The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind — what an oracle IS.

Nature of oracle, part 4.

Lucy the Oracle
13 min readMay 9, 2024

This article took on a more serious tone, differing a bit from the rest of the series. But fear not, more lame jokes incoming with the next ones :)

Photo by Mehdi Sepehri on Unsplash

Let’s open today’s discussion on the nature of oracle by looking into what an oracle is after all. This is the article that originally inspired the series, and I would have opened it here if it wasn’t for the fact I deemed the clarifications in previous articles necessary. If you haven’t seen them, click here for an index.

First of all, *drumroll* Yes! You called it! Let’s recap the Delphic maxims.

  • In total (as far as we know), there are 150 Delphic maxims. They give us a fascinating glimpse into the moral precepts that were known (and allegedly followed) in Ancient times, but if interpreted metaphorically, they can still be helpful today.
  • Out of these 150 maxims, only the first 3 are directly relevant to the activity of oracle (relevant both for the person giving, AND perhaps even more importantly, for the person who receives an oracle) — Γνῶθι σεαυτόν (know yourself), Μηδὲν ἄγαν (nothing in excess), and Ἐγγύα πάρα δ’ Ἄτα (avoid certainties). Not everyone translates them the same way, and there is disagreement especially about the third one. I’m very curious to see your own translation in case you’re not satisfied with mine. Why not share it in the comments, so that people can applaud or reply to it? Come on, don’t be shy.
  • The first 3 maxims will bring you a lot of clarity if you meditate on their [possible] meanings before consulting an oracle — or even before discussing oracles (like we’re doing here). A few minutes will do.

There’s an elephant in the room. I’m not going to leave it unaddressed.

If you look up “oracle definition” or any similar combination of keywords in your search engine of choice — even in old-fashioned encyclopedias in a library (the search engine I grew up with, lol) you’ll always find a common thread in the answers: prestige, awe-inspiring legends and… Let’s not sugarcoat it! Grandiosity.

This is unfortunate, but not surprising, because History tends to be written by the rich and powerful. Of course the activity of oracle will look pretentious when the only reliable sources of information about it are coming from kings and queens. This is not to say the poor and unfortunate didn’t consult these same oracles and get helpful messages… But how the hell do you think they would record that for posterity? The only tool lower class people had for passing things on was tradition and stories told orally. These are dismissed, to this day, as “rumours”, as you may know.

Hence, only the rich and powerful had means to record anything for posterity and (most importantly) make sure the records would live on. (Even today, with the internet, only the rich and/or the well-regulated can make sure records live on. How many websites are dead?).

No, it’s not “the fact an oracle talks to a god” (or insert here other kinds of spirits). So do priests. Are priests considered pretentious, exclusive, high-brow or anything similar? No. (Not even when they are in fact rich and powerful. Looking at you, Vatican lol). Quite on the contrary: priests in pretty much every religion are considered humble and approachable. Saints, sometimes. We look at the Pope in his golden throne and we say “ahh, what a wholesome, holy man”. We look at the Dalai Lama and say the same. These men are pretty influential, pretty untouchable… And yet, we find them approachable. Uh-huh. Sure.

We have this knee-jerk reaction to priests because they talk to crowds (which can include people of every social class at once). Oracles on the other hand can only help people one by one, and that’s where the illusion of exclusivity comes from. Yes, I know, it sounds simplistic, but it in fact is simplistic. I’m talking about a knee-jerk reaction without any basis on logic. It’s not a judgement we should keep making, though.

There’s another layer to this bias, and it has to do with institutional racism: “white people oracles” are praised and discussed in Academic circles to this day; “black people oracles”, on the other hand, are services we all collectively pretend don’t exist — although these traditions are unbroken, live on, and are super common both with the Afro diaspora and with tribes in Africa to this day. There’s no need to imagine Ancient Greece or Ancient Egypt in order to get a sense of what an oracle is — just go talk to the communities that keep the cults of Ifa, Kongo and Igbo oracles alive (to mention the bigger ones). I’ll eventually write about oracles and racism, it renders a fascinating discussion, but let’s get back on topic.

Common definitions for “oracle” (yes, including all the major dictionaries) tend to focus a bit too much on the religious people who channel messages. This is, ironically, the rarest kind of oracle. (Yes, hi, I’m a special snowflake). If we’re serious about getting to the bottom of the nature of oracle as an activity, first we need to look into what the dictionary IGNORES.

Birds, snakes, rams, and monsters: you can’t control oracular input.

Photo by author

Without getting into any mysteries (there’s never a need to get into mysteries in public. Please don’t), you might have noticed oracles have a weird connection to animals.

Not just any animals. Specific animals. Sometimes mythical.

And what do these animals have in common? Well, usually, it’s the fact they aren’t very cuddly. Sometimes you’ll see a mention to birds, which are arguably cute and not nightmare fuel (and they’re also the origin of the word “auspice” —Latin for “observing birds”, getting messages from birds), but they fly away, don’t they? You can’t pet a bird. Not usually.

