Divination Review:The Sibyls Oraculum (Oracle of the Black Doves of Africa)

The Sibyls Oraculum (Oracle of the Black Doves of Africa), Author: Tayannah Lee McQuillar, Artist: Katelan V. Foisy, Destiny Books, 2018.

Tayannah Lee McQuillar developed “The Sibyls Oraculum” to present an African point of view in divination. (McQuillar is a cultural anthropologist noted for her writings on African-American culture.) Her aim was to move beyond the Euro-centrism that she found in many divination systems. She writes, “The Sibyls Oraculum was created to pay homage to the oft-forgotten African founding mothers of the sibylline tradition and the amalgamation of spiritual concepts that made the ancient Mediterranean world interesting.”

McQuillar set-up her oracle system for people to receive wisdom at various points in their lives. She divides her system into four main concepts – “Core Issue,” “Projection,” and blue and red “Actions.” For each concept, there are eleven related ideas. The Core Issue cards “reflect the essential spiritual principles that a seeker should deeply reflect upon.” The Projection cards represent the rationalizations that a person makes in their life. The Action cards are blue for developing the proper state of mind and red for the response to the core issue.

McQuillar proves a symbolic picture to meditate on, with an epigram to ponder. She also adds a religio-mythological association to obtain divine wisdom. All the symbols, epigrams, and associations are based on her belief that all Goddesses are a part of the Great Goddess, and that Africa is the ancestral source. Her philosophy is that “the ancients focused more on abstract lessons and the underlying symbolism of personages than on literal facts.”

In “The Sibyls Oraculum,” Core Issues range from “Wisdom,” “Rhythm,” and “Vibration.” “Wisdom” features the Tree of Wisdom with two duplex knots. Its epigram is “true wisdom is effortlessly applied knowledge.” The mythological associations are Anatha (Neith), the Moon Goddess of Libya and Tehuti (Thoth)/Hermes, the God of Wisdom of Egypt and Greece. One question to consider is “Do you expect someone else to ‘wise up’ just because you have gotten the point now.” The Core Issue cards have a series of questions to ponder, while the Projection and Action cards have divinatory explanations.

The rationalizations for the Projection cards range from “Purpose” to “Doubt” to “Contentment.” “Purpose” features the omphalos, which McQuillar claims is a symbol of the Great Goddess. The epigram is “Reason determines the weight of every harvest.” The mythological association is Cybele, the Anatolian Mother Goddess and Melissae, the Great Mother. The divinatory explanation is “This card may also be a warning to be aware of how the attachment of purpose to a belief…will positively or negatively affect your self-esteem legacy.”

The blue Action set includes “Synthesis,” “Desire,” and “Strategy;” the red set – “Purity,” “Disguise,” and “Defense.” “Synthesis” presents the sphinx with the ankh, with “Parts do not make the whole, the whole is made of parts.” Serapis, the Greco-Egyptian Father God is associated with this card.

“Purity,” the red Action card show the room of the initiate for the key symbol. The epigram is “If your conscience doesn’t respect you, eventually no one will.” Tanit, the Goddess of Heaven (Carthage) and Asar (Osiris) God of Death and Resurrection are the mythological associations. The divinatory meaning is “to be mentally clean.”

As a diviner and as a Roman Polytheist, I have problems with this oracle. First, McQuillar views that all Goddesses are manifestations of the Goddess. For me, the Gods are discrete individuals. Since her interpretations are personal, I have problems relating to her meanings in each card. For example, the omphalos is considered the navel stone in Hellenic Polytheism. Meanwhile, Ptolemy I created Serapis to unify his rule over Egypt. A combination of Osiris and the Apis Bull, Serapis did take on some qualities of various Greek Gods, but He wasn’t considered a “Father God.”

I cannot divine with the system that McQuillar has set up. My philosophy to divining is that a divination system is a framework of how to interact with the world. (In my divining practice, I use ten different systems ranging from animal signs to cards.) Each system should facilitate the understanding of our world. Furthermore, the divination provides us with questions to illuminate different aspects of the answer.

McQuillar’s system is peculiar to her in that she assumes that what she knows is easy to grasp. She fails to explain her choices for each of the sections or why this particular symbol should be thought of in this way. I cannot see the matrix that she is using to interpret the world. She does explain her point of view in the beginning, but fails to expand on how that is reflected in her choices. I find her choices to be a hodge-podge of symbols and meanings.