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Ovate Prophecy

"Among the Welsh there are certain individuals called awenyddion who behave as if they are possessed... When you consult them about some problem, they immediately go into a trance and lose control of their senses... They do not answer the question put to them in a logical way. Words stream from their mouths, incoherently and apparently meaningless and lacking any sense at all, but all the same well expressed: and if you listen carefully to what they say you will receive the solution to your problem. When it is all over, they will recover from their trance, as if they were ordinary people waking from a heavy sleep, but you have to give them a good shake before they regain control of themselves... and when they do return to their senses they can remember nothing of what they have said in the interval... They seem to receive this gift of divination through visions which they see in their dreams. Some of them have the impression that honey or sugary milk is being smeared on their mouths; others say that a sheet of paper with words written on it is pressed against their lips. As soon as they are roused from their trance and have come round from their prophesying, that is what they say has happened..."

Giraldus Cambrensis in his late 12th century Description of Wales (Penguin Books, 1978, p.274 ff., translated by Lewis Thorpe).

Giraldus here describes just one form of ovate prophecy practiced by our ancestors. Others include; augury from the behaviour of birds; divination from cloud formations; the casting of lots, sometimes in the form of sticks carved with letters of the ogham alphabet; the second sight, in which information is gleaned either from natural occurrences in this world or from seeing into the spirit world, or a combination of the two; fasting at sacred sites to commune with spirits and ancestors; calling the spirits of the dead; imbibing sacred mead or special foods; oracular dreaming; sensory deprivation; and studying the movement of stars.

Some of these practices are reminiscent of the Native American concept of the spirit quest.

To these traditional methods we may now add the use of oracle cards such as the Druid Tarot, the Druidcraft Tarot, the Druid Animal Oracle (shown left), the Druid Plant Oracle, the Celtic Tree Oracle, etc.

As ovates, we use divination in its original sense of communicating with the divine in order to understand the cycles and patterns of our lives, of the wider world, and of past, present and future.