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Dodona information

April 22, 2010

Again from Sarah Iles Johnston’s book “Ancient Greek Divination“.

  • Dodona was Delphi’s greatest “rival”. Delphi’s claim to fame is being the navel of the world.  Dodona’s claim to fame is being the oldest oracle.
  • There is not much information about Dodona especially in comparison to Delphi.  It appears it was an outdoor oracle where the wall of the sacred area was marked by bronze cauldrons sitting on tripods.  These cauldrons were so finely made that they were said to ring like a bell when touched and touching one would set the others to ringing.
  • There were seven divination methods used at Dodona according to ancient sources:
    • Priests called Selloi/Helloi (very early in the history of the oracle, if they existed, probably lost their place to females in order to compete with or imitate Delphi)
    • Priestesses called Doves
    • real doves
    • oak tree
    • spring
    • cauldrons
    • lead tablets (lots, used for similar reasons as at Delphi.  There are 1700 surviving tablets but less than 200 have been published.)
  • The commonality in these methods is the interpretation of sounds while in an altered state as messages from Zeus.

An interesting idea for an oracle during a ritual would be to have people write a yes/no question on a piece of paper, then fold it up and write their name on the outside.  The priest/priestess would stand at the altar, with the basket of questions on one side and a container of two different colored items in similar size.  They would then pick up the paper and pick an item out of the container and say “Joe/Jane, Zeus says yes/no to your question.”  This is something that could go fairly quickly depending on the number of people attending.  Johnston describes a similar method most likely used at Dodona.

I’d be curious to know what types of doves were in this area.

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