Divination

Divination

Overview
Divination is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic standardized process or ritual. Used in various forms for thousands of years, diviners ascertain their interpretations of how a querent
Querent
Querent as "one who seeks" is derived, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, from the Latin quærēns "seeker," the present participle of quærere "to seek, gain, ask."...

 should proceed by reading signs, events, or omen
Omen
An omen is a phenomenon that is believed to foretell the future, often signifying the advent of change...

s, or through alleged contact with a supernatural
Supernatural
The supernatural or is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature...

 agency, most often describe as a spirit or demon. 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.
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Encyclopedia
Divination is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic standardized process or ritual. Used in various forms for thousands of years, diviners ascertain their interpretations of how a querent
Querent
Querent as "one who seeks" is derived, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, from the Latin quærēns "seeker," the present participle of quærere "to seek, gain, ask."...

 should proceed by reading signs, events, or omen
Omen
An omen is a phenomenon that is believed to foretell the future, often signifying the advent of change...

s, or through alleged contact with a supernatural
Supernatural
The supernatural or is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature...

 agency, most often describe as a spirit or demon. 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
Fortune-telling
Fortune-telling is the practice of predicting information about a person's life. The scope of fortune-telling is in principle identical with the practice of divination...

, divination has a formal or ritual and often social character, usually in a religious
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 context, as seen in traditional African medicine
Traditional African medicine
Traditional African medicine is a holistic discipline involving indigenous herbalism and African spirituality, typically involving diviners, midwives, and herbalists...

; while fortune-telling is a more everyday practice for personal purposes. Particular divination methods vary by culture and religion.

Divination is often dismissed by sceptics, including the scientific community
Scientific community
The scientific community consists of the total body of scientists, its relationships and interactions. It is normally divided into "sub-communities" each working on a particular field within science. Objectivity is expected to be achieved by the scientific method...

, as being mere superstition
Superstition
Superstition is a belief in supernatural causality: that one event leads to the cause of another without any process in the physical world linking the two events....

: in the 2nd century, Lucian
Lucian
Lucian of Samosata was a rhetorician and satirist who wrote in the Greek language. He is noted for his witty and scoffing nature.His ethnicity is disputed and is attributed as Assyrian according to Frye and Parpola, and Syrian according to Joseph....

 devoted a witty essay to the career of a charlatan
Charlatan
A charlatan is a person practicing quackery or some similar confidence trick in order to obtain money, fame or other advantages via some form of pretense or deception....

, 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", though most Romans believed in dreams and charms. It is considered a sin
Sin
In religion, sin is the violation or deviation of an eternal divine law or standard. The term sin may also refer to the state of having committed such a violation. Christians believe the moral code of conduct is decreed by God In religion, sin (also called peccancy) is the violation or deviation...

 in most Christian denominations and Judaism, though some methods, especially dream interpretation
Dream interpretation
Dream interpretation is the process of assigning meaning to dreams. In many ancient societies, such as those of Egypt and Greece, dreaming was considered a supernatural communication or a means of divine intervention, whose message could be unravelled by people with certain powers...

, do appear in Scripture.

Categories


Psychologist Julian Jaynes
Julian Jaynes
Julian Jaynes was an American psychologist, best known for his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind , in which he argued that ancient peoples were not conscious....

 categorized divination according to the following four types:
  • Omens and omen texts. "The most primitive, clumsy, but enduring method...is the simple recording of sequences of unusual or important events." (1976:236) 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 strategy. It is not unreasonable to assume that modern scientific inquiry began with this kind of divination; Joseph Needham
    Joseph Needham
    Noel Joseph Terence Montgomery Needham, CH, FRS, FBA , also known as Li Yuese , was a British scientist, historian and sinologist known for his scientific research and writing on the history of Chinese science. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1941, and as a fellow of the British...

    's work considered this very idea.

