divination

divination

[div-uh-ney-shuhn]
divination, practice of foreseeing future events or obtaining secret knowledge through communication with divine sources and through omens, oracles, signs, and portents. It is based on the belief in revelations offered to humans by the gods and in extrarational forms of knowledge; it attempts to make known those things that neither reason nor science can discover. It is known that divination by means of crack patterns in shells was practiced in China as early as the 2d cent. B.C. In the West, before divination spread throughout the Greco-Roman world, various branches of the practice as used by the Chaldaeans were considered superior to all the sciences. Among those branches the most significant were the study of the flight of birds, the study of water and water patterns, the study of the entrails of sacrificial animals (haruspication), and the inspection of animals' shoulder blades (scapulimancy). The Greeks placed their greatest trust in the wisdom of the oracle. Divination was essential to all the religions of classical antiquity; no state and hardly any individual would have dared undertake a significant action without first consulting the gods. Divination persists to the present day in crystal gazing, palmistry, fortune-telling, and astrology.

See W. R. Halliday, Greek Divination (1913, repr. 1967); W. B. and L. R. Gibson, The Complete Illustrated Book of Divination and Prophecy (1973).

Practice of discerning the hidden significance of events and foretelling the future. Divination is found in all societies, ancient and modern, though methods vary. In the West, psychics claim innate ability to predict the future, and horoscopes, palm reading, and tarot cards are popular methods of divination. Other methods involve or have involved interpreting dreams, discovering omens in natural events, reading the entrails of animals, casting lots, and consulting oracles. Divination has long been viewed as the province of specially gifted persons, such as prophets, shamans, and magicians. Seealso astrology.

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Divination (from Latin divinare "to be inspired by a god", related to divine, diva and deus) is the attempt of ascertaining information by interpretation of omens or an alleged supernatural agency, either by or on behalf of a querent.

If a distinction is to be made between divination and fortune-telling, divination has a formal or ritual and often social character, usually in a religious context; while fortune-telling is a more everyday practice for personal purposes. Divination is often dismissed by skeptics, including the scientific community, as being mere superstition: 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, though most Romans believed in dreams and charms. It is considered a sin in most Christian denominations and Judaism.

Categories

Psychologist Julian Jaynes 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's work considered this very idea.
  • 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.
  • Augury. Divination that 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. The Romans in classical times used Etruscan methods of augury such as hepatoscopy (actually a form of extispicy). Haruspices examined the livers of sacrificed animals.
  • 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 methods of Feng Shui such as "intuitive" and Fuzion.

Psychic Kay.

Common methods

See also

References

Further reading

Popular

  • Robert Todd Carroll (2003). The Skeptic's Dictionary. Wiley.
  • Lon Milo Duquette (2005). The Book of Ordinary Oracles. Weiser Books.
  • Clifford A. Pickover (2001). Dreaming the Future: The Fantastic Story of Prediction. Prometheus.
  • Eva Shaw (1995). Divining the Future. Facts on File.
  • The Diagram Group (1999). The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Fortune Telling. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.
  • Paul O'Brien (2007). Divination: Sacred Tools for Reading the Mind of God. Visionary Networks Press

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. Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman. Edinburgh, Scotland. Oxford Press, 1961. Pgs 1-2.
  • J. P. Vernant, Divination et rationalité (1974)

External links


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