The same can be argued of oracular messages. They’re helpful, they’re easy to see, and they’re abundantly available in the world… But they will escape you the moment you try to put them in a box (or cage — no matter how golden or attractive is this cage).

Are birds only to be found in this one specific temple away from everything else? No. If you go for a walk, even in a city, you’ll see birds. Are snakes, lizards, etc rare? No. Are mythical monsters rare? Well, usually, when your tradition includes the belief in them, it also tends to say they’re everywhere. So oracles aren’t this elusive thing our initial assumptions would have us believe, are they?

Perhaps the act of dreaming can be oracular. Everyone dreams! Maybe observing the movement of animals, plants, etc, can be oracular.

The problem is… Fears and wishes prevent us from making good use of oracles. What is a fear, but a need for protection? And in order to protect, you put yourself in a box — from which you’ll very quickly lose sight of the oracle you could otherwise grasp. Similarly, a wish comes with a box that dictates the limit and extent of what you’re willing to deal with — anything too big for this box is undesirable. Guess where the oracle doesn’t fit?

Am I shaming the things above? No. They serve a function in our lives. They can be super useful for a variety of areas of life: fear guarantees your survival. Please don’t let go of your fears so much that you become defenseless! Wishes help you understand what paths to go for in life. Please don’t lose sight of your wishes so much that you become a slave to somebody else! But specifically, for oracles, and only during the activity of oracle, let go of both. It’s MUCH easier said than done but it must be done.

Another important nuance is the fact oracles are external to you.

When you engage in the art of oracle, you’re taking in the same kind of energies everyone takes in all the time… but you’re filtering OUT your introspective input. (And this is why we need a specific spirit to stand as the messenger. Or else we’ll take in all the shite the world is also made of). Know yourself before consulting — not during. If getting to know yourself was included in the “package” of consulting the oracle, why would anyone need to be reminded of it? It isn’t. It’s your job, and yours alone.

A lot of people expect oracles to tell them what to do, to steer their life FOR them (and by oracle I mean both “woo” and “not woo” — there are people who do that to mundane kinds of prophecy, like panicking over an electoral prediction or weather forecast before it even came true or false). This is what creates what I call the Bruno effect. Revisit part 2 to learn more. It’s normal to have feelings about the future, or about insights into what’s occult in the present, or things you didn’t know about the past. I’m not shaming your feelings. What I AM saying is you should keep in mind that the oracle is not enmeshed with your subjective experience.

There can’t be oracles with enmeshment. It’s impossible. The information you get from an oracle will always be UNRELATED to the kind of information introspection provides you. And when you know this distinction, it becomes easier to not take an oracle personally (be it a prophecy, an insight or a revelation). It becomes easier to remember that oracles will simply give you a roadmap — the choice of vehicle to drive on this road, the speed, the specific turns, etc are all YOUR choice, and you can only make this choice with input from introspection.

Photo by author

See the diagram above. Extraordinary things can only happen in the 2 extremes, not in the balanced middle ground — that’s the ordinary, that’s where we usually are, and it’s also the healthiest place to be for a human being, all things considered. See how it is basically made of both introspection and observation of the world (that’s why I used a gradient for it and not just a block of a random colour).

Yes, I am saying both oracle and meditation can get fanatic and unhealthy if we stay in the extremes for too long. Fight me. I said what I said. (Where are the Atheists to back me up here? Let’s not endorse religious fanaticism and cults EVER). Accessing the extremes is interesting and useful — but don’t stay permanently in one or the other, just visit them and always come back to the middle. That’s why oracles ground back to earth and go interact with regular people outside oracular duties. That’s also why meditators get out of the meditative state and go eat, shower, pee, work, etc.

Necessary tangent: the middle ground, the ordinary, the materialistc realm of “earth” is HEALTHY. Ain’t nothing wrong with it. Yes, mental illness can exist in it, but the highly spiritualised extremes of “fire” and “water” aren’t immune to problems either (in fact, they can be far, far worse than any of the usual mental health problems we already have in the balanced middle). That’s why you see so many people saying they’re traumatised by an experience they had with a guru. It wasn’t necessarily a bad guru. It was just a bit too much of an extreme for human tolerance. We can pursue self-improvement and even ultimate goals like enlightenment, it’s great, it’s beautiful, I stan. But we should never forget that we’re also existing in the materialistic 3D world and there’s no escaping that as far as we’re alive. So… let’s “touch grass”, like the slang says.

Anyway. As you may have noticed, oracles tend to have an approach which is opposed to introspection. Not morally opposed, just technically opposed — in a “you can’t eat and whistle at the same time” sort of way.

