Thursday, April 16, 2015


At one time it was the responsibility of augurs and soothsayers to interpret what was considered to be signs sent from the gods.  Eventually, the predictions made by soothsayers and fortune tellers became common knowledge and passed into folklore.
            Omens have been known since ancient times and are today referred to as superstitions.  They vary from country to country and culture to culture, and sometimes can even have completely reversed meanings in different folk traditions.

            The following are some examples of how to interpret the present and anticipate the future through observing various omens, and highlight a variety of superstitions.


Divination by casting or drawing of lots, derived from the Latin sors, the word for lot, and sortilegus, meaning diviner.  An alternative name for sortilege is cleromancy, from kleros, the Greek word for lot.
            There are many types of sortilege.  In aleuromancy, answers to specific questions were baked inside small balls of dough and chosen at random, thought to have been a common practice until the 9th century A.D.  Another form of sortilege is astragalomancy, divination by casting small bones (usually the vertebrae or ankle bones of sheep).  Belomancy is divination by arrows and probably dates back to the Babylonians.  It was also practiced by the Scythians, Arabs, and some North American Indian tribes.  Opening a book at random and taking an omen from the first words read – bibliomancy – is another form of sortilege.  It is also known as stichomancy: a “stitch” is a line of verse or a short section of prose.  Divination from a book of poetry is sometimes known as rhapsodomancy.  In the late Middle Ages the works of the Roman writer Virgil were the most popular choice, and bibliomancy was known as the sortes Virgilianae – the “Virgilian lots.”
            A large variety of objects have been used for lots.  In Africa, lots could be sacred stones or carved wooden or bone divining sticks – the tradition varies from tribe to tribe.  Divining sticks are also known among North American Indians and in parts of Asia.  In Polynesia, a coconut was spun and answered questions according to how it fell.  In Japan, slips of paper inscribed with omens for the future were placed in containers and drawn at random.  Pessomancy (psephomancy) is divination by drawing or casting of specially marked pebbles.  Many African shamans keep bags of “wise stones” that are cast to foretell the future.  Greek lots were specially marked wooden counters, drawn from an urn or cast on the ground (although the oracle at Delphi used beans as lots).  In China, “fortune cookies” are used, and are familiar to almost everyone.
            Many of us have unthinkingly determined our future by lots at some time in our lives – drawing straws to select a person to carry out a particular action, for example, or tossing a coin to make a decision.  Sweepstakes, lotteries, bingo, roulette are all forms of gambling that depend on casting or drawing lots. 

Sortilege Using Stones

Choose nine small, round-edged stones; you should be able to hold all nine in one hand. Mark symbols on one side of each stone, according to the following chart. Shake the stones in your hand, concentrating on your question, and cast the stones in front of you. Using the chart provided, read only those stones whose symbols are showing face-up.

Symbol and Interpretations:

Bird: Communications, visitors
Eye: "I" the questioner
Fence (drawn as a picket fence): Delay, restrictions, self-imposed limitations, old age
Flower: Success, prosperity
Moon (drawn as a crescent): Inner life, a woman or women
Rings (drawn as a triskele, three rings intersecting to form a triangle): Relationships, marriage, harmony, union
Sun: Health, outer life, a man or men
Swords (drawn as two crossed): Drive, energy, strife
Waves (drawn as two or three wavy lines): Intellect, travel (especially by sea or over water), dreams and the subconscious.

Animal and even human bones can be used for divination and prophesy.


Top of Head: Promotion, good luck
Right Eye: A meeting
Left Eye: Disappointment
Left Cheek or Left Ear: Compliments
Right Cheek or Right Ear: Derogatory remarks
Inside Nose: Grief, bad luck
Outside Nose: Kissed by a fool
Mouth: Insults
Neck: Illness
Back: Disappointment
Left Shoulder: Unhappiness
Right Shoulder: An inheritance
Left Elbow: Bad news
Right Elbow: Good news
Left Palm or Ankle: Bills to pay
Right Palm or Ankle: Expect money
Abdomen: An invitation
Loins: A reconciliation
Thighs: A move
Left Knee: Gossip
Right Knee: Good news
Shins: Unpleasant surprise
Left Foot: Unprofitable journey
Right Foot: Profitable journey

Knives and Scissors

Dropping a knife on the floor: A male visitor
Dropping a pair of scissors: A disappointment which can be averted by stepping on the scissors before picking them up.
Scissors landing point down when dropped: Illness
Crossed knives: Bad luck
Breaking a pair of scissors: Bad luck
A knife left blade upward: Danger
Giving a gift of a knife or scissors: Can cut a friendship unless a pin or coin is given in return.
A new knife used first on anything other than paper or wood: Good luck
Placing or finding a knife in the cradle of a newborn child: Good luck


This is divination using precious stones (although colored glass beads can be used as a substitute).  In a darkened room, scatter the stones or beads.  Light a candle, close your eyes, and clear all thoughts from your mind.  As soon as you open your eyes, notice which color of stone first reflects the light back at you.

