Ancient Divination and Experience

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Lindsay Gayle Driediger-Murphy, Esther Eidinow
Oxford University Press, 2019 - History - 296 pages
This is an open access title available under the terms of a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 licence. It is free to read at Oxford Scholarship Online and offered as a free PDF download from OUP and selected open access locations.

This volume sets out to re-examine what ancient people - primarily those in ancient Greek and Roman communities, but also Mesopotamian and Chinese cultures - thought they were doing through divination, and what this can tell us about the religions and cultures in which divination was practised. The chapters, authored by a range of established experts and upcoming early-career scholars, engage with four shared questions: What kinds of gods do ancient forms of divination presuppose? What beliefs, anxieties, and hopes did divination seek to address? What were the limits of human 'control' of divination? What kinds of human-divine relationships did divination create/sustain? The volume as a whole seeks to move beyond functionalist approaches to divination in order to identify and elucidate previously understudied aspects of ancient divinatory experience and practice. Special attention is paid to the experiences of non-elites, the perception of divine presence, the ways in which divinatory
techniques could surprise their users by yielding unexpected or unwanted results, the difficulties of interpretation with which divinatory experts were thought to contend, and the possibility that divination could not just ease, but also exacerbate, anxiety in practitioners and consultants.


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