Skip to content


Cows, thunder, & how ancients exploited ceremonial roles

Eleanor Konik
Written by Eleanor Konik

I write stories & articles inspired by all eras of history & science... so I wind up putting notetaking software like Obsidian & Readwise thru their paces.

5 min read.
Photo of bloody tree by Julian Paolo Dayag via Unsplash

Stef's knife claimed a liminal space between priest and prophet; shriving the penitent, offering absolution in blood. Abstract auguries danced in the spatter of gore on the trees, and with a flash, she knew:

It was time to burn the ships and claim this forest as home.


Whenever I see divination, augury, oracles, and prophecies in fictional media, it always seems so overblown. The example that always comes to mind for me is the oracle scene in 300, which was basically a three minute soft-core porn cut. I saw 300 in theaters and liked it well enough until that scene. Leaving aside the oversexualization aspect, though, a lot of storytellers seem to lean into the opportunity to make divination out to involve some really over-the-top visuals.

In storytelling, divination and prophecy is usually presented as either some kind of decadent magic or pure chicanery. It's rare that the phenomenon is treated with anything resembling cultural sensitivity — the closest example I can think of off the top of my head is the Kushiel's Legacy series by the ever-excellent Jacqueline Carey. Even then, I'm not sure I've ever seen it handled as a matter of fact reality of life, which is what I tried to do with Liminal.

Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, but often, fiction exaggerates reality for dramatic effect. The more I read about genres like magical realism, though, the more I like the idea of psychic powers and magic being relegated to the background — just like how scientific advancements like electricity and cars fade into normalcy for most of us. The thing is, though... the "pure chicanery" angle has some pretty interesting historical antecedents.

Unlock full access to Obsidian Iceberg and see the entire library of members-only content.

Sign up to view this content


  • Weekly updates with community news


  • Weekly updates with community news
  • Monthly essays with tips for leveraging Obsidian
  • Defer server costs & thank me for my time
  • Less money lost to processing fees


  • Weekly updates with community news
  • Monthly essays with tips for leveraging Obsidian
  • Defer server costs & thank me for my time

Already have an account? Log in

Check out one of these related posts
Members Public
📗 Spite

When AI is so wrong it's actually helpful

grimdark ritual altar in a scandinavian bog with drums & acolytes created by midjourney AI bot
Members Public
📗 One Barbarian Boy

On the ethics of quitting pain to embrace joy

a child on a swingset in the Andean mountains
Members Public
📗 Marsh Rat

A long slow decline of a stable world

a wooden canoe tied to a tree in a cypress swamp