Photo by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash

Perhaps a silly metaphor can help: if you walk down the street looking at your own navel instead of looking ahead, you might bump your head against a lamp. Yes, even if you’re smugly (and you think it’s “mindfully”, but it’s not, it’s smugly. I don’t enable delusions) walking with a clear idea in your head about where everything already is [or should be] for the sake of safe navigation. “Oh but this lamp shouldn’t be here! If it was me planning this city, it wouldn’t be here” — yeah, but the fact is that it is here. And you didn’t see it. Maybe you’re right that it shouldn’t be here, but things aren’t always going to play out the way you expect just because you THINK you figured it all out theoretically and drew up a user’s manual to the world inside your head. Who do you think you are? The architect of the Universe? Only you have standards, and to hell with everyone else’s ideas of “right” and “wrong”? You didn’t see this exception, and you could have, if you just took your eyes off your precious and inflexible “manual to life” (or your own navel, in the metaphor) for five goddamn seconds. That’s the fact.

Before anyone gets too worked up reading this article, I think a self-roast is in order: what happens when we’re in oracle mode too much and too often? Well… we lose sight of our introspective wisdom; The inner knowing that is able to say “I want this and that”, but perhaps even more importantly, “I can put up with this bullshit, but not that bullshit” (Because let’s be frank, we can’t always have our way, but we can AND SHOULD learn what to turn a blind eye to and what to absolutely shun. And I, like many others, used to just turn a blind eye to everything… When in fact.. Hmmm… Maybe, just maybe, there are things I should say “no” to).

I am prone to having this problem, I put myself through too much of what I find hurtful (and then I complain) because I’m too open-minded and I’m not introspecting often enough to see and validate my own pain. So… is the oracle path bad for me? No. It’s a valid path like any other, but it’s perhaps too comfortable for me. I should make a conscious effort to dive deep into my subjective waters every now and then, for balance. The same logic applies to the other side: the introspective crowd should note that there is such a thing as too much introspection, and staying in this high horse just to look, superficially, like a do-gooder, isn’t helping anybody. It’s a hard-to-swallow pill, but I’m giving it nicely. Karma wouldn’t be so nice, would it? Yeah. You’re welcome.

Why some oracles seem “more accurate” than other ones

Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash

Contrary to popular opinion (and even being a bit bold here and going against certain myths too), it’s not the system. It’s not even the god or spirit behind it. All gods and spirits, all systems of oracle, are capable of impressive accuracy…

…As long as they stay in their lane.

I work with Greek myth, so I’ll use an example from Greek myth (but feel free to suggest other mythologies in the comments) — there are oracular gods, both Olympians and Titans, and they all provide us with insight into the invisible forces playing out in our lives (so that introspection can inform us, later on, on how to act faced with this new information). However… there are also The Fates. You can’t talk to or bargain with The Fates. It is believed that they weave our fate (hence their names), but keep this process hidden from sight. Nobody — not even a god — is capable of inquiring into it.

The above could be read as determinism (if you’re into that), or a mere explanation for why we aren’t able to predict everything (if you’re not into determinism). I’m not going to tell you one belief is better or superior to the other — all I can do is tell you my own bias: I’m inclined NOT to believe in determinism. I believe the Fates simply “weave” that which is not predetermined, or in other words, they wait until we (or some other agent) decide what is to happen, and then secretly and silently weave it into existence to make it so. And this can be a big part of the future, depending on our choices in preparation for it. (Bear in mind, though, this is just my personal belief. I can’t know for sure. WE can’t know for sure).

Just like we have the power of decision over that which is not predetermined… So do other beings, elements, etc. This is why, sometimes, even the most well-prepared and sophisticated weather forecast is wrong: it’s trying to predict that which is unpredictable — the realm of The Fates — just for the sake of providing information in a consistent manner (ie, daily or weekly). Ya know, sometimes there is NOTHING predetermined in store for today or tomorrow [or insert date here], and what you should do is relax and keep your nosy curiosity out of it… But Capitalism doesn’t like giving anything a break, does it?

Similarly, in the “woo” side of things, there are a lot of people working with oracles who are too afraid of saying “no” to a request — or revealing that nothing useful came back when they inquired — because in their minds, the customer is always right. What happens then? Inaccuracy.

We can only predict the predictable. This sounds obvious, but sometimes the obvious needs to be said. There are periods of time when very little (or even nothing!) is predictable. And in those cases, an accurate oracle would (or SHOULD) give general advice, or deviate from the question into a useful tangent, or be a bit cryptic… Or, ya know, depending on who is behind it, straight-up say “this is none of your business, dear” — like the god I work with sometimes does. It’s good banter, but some people are too sensitive for that. Exercise caution.

Stay tuned for the next article in this series, where we will take a deep dive into the kinds of oracle and their pros and cons. Until then… Good luck and take care.



Lucy the Oracle

Oracle learner / spirit worker based in Ireland. Buddhist/polytheist. I don't read minds. I don't change minds. I don't sugarcoat. Take my message or leave it.