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It is well known that the Romans borrowed their methods of hepatoscopy from the Etruscans, and, apart from the direct evidence for this in Latin writings, we have, in the case of the bronze model of a liver found near Piacenza in , and of Etruscan origin, the unmistakable proof that among the Etruscans the examination of the liver was the basis of animal divination. It had been predicted that he should die when he met his superior in divination ; and the prophecy was fulfilled in the person of Mopsus, whom Calchas met in the grove of the Clarian Apollo near Colophon.

The practice, in all times and countries, was used for purposes of divination. He was augur for fifty-five years and wrote a work on the science of divination.

Visionary I Ching with Paul O'Brien

Only a single oracle is recorded for Hermes, in the market-place of Pharae in Achaea, and here the procedure was akin to popular divination. Now among the Arabs, as we have seen, ritual service is the affair of the individual, or of a mass of individuals gathered in a great feast, but still doing worship each for himself and his own private circle; the only public aspect of religion is found in connexion with divination and the oracle to which the affairs of the community are submitted. The popular faith was full of heathenish superstition strangely blended with the higher ideas which were the inheritance left to Israel by men like Moses and Elijah; but the common prophets accepted all alike, and combined heathen arts of divination and practices of mere physical enthusiasm with a not altogether insincere pretension that through their professional oracles the ideal was being maintained of a continuous divine guidance of the people of Yahweh.

The process of assimilation did not proceed so far in Babylonia and Assyria, but Shamash and Adad became in combination the gods of oracles and of divination in general. Whether the will of the gods is determined through the inspection of the liver of the sacrificial animal, through observing the action of oil bubbles in a basin of water or through the observation of the movements of the heavenly bodies, it is Shamash and Adad who, in the ritual connected with divination , are invariably invoked.

Similarly in the annals and votive inscriptions of the kings, when oracles are referred to, Shamash and Adad are always named as the gods addressed, and their ordinary designation in such instances is bele biri, " lords of divination. Phenomena of this kind play a large part in primitive ceremonies of divination and in our own day furnish much of the material of Psychical Research.

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Among all Teutonic peoples from the time of the Cimbri onwards we frequently hear also of holy women whose duties were concerned chiefly with divination. At all sacrifices it seems to have been customary to practise divination ; in connexion with human sacrifice we have record of this rite from the time of the Cimbri.

This was the famous " ash-altar " at which the Iamidae, the hereditary gens of seers, practised those rights of divination by fire in virtue of which more especially Olympia is saluted by Pindar as mistress of truth. They believe also in omens and divination , but they have neither temples nor idols, nor religious rites.

The persistent prominence which astrology continued to enjoy down to the border-line of the scientific movement of our own days, and which is directly traceable to the divination methods perfected in the Euphrates valley, is a tribute to the scope and influence attained by the astral theology of the Babylonian and Assyrian priests.

There are also indications that the extensive texts dealing with divination through the liver of sacrificial animals, which represents a more popular origin than divination through the observations of the heavens, based as it is on the primitive view which regarded the liver as the seat of life and of the soul, were brought into connexion with astral divination. The ritual alone which accompanied divination practices and incantation formulae and was a chief factor in the celebration of festival days and of days set aside for one reason or the other to the worship of some god or goddess or group of deities, is free from traces of the astral theology.

Boissier, Documents assyriens relatifs aux presages Paris, ; and his Choix de textes relatifs a la divination assyrobabylonienne Geneva, ; Ch. In its ancient stories were remnants of primitive religion, of tabu, of anthropomorphic gods, of native forms of worship, of magic and divination , of local and tribal cults. These stones are anointed with oil, and worshipped with prayer and offerings, and are also used for purposes of divination , in which, and in various omens, there is a general belief.

There we are told that for purposes of divination certain signs were scratched on slips of wood from a fruit-bearing tree including, no doubt, the beech; cp. The soul of the bird, he explains, enters them with its flesh, and endows them with power of divination. The belief that the Powers controlling man's life are willing upon occasion to disclose something of their purpose, has led to widespread rites of divination , which Plato described as the " art of fellowship between gods and men," and the Stoics defended on grounds of a priori religious expectation as well as of universal experience.

Lastly, the practice of divination and the consul tation of oracles afforded a means of communication between God and man - a concession to popular beliefs. His opponents argued, " if all events are foreordained, divination is superfluous "; he replied that both divination and our behaviour under the warnings which it affords are included in the chain of causation. On the side of the Stoics it was argued that if divination was a real art, there must be gods who gave it to mankind; against this it was argued that signs of future events may be given without any god.

