October 10, 2020

Divination- The art of predicting future:

By Nilakhi Banerjee

The existence of time and space place a distance between events in duration and distance: the ancient continues to grow while the future is indefatigably balanced against our lonely vantage point, which is the here and now. Since times remote, human beings have tried to peer into the past and the future with the aim of widening our vision from this tremulous position of solitude, and to mitigate our fear of the future and the ghosts of the past that haunt us. And to that end humankind has resorted to numerous methods, or arts, of prescience.

The first to try to classify the mantic arts was Cicero in his book On Divination, in which he divides them into “natural” and “artistic.” The former are those based on prophecies, in spontaneous words or of a hallucinatory nature (such as fortune-tellers and clairvoyants that, immersed in a trance with many theatrical elements, channeled messages from the other side), while the latter are those that use an object or instrument that mediates between the seer and somebody seeking revelation of the future: runes, snails, coins (such as with the I-Ching) or animal entrails and, except for the anachronism of some ten centuries with Roman thinkers, Tarot.

20th century

Occult researcher Gwen Le Scouézec in the 20th century carried out a much more inclusive classification of the kinds of fortune-telling available, from those that depend entirely on the individual intuition of foreseeing to the mechanical manuals of dream interpretation, which border on superstition.

First and foremost there is prophecy: in classical literature and in Oriental sources (such as the Bible), prophecy is a faculty granted or revealed by the Gods. Think of the prophets of Hebraic tradition, or in the gift of prophecy as a punishment by God (such as the case of Cassandra, who was thus cursed by Apollo). It is a word said during wakefulness that comes fom divine or intuitive inspiration.

And then we have hallucinatory vision that can be induced by consuming a certain substance (pharmacomancy), due to altered states of consciousness or even those connected with death, or even through spontaneous prediction produced during a dream trance (dream interpretation).

Later there cam mathematical forecasting, and which has known periods of great prestige, such as Kabbala, which, according to Le Scouézec, is the most refined degree of arithmomancy, or prediction by numbers. In this group there is also astrology, geomancy and the I-Ching.


And on the other hand we have the fortune-telling by observation, such as that practiced by priests who carefully study the movements of the stars, of humans, plants and animals.

And lastly we have the systems that use some kind of intermediary, in the form of tables or oracles, books of horoscopes, cards (cartomancy, such as in the mechaniscal interpretations of the Tarot), and which generally seek to profit from the trust of the client who does not fully understand – and because they have let themselves be tricked by an untrustworthy seer – what happens in the prophesizing process.

We could be skeptical or trusting in the methods of prescience, whether from dowsing or from the horoscopes in gossip magazines. The fascinating thing is to study the ways in which different peoples have dealt with that which we call uncertainty, and which is nothing more than our perennial ignorance of the present, past and future. Escaping from that uncerrainty with tricks appears to afford a slim favor to the person seeking insight, but it implies a determination to separate oneself from the movements of the future; an attempt to cease being a mere toy of fate.


Aeromancy requires that you keep your eyes on the skies. You’ll have to watch for clouds, birds, precipitation, etc. This word doubles as a fancy word for weather forecasting, though we have yet to hear the word thrown around on the local weather report.


You dabble in a little aleuromancy every time you crack open the fortune cookie that arrives with your lo mein. In earlier practices, messages were baked into little balls of dough.


Beginning in Mesopotamia and then in classical Greece and beyond, animals were sacrificed in divinatory rituals. And their internal organs (notably the liver) were inspected for omens. Aside from oracles. It was the most imoortant divination method of the classical world: In his De Divinatione (“On Divination”).

The Roman orator, statesman, and writer Cicero wrote. “Nearly everybody employs entrails in divining.” The gory practice went by a few different names. Including extispicy (from the Latin exta, or “entrails”) and haruspicy. And was practiced by specialists, sometimes called extispices or haruspices. Though details on how exactly the interpretations worked can be scarce, a healthy liver was generally a positive sign. But if the organ lacked a lobe, doom was all but certain. Defects in the heart of the animal were also seen as a very bad portent, as was extra bloodiness. The Etruscans were famed practitioners of hieromancy. And at least one life-size bronze model of a sheep liver (likely made for educational purposes). Has been unearthed, marked with names of various gods in each quadrant. A little like the entrails version of old phrenology heads.


Interpreting the behavior of birds is one of the oldest forms of divination. And was a common part of Greek religious life. In Aristophanes’s comedy The Birds, the leader of a chorus of birds brags of their usefulness in divination. “Before undertaking anything, whether a business transaction, a marriage, or the purchase of food.

You consult the birds by reading the omens.” (However, the bird also says. “With you a word is an omen, you call a sneeze an omen, a meeting an omen. An unknown sound an omen, a slave or an ass an omen.”). In Rome, ornithomancy was practiced by. Public priests known as augurs, who “took the auspices”. By observing birds and other natural signs, such as thunder and lightning, to interpret the will of the gods. The number, flight, and cries or songs of both wild birds and caged sacred chickens could be used; if food fell from the beaks of the chickens while they were eating, it was a very propitious sign.

There are many other forms of divination necromancy for instance is one. The art of divination is similar thorough all cultures.

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