A Pithy Oracle…

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?

6 Responses to "A Pithy Oracle…"
  1. Pike says:

    There was a cut scene from “Kobol’s Last Gleaming” which mentioned “one jealous god began to desire that he be elevated above all the other gods, and the war on Kobol began.” (thanks, BSWiki) I was wondering if that one could be the one Cylon god.

    OTOH, when on Kobol, Sharon recognized the historical existence of the Lords of Kobol, but denied their divinity. Of course, she might not have been including the Cylon god in that group. It’s also interesting that the Sharons don’t seem to be very (at all?) religious as a group (c.f. the Sixes.)

    Side note: There have been seven LoK named so far; Zeus, Hera, Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite, Athena, and Ares/Mars.

  2. Audra says:

    Wow, you’re right! I had totally forgotten about the “one jealous god.” If you don’t mind, I’m going to look into that and probably post on it and/or bring it up in the next podcast. When I read that I had this gut feeling that you’re right about him being the Cylon god. Awesome idea, Pike!!

  3. Pike says:

    Thanks, Audra. I’m rewatching Exodus I right now, and I noticed that the exchange b/t Honey Bunny and Xena would be consistent with that. The Oracle says that she has a message from “the one you worship”. Not “your god.” So, it could be that the Cylon god is part of the pantheon of the humans.

    Compare with the Egyption Pharoh Akenaten, who tried to make ancient Egyptian beliefs monotheistic by elevating Aten (a previously minor sun god) to sole godhood. See (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atenism)

  4. Pike says:

    The Oracle to Three: “The fruit born of two people(s?) is alive. A child named after the wife and sister of (mumbled) Hera lives.”

    What is that mumbled part? It sounds something like, “You’ll know him as Zeus.”

    Sic Sean on that.

    Also, the consequence of Three finding Hera seem vanishingly small. “You’ll loose everything you’ve done here.” Here on New Caprica? Geez, I knew that last episode and I haven’t had any Chamalla lately…

  5. GALACTIC MYTH says:

    The Oracle seems to have an awful large stash of Kamalla and it got me thinking of when Roslin had cancer and how she needed the Kamalla and Doc Cottle was hoping that maybe someone in the civilian fleet had a stash.

    Could the Oracle have been the connection Cottle was looking for? Or did she just become known to the fleet/civilians as the Oracle after they knew that Roslin isn’t dieing of cancer anymore?

    (That the fleet may believe that she’s not the dieing leader that will lead them to earth, like the scriptures said. At least for now she’s not dieing)

  6. Ian says:

    Just started listening to the podcast and heard in the October 15 ’06 podcast that you were wondering who played the Oracle. In case you hadn’t found out in the meantime, it looked to me like Amanda Plummer, daughter of Chritopher Plummer.

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