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Forms of Divination Throughout History and Different Cultures

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posted on Jan, 18 2014 @ 08:38 AM
I started wondering about the origins of divination and its many forms. I wanted to find out when it all began and how. I myself use a couple forms of it, but when I did some research online I was amazed to find out how many different types of divination there actually are. Whilst doing my research I looked into different countries and cultures. I hope you enjoy this little journey through the history of divination. I have included some, not all but have included source links if you’d like to read more on the subject.

Many cultures, including Chinese, Mayan, Mesopotamian and Indian, looked upwards to heavenly bodies— stars, planets, constellations, eclipses, and comets—not only to tell time and understand the seasons, but also for signs of portent or to decipher divine will. Others paid special attention to terrestrial omens such as animal migrations, weather patterns, and forms of tossed sticks, bones, amulets, or rocks. African tribes have used bones in divination rituals for many thousands of years.


Ancient Egypt

The Egyptians practiced divination for two purposes: to inquire about the present and obtain useful information to make changes to a situation, and to beg or threaten for answers and assistance from a god to make desired changes to current circumstances. Thus the magician compelled the god(s) to do his or her will.
The primary methods used in ancient Egyptian divination were trance; mediumship; fire, water, and oil scrying; dream and dream interpretation; and oracles.

Source includes the rituals, and preparing for divination:

Ancient Greece

In ancient times the haruspex (diviner) interpreted the divine will by inspecting the entrails of a sacrificial animal. First the animal was ritually slaughtered. Next it was butchered, with the haruspex examining the size, shape, color, markings etc. of certain internal organs, usually the liver (hepatoscopy), but also the gall, heart and lungs. Finally, when the animal had been butchered, the meat was roasted and all the celebrants shared a sacred meal.

Using texts such as the works of Homer to divine answers. Usually opened at random or using three dice to determine what lines should be interpreted.
Divination associated with Hermes, where the person seeking an answer would cover their ears, walk into a busy marketplace and then the first words they heard after uncovering their ears would be their answer. Offerings were made before and after to Hermes.

Read website for more forms of ancient Greek divination:

Ancient Rome

Similar to Etruscan haruspicy was augury, but whereas haruspices performed exstipicia of sheep entrails, Roman augurs looked at omens from birds.The practice of looking at omens was called an augurium or auspicium. The Romans believed the will of the gods was revealed by the actions of the birds.
Roman divination included looking at portents/prodigies, unusual occurrences that show divine disapproval and can be expiated. This was accomplished (with or without the Senate's order) by consulting the Sibylline Books, or by taking the auspices.
Sibylline Books
The sibyls were inspired by Apollo. In a state of ecstasy, a sibyl uttered prophecies even unasked. The most famous sibyl was the Cumaean Sibyl who offered the Roman King Tarquin 9 books of prophecy, which he rejected. Eventually Tarquin bought the last 3 books of prophecy for the price of the original nine.


Ancient China

The earliest confirmed evidence of divination was on a turtle plastron excavated at Wuyang, Jiahu, in China, 7,000 BC - 5,700 BC.
I Ching
The I Ching is an ancient Chinese philosophical and divinatory technique with a set of explanatory commentaries ascribed to the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius.
Oracle Bones
The very early Chinese Shang Dynasty rulers consulted oracle bones about many aspects of daily life, including weather, health, farming, and fortune. The prophetic bones were tortoise shells heated with rods to produce cracks that could be "read."



The Tsolk’in
The twenty days of the Tsolk’in, shown above by name and with 2 versions of their corresponding glyphs, are the basis of the entire complicated calendrical system designed by the ancient Maya. They are, however, by no means to be considered as abstract computational units. Rather they reflect the physical properties and the origin of man as well as the influence which powerful celestial beings, in particular the moon and the sun, have on his existence. Twenty is the total number of human extremities, fingers and toes, and is contained 13 times in 260, the duration of the divinatory calendar, the Tsolk’in. This time-period (plus one day) actually represents nine lunations of twenty-nine full day-and-night cycles. As is well known, the time between menstruations is one lunation, and it takes nine of these anthropo-lunar cycles for a new human being to form after impregnation.



Runes are letters of the old Norse alphabet, called the futhark.
Although like any alphabet, the futhark can be used for writing ordinary texts, as well as for creating talismanic bind-runes, when considered solely for divination purposes, individual runes are futhark letters that have been engraved or incised on small tumble-polished semi-precious stones, disks of bone, wood, or metal, or ceramic tiles.



In Banyang villages in Cameroon, a form of divination rarely seen today is the Basinjom masquerade, in which an individual wearing a wild, otherworldly mask and costume is endowed with clairvoyant powers capable of identifying people who have powers of witchcraft.

