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Kostas Dervenis on 'Oracle Bones Divination The Greek I-Ching'

Oracle Bones Divination The Greek I-Ching
Inner Traditions

1. What was your prime motivation and inspiration in creating your new book, "Oracle Bones Divination The Greek I-Ching?"

Nothing very spectacular, I'm afraid. When I was a kid, we used to play games using sheep anklebones as dice in my native village. Later I learned they were used for divination in ancient times, as well as for games of chance, and this caught my interest. I researched astragalomancy and discovered that while considerable work had been done in the late 19th and early 20th century, not much had been done since then. So I decided to look into it.

2. How does the Greek I-Ching differ say from the Norse Runes or Tarot or normal I-Ching?

Well, we don't call it the I-Ching, right? That title was just chosen because people are familiar with the term from Chinese divination. It's an oracular method using sheep ankle bones. Let's call the Greek method "the astragali" for purposes of this interview.
The tarot of course is a recent method. The first documented tarot cards were created between 1430 and 1450 in Milan, Ferrara, and Bologna in northern Italy when additional trump cards with allegorical illustrations were added to the common four-suit pack; they most likely have an Arabic source somewhere. As for the runes and the I-Ching, I believe all these methods have a common source somewhere back in time. The astragali were in use 5000 years ago, and the divinations recorded in the book date are more than 2000 years old; they probably pre-date the current version of the I-Ching. But I am sure the runes, the I-Ching, and the astragali all have a common ancestor. They each use a different mathematical structure and matrix to arrive at their divinations, but this might simply be the result of cultural differentiation. The Chinese erhu and the European violin create different sounds and are played to different music, but they are both string instruments.

3. Do you have your own set of astragali? Is it usually on cards or stones or crystals? Could you go into your personal collection?

I have a set of five astragalus bones that come from the temple of Apollo in Delphi and are circa 2300 years old based on the excavation data - they were part of a cache of 22,000 bones that were discovered, and one of the archaeologists gifted them to me.

4. How did the Ancient Greeks view Fate from their perspective?

They viewed Fate as not predetermined and static, but rather as a tendency, a flowing pattern that could be changed. Divination was, in the end, a sort of prayer, a plea to Divine Authority to circumvent the negative and seek the positive. All things are in flux, as Heraclitus boldly declared so long ago - the universe manifests itself as a series of possibilities, and circumstances do not take shape until the events and decisions that precede them are finalized. This typology, which corresponds so well with the theories of modern physics, is quite apparent in the deified version of the Fates in ancient Greece. I've developed their mythological profile quite a bit in the book.

5. Could you share some of the I-Ching with us from your book that you find fascinating from the oracle itself?

I like that it's no-nonsense and doesn't suffer fools. If you ask it something it doesn't like or it thinks you are being rude, it will answer you accordingly. For example one "scolding" stanza reads: "...Travel not towards your goal; better to stay in place; For I see guile in you regarding that which you ask of me. Nevertheless, you will end your troublesome journey in peace."

6. Is there a death card of sorts in the I-Ching at all? Who is the Greek God of Death?

The Greek god of Death is Charon, and Pluto (Wealth) is the Greek god of the Underworld, who also rules the souls of the dead.

There is no reference, however, to these gentlemen in the oracle. On the other hand, there is considerable reference to the deity who guides souls to the realm of the dead; this is Hermes. There is also one stanza dedicated to Zeus, The Guardian of the Dead.

7. This is a wildcard question. What would you like to share from your book with our readers?

Based on a question I received from another interviewer and according to the oracle, the US economy will continue to grow into recovery in 2014. I am curious to see if this will be the case.

8. What are you up to next book wise or projects wise and any links you'd like to share? Thanks.

I'm delving more and more into writing fiction and making short films, but I'd like to keep my cards close to my chest at the moment. Apparently I've been copied four times to date by large studios, and it's high time that I started doing things by the book so that this trend can be reversed.

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