The Info List - Divination

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(from Latin divinare "to foresee, to be inspired by a god",[2] related to divinus, divine) is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic, standardized process or ritual.[3] Used in various forms throughout history, diviners ascertain their interpretations of how a querent should proceed by reading signs, events, or omens, or through alleged contact with a supernatural agency.[4] Divination
can be seen as a systematic method with which to organize what appear to be disjointed, random facets of existence such that they provide insight into a problem at hand. If a distinction is to be made between divination and fortune-telling, divination has a more formal or ritualistic element and often contains a more social character, usually in a religious context, as seen in traditional African medicine. Fortune-telling, on the other hand, is a more everyday practice for personal purposes. Particular divination methods vary by culture and religion. Divination
is dismissed by the scientific community and skeptics as being superstition.[5][6] In the 2nd century, Lucian
devoted a witty essay to the career of a charlatan, "Alexander the false prophet", trained by "one of those who advertise enchantments, miraculous incantations, charms for your love-affairs, visitations for your enemies, disclosures of buried treasure, and successions to estates",[7] even though most Romans believed in prophetic dreams and charms.


1 Categories 2 History

2.1 Antiquity 2.2 Middle Ages
Middle Ages
and Early Modern period 2.3 Mesoamerica

3 Contemporary folk religion

3.1 Asia 3.2 Africa

4 See also 5 References 6 Further reading

6.1 Academic

7 External links


Russian peasant girls using chickens for divination; 19th century lubok.

Further information: List of magical terms and traditions Psychologist Julian Jaynes categorized divination into the following four types:[8]

Omens and omen texts. Chinese history offers scrupulously documented occurrences of strange births, the tracking of natural phenomena, and other data. Chinese governmental planning relied on this method of forecasting for long-range strategies. It is not unreasonable to assume that modern scientific inquiry began with this kind of divination; Joseph Needham's work considered this very idea.[citation needed] Sortilege (cleromancy). This consists of the casting of lots, or sortes, whether with sticks, stones, bones, beans, coins, or some other item. Modern playing cards and board games developed from this type of divination.[citation needed] Augury. This ranks a set of given possibilities. It can be qualitative (such as shapes, proximities, etc.): for example, dowsing (a form of rhabdomancy) developed from this type of divination.[citation needed] The Romans, in classical times, used Etruscan methods of augury such as hepatoscopy (actually a form of extispicy) (for example, Haruspices examined the livers of sacrificed animals). Augury
is normally considered to specifically refer to divination by studying the flight patterns of birds. But also, the use of the rooster through alectryomancy may be further understood within that religious character and likewise defined as a cockfight, or cockfighting[9] with the intent of communication between the gods and man.[citation needed] Spontaneous. An unconstrained form of divination, free from any particular medium, and actually a generalization of all types of divination. The answer comes from whatever object the diviner happens to see or hear. Some religions use a form of bibliomancy: they ask a question, riffle the pages of their holy book, and take as their answer the first passage their eyes light upon. Other forms of spontaneous divination include reading auras and New Age
New Age
methods of feng shui such as "intuitive" and "fuzion".[citation needed]

In addition to these four broad categories, there is palmistry, also called chiromancy, a practice common to many different places on the Eurasian landmass;[10] it has been practised in the cultures of India, Tibet, China, Persia, Sumeria, Ancient Israel and Babylonia. In this practice, the diviner examines the hands of a person for whom they are divining for indications of their future. History[edit] Antiquity[edit] The Oracle
of Amun at the Siwa Oasis
Siwa Oasis
was made famous when Alexander the Great visited it after conquering Egypt from Persia in 332 BC. Deuteronomy 18:10-12 or Leviticus 19:26 can be interpreted as categorically forbidding divination. However, some would claim that divination is indeed practiced in the Bible, such as in Exodus 28, when the Urim and Thummim
Urim and Thummim
are mentioned. Some would also say that Gideon also practiced divination, though when he uses a piece of fleece or wool in Judges 6:36-40 , he is not attempting to predict the outcome of an important battle; rather, he is communicating with God. Communicating with God through prayer may in some cases be considered divination; both are open, typically two-way conversations with God. In addition, the method of "casting lots" used in Joshua 14:1-5 and Joshua 18:1-10 to divide the conquered lands of Canaan between the twelve tribes is not seen by some as divination, but as done at the behest of God (Numbers 26:55). See also: Oracle
and Greek divination Both oracles and seers in ancient Greece practiced divination. Oracles were the conduits for the gods on earth; their prophecies were understood to be the will of the gods verbatim. Because of the high demand for oracle consultations and the oracles’ limited work schedule, they were not the main source of divination for the ancient Greeks. That role fell to the seers (μάντεις in Greek). Seers were not in direct contact with the gods; instead, they were interpreters of signs provided by the gods. Seers used many methods to explicate the will of the gods including extispicy, bird signs, etc. They were more numerous than the oracles and did not keep a limited schedule; thus, they were highly valued by all Greeks, not just those with the capacity to travel to Delphi or other such distant sites. The disadvantage to seers was that only direct yes-or-no questions could be answered. Oracles could answer more generalized questions, and seers often had to perform several sacrifices in order to get the most consistent answer. For example, if a general wanted to know if the omens were proper for him to advance on the enemy, he would ask his seer both that question and if it were better for him to remain on the defensive. If the seer gave consistent answers, the advice was considered valid. At battle, generals would frequently ask seers at both the campground (a process called the hiera) and at the battlefield (called the sphagia). The hiera entailed the seer slaughtering a sheep and examining its liver for answers regarding a more generic question; the sphagia involved killing a young female goat by slitting its throat and noting the animal’s last movements and blood flow. The battlefield sacrifice only occurred when two armies prepared for battle against each other. Neither force would advance until the seer revealed appropriate omens. Because the seers had such power over influential individuals in ancient Greece, many were skeptical of the accuracy and honesty of the seers. The degree to which seers were honest depends entirely on the individual seers. Despite the doubt surrounding individual seers, the craft as a whole was well regarded and trusted by the Greeks.[11] Middle Ages
Middle Ages
and Early Modern period[edit] Further information: Medieval magic, Renaissance magic, and Folk Catholicism The divination method of casting lots (Cleromancy) was used by the remaining eleven disciples of Jesus in Acts 1:23-26 to select a replacement for Judas Iscariot. Therefore, divination was arguably an accepted practice in the early church. However, divination became viewed as a pagan practice by Christian emperors during ancient Rome.[12] In 692 the Quinisext Council, also known as the "Council in Trullo" in the Eastern Orthodox Church, passed canons to eliminate pagan and divination practices.[13] Fortune-telling
and other forms of divination were widespread through the Middle Ages.[14] In the constitution of 1572 and public regulations of 1661 of Kur-Saxony, capital punishment was used on those predicting the future.[15] Laws forbidding divination practice continue to this day.[16] Småland
is famous for Årsgång, a practice which occurred until the early 19th century in some parts of Småland. Generally occurring on Christmas and New Year's Eve, it is a practice in which one would fast and keep themselves away from light in a room until midnight to then complete a set of complex events to interpret symbols encountered throughout the journey to foresee the coming year.[17] Mesoamerica[edit] See also: Mesoamerican
religion Divination
was a central component of ancient Mesoamerican
religious life. Many Aztec gods, including central creator gods, were described as diviners and were closely associated with sorcery. Tezcatlipoca
is the patron of sorcerers and practitioners of magic. His name means "smoking mirror", a reference to a device used for divinatory scrying.[18] In the Mayan Popol Vuh, the creator gods Xmucane and Xpiacoc perform divinatory hand casting during the creation of people.[18] Every civilization that developed in pre-Columbian Mexico, from the Olmecs
to the Aztecs, practiced divination in daily life, both public and private. Scrying
through the use of reflective water surfaces, mirrors, or the casting of lots were among the most widespread forms of divinatory practice. Visions derived from hallucinogens were another important form of divination, and are still widely used among contemporary diviners of Mexico. Among the more common hallucinogenic plants used in divination are morning glory, jimson weed, and peyote.[18] Contemporary folk religion[edit] Asia[edit] Buddhists in Asia divine by different methods.[19][vague] In Japan, divination methods include Futomani from the Shinto tradition. Africa[edit] Further information: African divination Divination
is one of the tenets of Serer religion. However, only those who have been initiated as Saltigues (the Serer high priests and priestesses) can divine the future.[20][21] These are the "hereditary rain priests"[22] whose role is both religious and medicinal.[21][22] Specialized diviners called Ob'guega (doctor of Oguega oracle), as well as Ob'Oronmila (doctor of Oronmila oracle) from the Edo people
Edo people
of West Africa
West Africa
for thousands have used divination as a means of foretelling the past, present and future. These diviners are initiated and trained in Iha (divination) of either Ominigbon or Oronmila (Benin Orunmila). The Yoruba people
Yoruba people
of West Africa
West Africa
are internationally known for having developed the Ifá
system, an intricate process of divination that is performed by an Awo, an initiated priest or priestess of Orunmila, the spirit of the Yoruba oracle. See also[edit]

Methods of divination Nostradamus Prophet Prophetic dreams Sandobele


^ "Anthropological Studies of Divination". anthropology.ac.uk.  ^ "LacusCurtius • Greek and Roman Divination
(Smith's Dictionary, 1875)". uchicago.edu.  ^ Peek, P.M. African Divination
Systems: Ways of Knowing. page 2. Indiana University Press. 1991. ^ Silva, Sónia (2016). "Object and Objectivity in Divination". Material Religion. 12 (4): 507–509. doi:10.1080/17432200.2016.1227638. ISSN 1743-2200.  ^ Yau, Julianna. (2002). Witchcraft
and Magic. In Michael Shermer. The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience. ABC-CLIO. pp. 278-282. ISBN 1-57607-654-7 ^ Regal, Brian. (2009). Pseudoscience: A Critical Encyclopedia. Greenwood. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-313-35507-3 ^ " Lucian
of Samosata : Alexander the False Prophet". tertullian.org.  ^ Jaynes, J. The origin of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind. Houghton Mifflin. 1977. ^ Encyclopaedia Perthensis; or Universal dictionary of the arts, sciences, literature, &c. intended to supersede the use of other books of reference. 1. John Brown. 1816.  ^ Bhojraj Dwivedi. Wonders of Palmistry
pp. 16-20 ^ Flower, Michael Attyah. The Seer in Ancient Greece. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008. ^ Bailey, Michael David. (2007). Magic and Superstition
in Europe. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. pp. 52-53. ISBN 0-7425-3386-7 ^ "Council of Trullo - Apostolic Confraternity Seminary". apostolicconfraternityseminary.com. Archived from the original on 2011-07-07.  ^ Bailey, Michael David. (2007). Magic and Superstition
in Europe. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. pp. 88-89. ISBN 0-7425-3386-7 ^ Ennemoser, Joseph. (1856). The History of Magic. London: Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Covent Garden. p. 59 ^ "Wiccan Priest Fights Local Ordinance Banning Fortune Telling (Louisiana)". pluralism.org.  ^ Kuusela, Tommy (2014). "Swedish year walk: from folk tradition to computer game. In: Island Dynamics Conference on Folk Belief & Traditions of the Supernatural: Experience, Place, Ritual, & Narrative. Shetland Isles, UK, 24–30 March 2014".  ^ a b c Miller, Mary (2007). Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico. London: Thames & Hudson.  ^ Keown, Damien. (2003). A Dictionary of Buddhism. Oxford University Press. p. 23. ISBN 0-19-860560-9 ^ Sarr, Alioune, « Histoire du Sine-Saloum » (introduction, bibliographie et notes par Charles Becker), in Bulletin de l'IFAN, tome 46, série B, nos 3-4, 1986-1987 pp 31-38 ^ a b Kalis, Simone, "Medecine Traditionnele Religion
et Divination Chez Les Seereer Siin du Senegal", L'Harmattan (1997), pp 11-297 ISBN 2-7384-5196-9 ^ a b Galvan, Dennis Charles, "The State Must be our Master of Fire : How Peasants Craft Culturally Sustainable Development in Senegal", Berkeley, University of California Press, (2004), pp 86-135, ISBN 978-0-520-23591-5.

Further reading[edit] Academic[edit]

K. Beerden, Worlds full of signs: ancient Greek divination
Greek divination
in context. Leiden: Brill. (2013). D. Engels, Das römische Vorzeichenwesen (753-27 v.Chr.). Quellen, Terminologie, Kommentar, historische Entwicklung, Stuttgart 2007 (Franz Steiner-Verlag) E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Witchcraft, oracles, and magic among the Azande (1976) Toufic Fahd, La divination arabe; études religieuses, sociologiques et folkloriques sur le milieu natif d’ Islam
(1966) Philip K. Hitti. Makers of Arab History. Princeton, New Jersey. St. Martin’s Press. 1968. Pg 61. Alisa LaGamma (2000). Art and oracle: African art and rituals of divination. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 9780870999338.  Michael Loewe and Carmen Blacke, eds. Oracles and divination (Shambhala/Random House, 1981) ISBN 0-87773-214-0 W. Montgomery Watt. Muhammad: Prophet
and Statesman. Edinburgh, Scotland. Oxford Press, 1961. Pgs 1-2. Sonia Silva. "Object and Objectivity in Divination". Material Religion 12 (4), 2016. J. P. Vernant, Divination
et rationalité, Paris: Editions du Seuil (1974)

External links[edit]

Look up divination in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

has original text related to this article: Divination

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Divination.

Greek Divination: a study of its methods and principles, William Reginald Halliday, Macmillan, 1913, 309pp - a complete scanned edition of a general treatment of Greek divination
Greek divination
(at Google Books)* David Zeitlyn and others on African Divination
systems: Africa Divination: Mambila and others  Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Divination". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 

v t e

Methods of divination


Ailuromancy Alectryomancy Augury Myomancy Myrmomancy Ornithomancy


I Ching Rhapsodomancy Bible Homer Virgil


Crystal gazing Oculomancy Catoptromancy Hydromancy


Astragalomancy Belomancy Cartomancy Favomancy Fortune-telling Kumalak Merindinlogun Molybdomancy Obi divination Opele Opon Ifá Rhabdomancy Runic magic Tarotology


Necromancy Taghairm


Bone divination Cephalomancy Chiromancy Omphalomancy Podomancy Rumpology Scapulimancy


Apophenia Astrology Esotericism Ifá Technomancy Western esotericism

v t e

and magic


African witchcraft

Vodun Witch smeller

Asian witchcraft

Kulam Onmyōdō

Australasian witchcraft


European witchcraft

Akelarre Benandanti Brujería Cunning folk Seiðr Völva White witch Witch-cult hypothesis

North American witchcraft

21 Divisiones Granny woman Hoodoo Huna Pow-wow Santería Vodou Voodoo

South American witchcraft




Animism Black magic Coven Demon Divination Entheogen Evocation Familiar spirit Flying ointment Jinn Magic Magic circle Necromancy Occultism Poppet Potions Shamanism Sigils Spiritism Spiritualism Witch ball Witch's ladder Witches' Sabbath


Amulet Broom Cloak of invisibility Magic carpet Magic ring Magic sword Talisman Wand

Folklore and mythology

Agamede Aradia Baba Yaga Daayan Drude Elbow witch Huld Kalku Hecate Circe Medea Muma Pădurii Obayifo Sea witch Sorginak Spearfinger Three Witches Witch of Endor

Major historic treatises

Formicarius (1475) Summis desiderantes affectibus
Summis desiderantes affectibus
(1484) Malleus Maleficarum
Malleus Maleficarum
(1487) The Discoverie of Witchcraft
(1584) Daemonologie
(1597) Compendium Maleficarum
Compendium Maleficarum
(1608) A Guide to Grand-Jury Men
A Guide to Grand-Jury Men
(1627) The Discovery of Witches
The Discovery of Witches
(1647) Treatise on the Apparitions of Spirits and on Vampires or Revenants (1751)

Authority control