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Divination or Fortune Words: “acutomancia” to “axinomancy”,
Part 1 of 9

Words that include: -mancy, -mancer, -mantic, -mantical (Greek: used as a suffix; divination, prophecy; to interpret signs so “practical” decisions can be made [related to -mania])

Divination refers to the methods or practices of attempting to foretell the future or discovering the unknown through omens, oracles, or with supernatural powers; prophesying or predicting the future; methods of "fortune telling".

acutomancia, acutomanzia:
Divination a form of divination which uses pins. Thirteen tacking pins are used, ten of them are straight and the remainder bent. The pins are shaken and when they fall on a table covered with a light film of talcum-powder, their formations are studied for possible revelations about the future.
Divination by observing substances in the air or wind, such as cloud shapes; weather forecasting; atmospheric phenomena (comets, etc.). Also divination that involves the direction of the wind as when throwing sand or dirt in the wind after asking a question, and receiving the answer in the form of the dust cloud; or throwing a handful of seeds into the air and receiving the answer to a question from the pattern created by the fallen seeds. Also known as austromancy.

For many centuries, humans believed that wind was actually the breath of their deities; alternately, some thought that specific types of winds, particularly hot winds, were the work of demons.

In medieval writings on divination, the term (usually spelled aerimancy) was expanded to include almost all phenomena occurring in the air.

Divination or fortune-telling by interpreting sharp points.
Divination as determined by the way a cat jumps; a black cat crossing one’s path is a bad omen in the U.S. and Germany, although it is considered lucky in Britain. Owning a black cat is also considered to be lucky. It is a widespread belief that killing or mistreating a cat will bring ill fortune. This may arise from ancient religious beliefs as a sacred animal.
alectoromancy, alectryomancy:
Divination by the observation of a rooster eating corn scattered on letters; crowing, etc. In Africa, a black hen or a gamecock is used. An African diviner sprinkles grain on the ground and when the bird has finished eating, the seer interprets the designs or patterns left on the ground.

This type of divination has been attributed to the famous philosopher Iamblichus, who died about the year 330 A.D., after restoring various mystic rites dating back to the times of the ancient oracles. His followers did quite well until Valens became roman emperor of the East and began a campaign to stamp out oracles, soothsayers, astrologers, and even philosophers, since their trend was to favor those practitioners of the mystic arts.

The Roman mystics traced a large circle on the ground and divided it into sections bearing the letters of the Greek alphabet. Grains of wheat were sprinkled on the letters and a white rooster was placed in the center of the mystic circle. From then on, the sponsoring seers watched while the inspired fowl moved from one letter to another, spelling out a message as it pecked at the grains. That message was interpreted as the answer to the question mutually chosen by the observing seers.

Divination of meal or flour; predictions written on paper and baked in cakes or cookies, such as “Chinese fortune cookies” [said to be an American invention, not Chinese] which are a form of this type of mancy. The ancient Greeks wrote sentences on pieces of paper rolled up in balls of flour. The balls were mixed up nine times and distributed to those who wanted to know their future. Appollo was supposed to have presided over this form of divination.

This system has survived in the custom of baking a coin or ring in a large cake, which is then divided among guests, one of whom is lucky and finds the gift.

Divination by means of salt; today, some people still respond to spilt salt on the table by throwing some over the left shoulder so bad luck will go away (a variant of halomancy); the diviner interprets future events from the patterns made from the sprinkled salt.

The use of salt in various divinations, probably dated from its ancient use as an offering to pagan gods, because of its scarcity and necessity.

Divination with barley meal and honey loaves; once it was used as a method to determine if one were guilty of some crime by having the accused try to eat a barley cake and if he couldn’t swallow it, or if he got sick, he was considered guilty (this same method is said to have been used by the Chinese with rice cakes). In some cases, before eating, each suspect was required to say, “If I am deceiving you, may this piece of bread choke me.”

According to Walter Gibson and Litzka Gibson in their The Complete Illustrated Book of Divination and Prophecy, in 1053, “Earl Godwin of Wessex, England, collapsed while taking this test to support a false oath, and died a few days later. This case has frequently been cited as a strong argument in favor of alphitomancy as a divinatory process.”

Another version explains, “The suspects were rounded up. Each was required to say, ‘If I am deceiving you, may this bread act upon me foul.’ A portion of barley or wheat bread was then served to each suspect. Those innocent of the crime supposedly would suffer no ill effects, while the guilty person would experience an attack of indigestion so painful that it was impossible to conceal it.”