Divination is practised in all grades of culture; its votaries range from the Australian black to the American medium. Among the Australian blacks, divination is largely employed to discover the cause of death, where it is assumed to be due to magic; in some cases the spirit of the dead man is held to give the information, in others the living magician is the source of the knowledge.

We find moreover as emi-scientific conception of the basis of divination ; the whole of nature is linked together; just as the variations in the height of a column of mercury serve to foretell the weather, so the flight of birds or behaviour of cattle may help to prognosticate its changes; for the uncultured it is merely a step to the assumption that animals know things which are hidden from man. Haruspication, or the inspection of entrails, was justified on similar grounds, and in the case of omens from birds or animals, no less than in astrology, it was held that the facts from which inferences were drawn were themselves in part the causes of the events which they foretold, thus fortifying the belief in the possibility of divination.

The divining rod is the best-known example of this class; divination depending on automatic movements of this sort is found at all stages of culture; in Australia it is used to detect the magician who has caused the death of a native; in medieval and modern times water-divining or dowsing has been largely and successfully used.

Similar in principle is coscinomancy, or divining by a sieve held suspended, which gives indications by turning; and the equally common divination by a suspended ring, both of which are found from Europe in the west to China and Japan in the east. Confined to higher cultures on the other hand, for obvious reasons, is divination by automatic writing, which is practised in China more especially. The sand divination so widely spread in Africa seems to be of a different nature.

Another method of divination is by the aid of mental impressions; observation seems to show that by some process of this sort, akin to clairvoyance, fortunes are told successfully by means of palmistry or by laying the cards; for the same "lie" of the cards may be diversely interpreted to meet different cases. In other cases the impression is involuntary or less consciously sought, as in dreams, which, however, are sometimes induced, for purposes of divination , by the process known as incubation or temple sleep.

Dreams are sometimes regarded as visits to or from gods or the souls of the dead, sometimes as signs to be interpreted symbolically by means of dream-books, which are found not only in Europe but in less cultured countries like Siam. B In heteroscopic divination the process is rather one of inference from external facts.

Similarly dice are thrown for purposes of sortilege; the astragali or knucklebones, used in children's games at the present day, were implements of divination in the first instance. In haruspication, or the inspection of entrails, in scapulomancy or divination by the speal-bone or shoulder-blade, in divination by footprints in ashes, found in Australia, Peru and Scotland, the voluntary element is prominent, for the diviner must take active steps to secure the conditions necessary to divination.

In other cases the tie that binds the subject of divination with the omen-giving object is sympathy. But where autoscopic phenomena play the chief part the question of the origin of divination is less simple. Divination of this sort, therefore, may be due to observation and experiment of a rude sort, rather than to the unchecked play of fancy which resulted in heteroscopic divination.

On the mound grow cypresses, acacias, what is called " the crystal tree," said not to be elsewhere found, and the Achillea, the plant whose stalks were employed in ancient times for purposes of divination. If not intended from the first for purposes of divination , it was so used both before and after Confucius, and on that account it was exempted, through the superstition of the emperor of the Ts'in dynasty, from the flames.

The latter, however, was the more difficult of interpretation, and upon it, therefore, mainly hinged the system of divination with which the augurs were occupied. In matters of ordinary life on which divine counsel was prayed for, it was usual to have recourse to this form of divination. Bouche-Leclercq, Histoire de la divination dans l'antiquite , and his articles, with bibliography, in Daremberg and Saglio's Dictionnaire des antiquites; also articles "Augures," "Auspicium," by Wissowa in Pauly's Realencyclopddie II.

Divination by means of flies was known at Babylon.

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It seems that opinions may be formed of inquiry and study alone, which are then constructive; but where intuitive perception or the perceptive imagination is a robust possession, the fruits of research become assimilative - the food of a divining faculty which needs more or less of it according to the power of divination. The reputation of the Laplanders for skill in magic and divination is of very early date, and in Finland is not yet extinct. They possessed several means for rendering a person invisible, and various peculiar and complicated methods of divination , such as Imbas forosna, tein laegda, and dichetal do chennaib, are described in early authorities.

Bouche-Leclercq, Histoire de la divination dans l'antiquite ; Marquardt, Reimische Staatsverwaltung, iii. Together with this idolatry there is also a firm belief in the power of witchcraft and sorcery, in divination , in lucky and unlucky days and times, in ancestor worship, especially that of the sovereign's predecessors, and in several curious ordeals for the detection of crime. Among these are the names of the months and the days of the week, those used in astrology and divination , some forms of salutation, words for dress and bedding, money, musical instruments, books and writings, together with a number of miscellaneous terms.

