Ways to Predict the Future

Robert Beard and Dawn Shawley
I see much fun at alphaDictionary in your future.Don't we all just wish we could foretell the future? Many believe we can if we just have the "Gift" and the right utensils. In case you would like to try divination, we have collected the words for all the ways others have tried in the past. Some may surprise you. Some may even amaze you. A few, I'm certain, will appal you. Keep in mind, all have been tried and have enjoyed a certain popularity at some time or other.

You will see some suspicious characters in the following list. I suspect a few jokes still abide in this glossary, but then so many of the actual practices listed below are humorous it is difficult to filter all of the concocted ones out. As elsewhere on this website, we welcome suggestions and comments on our contact page.
• A •
Word Definition Origin
abacomancy Divination by reading shapes created by dust. Hebrew ’abaq "dust".
acultomancy Divination by throwing needles on the ground or in a bowl or water and interpreting the patterns they form. Latin acula "little needle". (The T in this word is an error.)
aeromancy (1) Divination by reading the force and direction of the wind and other weather features, such as predicting a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. (2) Forecasting the weather. Greek aero- "air".
agalmatomancy The interpretation of statuettes and effigies found in someone's home. Greek agalma, agalmata "glory, delight, monument".
aichmomancy Divination by dropping sharp objects on a flat surface and reading the patterns. Greek aikhme "spearhead".
ailuromancy Reading the future in the movements of cats. Greek ailouros "house cat".
alectryomancy Reading the future from the patterns left by a rooster pecking grain from the ground. Greek alectryon "rooster".
aleuromancy Interpreting the flour patterns left in a bowl emptied of flour or patterns formed by flour thrown on the floor. Also telling the future with cookies, as fortune cookies. Greek aleuron "flour, meal".
alomancy Reading the patterns of salt thrown in the air as it flies up and lands. Throwing salt over your shoulder still survives today, more as a superstition than as a belief. Greek halo ('alo) "salt".
alphitomancy (1) Fortune-telling from the shapes seen in barley meal. (2) Determining guilt or innocence by feeding someone barley cakes under the assumption that only the guilty will get indigestion. Greek alphis "barley".
ambulomancy Reading someone's gait or stride, the way they walk, and predicting their future from it. Latin ambulare "to walk".
amathomancy Divination by reading shapes in wind-blown sand or from the shapes in sand dropped on a flat surface. Greek amathos "sandy soil".
amniomancy Predicting the future of a baby by examining the afterbirth. Greek amnion "amnion, embryonic membrane".
anemomancy Predicting weather change or reading the future the strength and direction of the wind. Greek anemos "wind"
anthomancy Divination by plucking the petals from flowers ("She loves me, she loves me not, ..."). Greek anthos "flower".
anthracomancy The reading of burning coals as an indication of things unknown or the future. Greek anthrax (anthrac-s) "a coal"
anthropomancy The reading of the entrails of dead human beings, sometimes sacrificed for the purpose. Greek anthropos "human being".
apantomancy Divination using objects in the surroundings that present themselves by chance, especially animals. Fearing bad luck when a black cat walks by is a form of apantomancy Greek apantaô "stumble upon, happen upon"
arachnomancy Divination by reading the webs and movements of spiders over them. Greek arakhne "spider".
arithmancy Divination by numbers associated with the letters of the alphabet found in a person's name. Greek arithmos "number".
armomancy (1) Divination by throwing the shoulder blade of an animal in a fire dn reading the cracks when withdrawn. (2) Predicting or measuring by one's shoulder suitability for sacrifice. Latin armus "shoulder, shoulder joint".
aspidomancy Divination by entering a circle and sitting on a shield amid sacred incantations. Greek aspis "shield".
astragalomancy Telling someone's fortune by throwing animal bones and interpreting their configurations when they come to rest. More recently the term has been extended to fortune-telling by throwing dice. Greek astragalos "knucklebone".
astrapomancy Predicting the future by reading bolts of lightning. Greek astrape "lightning flash".
astromancy Divination based on a reading of the positions of the stars and other heavenly bodies. The most advanced type of astromancy is very much alive today: the creation of horoscopes based on the positions of heavenly bodies at birth or on a specific day. The same as uranomancy. Greek astron "star".
