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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

Delphi (also, Delphos) The Oracle of Delphi, probably the best known of the Greek divining agencies, was essentially a political force. The women in charge were not above accepting bribes to give appropriate answers to inquirers. It was believed that the god Apollo spoke through the Pythian priestesses while they were in various states of drug-induced trance.
      The ambiguous nature of their utterances became a popular joke, as when they were asked to tell King Croesus the outcome of an upcoming battle to be fought across a river. The response: “When Croesus passes over the river he overthrows the strength of an empire.” The questioner was pleased and left a generous offering at the temple. A great empire did fall that day, but it was his own. Such procedures gave rise to the expression “Delphic statement,” used to designate anything that can be taken two or more ways.
      Today, investment advisors and meteorologists are the tamer versions of the Oracle of Delphi.

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