Quick Note: Trivial Questions For The Gods

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Phil Harland, Associate Professor at York University in Toronto, reminds us that not all questions posed to oracles and other divine intermediaries were matters of great import.

“The questions asked could range from what we would consider quite important political decisions (should be go to war with this or that power?) or important health concerns (how can we conceive?) to what we would consider more mundane matters. In reading Pierre Bonnechere’s chapter on “Divination” (A Companion to Greek Religion, p. 157) today I came across this inscriptional gem in which a man consults Zeus and Zeus’ wife, Dione, about some missing bedding: “Agis asks Zeus Naios and Dione about his blankets and pillows, whether he has lost them or whether someone else has stolen them” (SIG, 3rd edition 1163). Sounds a bit like me consulting the local oracle on a wintery day: ‘Alright, who stole my gloves. Cheryl, have you seen my gloves?'”

So the next time you get scolded for making a request or asking a question that is too “trivial” for a certain deity to answer, just remember old Agis and his missing pillows.