First published in 1981, Divination and Oracles analyses the religious practices of the ancient world as they have been witnessed from Scandinavia to Tibet and Japan, from the third millennium BC until the present day. Divination and the consultation of oracles formed part of the religious practice of the ancient world and are part of the living folklore of the contemporary societies. They are subjects that are of immediate concern to anthropologists and not infrequently to the historians of early science.
Written by the specialists in the early history of European and Asian Civilisations, the chapters call on the evidence of the written word of history and the surviving artefacts and inscriptions of archaeology. They describe the different methods that have been adopted and examine the types of question that feature in man’s attempt to seek guidance from other powers. The contributions show how an appeal to the irrational can affect the decision of prophet or statesman, or the way of life of farmer or sailor; and how such an appeal can also stimulate scientific enquiry into the cycles of nature. This book is a must read for scholars and researchers of religion, comparative religion, and ancient history.