These descriptive terms are applied to one of the methods of divination employed by the ancient Hebrews, which, it is now generally agreed, consisted in a species of sacred lot. Similar modes of divination were practised, it would seem, among the pre-Islamic Arabs. That this method of divination was not in actual use after the Exile is shown by Neh.

Even up to the present day men of intellectual eminence like Dr Richard Garnett have convinced themselves that astromancy has a foundation of truth, just as there are still believers in chiromancy or other forms of divination. Just as this latter method of divination rested on a well-defined theory, to wit, that the liver was the seat of the soul of the animal and that the deity in accepting the sacrifice identified himself with the animal, whose "soul" was thus placed in complete accord with that of the god and therefore reflected the mind and will of the god, so astrology is based on a theory of divine government of the world, which in contrast to "liver" divination assumes at the start a more scientific or pseudo-scientific aspect.

The interpretations themselves were based as in the case of divination through the liver chiefly on two factors: - I on the recollection or on written records of what in the past had taken place when the phenomenon or phenomena in question had been observed, and 2 association of ideas - involving sometimes merely a play upon words - in connexion with the phenomenon or phenomena observed. Hence in "liver" divination , as in astrology, the interpretations of the signs noted all have reference to public affairs and events and not to the individual's needs or desires.

While in a general way the reign of law and order in the movements of the heavenly bodies was recognized, and indeed must have exercised an influence at an early period in leading to the rise of a methodical divination that was certainly of a much higher order than the examination of an animal's liver, yet the importance that was laid upon the endless variations in the form of the phenomena and the equally numerous apparent deviations from what were regarded as normal conditions, prevented for a long time the rise of any serious study of astronomy beyond what was needed for the purely practical purposes that the priests as "inspectors" of the heavens as they were also the "inspectors" of the sacrificial livers had in mind.

Judicial astrology, as a form of divination , is a concomitant of natural astrology, in its purer astronomical aspect, but mingled with what is now considered an unscientific and superstitious view of world-forces. Many thanks to the colleagues who attended my lecture on modes of prophecy at the Institute of Classical Studies, UCL, for their helpful comments. Lately, however, the scholarly consensus has been somewhat undermined. In particular, several participants in the 13th CIERGA colloquium, in their papers and during discussions, demonstrated the growing skepticism on this dichotomy: they question not only its usefulness, but even its origins in ancient evidence rather than in modern mis construing.

The corollaries of this dispute are very important. The aim of this paper is to call attention to the importance of the ancient typology and to support it with additional arguments, based on re-examination of Greek evidence and comparative research on prophecy in the ancient Mediterranean. In any case, the message may be interpreted only by a sober man, either the experiencer himself, after he has emerged from this abnormal state, or another person. In the famous passage in the Phaedrus , Socrates says that the greatest blessings come to mortals through madness, when it is a gift of the gods.

Artificial divination… is based partially on conjecture, and partially on prolonged observation. Natural divination comes from the spirit seizing and obtaining information from an external source, from the god… You will refer to the artificial divination almost all the existing techniques: extispicy, prediction of the future by the lightening and other prodigies, augury and the use of signs and omens. Natural divination, on the contrary, … is incited or induced by the exaltation of the spirit concitatione mentis , or produced in sleep by the soul liberated from sensations and troubles.

Most studies of Greek divination still adhere to the ancient division. In addition to extispicy, which was the most common technique, there were ornithomancy, cleromancy, pyromancy, lecanomancy, etc. Three main categories of individuals could be endowed with divinely inspired revelation: religious personnel of established oracular shrines, independent seers, and inquirers in oracular centers based on direct communication between the consulter and the deity.

For instance, Malampous, the inventor of divination and an expert in extispicy, understood the language of animals, purified, cured, and founded a dynasty of seers. The most famous example is Delphi, where cleromancy co-existed with inspired prophecy. Flower refutes the traditional approach, arguing that, firstly, various methods of divination were sometimes combined; secondly, social function of prediction by all the methods was the same, and thirdly, ecstatic prophecy needed to be interpreted rationally. Maurizio adopts a typology based on Chinese materials: divination is divided into non-interpersonal lacking interaction between the diviner and the spirits, e.

Understanding Religious Experience-Chinese Scriptures

Stoneman devotes a chapter to definitions of various oracular practices, but does not distinguish clearly between inspired and technical divination. In emphasizing the spoken word of the oracles, he does not discriminate between the utterances of inspired mediums and the pronouncements of interpreters. To be sure, in antiquity both omens and prophetic utterings were considered indications of the divine will, and the Stoics developed this notion coherently.

