oracles

   Persons thought to be mediums through which a god or gods could communicate messages to humanity, the messages themselves, or the temples or other places where the messages were conveyed. In general, oracles were not as important or revered in ancient Mesopotamia as they were in ancient Greece, home of the famous Delphic oracle in the temple of the god Apollo. In Mesopotamian religion, the main form of communication between gods and humans was the omen, a natural sign that could be read by diviners and interpreted to have a divinely inspired meaning.
   However, oracular activity did exist in Mesopotamia. It took two basic forms: prophecy, which could be delivered by almost any person who had the gift for it, and more formal oracular predictions made by priests. Male and female prophets, or "frenzied people," supposedly received unsolicited visits from gods, both in waking visions and in dreams. Often the visions or messages acquired by prophets were written down, but few prophetic texts have survived. More formal oracles received divine messages, too, sometimes without asking and other times as the result of directly questioning a god. The priest/oracle then communicated the message to the king. Like prophecies, such messages were frequently written down. The following surviving example was given to the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal in the seventh century b.c. and purports to be from the goddess Ishtar, who promises to help the king defeat his enemies, the Elam-ites:
   [When she spoke to me] the goddess Ishtar ... was holding a bow and her sword was drawn ready for battle. You [the king] were standing before her and she spoke to you like a real mother. . . . She repeated her command to you as follows: "You will stay here where you belong. Eat, drink wine, [and] enjoy yourself ... while I go ... to help you achieve your heart's desire." . . . Then she went out in a fearsome way to defeat your enemies, [namely the] king of Elam, with whom she is angry.
   Evidence shows that such oracular messages and other forms of divination were not always believed. For example, Ashurbanipal's father, King Esarhaddon, had a diviner killed when he suspected the man had made up the "sacred" information himself.
   See also: divination; religion

Ancient Mesopotamia dictioary. . 2015.

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