Page images
PDF
EPUB

Romans; John in France, England, and Scotland ; and Henry in France.

One of the principal rules of Onomancy, among the Pythagoreans, was, that an even number of vowels in a name signified an imperfection in the left side of a man, and an odd number in the right. Another rule, about as good as this, was, that those persons were the most happy in whose names the numeral letters, added together, made the greatest sum; for this reason, say they, it was that Achilles vanquished' Hector, the numeral letters in the former name amounting to a greater number than the latter. And doubtless it was from a like principle that the young Romans toasted their mistresses at their meetings as often as their names contained letters.

“Nævia sex cyathis, septem Justina bibatur !" Rhodingius describes a singular kind of Onomantia. Theodotus, King of the Goths, being curious to learn the success of his wars against the Romans, an Onomantical Jew ordered him to shut up a number of swine in little stys, and to give some of them Roman, and others Gothic names, with different marks to distinguish them, and there to keep them till a certain day; which day having come, upon inspecting the stys they found those dead to which the Gothic names had been given, and those alive to which the Roman names were assigned : upon which the Jew foretold the defeat of the Goths.

ONYCOMANCY, OR ONYMANCY. This kind of divination is performed by means of the finger nails. The ancient practice was to rub the nails of a youth with oil and soot, or wax, and to hold up the nails thus prepared, against the sun, upon which there were supposed to appear figures or characters which showed the thing

required. Hence, also, modern Chiromancers call that branch of their art which relates to the inspection of nails, Onycomancy.

ORNITHOMANCY Is a kind of divination, or method of arriving at the knowledge of futurity, by means of birds ; it was among the Greeks what Augury was among the Romans.

[ocr errors]

PYROMANCY,
A species of divination performed by means of fire.

The ancients imagined they could foretell futurity by inspecting fire and flame ; for this purpose they considered its direction, or which way it turned. Sometimes they threw pitch into it, and if it took fire instantly they considered it a favourable omen.

PSYCOMANCY, OR SCIOMANCY.

1

An art among the ancients of raising or calling up the manes or souls of deceased persons, to give intelligence of things to come. The witch who conjured up the soul of Samuel, to foretell Saul the event of the battle he was about to give, did so by Sciomancy.

RHABDOMANCY

Was an ancient method of divination performed by means of rods or staves. St. Jerome mentions this kind of divi. nation in his commentary on Hosea, chap. vi. 12, where the prophet says, in the name of God, My people ask counsel at their stocks ; and their staff declareth unto them : which passage that father understands of the Grecian Rhabdomancy.

The same is met with again in Ezekiel, xxi. 21, 22, where the prophet says, For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination : he made his arrows bright; or, as St. Jerome renders it, he mixed his arrows ; he consulted with images ; he looked in the liver.

If it be the same kind of divination that is alluded to in these two passages, Rhabdomancy must be the same kind of superstition with Belomancy: these two, in fact, are generally confounded. So much, however, is certain, that the instruments of divination mentioned by Hosea are different from those of Ezekiel : though it is possible they might use rods or arrows indifferently; or the military men might use arrows, and the rest rods.

By the laws of the Frisones, it appears that the ancient inhabitants of Germany practised Rhabdomancy. The Scy, thians were likewise acquainted with the use of it; and Herodotus observes (lib. vi.) that the women among the Alani sought and gathered together fine straight wands or rods, and used them for the same superstitious purposes.

Among the various other kinds of divination not here mentioned may be enumerated-Chilomancy, performed with keys; Alphitomancy or Aleuromancy, by flour; Keraunoscopia, by the consideration of thunder; Alectromancy, by cocks; Lithomancy, by stones; Eychnomancy, by lamps ; Ooscopy, by eggs; Licanomancy, by a basin of water; Palpitatim, salisatio, naluos, by the pulsation or motion of some member, &c.

All these kinds of divination have been condemned by the fathers of the Church, and Councils, as supposing some compact with the devil

. Fludd has written several treatises on divination and its different species; and Cicero has two books of the divination of the ancients, in which he confutes the whole system. Cardan also, in his 4th book, De Sapientia, describes every species of them.-- Demonologia.

THE DIVINING ROD.