auromancy Divination by reading perceived auras about a person. Greek aura "breath".
austromancy Fortune-telling based on interpreting gusts of wind. Anemomancy is a better word for this. Latin auster "south, south wind".
axinomancy Divination using an axe or hatchet, either by balancing a smooth agate on the blade and interpreting the direction in which it falls (guilty or innocent?) or by heating it in the fire and reading things into the its colors when retrieved from the flames. Greek axine "axehead, axe".
axiomancy This is apparently a mispronunciation of the previous word, axinomancy, since it has nothing to do with any kind of axis or axle. Weblore has it as an interpretation using an axe or hatchet but no convincing references can be found. Latin axis "axis".
• B •
Word Definition Origin
batraquomancy Divining the future using the hopping patterns of frogs or the remains of frogs. Greek batrakhos "frog".
belomancy Divination by writing possible answers to questions on arrows and shooting them. The arrow that travels the farthest contains the correct answer. Used as far back as the Babylonians. Greek bole "arrow".
bibliomancy Divination by opening a book at random pages and reading the first words that catch your eye. A man goes to his priest and complains that his business is failing and he doesn't know what to do. The priest suggests he take his family on vacation to the beach to take their minds off the problem and while there, the man should go out on the beach with the Bible, let the wind riffle through the pages and when the wind abates, read what ever catches his eye on the page left open. A year later the man returns to the church and makes a $10,000 contribution. After the service the priest approaches him to thank him and he replies, "No, Father, it is I who should thank you." He then retells the story about the Bible on the beach. "And when the pages stopped flipping, I suddenly saw before my eyes the words that turned my whole life around: 'CHAPTER 11'". That is bibliomancy. Latin biblia "book".
bolomancy Divination by writing possible answers to questions on arrows and shooting them. The arrow that travels the farthest contains the correct answer. This method of fortune telling was used as far back as the Babylonians. Greek bole "arrow".
botanomancy Divination by burning branches or plants and reading the ashes left behind. Greek botane "flora, vegetation".
brontomancy Foretelling events from the rumblings of thunder. Greek bronte "thunder".
• C •
Word Definition Origin
canomancy Divination by reading the movements of dogs. Latin canis "dog".
capnomancy Divination by interpreting the suggestive patterns and shapes in rising smoke. Greek kapnos "smoke".
captromancy Telling fortunes with the help of a mirror. Russian girls once believed that if they slept with a mirror under their pillow, they would dream of the man who would ask them to marry him. In ancient Greece, some believed that if a sick person lowered a mirror into a fountain near an oracle, they would know if they would recover by whether their image appeared sharply defined or distorted. The supersition that breaking a mirror brings seven years of bad luck survives today.      
carromancy Reading the future in the shapes and movements of melting wax. Probably a misspelling of ceromancy. (Karro does not mean "waxen" in Greek.)
cartomancy Telling fortunes from playing cards or cards especially designed for telling fortunes, such as Tarot cards. Latin carta "paper".
catoptromancy This is probably a misspelling of captromancy. (No corresponding Classical word.)
causimancy Foretelling the future by reading the movements of flames in a fire or the differences in the speed of various objects burning in a fire. Greek kaiein "to burn".
ceneromancy A misspelling of cineromancy. Latin cinis, cineris "ashes".
cephalomancy Divination by feeling the bumps on someone's head. In the 19th century a German charlatan by the name of Franz Joseph Gall tried to convert cephalomancy into a science, which he called "phrenology". Greek kephale "head".
cephalonomancy Divination by boiling a (donkey's) head and reading the bubbles. Greek kephale "head" and Greek onos "donkey".
ceraunomancy Divination based on an interpretation of the patterns in lightning and sounds of thunder. Greek keraunos "thunderbolt".
ceromancy Reading the future in the shapes made by hot wax dripping into cold water. Greek keros "wax".
chaomancy Divination by examining phenomena in the air, such as wind currents and celestial bodies. Greek khaos "primordial space".
chartomancy Divination by interpreting mysterious inscriptions on paper, especially those written in invisible ink that becomes visible when heated. Card-reading is sometimes called by this name, too. Greek khartes "papyrus paper".
