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"Astrologers and fortune-tellers, who practise palmistry and calculate nativities, guess at things past by the motion of a sieve, and show undimmed truth in a looking-glass or in a cup of water, are publicly tolerated; such people are, indeed, not without their use; they predict to men they'll make their fortune, to girls they shall marry their sweethearts, console those children whose fathers are too long dying, and calm the restlessness of young women married to old men; in a word, they deceive, but not at a very high rate, those who wish to be deceived."--The Characters of Jean de La Bruyère (1688) by Jean de La Bruyère

"Lastly, to the Prognostiques of time to come; which are naturally, but Conjectures upon the Experience of time past; and supernaturall, divine Revelation; the same authors of the Religion of the Gentiles, partly upon pretended Experience, partly upon pretended Revelation, have added innumerable other superstitious wayes of Divination; and made men believe they should find their fortunes, sometimes in the ambiguous or senslesse answers of the priests at Delphi, Delos, Ammon, and other famous Oracles; which answers, were made ambiguous by designe, to own the event both wayes; or absurd by the intoxicating vapour of the place, which is very frequent in sulphurous Cavernes: Sometimes in the leaves of the Sibills; of whose Prophecyes (like those perhaps of Nostradamus; for the fragments now extant seem to be the invention of later times) there were some books in reputation in the time of the Roman Republique: Sometimes in the insignificant Speeches of Mad-men, supposed to be possessed with a divine Spirit; which Possession they called Enthusiasme; and these kinds of foretelling events, were accounted Theomancy, or Prophecy; Sometimes in the aspect of the Starres at their Nativity; which was called Horoscopy, and esteemed a part of judiciary Astrology: Sometimes in their own hopes and feares, called Thumomancy, or Presage: Sometimes in the Prediction of Witches, that pretended conference with the dead; which is called Necromancy, Conjuring, and Witchcraft; and is but juggling and confederate knavery: Sometimes in the Casuall flight, or feeding of birds; called Augury: Sometimes in the Entrayles of a sacrificed beast; which was Aruspicina: Sometimes in Dreams: Sometimes in Croaking of Ravens, or chattering of Birds: Sometimes in the Lineaments of the face; which was called Metoposcopy; or by Palmistry in the lines of the hand; in casuall words, called Omina: Sometimes in Monsters, or unusuall accidents; as Ecclipses, Comets, rare Meteors, Earthquakes, Inundations, uncouth Births, and the like, which they called Portenta and Ostenta, because they thought them to portend, or foreshew some great Calamity to come; Sometimes, in meer Lottery, as Crosse and Pile; counting holes in a sive; dipping of Verses in Homer, and Virgil; and innumerable other such vaine conceipts."-- Leviathan (1651) by Thomas Hobbes

 17th century representation of the 'third eye' connection to the 'higher worlds' by alchemist Robert Fludd.   Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris metaphysica by Robert Fludd
17th century representation of the 'third eye' connection to the 'higher worlds' by alchemist Robert Fludd.
Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris metaphysica by Robert Fludd

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Divination (from Latin divinare, 'to foresee, to foretell, to predict, to prophesy') is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic, standardized process or ritual. Used in various forms throughout history, diviners ascertain their interpretations of how a querent should proceed by reading signs, events, or omens, or through alleged contact with a supernatural agency.

Divination can be seen as a systematic method with which to organize what appear to be disjointed, random facets of existence such that they provide insight into a problem at hand. If a distinction is to be made between divination and fortune-telling, divination has a more formal or ritualistic element and often contains a more social character, usually in a religious context, as seen in traditional African medicine. Fortune-telling, on the other hand, is a more everyday practice for personal purposes. Particular divination methods vary by culture and religion.

Divination has long been criticized. In the modern era, it has been dismissed by the scientific community and skeptics as being superstition; experiments do not support the idea that divination techniques can actually predict the future more reliably or precisely than would be possible without it. In antiquity it was attacked by philosophers such as the Academic skeptic Cicero in De Divinatione and the Pyrrhonist Sextus Empiricus in Against the Astrologers. The satirist, Lucian, devoted a witty essay to Alexander the false prophet.


  1. Agent noun of see; one who sees something; an eyewitness.
  2. Someone who foretells the future; a clairvoyant, prophet, soothsayer or diviner.
See also

See also

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