  • Sortilege (cleromancy
    Cleromancy
    Cleromancy is a form of divination using sortition, casting of lots, or casting bones or stones, in which an outcome is determined by means that normally would be considered random, such as the rolling of dice, but are sometimes believed to reveal the will of God, or other supernatural entities.-In...

    ). This consists of the casting of lots, or sortes
    Sortes (ancient Rome)
    Sortes were a frequent method of divination among the ancient Romans. The method involved the drawing of lots to obtain knowledge of future events: in many of the ancient Italian temples the will of the gods was consulted in this way, as at Praeneste and Caere.These sortes or lots were usually...

    , whether with sticks, stones, bones, beans, coins, or some other item. Modern playing cards and board games developed from this type of divination.

  • Augury. Divination that ranks a set of given possibilities. It can be qualitative (such as shapes, proximities, etc.): for example, dowsing
    Dowsing
    Dowsing is a type of divination employed in attempts to locate ground water, buried metals or ores, gemstones, oil, gravesites, and many other objects and materials, as well as so-called currents of earth radiation , without the use of scientific apparatus...

     (a form of rhabdomancy
    Rhabdomancy
    Rhabdomancy is a type of divination by means of any rod, wand, staff, stick, arrow, or the like.One method of rhabdomancy was setting a number of staffs on end and observing where they fall, to divine the direction one should travel, or to find answers to certain questions. It has also been used...

    ) developed from this type of divination. The Romans
    Roman Republic
    The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

     in classical times used Etruscan
    Etruscan civilization
    Etruscan civilization is the modern English name given to a civilization of ancient Italy in the area corresponding roughly to Tuscany. The ancient Romans called its creators the Tusci or Etrusci...

     methods of augury such as hepatoscopy (actually a form of extispicy
    Extispicy
    Extispicy is the practice of using anomalies in animal entrails to predict or divine future events. Organs inspected include the liver, intestines, and lungs. The animal used for extispicy must often be ritually pure and slaughtered in a special ceremony.The practice was first common in ancient...

    ). Haruspices
    Haruspex
    In Roman and Etruscan religious practice, a haruspex was a man trained to practice a form of divination called haruspicy, hepatoscopy or hepatomancy. Haruspicy is the inspection of the entrails of sacrificed animals, especially the livers of sacrificed sheep and poultry...

     examined the livers of sacrificed animals. Note that augury is normally considered to specifically refer to divination by studying the flight patterns of birds.

  • 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
    Bibliomancy
    Bibliomancy is the use of books in divination. The method of employing sacred books for 'magical medicine', for removing negative entities, or for divination is widespread in many religions of the world:-Terminology:...

    : 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
    Aura (paranormal)
    In parapsychology and many forms of spiritual practice, an aura is a field of subtle, luminous radiation surrounding a person or object . The depiction of such an aura often connotes a person of particular power or holiness. Sometimes, however, it is said that all living things and all objects...

     and New Age
    New Age
    The New Age movement is a Western spiritual movement that developed in the second half of the 20th century. Its central precepts have been described as "drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and then infusing them with influences from self-help and motivational...

     methods of Feng Shui
    Feng shui
    Feng shui ' is a Chinese system of geomancy believed to use the laws of both Heaven and Earth to help one improve life by receiving positive qi. The original designation for the discipline is Kan Yu ....

     such as "intuitive" and Fuzion.

Divination in the Bible


On the one hand, verses like Deuteronomy 18:10-12 clearly forbid any acts of divination, describing them as something detestable to God. Leviticus
Leviticus
The Book of Leviticus is the third book of the Hebrew Bible, and the third of five books of the Torah ....

 19:26 says "You must not practice either divination or soothsaying." But Exodus 28 gives members of the priestly class the use the Urim and Thummim
Urim and Thummim
In ancient Israelite religion and culture, Urim and Thummim is a phrase from the Hebrew Scriptures or Torah associated with the Hoshen , divination in general, and cleromancy in particular...

 to divine the will of Yahweh before times of sacrifice
Sacrifice
Sacrifice is the offering of food, objects or the lives of animals or people to God or the gods as an act of propitiation or worship.While sacrifice often implies ritual killing, the term offering can be used for bloodless sacrifices of cereal food or artifacts...