[ocr errors]

In the spring of 1847, [says Dr. Mayo,] being then at Weilbach, in Nassau, a region teeming with underground sources of water, I requested the son of the proprietor of the bathing establishment-a tall, thin, pale, white-haired youth, by name Edward Seebold—to walk in my presence

up and down a promising spot of ground, holding a divining i fork of hazel, with the accessories recommended by M.

de Tristan to beginners—that is to say, he held in his right hand three pieces of silver, besides one handle of the rod, while the handle which he held in his left hand was covered with thin silk.

The lad had not made five steps, when the point of the divining fork began to ascend. He laughed with astonishment at the event, which was totally unexpected by him ;

ensuing month.

same.

and he said that he experienced a tickling or thrilling sensation in his hands. He continued to walk up and down before me. The fork had soon described a complete circle; then it described another; and so it continued to do as long as he walked thus, and as often as, after stopping, he resumed his walk. The experiment was repeated by him in my presence, with like success, several times during the

Then the lad fell into ill health, and I rarely saw him. However, one day I sent for him, and begged him to do me the favour of making another trial with the divining fork. He did so, but the instrument moved slowly and sluggishly; and when, having completed a semicircle, it pointed backwards towards the pit of his stomach, it stopped, and would go no farther. At the same time the lad said he felt an uneasy sensation, which quickly increased to pain, at the pit of the stomach, and he became alarmed, when I bade him quit hold of one handle of the divining rod, and the pain ceased. Ten minutes afterwards I induced him to make another trial : the results were the

A few days later, when the lad seemed still more out of health, I induced him to repeat the experiment. Now, however, the divining fork would not move at all.

I entertain little doubt that the above performances of Edward Seebold were genuine. I thought the same of the performances of three English gentlemen, and of a German, in whose hands, however, the divining rod never moved through an entire circle. In the hands of one of them its motion was retrograde, or abnormal : that is to say, it began by descending.

But I met with other cases, which were less satisfactory, though not uninstructive. I should observe that, in the hands of several who tried to use it in my presence, the divining fork would not move an inch. But there were two younger brothers of Edward Seebold, and a bath-maid, and my own man, in whose hands the rod played new pranks. When these parties walked forwards, the instrument ascended, or moved normally; but when, by my desire, they walked backwards, the instrument immediately went the other

way: I should observe that, in the hands of Edward Seebold, the instrument moved in the same direction whether he walked forwards or backwards; and I have mentioned that at first it described in his hands a complete circle. But with the four parties I have just been speaking of, the motion of the fork was always limited in extent. When it moved normally at starting, it stopped after describing an arc of about 225°; in the same way when it moved abnor. mally at starting, it would stop after describing an arc of about 135°; that is to say, there was one spot the same for the two cases, beyond which it could not get. Then I found that, in the hands of my man, the divining rod would move even when he was standing still

, although with a less lively action; still it stopped as before, nearly at the same point. Sometimes it ascended, sometimes descended. Then I tried some experiments, touching the point with a magnetic needle. I found, in the course of them, that when my man knew which way I expected the fork to move, it invariably answered my expectations; but when I had the man blindfolded, the results were uncertain and contradictory. The end of all this was, that I became certain that several of those in whose hands the divining rod moves, set it in motion and directed its motion by the pressure of their fingers, and by carrying their hands nearer to, or farther apart. In walking forwards, the hands are unconsciously borne towards each other ; in walking backwards, the reverse is the case.

Therefore, I recommend no one to prosecute these experiments unless he can execute them himself

, and unless the divining rod describes a complete circle in his hands ; and even then he should be on his guard against selfdeception.

POSTSCRIPT.-I am now (May, 1851,) again residing at the bathing establishment of Weilbach, near Mayence; and it was with some interest and curiosity that the other day I requested Mr. Edward Seebold, now a wellgrown young man, in full health, to try his hand again with the divining rod. He readily assented to my request; and he this time knew exactly what result I expected. But the experiment entirely failed. The point of the divining rod rose, as he walked, not more than two or three inches; but this it does with every one who presses the two handles towards each other during the experiment. Afterwards the implement remained perfectly stationary.

« PreviousContinue »