The methods of fortunetelling
Last week I wrote up the famous Oracle of Delphi in Greece and ended my column with a little quiz regarding different methods for making predictions and asked you to match them with the explanation of what they actually are. Hopefully it was challenging for you, and now let's find out how they matched with each other.
The first method, cheiromancy is another term for palmistry or the art of reading people's palms, their hand shapes and the lines contained therein. Palmistry began in India and spread through Asia until it arrived in Greece where Aristotle, Alexander the Great and Hippocrates became major supporters of the concept. Aristotle is even quoted as saying the "lines are not written into the human hand without reason." Hippocrates attempted to use it to improve his clinical treatments and procedures. Today it is commonly associated with gypsy fortunetelling.
Numerology is a subject we mentioned in previous columns and it is the study of how numbers reflect characteristics and vibrations making it possible to learn about the inner character of someone by understanding the important numbers in their life. This methodology began with Pythagoras and his mystery school. He believed that every number has a unique vibration and that by understanding the characteristics of objects and people who match those numbers he would be able to learn about their character and determine what they are predisposed to do in their lives.
Tasseography is the art of reading tea leaves and coffee grounds and originated in medieval Europe after merchants returned from the Orient with tea for the first time. The practice was quite popular in Scotland, Ireland and England and many tea cup sets were created and decorated with symbols to assist in reading the leaves. In the Middle East coffee grounds are used instead by turning the cup over onto a plate and interpreting the symbols.
Lithomancy is another form of fortunetelling originating in the British Isles. In this method, reflected light from gems and stones or the stones themselves provide symbolism that is interpreted into predictions or divinations. Supposedly Helenus predicted the destruction of Troy by reading stones.
The method of interpreting flames or fire for the purpose of telling the future is known as pyromancy. Due to our dependence and the importance of fire to ancient peoples, pyromancy is probably one of the earliest forms of divination. The basic idea is the flames are interpreted based on their shapes and activity, however there are also several variations that include interpreting smoke, burning plants and bones, casting salt into the fire and interpreting how it burns and even burning straw. The practice began in Greece. In the Far East, fire was used to burn bones and interpret how they crack and deform from the flames.
Dream interpretation also known as oneiromancy is the practice of interpreting dreams to predict the future. This is a widely held belief even to this day, that our dreams somehow are capable of telling future events. The origin of this form of divination reaches far back to ancient Egypt where dreams held great significance. The Bible is full of dreams that tell the future. One of the most remembered dreams in the Bible is when Joseph was warned to take Jesus out of Israel to Egypt.
Another important dream was when Jacob dreamed of the ladder to Heaven which led to the changing of his name to Israel and the founding of that nation.
Another interesting form of divination is geomancy which involves interpreting random shapes and marks made on the ground by tossing soil, rocks or sand on it. A popular method of geomancy deals with interpreting random marks into sixteen shapes that have different meanings which are interpreted in the context of the question. The practice fell out of favor during the Renaissance but has resurfaced in recent years.
Astrology is the study of the planets and stars, their relationships to each other and their positions. It is one of the oldest forms of study and is widely believed. President Ronald Reagan had an astrologer and they have held prominent positions in monarchies and governments through the ages even though scientists dispute its accuracy and validity. Horoscopes can be found in major newspapers on a daily basis. This is one of the most complex forms of divination and requires complicated calculations to perform correctly.
Cartomancy is the use of playing cards or tarot cards for the purpose of providing a reading. Cards have existed for several centuries and their first known use for fortunetelling probably occurred in the 1300-1400's soon after playing cards were introduced in Europe. While some practitioners use ordinary playing cards, the Tarot deck is an alternative that has become popular due to the rich illustrations full of symbolism which lends itself to interpretation. The idea is the reader interprets layouts of cards for the seeker by analyzing and exploring the cards in the various positions. Each card has a unique meaning that is interpreted singly and as part of the group.
Finally scrying is the art of peering into reflective surfaces such as mirrors or crystal balls. By staring and concentrating supposedly one begins to see shapes and often images in the reflective surfaces that enable them to predict the future. The gypsy peering into a crystal ball is probably one of the best known icons in the field of divination, but the practice has stretched for beyond that group of people. I have read anecdotes about families in which an aunt, grandmother and once a father who possessed the talent and was able supposedly to tell the future for his family.
How did you do? If you got 5 or more right, you are an expert in fortunetellers. Hope you enjoyed this interesting trip.
Til next time…