At the same time, the god manifests to humans that the signs shown are worth of credence, and that they are superior to nature, and god is exalted above it. All that does not change the fact that for these thinkers, an inspired seer was an instrument used by the gods, more akin to a bird directed by the divine will than to an interpreter of its flight.

Inspired prophecy emanated from the gods directly, the seer being a divine instrument, while interpretation of signs involved human explanation of actions of divine instruments such as birds, prodigies, etc. This introduced an additional stage, an agent separating the divine from the human. Thus, the idea of the supremacy of direct communication from the gods, appearing as early as in Homer, cannot be dismissed as an ideologically — prompted Platonic invention. At Claros, the act of drinking from the sacred pool inspired oracles, but shortened the life of the drinker.

The prophetic experiences of one-time inquirers at the Trophonium were so awesome that it was said that they lost the ability to smile. In fact, the Pythia dispensed oracles no more than nine times a year. Yet there was a clear tendency to seek divinely induced predictions at Delphi, Didyma and other centers of ecstatic prophecy, whenever important issues had to be resolved. Even the pro-Persian position of Delphi during the Persian war did not discourage Athenians from consulting the Pythia. The focus is on intermediation between the divine and the human, which results in a revelation delivered by the prophet to his audience.

These four components should be transparent in any written source to be identified as a specimen of prophecy. These objects were used as lots, giving binary responses. Thus, modes of prophecy are far from being a modern construal: they were perceived as such in the second millennium BC. In Mesopotamia, inspired prophecy is attested by approximately sixty tablets, dated ca. Among the diviners are both women and men.

Several gods used ecstatic mediums as their mouthpieces. All the mediums, both cultic personnel and laypersons, seem to have played peripheral roles in the society and cult, but in some cases received remuneration from higher social groups.


Ecstatic prophets could be male, female or transgender, and many were affiliated with the worship of Ishtar. In contrast, inductive divination was performed by scholars, representing a long tradition of expert erudition. The inductive and non-inductive methods of divination never mixed.

Small wonder that most experts consider direct divination at Mari and in Assyria to have been peripheral to the traditional divination by signs: it is the situation in Greece, where the reverse was true, that calls for explanation. Historically, most experts contrast Moses to early prophets, such as Samuel, Elijah and Elisha, to classical prophets, such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel. The difference between Hebrew and pagan prophets, and between true and false prophets, are also important. Yahweh charges the prophet with a message: the wish of the prophet to speak or of the audience to listen is irrelevant.

In both traditions, prophecy-giving is often presented as agonizing. The idea of annulment of the mental abilities of the prophet, who becomes a mere instrument used by the deity to communicate his message, is central and clearly pronounced in the Hebrew tradition, and was later adopted by the Christian apologetic. Firstly, its emphasis on direct communication with the gods as the ultimate mode of divination is comparable only to the Old Testament attitude to prophecy.

Secondly, during the late Archaic and Classical ages, direct prophecy in Greece was distinguished by two traits — superior status and association with sanctuaries — a combination unparalleled in the ancient Near Eastern world. This is one of the unique characteristics of Greek culture, and its comprehension is possible only if the ancient distinction between direct and indirect prophecy is maintained and used as a heuristic tool.

Examples of co-existence of direct and indirect divination in the same oracular center and the cooperation of ecstatic and non-ecstatic temple personnel merely demonstrate that inspired prophecy was interwoven with other cultic phenomena. Methodologically, it is very important to consider inspired prophecy and divination by signs separately, since they involve quite distinct activities and require different abilities on the part of the practitioners.

In contrast, direct prophecy requires not only a general predisposition, but also the ability to induce vatic trance spontaneously or on request, and endure its strain — an ability not entirely controllable even by experienced ecstatics. Lifestyles of ecstatic prophets were usually abnormal, contrary to that of diviners by signs, who adhered to social norms. Indirect divination could be controlled, even though with some effort. Finally and most significantly, the result of the endeavor was open-ended.

While most ancient Mediterranean cultures tolerated ecstatic prophecy as a marginal phenomenon only, in Greece its institutionalization in oracular sanctuaries was the utmost the polis society could do to regulate the mysterious sphere of the prophetic mania. Discussions of such a complex phenomenon as divination from many other perspectives may be stimulating and rewarding. While the ancient dichotomy between direct and indirect prophecy is far from absolute, to discard this distinction altogether would be to strip Greek culture of one of its unique characteristics. Annus ed.

A modern parallel to the Delphic oracle? Belayche , J. Vernant ed. Bowra , Pindar , Oxford, Tradition and Innovation , Stockholm, , p.

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