Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Divination, the act or art of predicting future events or of discovering hidden or secret things by supernatural power. The belief in divination is founded on the idea of the continuity of human life beyond the grave, and on the existence of spiritual beings more powerful than mortals, even though the idea of a Supreme Deity may not have been reached. But from the earliest times of which we have written record down to the present day, in every land there has been a striving after knowledge that transcends sensible things, and that cannot be acquired by ordinary means. In the opening chapter of his inquiry into this subject (de Divin., i. 1) Cicero tells us that all nations believe in divination of some kind, and that it would be an excellent thing if one could be sure that divination really existed, for by it human nature would approach as nearly as possible to the power of the gods. And then, as a Roman, he glories in the name divination as derived from the Latin word divi - "the gods"; while the Greeks, he says, call it manteia, from the same root as mania = "madness." Yet when one considers that madness was formerly supposed to be the result of possession by spirits, the superiority of the Roman to the Greek name is not so evident. [Animism.] No better example of the supposed connection between possession and divination can be found than Acts xvi. 16. Divination is generally reckoned as of two kinds - (1) Natural, or subjective, in which the divine will is directly impressed on the mind of the diviner; and (2) Artificial, or objective, in which the divine will is conjectured from something external to the diviner. The first form is distinctly religious, and there are countless examples of it in the higher faith. In classic times, oracles, dreams, and ecstasies were the means by which the will of the gods was directly revealed to men; and this method of communication led to the formation of a class of persons who received these messages for, and interpreted them to, their fellows. Fraud crept in in process of time, as was inevitable; but the foundation on which the theory of divination was built was faith. As Professor Rhys says, in his Hibbert Lectures, "Zeus was the source of all divinations; the rustling of the wind in the leaves of the sacred oaks at Dodona, the voices of the waves, and the bubbling of the spring near the sacred oak, were all held to be oracular; and even in the case of the celebrated oracle of the Pythian Apollo, at Delphi, the latter was no more than the prophetes - or mouthpiece, so to say - of Zeus." In the Hebrew Scriptures the term "divination" is used for the most part of dealings with the gods of the heathen nations; but there are many examples among the chosen people of what present-day writers can call by no other name. Thus, Joseph dreamed prophetic dreams (Gen. xxxviii. 5-11), and interpreted the dreams of others (Gen. xl., xli.), as also did Daniel (Dan. ii., iv.), and both asserted that their interpretations were from God. In the New Testament, also, Joseph, the spouse of Mary, had revelations from God in dreams (Matt. i. 20; ii. 12, 19-22). We read in the Old and New Testament of lots being drawn by divine command; from above the Mercy Seat Jehovah revealed his will; and in the days of Samuel (2 Sam. xvi. 23) it had become an oracle. Moreover, there was the line of prophets inspired to declare the divine will to the children of Israel, so that the diviners against whom the denunciations of Scripture are directed are evidently those of the Gentiles. Analogy or symbolism lies at the root of artificial or objective divination; and though this may be hidden from us, to those who used the rites it was real enough. Few now can understand Bunyan's wishing to stake his salvation on his power to cause the puddles in the road between Elstow and Bedford to dry up; Elijah would have understood it and sympathised with it (cf. 1 Kings xviii. 23). The principal forms of artificial divination were: - Aeromancy, from appearances in the sky; aleuromancy, by meal; astragalomancy, by dice or huckle-bones; belomancy, by the flight of arrows (Ezek. xxi. 21; 2 Kings xiii. 15-19) [Robin Hood is said to have chosen his burial place in this way]; bibliomancy, by opening a book at random, and drawing conclusions from the passage which meets the eye; botanomancy, by writing on leaves; capnomancy, by the movements of smoke; cartomancy, by writing on paper; catoptromancy, by mirrors; cheiromancy, by lines on the hands [Palmistry]; ciromancy, by the melting of wax; cleromancy, by lots; coscinomancy, with a sieve and shears; crystallomancy, by looking into a crystal, as did the famous Dr. Dee; dactylomancy, by the fingers; demonomancy, by the suggestions of evil demons, or devils; geomancy, by lines drawn on the ground; gyromancy, by circles; hepatoscopy, by inspection of the liver (Ezek. xxi. 21) - this was, however, but one form of the haruspicatio of the Romans, which was based on the appearance of the entrails of sacrificial victims; hydromancy, by water; idolomancy, by idols or figures; lithomancy, by stones; machaeromancy, by swords and knives; necromancy, by apparitions of the dead; oneiromancy, by dreams; oinomancy, by wine; onomatomancy, by names; onychomancy, by marks on the nails; pyromancy, by fire; rhadomancy, by a rod or staff [Divining Rod]; scapulomancy, by lines on a shoulder-blade that has been partly burnt; sciomancy, by shadows; and theriomancy, by wild beasts. [Augur, Demonology, Dreams, Omens, Oracles, Magic, Witchcraft.]