cheiromancy Palmistry, palm-reading, reading someone's past and future in the lines on the palm of the hand. Greek kheir "hand".
chiromancy Palmistry, palm-reading, divination by reading the lines in the palm of the hand—a simplified spelling of cheiromancy above. Greek kheir "hand".
chronomancy Prediction of the best time to do something, of the lucky and unlucky days for someone, a form of divination popular in China. Greek khronos "time".
cineromancy Telling fortunes by interpreting the suggestive patterns and shapes in the ashes of someone's fire. Latin cinis, cineris "ashes".
clamomancy Fortune-telling from the random shouts and cries heard in crowds, at night, etc. Latin clamare "to cry out".
cledonomancy Divination based on chance words heard from strangers. In ancient Rome, the diviner plugged his ears and prayed in a temple, then unplugged his ears in the market and pieced together a divination from words uttered by strangers passing by. Greek kledon "rumor".
cleidomancy Fortune-telling by casting down keys and reading the configurations they make. Greek kleis "key".
cleromancy Predicting the future by casting dice or drawing lots. Greek kleros "lot".
clidomancy A simplified spelling of cleidomancy above. Greek kleis "key".
cometomancy Divination by reading and interpreting the shapes and movements of comet tails. Greek kometes "comet".
conchomancy Divination by reading personality traits in the shapes and designs of collected sea shells. Greek konkhe "mussel".
coscinomancy Divination using a sieve held by a pair of shears used in ancient Rome to determine guilt or innocence. The diviner spoke an incomprehensible language passed on to him or her by the shaking sieve. Greek koskinon "sieve".
cottabomancy Divination by throwing the last wine in a guest's cup into a brass bowl. If the wine made a clear sign, it meant good luck to the thrower. Greek kottabos, a Sicilian game popular in Athens which was essentially cottabomancy.
crithomancy Forecasting the future by examining barley cakes offered as sacrifices or from meal strewn over sacrifices. Greek krithe "barley".
critomancy A misspelling of crithomancy above. Greek krithe "barley".
cromnyomancy See cromyomancy. Greek kromuon "onion".
cromyomancy (1) Divination by onions in which names are written on onion bulbs which are then planted. The bulb that sprouts first indicates good health and long life for the person whose name was written on it. (2) Today it is often thought of as reading the future in the rings of sliced onions, a process that can bring tears to your eyes. (Spelling this word with a superfluous N, that is, as cromnyomancy, has become widespread on the Web.) Greek kromuon "onion".
crystallomancy Fortune-telling by looking into a clear glass object such as a crystal ball. This type of fortune-telling is also known as scrying. Greek krustallos "crystal".
cubomancy Divination by throwing a pair dice. (A seven or eleven predicts happiness; snake eyes predict unhappiness;-) Greek kubos "cube".
cyathomancy A word referring to an obscure means of divination using cups. Greek kuathos "cup".
cybermancy Augury by computer-based systems, such as the predictions of happy relationships set up by dating websites. A word concocted from English cyber(netics).
cyclicomancy Divination by swirling water in a cup and reading the ripples and swirls. Greek kuklikos "cyclical" or "circular".
cyclomancy Divination in which the final resting position of a spinning object such as a top is interpreted. Greek kuklos "circle".
• D •
Word Definition Origin
dactyliomancy Divination using a ring suspended on a string and held over the alphabet like a Ouija board. It has also been reported as a method of dowsing. Greek daktulios "finger ring".
dactylomancy Divination by means of reading the lines on fingers rather than palms. Greek daktulos "finger".
daphnomancy Divination using laurel, usually by tossing a laurel branch in a fire. The more vigorously the fire crackles, the better the sign for the tosser. Greek daphne "laurel".
demonomancy Divination by communicating with demons. Greek daimon "divine power".
dendromancy Divination by trees, especially oaks, yews, or mistletoe. Mistletoe has long carried a sense of magic with it, continued today during the mid-winter holidays when it has the power to convey the right to kiss someone standing under it. Earlier it was attached to doorframes to keep out bad spirits. According to dendromancy, branches from these growths may be thrown in a fire and fortunes told from the smoke rising from them. However, in 16th century Europe it was also believed that it you opened an oak gall, you could predict the winter from the size and activity of the worm found in it. If you found a spider, the winter would be a dread one, indeed. Greek dendron "tree".
driromancy Divination by reading the behavior of dripping blood and the puddles it leaves. (Often misspelled as dririmancy. Hematomancy is a better choice.) Middle English drir "blood"
eleomancy or elaeomancy: Divination by dripping (olive) oil in a plate and reading the patterns it forms. Greek elaion "olive oil".
• E •
Word Definition Origin
empyromancy Forecasting fortune or the future by reading flames or fire. Greek empurios "fiery".
enoptromancy Same as captromancy. Greek enoptron "looking glass".
entomomancy Augury based on the appearance and behavior of insects and other small creatures. We can include here the belief that the thickness of the fuzz on fuzzy bears that appear in the fall predict the severity of the oncoming winter. The Japanese often keep crickets in small cages in their homes in the hope they will bring good luck. The appearance of ladybirds in a European home often is taken as a sign a visitor will come. The appearance of ants indicated a future of great wealth to ancient Greeks. Greek entomon "insect".
eromancy Shortened form of eromancy Greek aer "air".
• F •
Word Definition Origin
favomancy Divination by throwing beans on the floor and interpreting the patterns they form, popular in the Caucasus at one time. (A defective derivation for kyamomancy.) Concoted from Italian fava "bean".
felidomancy An incorrectly derived word referring to the same activity as ailuromancy. Greek ailouros "cat".
floromancy Predicting the unknown with the help of flowers, as in throwing the bride's bouquet up in the hopes that whoever catches it will be the next to marry. We might also include here the hope that a four-leaf clover will bring good luck or picking the petals from a daisy while chanting, "She loves me; she loves me not; she loves me; . . . ." Latin flos, floris "flower".
fractomancy Divination by interpreting fractal geometric patterns. At best this word should be fractalomancy. Incorrectly concocted from English fractal.
fructomancy Divination by reading things into the size, color, and/or freshness fruit in someone's house. Latin fructus "fruit".
• G •
Word Definition Origin
gastromancy Reading the future by interpreting the rumblings of the stomach. Greek gaster "belly".
gelomancy Fortune-telling based on the interpretation of someone's laughter. Greek gelos "laughter".
genethlialogy Divination by birth dates, especially their relationships to the positions of celestial bodies or the horoscope. Greek genethlios "birthday".
geomancy Divination by casting earth onto a surface and interpreting the shapes and contours of the result. Greek ge "earth".
grammomancy Divination by writing different letters. Greek gramma "letter".
graphomancy Divining the personality and future of someone by examining their handwriting. Greek graphe "writing".
graptomancy Divination by studying handwriting. Greek graptos "written" (or a misspelling of graphomancy above).
gyromancy Divination by making a circle of letters on the ground and walking around it in a trance or until falling from dizziness on a certain letter or set of letters. Spinning a nicked coin in a circle of letters was also taken as a magical act capable of predicting the future in times past. Greek guros "spiral".
• H •
Word Definition Origin
hagiomancy Divination by reading signs from the saints, especially changes in icons of them, such as drops of water descending from the eyes or heart area. Greek hagios "holy, saint".
halomancy Casting salt crystals into the air and interpreting the patterns as they travel through the air or fall to the ground. Throwing a pinch of salt over the shoulder to counteract a sign of bad luck is still practiced by some Europeans today. Housewives on the Isle of Man on Halloween once would empty a thimbleful of salt on a plate for each member of the family and each guest at night. The next morning the piles are examined, and if any had fallen, it was assumed that the person who used the plate would die within a year. (Alomancy is a misspelling, by the way.) Greek hals "salt".
haruspication Divination by interpreting the entrails of animals or people. Latin haruspex, haruspic- "A Roman or Etruscan soothsayer who reads the future in the entrails of victims on the field of battle.".
hematomancy Reading things into the pooling of blood. Greek haimat- "blood".
hepatomancy Divination by examining the livers of animals killed expressly for the purpose. Also sometimes referred to as hepatoscopy. Greek hepar, hepat- "liver".
hieromancy Divination by studying objects offered in sacrifice several days later. Sometimes referred to as hieroscopy or hierospicy. Greek hieros "holy".
hippomancy Allowing horses to predict the future. The ancient Celts would put a white horse in a sacred grove and interpreted the future from how it walked or stamped its feet during ceremonies held there. Ancients Germanic peoples often kept a sacred horse in a temple. After Darius I of Persia (522-486 BC) and six other Persian nobles plotted and killed their king, they agreed that the new king should be the one of them whose horse neighed first after sunrise. Darius's horse made the call. Greek hippos "horse".
hydromancy Reading the future by dropping a stone, ring, or other 'magic' object in a bowl of water and interpreting the ripples they make. Some cultures protect holy bodies of water, pools where shamans can see the gods and receive advice from them. Witch ducking between 1100-1700 was used to determine if a woman was a witch. A woman was suspended from a rope and dunked in water: if she sank, she was alright; if she floated, she was a witch and was then burned at the stake. Greek hydor "water".
hyomancy Divination from the tongue bone. This word occurs in obscure places which do not make clear the practice itself. This has led many to believe it is a means of predicting the future by observing wild hogs from Greek hys "wild hog". Greek osteon hyoeides "the hyoid bone", the bone at the base of the tongue.
hypnomancy The interpretation of dreams during sleep. Sigmund Freud brought this type of reading into mainstream psychiatry where it remains today. Greek hypnos "sleep".
• I •
Word Definition Origin
ichnomancy The prediction of personality characteristics and intentions of someone by reading their footprints. This method is often used by trackers and hunters. Greek ikhnos "track".
ichthyomancy Prediction of the future by inspecting fish entrails. Greek ikhthus "fish".
iconomancy Foretelling the future using images, especially holy icons. Similar to hagiomancy. Greek eikon "image".
idolomancy Divination using idols that supposedly spoke to worshippers. Priests would often speak to worshippers from inside hollow idols. The oracles of Greece were instance of idolomancy. Greek eidolon "phantom".
iridomancy Divination by reading the colors of the eye and the patterns of the iris pretty much as the lines in the palm of the hand may be read. This word is rarely used; oculomancy is preferable. Greek iris, irid- "iris, rainbow".
• K •
Word Definition Origin
kephalonomancy Divination from the inside of a baked donkey's head that has been cracked open. Greek kephalaion "head".
keraunomancy Divination by means of interpreting the images created by lightning and the sounds of the accompanying thunder. Greek keraunos "thunderbolt".
knissomancy Divination by interpreting the smells and shapes of the smoke of burning incense. Greek knissa "incense smoke".
kyomoomancy Divination by throwing beans on the floor and interpreting the patterns they form, popular in the Caucasus at one time. Greek kyamos "bean".
kypellomancy Divination by reading tea leaves or coffee grounds in the bottom of a cup, activities still popular today in many parts of the European world. Most frequenly misspelled as kypomancy. Greek kypellon "goblet".
• L •
Word Definition Origin
labiomancy Lip-reading. (Not actually a means of fortune-telling unless the lips belong to a prophet.) Latin labium "lip".
lampadomancy Divination by interpreting the movements and shapes of a flame. The ancient Egyptians held a Feast of Lights in which the flames of lamps were interpreted and during Indian Divali, lighted lamps are set afloat on the river. The longer they remain lit, the better the fortune they foretell. Greek lampad- "light".
lecanomancy Divination dropping gems or precious stones in a basin or pool of water and interpreting the ripples they make. A variant of hydromancy Greek lekane "basin".
libanomancy Divination by watching the patterns in the smoke rising from incense. Greek libanos "frankincense".
literomancy Divination by interpreting single letters or word characters in a language. This type of fortune-telling is practiced most widely in Chinese, where Chinese characters associated with a person's name are considered a sign of that person's destiny. Latin litera "letter".
lithomancy Reading the patterns formed by stones of many colors tossed on the ground or in a circle of leather on the ground or elsewhere. Signs are read into the positions of the stones, the colors of those that fall within the circle and without, and so on. Greek lithos "stone".
logarithmomancy Predicting the future using logarithmic tables based on magic algorithms. English logarithm, concocted by Scottish mathematician John Napier (1550-1617) from Greek logos "word, idea" + arithmos "number".
logomancy Telling the future either by using magic words or interpreting the words of others. Greek logos "word".
lunamancy Telling a fortune by interpreting the shape of and shapes on the moon.. Latin luna "moon".
lychnomancy Divination from the flames of three identical candles set in a triangle. If their flames waver back and forth, expect a change of circumstance, if they twist or spiral, beware secret plots, if the flame rises and falls, danger lies ahead, if one flame is brighter than others, good fortune will come, and if a flame sputters, disappointment is in the offing. Greek lykhnos "lamp".
• M •
Word Definition Origin
macharomancy Using swords, knives, or daggers as a means of predicting the future. Nothing more is known of this term. Greek makhaira "short dagger".
macromancy Reading the unknown in the largest object at hand. Not much is known about this kind of fortune telling. (See also micromancy.) Greek makros "large".
maculomancy Reading the fate of a person in the moles and birthmarks on their body. Latin macula "spot".
margaritomancy Determining guilt or innocence using a pearl. A pearl is covered with a vase placed near the fire. As the names of suspected persons are pronounced, the name of the guilty person will cause the pearl to soar upwards and hit the bottom of the vase. Greek margarites "pearl".
mathemancy Supposedly divination by counting but no definition of the word can be found. English "mathe(matics)".
mazomancy Divination by watching babies nursing, another magic term with no available literature on the subject. Greek mazos "breast".
meconomancy Divination using drug-induced sleep. No literature is available on the subject. Greek mekon "poppy".
meteoromancy Predicting future events by interpreting the movements of meteors and shooting stars; very popular among the ancients. English meteor from Greek meteoros"off the ground, in the air".
metopomancy Divination from the lines on the forehead or face, associating them with the signs of the Zodiac. Greek metopon "forehead".
micromancy Reading thing into the smallest object at hand. (See also macromancy.) Greek mikros "small".
moleosophy An ungrammatical concoction supposedly referring to reading skin blemishes such as moles and birthmarks. The correct term is maculomancy. English "mole".
molybdomancy Reading of coming events in the shapes made by molten metal dropped in water. Greek molybdos "lead".
moromancy Any form of fortune-telling that is silly or foolish. It apparently occurs only in dictionaries but is used in referring to any type of fortune-telling that the speaker believes is nonsense. Greek moros "foolish".
myomancy Divination from the movements, sounds, and shapes of holes made by mice and rats. This form of augury goes back to Biblical times and was used both in Greece and Rome. Greek mys "mouse".
myrmomancy Reading the future in the behavior of ants. Not well recorded. Greek myrmex "ant".
• N •
Word Definition Origin
necromancy (1) Communicating with the dead in order to learn the truth and predict the future, usually carried out in séances with a spiritualist who puts herself in a trance. (2) Black magic, sorcery, witchcraft and conjuration in general. Greek nekros "corpse".
necyomancy The same as necromancy: the conjuring up of dead spirits for information about the past, present, or future. The common misconception that it is the summoning of Satan goes back to an error in interpreting the word devil, meaning a departed spirit, as The Devil. Greek nekyia "invocation".
nephelomancy Forecasting the future by interpreting the shapes and movements of clouds: not far from weather forecasting. Russians once believed that if if rains on your wedding day, you will be wealthy. Greek nephele "cloud".
nigromancy The art of black magic and the summoning of black spirits from Hades. Probably a misspelling from a mispronunciation of necromancy. Latin niger "black".
nomancy A misspelling of onomancy. Greek onoma "name".
numeromancy A hybrid word mixing Latin and Greek that refers to reading future actions and outcomes from numbers, such as those found in birthdates, addresses, licenses, and the like. Latin numerus "number".
numismatomancy Divining actions and outcomes by the use of coins, as in flipping a coin to determine a winner. Probably from English numismatics based on Greek nomisma "current coin of a state".