.

Divination in Christianity and Western society


Divination was considered a pagan practice in the early Christian church. Later the church would pass canon law
Canon law
Canon law is the body of laws & regulations made or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of the Christian organization and its members. It is the internal ecclesiastical law governing the Catholic Church , the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion of...

s forbidding the practice of divination. In 692 the Quinisext Council
Quinisext Council
The Quinisext Council was a church council held in 692 at Constantinople under Justinian II. It is often known as the Council in Trullo, because it was held in the same domed hall where the Sixth Ecumenical Council had met...

, also known as the Council in Trullo in the Eastern Orthodox Church, passed canons to eliminate pagan and divination practices.Acts 16:16 Soothsaying and forms of divination were widespread through the Middle Ages. In the constitution of 1572 and public regulations of 1661 of Kur-Saxony, capital punishment was used on those predicting the future. Laws forbidding divination practice continue to this day.

Divination in Ancient Greece


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 seer
Seer
Seer or Seers or SEER may refer to:Predicting the future* A clairvoyant, prophet, oracle, or diviner* The Seer , a fictional character on the television series Charmed...

s (manteis 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
Extispicy
Extispicy is the practice of using anomalies in animal entrails to predict or divine future events. Organs inspected include the liver, intestines, and lungs. The animal used for extispicy must often be ritually pure and slaughtered in a special ceremony.The practice was first common in ancient...

, 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 battle
Battle
Generally, a battle is a conceptual component in the hierarchy of combat in warfare between two or more armed forces, or combatants. In a battle, each combatant will seek to defeat the others, with defeat determined by the conditions of a military campaign...

field (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 omen
Omen
An omen is a phenomenon that is believed to foretell the future, often signifying the advent of change...

s.

Because the seers had such power over influential individuals in ancient Greece, many were skeptical of the accuracy and honesty of the seers. Of course 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.

Divination in Mesoamerica


Divination was a central component of ancient Mesoamerican religious life. Many Aztec
Aztec
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the late post-classic period in Mesoamerican chronology.Aztec is the...

 gods
Aztec religion
Aztec religion is the Mesoamerican religion practiced by the Aztec empire. Like other Mesoamerican religions, it had elements of human sacrifice in connection with a large number of religious festivals which were held according to patterns of the Aztec calendar...

, including central creator gods, were described as diviners and were closely associated with sorcery
Sorcery
Sorcery may refer to:* Magic * Maleficium * Witchcraft* Sorcery , a video game for the PlayStation 3 utilizing the PlayStation Move* Sorcery , 1995* Sorcery , 1974...

. Tezcatlipoca
Tezcatlipoca
Tezcatlipoca was a central deity in Aztec religion. One of the four sons of Ometeotl, he is associated with a wide range of concepts, including the night sky, the night winds, hurricanes, the north, the earth, obsidian, enmity, discord, rulership, divination, temptation, jaguars, sorcery, beauty,...

, a core Mesoamerican god, is the patron of sorcerers and practitioners of magic
Magic (paranormal)
Magic is the claimed art of manipulating aspects of reality either by supernatural means or through knowledge of occult laws unknown to science. It is in contrast to science, in that science does not accept anything not subject to either direct or indirect observation, and subject to logical...

. His name means "smoking mirror", a reference to a device used for divinatory scrying
Scrying
Scrying is a magic practice that involves seeing things psychically in a medium, usually for purposes of obtaining spiritual visions and less often for purposes of divination or fortune-telling. The most common media used are reflective, translucent, or luminescent substances such as crystals,...

.

In the Mayan
Maya mythology
Mayan mythology is part of Mesoamerican mythology and comprises all of the Mayan tales in which personified forces of nature, deities, and the heroes interacting with these play the main roles...

