In ancient times oracles were divine communications, usually prophetic, delivered after a person had petitioned the gods for such a message. The word oracle is also used to refer to a place where divine communications or prophecies were delivered, or to the medium delivering the message. At oracular shrines, the god of the shrine would be consulted through a method of divination unique to that shrine. In some cases the method was nothing more than having the person seeking the message ask a question of the oracle, after which a divinely inspired person would answer, either in a straightforward manner or in cryptic verse. In others the method might involve interpreting patterns in tossed stones, sticks, or leaves, much the way divination is practiced today.
The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning