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It's the Wine Talking

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

There are two things we can be pretty sure the Minoans did: libations and divination. We have lots of pictures of libations (poured offerings of liquids) in the frescoes, seals, and other art from ancient Crete. As for divination, besides the fact that pretty much every civilization has done its best to foresee the future, there are some interesting “floating organs” (hearts, livers, bones) on some of the seals that suggest the Minoans took part in the same kind of animal-part auguries that many ancient cultures used.

I’m not here to tell you how to check your horoscope in animal guts. Instead, I’d like to talk about wine.

You probably know about Dionysus – the Party God extraordinaire. But he’s not just about having a good time. He’s a sacrificial, or dying-and-reborn god, the God of the Vine from Minoan Crete. That’s vine as in grapes and, after a good ferment, wine. Because of his dying-and-reborn status he has access to the Underworld and sometimes acts as a psychopomp. But what’s more important is that he knows stuff you and I don’t. And under the right circumstances, he’ll share.

The right circumstances usually involve wine.

There’s a type of divination called oenomancy, which simply means divination with wine. There are a couple of ways to do it. They work best with red wine, both because that's what wine looked like in ancient times and because it’s easier to see (in the literal and figurative senses of the word) if you’re using dark wine. I’ve used regular red wine, port, and homemade wine made from various dark fruits (blackberries, elderberries) and they all worked well.

I like to begin any working with Dionysus by pouring a libation. In other words, he gets the first drink. And I never use wine I wouldn’t drink, though that doesn’t exactly narrow the field down a whole lot. Once I’ve given him the offering and gotten his attention (this doesn’t have to be anything formal or fancy, just whatever way you usually prefer to address deities) I get on with the divination.

There are two possibilities here. You can do one or both.

Method 1: This one is usually done outdoors. Pour some wine into a bowl or large goblet. State your question or subject for the divination. Relax and open yourself to whatever may come. Hold the bowl or goblet up and slowly pour the wine out onto the ground, all in one spot. Look down at the wine that's now pooling or maybe running around on the ground. Allow your gaze to soften and go fuzzy. What do you see? What’s your very first impression, the bit that flits across your mind before you have a chance to really think? That’s your answer.

I’ve also had success doing this type of divination with a group. Each person takes a turn pouring the wine out but you don’t tell anyone what your question/subject is. Everyone present shares their impression of each wine pour (do them in separate spots so each one can be read individually). It’s astounding how much insight other people can give using this method, without even knowing what your question was.

It’s also possible to do this indoors by pouring a very small amount of wine (just one or two tablespoons) gently onto a tabletop.

Method 2: This can be done indoors or out. Pour some wine into a bowl, preferably one with a dark-colored interior—I have a dark blue bowl I like to use. Make sure there’s not any kind of bright light directly above you, like the sun or the full moon or a ceiling fixture if you’re indoors. You don’t want anything like that reflecting in the surface of the wine. This can be done during the day or at night, whichever is easiest for you. Relax and focus on your question or the subject for the divination. Hold the bowl in front of you, with the top of the wine about level with your chin. Hold it at a distance that makes it easy for you to focus on the surface of the wine. I normally wear reading glasses for close-up work but I find it easier to scry without them. So if you wear glasses or contacts, give this a try with and without them to figure out which works better for you. As with other types of scrying, begin by focusing on the surface of the wine, then allow your gaze to soften and go fuzzy. Simply look to see what’s there, without trying too hard. And don’t judge whatever appears. Just take it as it comes and analyze it later.

When I’m done, I like to thank Dionysus for his help. Sometimes I feel called to leave an offering—the rest of the wine, some fruit, some honey, whatever I hear him suggesting—and sometimes I feel like the libation is enough. If I haven’t used all the wine for the divination, I’ll drink to his honor. Then I like to take some time to ponder what I’ve experienced.

I know people who are strict teetotalers who use purple grape juice to good effect with this type of divination. So if you honestly never drink alcohol, give that a try. But I can tell you from experience, if you do drink, even just occasionally, Dionysus will expect you to use actual wine, even if you aren’t going to drink any of it this time. I discovered this when I was pregnant and couldn’t drink, for obvious reasons, but that was only a temporary situation and Dionysus knew that. So he got wine, even though I couldn’t have any.

Have you tried oenomancy before? Will you give it a try now? If you do, let me know how it goes.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

 

And of the breeze, amen.

Last modified on
I'm an artist, writer, and lover of all things ancient and mysterious. The Minoans of Bronze Age Crete have been a passion of mine since a fateful art history class introduced me to the frescoes of Knossos back in high school. My first book was published in 2001; one of my most recent works is Labrys and Horns: An Introduction to Modern Minoan Paganism. I've also created a Minoan Tarot deck and a Minoan coloring book. When I'm not busy drawing and writing, you can find me in the garden or giving living history demonstrations at local historic sites.

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