 Popol Vuh
Popol Vuh
Popol Vuh is a corpus of mytho-historical narratives of the Post Classic Quiché kingdom in Guatemala's western highlands. The title translates as "Book of the Community," "Book of Counsel," or more literally as "Book of the People."...

, the creator gods Xpiyacoc and Xmucane
Xmucane and Xpiacoc
Xmucane and Xpiacoc are the names of the divine grandparents of Maya mythology and the daykeepers of the Popol Vuh. They are considered to be the oldest of all the gods of the Maya pantheon, and are identified by a number of names throughout the Maya sacred text, reflecting their multiple roles...

 perform divinatory hand casting during the creation of people.

Every civilization that developed in Ancient Mexico
Ancient Mexico
Ancient Mexico was an exhibition by William Bullock of casts of Aztec artifacts and both copies and originals of Aztec codices, held in 1824 in the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, London...

, from the Olmecs to the Aztecs, practiced divination in daily life, both public and private. Scrying
Scrying
Scrying is a magic practice that involves seeing things psychically in a medium, usually for purposes of obtaining spiritual visions and less often for purposes of divination or fortune-telling. The most common media used are reflective, translucent, or luminescent substances such as crystals,...

 through the use of reflective water surfaces, mirrors, or the casting of lots were amongst 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
Morning glory
Morning glory is a common name for over 1,000 species of flowering plants in the family Convolvulaceae, whose current taxonomy and systematics is in flux...

, jimson weed, and peyote
Peyote
Lophophora williamsii , better known by its common name Peyote , is a small, spineless cactus with psychoactive alkaloids, particularly mescaline.It is native to southwestern Texas and Mexico...

."

See also


  • Alectormancy
  • Anthropology of religion
    Anthropology of religion
    The anthropology of religion involves the study of religious institutions in relation to other social institutions, and the comparison of religious beliefs and practices across cultures.-History:...

  • Apollo
    Apollo
    Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

  • Astrology
    Astrology
    Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

  • Axinomancy
    Axinomancy
    Axinomancy is one of several obscure methods of divination using an axe, hatchet, or a saw. Most of the methods involve throwing an axe into the ground, or swinging it into a tree, and interpreting the direction of the handle or the quivering of the blade...

  • Bone divination
  • Dowsing
    Dowsing
    Dowsing is a type of divination employed in attempts to locate ground water, buried metals or ores, gemstones, oil, gravesites, and many other objects and materials, as well as so-called currents of earth radiation , without the use of scientific apparatus...

  • Dream interpretation
    Dream interpretation
    Dream interpretation is the process of assigning meaning to dreams. In many ancient societies, such as those of Egypt and Greece, dreaming was considered a supernatural communication or a means of divine intervention, whose message could be unravelled by people with certain powers...

  • Esotericism
    Esotericism
    Esotericism or Esoterism signifies the holding of esoteric opinions or beliefs, that is, ideas preserved or understood by a small group or those specially initiated, or of rare or unusual interest. The term derives from the Greek , a compound of : "within", thus "pertaining to the more inward",...

  • Fal-Gûsh
    Fāl-gūsh
    Fāl-gūsh or fāl-gōsh is the act of standing in a dark corner spot or behind a fence and listening to the conversations of passersby and trying to interpret their statements or the subject of their dialogue as an answer to one's questions. Iranians believe that certain days are especially good for...

  • Frétt
  • Futurology
    Futurology
    Futures studies is the study of postulating possible, probable, and preferable futures and the worldviews and myths that underlie them. There is a debate as to whether this discipline is an art or science. In general, it can be considered as a branch under the more general scope of the field of...

  • Geomancy
    Geomancy
    Geomancy is a method of divination that interprets markings on the ground or the patterns formed by tossed handfuls of soil, rocks, or sand...

