Marketplace Oracle of Hermes
Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 22. 2 :
“The market-place of Pharai [in Akhaia] is of wide extent after the ancient fashion, and in the middle of it is an image of Hermes, made of stone and bearded. Standing right on the earth, it is of square shape, and of no great size. On it is an inscription, saying that it was dedicated by Simylos the Messenian. It is called Hermes Agoraios (of the Market), and by it is established an oracle. In front of the image is placed a hearth, which also is of stone, and to the hearth bronze lamps are fastened with lead. Coming at eventide, the inquirer of the god, having burnt incense upon the hearth, filled the lamps with oil and lighted them, puts on the altar on the right of the image a local coin, called a ‘copper,’ and asks in the ear of the god the particular question he wishes to put to him. After that he stops his ears and leaves the marketplace. On coming outside he takes his hands from his ears, and whatever utterance he hears he considers oracular.”
The ancient Greeks thought a marketplace was a good place to go in order to pick up messages from the world. A popular oracle in ancient Greece was located in a walled market. At the center of the market was a simple rough-hewn statue of Hermes, who plays messenger between gods and humans.
Consulting the oracle was as simple as this. You enter the market through the gate in the wall towards the close of business, as the vendors are working in or packing up their stalls. You bring your question for the oracle with you. You walk to the statue of the god and whisper that question in his ear. Then you plug your ears, or press your hands over them, shutting out external sounds as you walk back to the gate. At the exact moment you reach the gate, you unplug your ears. The first sounds you hear – a snatch of conversation, the cry of a bird, the creak of an overloaded wagon – will be the response of the oracle. The god will speak to you directly through the everyday noise of the world, once you have set a clear intention and put yourself in a frame of mind to receive the message.
We can reinvent the oracle of Hermes Agoraios in our own neighborhoods. . Give yourself five minutes in your favorite supermarket after an offering or prayer to Hermes with a question in mind and see what the God has to say to you.