Sunday, September 9, 2012


  This week's Book of the Week is titled Oracle. It is made in the form of a carousel book and looks like a star from the top. Actually, it's often referred to as a star book.

The covers are pastepaper paintings on which I've glued a divination slip from a Taiwanese Buddhist temple I visited in 2001. I've saved the "fortune" all of these years... 
Pastepaper pagodas, flowers and a souvenir oracle
The prophecy is written on the two script pages within the book... it is the story that is Oracle.
A mirror is hanging on the wall.
It is dark. It is a magic mirror;
Like a treasure chest with jewels inside.
The sun rises from the East and hits the mirror.
A big light shines on you. This will make you lucky.
Your future will be good.
Also within the book are three cut-outs that illustrate the text. The mirror cut-outs are the first illustration page and begin the book. Behind the front (mirror) panel is a pen and ink drawing over a collagraph print of a landscape. ...Truly, our Mother Earth is a great jewel to be treasured!

The second illustration is a bridge which signifies transformation...hummm.

And then, there is peace and shown in the cut-outs depicting the inside of a temple; a holy place.

I spent some time making drawings, excising the cut-outs, printing the collograph prints, and making the pen and ink drawings before I assembled the whole book as a carousel...
Drawing of  Inside the Temple
Cut-out of Inside the Temple
....And the finished Oracle book.

   Oracles are intriguing, mysterious, and magical. The oracle bones of the early chinese cultures are divinations, stories and excerpts of many different aspects of life, and thus can be thought of as some of our earliest forms of books. Dating back to the 16th through 11th centuries BC, these bones were most often tortoise shells and oxen shoulder blades but also included bones of sheep, horse, deer, and even human skulls. David Keightley, Professor Emeritus of the University of California, Berkley is a leading authority on ancient chinese oracle bones. He has deciphered thousands of the oracle bones and written two books on the subject; Sources of Shang History and The Ancestral Landscape: Time, Space, and Community in Late Shang China. The oracle bones are described as communications with dead ancestors to help make choices to control future outcomes. One bone had the following oracle scratched onto it's surface:

This month there will be great rain.
Today the King will hunt; it will not rain.
That we are not rained on means that for this settlement Shang
Some Power is making disasters.

Another small oracle bone in Keightly's ownership said:

Crack making on guihui divined; the King, in the ten days, will have no disasters. 

The ancient chinese used the oracle bones to divine the future with regards to politics and power, to leave a tracing of the past for future leaders, to tell the story of their daily lives, and as part of their spiritual journey... just as all good books should do!

   Centuries later, Greek cultures embraced the idea of the oracle. Miriam Webster Dictionary defines oracle as 1. a person (as a priestess of ancient Greece) through whom a deity is believed to speak,  
2. a shrine in which a deity reveals hidden knowledge or the divine purpose through such a person, 
3. an answer or decision given by an oracle. 

Edith Hamilton, authority of Greek and Roman mythology, describes two oracles: Dodona and Delphi. The Dodona oracle was the special oracle of Zeus and it was located in the land of the oak trees. Hamilton states that a prophesy was revealed to the priestesses by the rustling of the oak leaves. ...Wouldn't it be comforting to believe all our own leaders had some font of wisdom they can go to for advice?

We've all heard of the oracle of Delphi. Delphi was the oracle of Appllo; who in Roman and Greek mythology was the god of light, truth and healing. I like to think that all oracles lead to light, truth and healing.