  • Guru
    Guru
    A guru is one who is regarded as having great knowledge, wisdom, and authority in a certain area, and who uses it to guide others . Other forms of manifestation of this principle can include parents, school teachers, non-human objects and even one's own intellectual discipline, if the...

  • I Ching
    I Ching
    The I Ching or "Yì Jīng" , also known as the Classic of Changes, Book of Changes and Zhouyi, is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts...

  • Ifá
    Ifá
    Ifá refers to the system of divination and the verses of the literary corpus known as the Odú Ifá. Yoruba religion identifies Orunmila as the Grand Priest; as that which revealed Oracle divinity to the world...

  • Kumalak
    Kumalak
    Kumalak is a form of geomancy, or divination, which originates in Central Asia. This fortune telling method involves forty-one beans, stones, or sheep dung sorted into piles, and has been used for hundreds of years in the region of present-day Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and Siberia by...

  • Magical terms and traditions
  • Methods of divination
    Methods of divination
    Innumerable methods of divination can be found around the world, and many cultures practice the same methods under different names. During the Middle Ages, scholars coined terms for many of these methods — some of which had hitherto been unnamed — in Medieval Latin, very often utilizing the suffix...

  • New Age
    New Age
    The New Age movement is a Western spiritual movement that developed in the second half of the 20th century. Its central precepts have been described as "drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and then infusing them with influences from self-help and motivational...

  • Nostradamus
    Nostradamus
    Michel de Nostredame , usually Latinised to Nostradamus, was a French apothecary and reputed seer who published collections of prophecies that have since become famous worldwide. He is best known for his book Les Propheties , the first edition of which appeared in 1555...

  • Occultism
  • Omen
    Omen
    An omen is a phenomenon that is believed to foretell the future, often signifying the advent of change...

     (or portent)
  • Oracle
    Oracle
    In Classical Antiquity, an oracle was a person or agency considered to be a source of wise counsel or prophetic predictions or precognition of the future, inspired by the gods. As such it is a form of divination....

  • Philosophy
    Philosophy
    Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

  • Postdiction
    Postdiction
    According to critics of paranormal beliefs, postdiction is an effect of hindsight bias that explains claimed predictions of significant events, such as plane crashes and natural disasters...

  • Prophet
    Prophet
    In religion, a prophet, from the Greek word προφήτης profitis meaning "foreteller", is an individual who is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and serves as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people...

  • Pueblo
    Pueblo
    Pueblo is a term used to describe modern communities of Native Americans in the Southwestern United States of America. The first Spanish explorers of the Southwest used this term to describe the communities housed in apartment-like structures built of stone, adobe mud, and other local material...

  • Runic divination
  • Scrying
    Scrying
    Scrying is a magic practice that involves seeing things psychically in a medium, usually for purposes of obtaining spiritual visions and less often for purposes of divination or fortune-telling. The most common media used are reflective, translucent, or luminescent substances such as crystals,...

  • Tarot reading
  • Traditional African medicine
    Traditional African medicine
    Traditional African medicine is a holistic discipline involving indigenous herbalism and African spirituality, typically involving diviners, midwives, and herbalists...

  • Western mystery tradition
    Western mystery tradition
    Western esotericism or Hermeticism is a broad spectrum of spiritual traditions found in Western society, or refers to the collection of the mystical, esoteric knowledge of the Western world...



Academic

  • 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.
  • Michael Loewe and Carmen Blacke, eds. Oracles and divination (Shambhala/Random House, 1981) ISBN 0-87773-214-0
  • W. Montgomery Watt
    William Montgomery Watt
    William Montgomery Watt was a Scottish historian, an Emeritus Professor in Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Edinburgh...

    . Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman. Edinburgh, Scotland. Oxford Press, 1961. Pgs 1-2.
  • J. P. Vernant, Divination et rationalité (1974)
  • David Zeitlyn and others on African Divination systems: [See]http://era.anthropology.ac.uk/Divination

External links