Divination by observing the arrangement of dust or dirt.
Divination by observing how someone walks or by taking a walk.
Divination by the examination of the caul, or membrane, which sometimes envelopes the head of a child at birth; embryonic sac. From an examination of the caul, there was a prediction about the baby’s future; if red, happy days; if lead-colored, the baby would have misfortunes.
Divination with flowers Could “She loves me, she loves me not” have anything to do with this ancient method?
Fortunetelling by analyzing burning coals.
Divination by examining the entrails of a person during a sacrifice or slaughter, usually those of virgins or young children. The viscera (organs of the digestive, respiratory, urogenital, as well as the spleen, the heart, and great vessels) were used to read symbols of the future. This form of mancy was practiced in ancient Egypt (Roman Emperor Heliogabalus is said to have done this).

Herodotus said that Menelaus, detained in Egypt by contrary winds, sacrificed to his barbarous curiosity, two children of the country, and sought to discover his destiny.

It is reported that in his magical operations, Julian the Apostate, caused a large number of children to be killed, so that he might consult their entrails and a woman was found in the Temple of the Moon at Carra, in Mesopotamia, hanging by her hair with her liver torn out.

This type of divination continued through the period of the Roman Empire and it was believed to have been revived by notorious practitioners of the black arts during the Middle Ages.

Divination by observing the facial features of a person.
Similar to anthropomancy, but more gruesome, as children were among the principal victims.
Divination by the examination of all kinds of objects that happen to present themselves; omens drawn from chance meetings with a rabbit, an eagle, etc. The theory was that nothing happened by chance, including a bluebird that represented happiness and a black cat might bring bad luck (in some areas of the world, a black cat represents “good fortune”).

In ancient times such events were frequently interpreted by oracles, and their importance persisted through the Middle Ages, even up to modern times. From them have stemmed countless superstitions that many people still believe may bring them good or bad luck, though the interpretations may vary in different localities.

Divination with numbers, numerology; practiced by Greeks and Chaldeans. The Greeks would analyze the names of warring enemies and determine their numerical values and from this they would predict the result of the battle. The Chaldeans divided their alphabet into three sections of seven letters and made a symbolic link to the seven planets. Number values of countries, individuals, and situations represented certain characteristics.
Divination by inspection of the shoulders to determine whether a victim was suitable for sacrifice to the gods. Also defined as, “a manner of predicting the ability of mediumship by inspecting the shoulders of the prospective candidate.”
Encyclopedic Psychic Dictionary
Divination with a shield by sitting on it within a magic circle and going into a trance; predictions from the devil. In the East Indies, a type of ritual magic whereby the psychic draws a circle, sits in the middle, mutters incantations, falls into a trance state, and when back in a normal state knows the answers to the questions of the supplicants.

Another explanation states that it was a primitive form of divination in which an entranced sorcerer, seated in a magic circle, became inspired by the devil and upon awakening recounted the predictions revealed to him from that source.

Divination with dice, knuckle bones, stones, small pieces of wood, or ankle bones which were marked with letters, symbols, or dots. Using dice for divination is a form of astragalomancy.
Divination by interpreting the stars, now known as astrology; one of the ancient systems of prophecy. It was developed in Babylon and later carried to Greece, ascribing heavenly thrones to gods as represented by the sun, moon, and planets. From their movements, wise men divined the purposes of such deities, taking into account the phases of the moon, eclipses, the proximity of planets to the brighter fixed stars, and other phenomena, including the positions of constellations other than those forming the signs of the zodiac.

Some examples include, the new moon rising in a cloudy sky presaged victory in a coming battle, while, if it failed to rise as an anticipated time, it became an omen of defeat.

When astrology advanced as a science, the casting of horoscopes and other exact calculations replaced the old traditions and astromancy became less significant. Its systems are largely obsolete, but its lore has survived as modern superstitions, such as expecting bad luck if you look at the moon over your left shoulder, or making a quick wish when you see a shooting star.

It’s interesting to note that astromancy became astrology and astrology became the science we now call astronomy.

Divination by observing winds, especially the south winds, with special significance attached to their direction and intensity.
Divination with an axhead and a “jet-stone” placed on a bed of hot embers; or with a marble. Practiced by the ancient Creten Greeks to discover a crime. An agate or piece of jet (stone) was placed on a red-hot axe which indicated the guilty person by its motion.

Another explanation suggests that it was a system that was used as a mode of finding a guilty person, this consisted of heating an ax head, setting it upright, placing a marble on it, and turning it slowly until the marble rolled in someone’s direction. This same prodedure was considered as one way to find a treasure.

Another method was to suspend a hand ax, or hatchet, from a string attached to its handle, twirl it and see to whom it pointed when it stopped. A third and perhaps the best method was to drive the ax blade into the top of a post and let it waver there, while a group danced around the post. When the ax finally fell, its handle was supposed to point to the guilty person if he/she was still around. If she/he was gone, it pointed to the direction in which that person went.