The Ancient Library
 

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ACCEPTANCE OF OMENS 51

is laid now on the power implicit in the word, now on the act of uttering or accepting it. It is not here the place to trace the development of the word of power, the potent name, and the cabalistic spell, but it is of some importance for our purpose to notice that there is a tendency to think of oracular utterances as possessing the potential efficacy of words or names of power. If the act of blessing, as in the case of Balaam, is an act of magic rather than of divination, the prophecies of gods or seers tend to be regarded as talismans or spells. X/^o-yuot have the potential efficacy of charms ; if the enemy obtain knowledge of them, he is enabled to set them in action, and the prophecy will be fulfilled. That is why, like all books containing magical lore, ftpr/a-fioi must be carefully guarded by their owners. Thus in Egypt the great Book of Magic is carefully guarded by Rameses III. in the royal library.1 In classical antiquity it seems to have been the practice to keep the State oracles in secret security, in the same way and from the same kind of motives as the secret preservation of the divine name.2 It is

1 Budge, op. cit. p. 77.

2 Servius, Aen. ii. 351, and Georgic i. 498; Plutarch, Roman Questions, Ixi. ; Farnell, Evolution of Religion, p. 185 foil. ; Conybeare, Congress of Religions, ii. p. 358, give the classical examples of the concealment of the names of deities in Greece and Italy.

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