Ofiomanteia v Řecku

Variant title
Ophiomancy in Greece
Author: Vítek, Tomáš
Source document: Religio. 2002, vol. 10, iss. 2, pp. [189]-214
  • ISSN
    1210-3640 (print)
    2336-4475 (online)
License: Not specified license
In Ancient Greece the behaviour of snakes was always carefully observed. In the Minoan-Mycaenian times snakes were worshipped and associated with the chthonic goddess. -- The mere appearance of a snake was often understood as an omen. When the snake's behaviour was natural the omen was considered auspicious, while everything unusual had a contrary meaning. However, this rule was only applied to a limited extent. Different meanings ascribed to snakes in different contexts made any appearance of the creature a polysemantic event. For this reason snakes were largely associated with seers in mythology. -- In some places snakes were kept for divination, to tell the future either by themselves (rarely) or as mediators of the gods (usually). The majority of Greek gods were associated with snakes, though rarely for the sake of divination. Nevertheless, snakes were used for this purpose by Apollo, the famous killer of the snake Python. -- Snake was an important animal in the city of Hierapolis in Asia Minor where it was sacred to Cybele, perhaps as the medium of divination. Its function in Hierapolis is obscure - as obscure as its connection to Apollo who is shown killing the snake al one of the city's coins. One possible solution is that what we have here is a repetition of the Delphic model with Python and Apollo the Pythoktonos. It is also possible that the snake was used for divination by the god, as in Delphi and Epeirus. -- Snakes were kept in the sanctuaries of Asclepius as healers and later also as fortune-tellers. The god Asclepius himself was represented as a snake, which was probably a rudiment of his hero-worship. Greek heroes often appeared in the form of snakes and they often gave prophecies. This was due to the usual snake-like epiphany of the dead for the heroes were the dead of a special kind. -- Snakes, as well as the dead, were children of the goddess Earth, who could also tell the future in various ways (lithomanteia, incubatio, oneiromanleia). The divining power of snakes was, therefore, derived from the Earth, who used snakes (as well as the dead, dreams etc.) as mediators of divination.