Read more African divination rituals:


The world’s oldest oracle texts appear to be preserved in the palm-leaf libraries of India, written in an ancient form of Tamil, a Dravidian language of Madras state and of northern and eastern Ceylon.
The prophecies concern the lifelines and life expectancies for each man and woman and are designed to help manage their present incarnations successfully.
The legendary author of the prophetic texts is Brighu a mythological hero from the Mahabharata epic, who is said to have lived around 5000 B.C.
The palm leaves of India shown here are inscribed with the alleged lifelines of 80.000 individuals, about 10 % of them westerners.

edit on 18/1/2014 by Rainbowresidue because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 18 2014 @ 08:41 AM

Telaesthesia is the ability to acquire information about distant events, objects or people through the interpretation of physical disturbances of the body, such as throbbing, twitching, itching or whistling in the ears.
This perception at a distance is practised by the Australian Aborigines of the Western Desert region. If a person feels a part of the body throbbing, it means that somebody is thinking about you. The different body parts signify that a specific person in relation to you. This is known in the Western Desert language as Punka-Punkara.
“Thigh You will change residence.
Right Knee You will go on a pleasant journey.
Left Knee You will go on an unpleasant journey.
Shins You will receive an unpleasant surprise.
Right Ankle You will soon receive a sum of money.
Left Ankle You will soon have to spend money.”
Read more:
Wild stones
So this divination system, adapted from their myths and beliefs, offers not a glimpse into the future but a chance to explore seemingly opposing forces to create harmony in our lives.
There are eight "Wild Stones", as the empowering quartz crystal of the mekigar are called, representing 16 forms of the manifest spirit. The ninth stone is left blank for the All-Father.
“The Sunny aspect is listed first:
Stone 1 - The Rainbow Snake is the alter-ego of the Black-Headed Python.
Stone 2 - The Dingo Dog is the alter-ego of the Black Dog.
Stone 3 - The Hare Wallaby is the alter-ego of the Lizard Woman.
Stone 4 - The Poisonous Snake is the alter-ego of the Carpet Snake.
Stone 5 - The Black-Throated Butcher Bird is the alter-ego of the Storm Bird.
Stone 6 - The Lightning Brothers are the alter-ego of the Earth Sisters.
Stone 7 - The Sacred Rock is the alter-ego of the Cave.
Stone 8 - The Rain is the alter-ego of the Cloud.
Stone 9 - The All-Father is left blank.”



Tarot Cards Used as Divination Device
(I’ve read that the Tarot cards were a card game first and go back as far as ancient Egypt and that later in the 1400s Italians turned it into a divination tool.)

Tarot was probably created around 1440, somewhere in northern Italy. The earliest surviving Milanese Tarot decks and Ferrarese references to Tarot both come from that period. As noted, the Tarot deck consisted of a regular 56-card deck, augmented with a hierarchy of 22 allegorical trump cards. This created the standard 78-card Tarot deck.



Shaman’s Rattle: The Shaman Stones Hailona
The Shaman Stones method of divination is the casting of seven coloured stones or beads as a way of accessing our intuition (Hailona is Hawaiian, meaning - Casting for Divination).
This ancient Hawaiian stone casting divination when studying Lomi Lomi, Hawaiian Kahuna massage. Anyone can practice it - you do not have to be a witch doctor. It is a marvelous way of zeroing in on the sub conscious. Just buy seven different coloured beads or buttons or paint 7 stones white, red, orange, yellow, blue, green, and violet.
You ask a question and concentrate on it while throwing the stones. Your inner self will then supply the answer through an arrangement of patterns of the stones which you then read.


If you know of any other divination types please feel free to share them.

posted on Jan, 18 2014 @ 09:48 AM
Furs up in colder regions as long been traded practically as currency. Especially Alaska.

posted on Jan, 18 2014 @ 09:59 AM
My favorite method is the I-Ching.

Nice thread, thanks!

posted on Jan, 18 2014 @ 10:02 AM
reply to post by Rainbowresidue

That's some good sleuthing OP, S&F.

I'm not aware of any other cultures that practice divination, but you might want to take another look at the ancient Australians. They are one of the oldest and most diverse cultures on earth, so there could be plenty of evidence of divination depending on who you talk to.

edit on 18-1-2014 by Thecakeisalie because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 18 2014 @ 10:11 AM
reply to post by Thecakeisalie

I think they use dreams for divination, mostly. They have developed very advanced dream techniques, IIRC.

posted on Jan, 18 2014 @ 11:00 PM
I found it interesting how the 7 stones of Hawaiian divination is so similar to the seven chakras.

I have a friend who does a reading with regular playing cards, and it's amazing what 'secrets' her readings can reveal!

posted on Jan, 19 2014 @ 05:10 AM
reply to post by nugget1

Hi nugget,

I noticed that too, only the blue one is missing. I'd love to try the Hawaiian divination technique.
If now I could remember where I put my stones.

posted on Feb, 17 2014 @ 03:47 PM
reply to post by Rainbowresidue

This is a perfect example of a well devised thread that presents a lot of information.
Also it is a perfect example of what is wrong with ATS.
This thread should have gotten way more attention.
I totally know how it feels though...hah.

Anyways, it is a topic that I am very interested in and will continue reading along some of the lines you have opened here.
I am going to post this because it's true and this thread needs another chance.

If I think of anything cool to add in terms of the thread content I will at some point.
Also if anyone has any questions please ask, if I don't know it one of the members here will.

Good work here Rainbowresidue.
I am sorry I missed it for so long.

posted on Feb, 18 2014 @ 01:29 PM
reply to post by muzzleflash

Thank you Muzzleflash for the support.

I did spend a lot of time gathering the information,that's true. I was hoping ATS members would find it interesting. Oh, well,some did,and at least creating this thread also helped me learn new things about the history of divination.

Wishing you a pleasant evening,

edit on 18/2/2014 by Rainbowresidue because: spelling

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