the population of a particular region of Hellas and what answers would be favorable to their expectations, and to correspond to the execution of the plans of the priests.

To predict the future, it is enough for a person to have a prophetic gift.

In some cases, this is indeed the case. But most often the utterance of prophecies was preceded by a certain preparation. For example, the Delphic pythia fasted for 3 days, after bathing in a sacred source – the Kastalian key, named after the nymph of Kastalia and, according to the legend, giving power to prophets and inspiration to musicians and poets. The soothsayer chewed the leaves of the laurel (a plant revered sacred), pinned a laurel wreath on its head and drank water from the source of Kassotida (whose waters also had to strengthen the prophetic gift).

After that, sitting on a sacred tripod, the Pythia inhaled narcotic couples rising from the cleft in the rock, fell into an ecstatic state, and began to broadcast (modern experts put this claim in doubt, because among the ruins of the Delphic temple there were no cracks or caves found).In the same way (by drinking water from a sacred source and inhaling its evaporation, which caused visions), the prophetess who was broadcasting in the temple in Didyma (Asia Minor) was in the right condition. The Oracle of the city of Klarosy (Asia Minor) was limited only to drinking water from a source that was in a sacred cave. But the prophetess of Mr. Argos (Greece) was in an ecstatic state, having drunk the blood of the sacrificial animal.

To answer the question of a person, the predictor should see the questioner.

No, this was not a prerequisite for successful divination (although it was not forbidden). To get an answer to the question, it was enough for a man to make a generous donation to the temple (and the targeted goats were first tested (doused with water, and observed the reaction of animals) in order to make sure that Apollo was willing to sacrifice). After that, the applicant had to perform several rituals, and participate in the draw, which determined the order of the answer to the question asked, with which the priests turned to the pythia (only the inhabitants of Delphy could receive the right of treatment out of turn for special services to the state or society). They, having received the answer, interpreted it and informed the questioner. And the oracle of the temple of Apollo Clarius (Colophon, Lydia) did not even communicate the essence of the questions-they just called the ordinal numbers of these, and the soothsayer gave answers. Sibyls and prophets did not answer people’s questions at all, talking about the events of the future, while avoiding the interference of surrounding people (inquisitors, priests, etc.).

The place where the prophet would later be erected was sought out by specially trained priests. Not necessary.

For example (according to Plutarch), the influence of fumes leaving the crack in the rock near the city of Delphi was first noticed by Koret’s shepherd. Later, over the cleft, the most famous foretelling in Greece was built (although, according to legend, Apollo chose the place for the erection of this oracle).


The soothsayers most often were long-livers.

Not always. Much depended on the method of obtaining information. For example, inspiration oracles that came in contact with poisonous vapors lived very briefly, although they did not give the prediction very often (at first only once a year (on the day of the birth of Apollo), beginning in the sixth century BC – only in 7 day of the week during spring, summer and autumn, and in the temple of Lycian city of Patra (Asia Minor, the territory of modern Antalya) – only in the winter months). And although the Pythia sometimes had deputies (in certain periods of time, for example, the Delphi pythia had two deputies) – their life was short. In some cases, death came as a result of careless behavior in a state of ecstasy. For example, according to some written sources, one of the Pythians died, having unsuccessfully jumped off the holy tripod (according to another version, the soothsayer, horrified, rushed out of the temple, and was found only after some time unconscious, after a few days she died). But the prophets (mentioned in many religions, for example, in Christianity) really lived for a long time (the prophet Moses lived 120 years, Samuel – 88 years, Isaiah – 80 years, Jeremiah – 65 years, etc.).

Christianity does not recognize pagan prophets.

This is not quite true. On the one hand, Christian preachers proclaimed pagan gods as “devil’s collaborators,” on the other hand, they recognized the truthfulness and objectivity of certain prophecies (in the event that the interpretation helped to strengthen the ideas spread by Christian leaders). A vivid example of this is the visit to the Virgin Mary mentioned in the Bible by the three heathen gentiles who foretold the birth of Jesus and warned the holy family of the imminent danger. In addition, in some Christian churches in Western Europe, you can find the image of the Sibyl (pagan prophetesses and prophetesses).For example, Michelangelo painted 5 Sibyls (Delphic, Eritrean, Kum, Libyan and Persian) on the vault of the Sistine Chapel (Rome, Italy); on the arches of the church of Santa Trinita (Florence, Italy) 4 sibyl portrayed Domenico Ghirlandaio. The mosaic at the entrance to the Cathedral of Siena (Tuscany, Italy) depicts Hermes Trismegistus standing between two sibyls, another 10 prophetesses are placed in the background with prophecies about the coming of Christ in their hands. And, finally, some Christian figures recognized the authority of the “Sibylline books” (in particular, the prophecies about the coming of Christianity).

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