Colorless (clear): Success and happiness
Red: Romance
Dark red: Passion, a wedding
Yellow: Infidelity
Green: A wish will come true
Turquoise: An unexpected opportunity
Blue: Good luck
Violet: Grief
Purple: A quarrel
Black: Bad luck


This is divination from the flames of three wax candles.  Arrange three candles in an equilateral triangle and light a fourth candle some distance away to provide enough light for reading.  Switch off all the lights.  Using the same match, light your three candles and read the omens presented by the appearance of their flames.

A flame wavering from side to side: Travel
One flame burning brighter than the others: Great success
A glow or radiance at the tip of the wick: Prosperity
A curling or spiraling flame: Enemies plotting
Sparks: Be cautious
Rising and falling flames or candles burning unevenly: Danger
Flame sputtering: Disappointment
Flame unexpectedly extinguished: Great misfortune

Other Candle Omens:

New Year’s Candle Divination  

For this you will need twelve candles and a room with a wooden or concrete floor.

1. Remove any furnishings that might catch fire.
2. Next, arrange your twelve candles in a wide circle and light them all.
3. Name a candle for each month of the year.
4. Start at the January candle and jump over each in turn until you have completed the circle.
5. If you knock over or extinguish any candle, this signifies bad luck for that particular month.
6. Any candles still burning after you have completed the circle indicate good luck for the candles           those months represent.

True Lover Candle Divination

For this you will need a deep bowl of water, two halves of a walnut shell, and two small candles (birthday size) or wax matches.

1. Using a little melted wax to fix them in place, stand one candle in each half of the walnut shell.
2. Name one shell for yourself, the other for your lover.
3. Set the little shell boats afloat in the bowl of water.
4. Light the candles.
5. You will be true to each other if the two boats float side by side with the candles burning evenly.
6. Your relationship is doomed if the boats drift apart, overturn, or the flames go out.
7. You love more than you are loved if your candle burns longer than that of your lover, and vice             versa.


This is divination using a single oil lamp or a torch flame.

Flame with a single point: Good luck
Flame with two points: Bad luck
Flame with three points: Good luck
Flame bending, wavering: Illness
Flame unexpectedly extinguished: Disaster

Some Omens of Good Luck:

Four leaf clover
Picking up a pencil found in the street
Meeting sheep
Keeping a piece of oyster shell in your pocket
A ladybug landing on you
Carrying a rabbit’s foot
A horseshoe, prongs pointing upward
Sleeping on unironed sheets
A wishbone
Spilling your drink while proposing a toast
Bats flying at twilight
Breaking uncolored glass, other than a mirror
Walking in the rain
Sleeping facing south
A gift of a hive of bees
A sprig of white heather
A peapod containing nine peas
Seeing a bluebird
A robin flying into the house
A strange dog following you home
Hearing crickets singing
Putting your dress on inside out
A white butterfly
Rubbing two horseshoes together
Burning your fingernail parings
Picking up a pin
Cutting your hair during a storm
Catching two rats in the same trap
Finding a hairpin and hanging it on a hook
Sneezing three times before breakfast
Seeing a load of hay
Meeting a chimney sweep
Looking at the new moon over your right shoulder
Picking up a nail that was pointing toward you

Some Omens of Bad Luck

An owl hooting three times
A five leaved clover
Peacock feathers (especially in the house)
A rooster crowing at night
Meeting a pig immediately after a wedding
Opening an umbrella indoors
Emptying ashes after dark
A bat entering the house
Putting a hat on a bed
Singing before breakfast
Giving away a wedding present
Borrowing, lending, or burning a broom
Bringing an old broom to a new house
Bringing eggs into the house after dark
Cutting your nails on Friday
Bringing white lilac or hawthorn blossom into the house
Putting shoes on a chair or table
Killing a seagull
Mending a garment while you are wearing it (this harks back to when corpses were sewn into their shrouds)
Keeping your slippers on a shelf above head height
Seeing an owl in the daytime
Putting an umbrella on a table
Blossom and fruit growing together on the same branch (except on orange trees)
Meeting a grave digger
Buttoning a button into the wrong button hole
Putting your left show on before your right
Sitting on a table without keeping one foot on the ground
Killing a cricket
A picture falling
Breaking a glass when proposing a toast
Dropping a glove
Getting out of bed left foot first
Putting a pair of bellows on a table
A ring breaking on your finger
Three butterflies together
Red and white flowers in the same arrangement
Bringing Christmas greenery into the house before December 24th
Leaving Christmas decorations up after Twelfth Night (January 6th)
Looking at the new moon over your left shoulder
Taking anything out of the house on New Year’s Day
Removing your wedding ring
Meeting a hare on the road
Violets flowering out of season
Wearing an opal unless you were born in October

NOTE: The information contained in this article is presented as INFORMATION ONLY.

All material Copyright (c) 2011-2015 by Alyne Pustanio and Creole Moon Publications.
Reproduction or dissemination of this material without the expressed written
consent of the Author and/or Publisher is strictly prohibited by law.

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