Oracles played an important part in the life of the ancient world. They were shrines were prophecies or advice were given by a god to a questioner, via a human intermediary. At various times, certain oracles were more important than others, but the oracle of the god Apollo at Delphi retained its primacy until the Hellenistic period. At Delphi, the responses were given by the Pythia, a preistess who entered a frenzy, perhaps induced by chewing bay leaves. Her utterances were interpretted by preists who rendered them in verse for the petititioners.

Oracles pronounced on a variety of problems, including matters of cult and individual morality. Political prophecies were also made, and in this respect Delphi had the greatest authority, having come to prominence during the period of colonization. At this time, potential colonists would seek its advice on choosing of a suitable site or patron deity. Later, the oracle seems to have been able to answer questions requiring a sound understanding of current affairs, perhaps implying the active involvement of its preisthood. Replies could often be ambiguous, as in the case of the Lydian king Croesus, who was told that if he attacked the Persians a great empire would fall - which turned out to be his own.

Where religion was concerned, the oracular method of learning the will of the gods was of particular importance to the Greeks because in general they had no sacred books. Apollo was most esteemed as an oracle and has several shrines apart from Delphi, notably at Thebes and, until the end of the sixth century, at Delos; Didyma in Asia Minor was also important during the Hellenistic era. Other popular oracles included those of Zeus and Asclepius at Donna and Epidauros, respectively.

Oracle: DC Comics superhero, created by John Ostrander, and regularly appearing in Birds of Prey, JLA, Suicide Squad and all Batman series. One of the best superheroes ever, mostly because she has no powers at all.

In 1988, Alan Moore's infamous "Killing Joke" storyline saw Barbara Gordon crippled by the Joker. In a bizarre departure from comic book tradition, there were no miraculous cures in sight, and Barbara was confined to a wheelchair, her crime-fighting career ended cruelly (ending her long reign as what some Batman fans call the most annoying sidekick in comic history). For a few months she did nothing but sit at home, but soon she decided to deal with her situation in the same frontal-assault fashion she displayed throughout her life as Batgirl. Taking a grant from the Wayne Foundation, she bought a state of the art computer system, and pretty much moved into cyberspace, using research skills honed in years of library work. This was in 1988, so it was a little more impressive than it sounds today. For one thing, there wasn't a WWW yet.

Although Barbara stubbornly refused to accept any help fom her friends and family, Batman used the clever screen alias "Matches" (what kind of a geek is this Batman person, anyway?) to convince her to study escrima under Richard Dragon. The stick-fighting training apparently gave Babs the self-confidence she needed to return to the detective's life, but this time she would not be an imitator and she wouldn't wear any latex. She would forge her own identity as the superheroes' Oracle, the seeress and advisor. Working behind the scenes, she might not get in criminals' faces, but she would certainly help stop them. She worked successfully with the Suicide Squad for several years, has accepted JLA reserve membership, and finally formed her own team by enlisting Black Canary and other agents to work as her "hands". Few people have ever met her or know her identity, but she seems to be as active as Batman, observing everything that transpires from her heavily wired apartment in Gotham's Clocktower.

Oracle has been an inspiration for numerous fans who sympathize with her situation. She is consistently portrayed as a strong, capable character, despite her physical vulnerability. The dangers of working as a superhero in a wheelchair have not been downplayed, but the writers have never let her appear pitiful and helpless. For several years some jaded fans feared that the wheelchair was some kind of sympathy play on the part of DC's editorial staff, designed to set up a triumphant comeback a la "Knightfall" and so many other story arcs. But in the years Barbara has worked as Oracle, especially in the monthly Oracle/Black Canary title "Birds of Prey", the situation has come to seem permanent. She has turned down two offers to regain her mobility - one from Neron in the "Underworld Unleashed" arc, and one from the Martian Manhunter. Oracle is here to stay, proof that physically disadvantaged people can be every bit as heroic as the perfect supermen of the genre.

Major events in Oracle's history:

Or"a*cle (?), n. [F., fr. L. oraculum, fr. orare to speak, utter, pray, fr. os, oris, mouth. See Oral.]

1.

The answer of a god, or some person reputed to be a god, to an inquiry respecting some affair or future event, as the success of an enterprise or battle.

Whatso'er she saith, for oracles must stand. Drayton.

2.

Hence: The deity who was supposed to give the answer; also, the place where it was given.

The oracles are dumb; No voice or hideous hum Runs through the arched roof in words deceiving. Milton.

3.

The communications, revelations, or messages delivered by God to the prophets; also, the entire sacred Scriptures -- usually in the plural.

The first principles of the oracles of God. Heb. v. 12.

4. Jewish Antiq.

The sanctuary, or Most Holy place in the temple; also, the temple itself.

1 Kings vi. 19.

Siloa's brook, that flow'd Fast by the oracle of God. Milton.

5.

One who communicates a divine command; an angel; a prophet.

God hath now sent his living oracle Into the world to teach his final will. Milton.

6.

Any person reputed uncommonly wise; one whose decisions are regarded as of great authority; as, a literary oracle.

"Oracles of mode."

Tennyson.

The country rectors . . . thought him an oracle on points of learning. Macaulay.

7.

A wise sentence or decision of great authority.

 

© Webster 1913.


Or"a*cle, v. i. [imp. & p. p. Oracled (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Oracling (?).]

To utter oracles.

[Obs.]

 

© Webster 1913.

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