I’ve been serving as an oracle of Poseidon since July, and recently a colleague asked me about my process. There is little which is certain about how such rituals were performed in antiquity; regardless, even if it’s how it happened at Delphi, I’m not planning on inhaling volcanic vapors anytime soon.
Delphi is a location associated with Poseidon, largely before the Apollonian period. The Pythia needed protection as much as Troy did, and I am of the mind that there is more to the relationship between these gods than the scant myths suggest. In any case, my work is done in the shadow of an ancient tradition.
I cannot say why it’s the case, but Poseidon did not send me to the books or demand I master ancient Greek to serve as manteis. I have engaged in ritual possession and deep contact before I walked the Hellenic path, which has helped me gain the discernment to recognize what’s my own voice, and what is not. That being the case, my training in one sense began close to 30 years ago. To refine what he needed of me, however, Poseidon sent me to become a Quaker. What’s relevant of what I have learned as a member of that community is the technique of expectant listening.
On the morning of an oracular session I begin with my usual offerings, then enter the space which my wife is kind enough to allow me to use for this work. I review the questions for the first time, and transcribe them onto index cards. I light incense, pour a libation, and settle into worship. I sometimes use a mild entheogen if I am led to. Whether I wear my wreath or not varies; my the tradition followed in Temenos Oikidios it is not use in chthonic rites, and sometimes that’s what is asked of me. Poseidon is a god who stands between, and brings me his word in the manner which suits him that month.
While my Quaker friends may not use this language, I descend into a trance. They might say I open myself to spirit, which is certainly true. I use the silence in the manner some use drums or chanting. As with any spiritual journey, it can take some time to unload the mental clutter and begin the actual work, but when he and I are in harmony, I reach for the first question.
Invariably I have some anxiety when transcribing these questions. People ask very important things, life-altering things, and I get clutched by a worry that I will lead them astray. When I pick up that first question in ritual space, however, none of that is present. I see the question through his eyes, or maybe he sees it through mine. Sitting before the antique writing desk in the library, my hand reaches for the pen and a response is provided. Watching it unfold, it seems simple enough. Just pick up the pen, and write down an answer.
What seems simple takes most of my morning, though, even when there are few questions to address. In any case, I don’t make appointments for that day to do anything but this work. It’s something for which I have been trained as long as I have been Pagan, and the fact that this is also simply training for what he asks of me next is both daunting and exciting.
It is an honor to serve.