The appearance of the Oracle in recent BSG episodes sparked a lot of interesting speculation in podcast #10, and I realized I didn’t know much about the origins of the Oracle in Greek mythology (which seems to be the basis for a lot of the colonial religion in BSG).
The following is from the definition of “oracle” on Pantheon, a well-known mythology web site.
In its modern usage, the word “oracle” is used to describe either a prophet inspired by spiritual forces, or to describe a particular prophesy. In ancient Greece, the oracle was a place where these divinely-inspired prophesies of the future were passed down to mortals. Usually these prophesies were given in response to questions, but sometimes they flowed out randomly from the priest or priestess acting as an intermediary.
So, the oracle can be a prophet, a prophesy, or a place. Well, it turns out that one of the most well-known of these prophets was a priestess named Pythia who presided over the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi. Pythia comes from the word Pytho, believed to be the original name of Delphi. This name came from the verb pythein (“to rot”) in reference to the decomposing of the giant female serpent called Python after she was slain by Apollo.
The Oracle of Apollo is the most famous of the oracles, and was located at the site of a fissure in the side of Mt. Parnassus that emitted vapors that caused seizures among goat herders there. The Pythia, whohas been compared to a shaman figure who sat on a tripod in a cauldron while delivering her prophesies, was believed to derive her “divinely inspired” state from the vapors. Some scientists believe the vapors may have been hallucinogenic ethylene gas. (This source from Wikipedia.)
We know in BSG that the priestess Elosha mentioned the Book of Pythia several times when Laura Roslin saw “vipers” numbering ten and two – either the snakes she saw in a hallucination or the actual Viper aircraft, we’re not sure. So it’s possible the oracle on New Caprica is Pythia, or is like Pythia. We know that instead of hallucinogenic vapors, this oracle uses kamala root to induce her visions. And, as is believed of the Pythia, this oracle speaks somewhat unintelligibly- or at least in a cryptic way.
Since the ancient Pythia is believed to have delivered divinely-inspired messages, does this mean the oracle on New Caprica may be doing the same thing? If so, how does the Cylon god (“your god,” she tells D’Anna Biers) fit into the divine picture? Could the Cylon god and the Humans’ gods be equally real? Could they be friends? Enemies? Or could the Cylon god be one of the lords of Kobol?