This is a monolingual glossary of over 75 divination types, compiled on request some time ago. Comments, corrections and additions are all welcome! Please send them here. .
Divination by observation of atmospheric phenomena, such as clouds, storms, winds etc.
Divination by the actions of a cockerel placed within a circle marked round with the alphabet, each letter covered by a grain of corn. An aspect of ornithomancy.
Divination practised with flour. One method is to roll possible actions/futures into balls of flour, mix the balls, and draw one at random. Apollo is said to have presided over this form of divination. Cf. the modern “fortune cookie”.
Divination by salt, possibly similar to sand reading.
Divination, especially of guilt, by wheat or barley. It was believed that the guilty would suffer unconcealable stomach pains after eating such.
Divination by the caul that may cover a child’s face at birth.
Divination by casting ankle or knuckle bones (the precursors of dice) onto which symbols or words might have been inscribed.
Divination by the stars and planets, their positions and movements.
Divination by study of the auspices, i.e. signs from birds, animals, the heavens etc. Roman.
Divination by the winds.
Divination by the axe. One method was to toss the axe into the air so that it would come down blade first; the direction and angle of the handle was then studied. This was sometimes done to aid in the location or identification of a thief or stolen object. Another method was to place a piece of agate or jet on a red hot axe blade and study its motion – this was used to find buried treasure, or (by the ancient Greeks) to identify criminals. Axinomancy was sometimes used to determine an auspicious place for giving birth.
Divination by arrows. Many forms are known. The Babylonians and Syrians attached labels were to a number of arrows, that which was shot furthest being accepted (see Ezekiel 21:21). Alternatively, an arrow was shot straight up in the air, and its course and landing observed. A third method, used by the Greeks and later the Arabians) was to shoot arrows at a rock and then interpret the resultant marks. The Tibetans placed two arrows, tip downwards, in a vessel and interpreted their movements. Another method was to inscribe or attach possible futures to arrows in a quiver, one then being selected at random.
Divination by means of the random selection of passages from the Bible or other tome. Wilkie Collins’ classic mystery The Moonstone contains an excellent example, with one of the characters constantly referring to a copy of Robinson Crusoe in this way.
Divination by leaves (various methods).
Divination by smoke.
Divination through the use of mirrors.
Divination by cards (esp. Tarot)
Divination by watching burning embers
Divination by use of a donkey’s skull.
Divination by observation of wind strength, direction etc. (But NB: Gk keraunos = thunderbolt).
Divination by molten wax, which is poured onto cold water – the resultant patterns of hardening wax are observed.
Palmistry; divination by the marks and lines on the hands.
Divination by a key suspended by thread, held between thumb and forefinger. On being lowered into a glass, and a question asked, the key would tap once on the side of the glass for a positive answer, and twice for a negative.
Divination by the casting of lots or dice.
Divination by use of a sieve and tongs or shears; apparently used to identify the perpetrator of a crime.
Divination by food, esp. by offerings left or burnt on altars.
Divination by use of onions.
Divination by use of transparent bodies such as quartz, precious stones (esp. beryl) or the traditional ‘crystal ball’.
Divination by the study of a turning wheel (perhaps the origin of the “wheel of fortune”)
Divination by finger-rings.
Divination using bay (laurel) leaves or branches.
Divination by use of oak and mistletoe. (?)
Divination by the study of a liquid surface.
Divination by the action of items thrown onto a fire.
Divination by the entrails of sacrifices. Roman.
Divination by earth. Methods included the study of points on the earth, or the study of patterns made by a handful of earth falling on the ground. Alternatively, the interpretation of the swelling, noises and movement of the earth, or of the cracks made in drying mud.
Divination by the falling or stepping of dancers (dizzy from whirling or spinning) onto a ring marked by letters or symbols. Alternatively, by the falling of a subject who has walked around in circles until dizzy.
Divination by inspection of the liver of sacrifices.
Divination by the behaviour of horses.
Divination by water.
Divination by the observation of flickering torches.
Divination by the observation of patterns formed by oil dropped onto water.
Divination by the observation of smoke rising from incense.
Divination by the use of stones. Either the use of polished rather than facetted stones in a manner similar to Crystallomancy, or the study of patterns formed by the veins in a stone.
Divination by the observation of an oil lamp’s flame, or that of a candle.
Divination by pearls.
Divination of character by the study of the subject’s forehead.
Divination by lead – the study the patterns of shapes created by molten lead being poured onto cold water or onto the ground
Divination by mice, their behaviour, sounds or damage.
Divination by the summoning and questioning of the dead.
Divination by the appearance of clouds.
Divination by study of the surface of dark wine in a goblet.
Divination by the interpretation of the howling of dogs.
Divination by the interpretation of dreams.
Divination on the basis of names, perhaps related to numerology.
Divination by gazing into highly polished fingernails.
Divination by study the flight and behaviour of birds.
Divination by the inspection of egg whites. Also known as oomantia.
Divination by the sounds and appearance of water flowing from a fountain or spring.
Divination by pebbles.
Divination by rose leaves.
Divination by turtle shell, as applied in ancient China.
Divination by fire or the shapes observed therein.
Divination by wand or dowsing, used especially to locate water, treasure (e.g. as by the Etruscans), or other substances such as oil.
A form of bibliomancy using a book of poetry or verse.
Divination by cups or vases.
Divination by the burning of straws.
Divination by ashes.
Divination by observation of the act of dressing, e.g. by errors, the reversal of items of clothing etc.
Divination by leaves, especially those of the fig tree.
Divination by tea leaves.
Divination by the breath or the wind.
Divination by cheese or the holes therein, or by the observation of milk as it curdles.
Divination by the use of twigs, their patterns on the ground, size etc.