• O •
Word Definition Origin
oculomancy Telling someone's fortune or reading their character from the colors, shadows, and reflections in their eyes. Sometimes oculomancy is simply looking into someone's eyes to reveal the truth about them, as to see love or murder in someone's eyes. Latin oculus "eye".
odontomancy Divining the future of a person by interpreting the disposition and alignment of his or her teeth, palm-reading moved to the mouth. Greek odontos "tooth".
oenomancy Telling someone's fortune by reading the dregs or stains left in their wine glass. Greek oinos "wine".
ololygemancy The interpretation of the howling of dogs as indications of things to come. Greek ololyge "scream, howl".
omoplatoscopy Divination by observing cracks in a burnt or burning shoulder blade (scapula) of an animal. Greek omoplate "shoulder blade".
omphalomancy Reading the future of a newborn from the curls in its umbilical cord. Greek omphalos "navel".
oneiromancy Predicting the future by the interpretation of dreams. The interpretation of dreams long preceded Sigmund Freud; however, instead of interpreting the past from dreams as did Freud, his predecessors predicted the future from them. No king of yore would set out on a military campaign until his recent dreams had been interpreted by the court wizard. Greek oneiros "dream".
onimancy Telling the future by placing oil and tallow in a child's hand and facing him in a certain direction while he recites kabalistic Psalms and afterwards interpreting the meaning of his words. Greek onykh- "nail".
onomancy Divination using the etymologies of proper names such as Natalie Cladd, Anita Job, and Tommy Gunn, or words that sound like them. These fortune-tellers ignored the reasoning of Plato to Cratylus that proper names have no meaning but are arbitrary pairings of sound to meaning. Greek onoma "name".
onychomancy The prediction of someone's future by reading their fingernails: another side of palm-reading. Greek onykh- "nail".
oomancy Fortune-telling based on interpretations of the shapes egg whites assume when dropped in boiling water: listening to what poached eggs tell you. Greek oion "egg".
ophiomancy Reading signs into the coiling and uncoiling of snakes. Greek ophis "snake".
ornithomancy Divination by observing flights of birds. This was an important part of early Roman government, for it maintained an office of official seers, called augurs, a word apparently derived from the Latin word avis "bird". In the Odyssey, an eagle seen flying to the right three times with a dead dove in its claws is interpreted as the return of Odysseus and the death of his wife's suitors. Greek ornis "bird".
oromancy Divination by reading meanings into the shapes of nearby mountains. (Your daughter will have a lovely figure.) Greek oros "mountain".
oryctomancy Divination based on the interpretation of excavated objects: the human bones dug up in your back yard tell me that you will go away for a long time. Greek oruktos "dug".
ossomancy Divination using bones. Osteomancy means the same thing but doesn't mix Latin and Greek elements as does this word. Latin os "bone".
osteomancy Divination by reading meanings into the arrangement of dry bones cast to the ground or on a table. Greek osteon "bone".
ovomancy Divination using eggs, a hybrid word based on a mixture of Latin and Greek and hence a variation of the purely Greek-based word oomancy. With the V between the Os, the word is easier to pronounce. Latin ovum "egg".
ouranomancy Forecasting the future by reading meaning from heavenly bodies. Horoscopes are based on ouranomancy. Greek ouranos "firmament".
• P •
Word Definition Origin
pallomancy Divination by pendulums; rhabdomancy with swinging sticks. Greek pallein "to sway".
pedimancy If we did not mix a Latin root with a Greek suffix but spelled this term consistently according to the Greek, it would be podomancy, a much better term for this concept. Latin pes, pedis "foot".
pegomancy Reading the future from the swirls and bubbles of a spring or fountain. Pegomancy is a variant of hydromancy involving moving water. A change in the color of the water could be an omen, as any reddish tinge in a bubbling brook or fountain might be interpreted as a presage of war. Greek pege "spring".
pessomancy Also psephomancy: Divination using pebbles. African witch doctors cast "wise stones" that they carry around in bag to foretell the future. Arabic mystics of the past heap stones and read omens in the one at a time as the stones are picked from the heap. Elsewhere, distinctive pebbles were blindly pulled from a bag and interpreted by the sooth-sayer. Greek pessos "oval pebble".
photomancy A commercial name for a process that restores photographs, interpreted as "photo magic". English photo(graph)
phrenology Revealing someone's personality and temperment by feeling the bumps on his or her head. Greek phren "mind".
phyllomancy Divination using leaves, such as reading tea leaves in the bottom of a cup, one of the few surviving mancies. Greek phyllon "leaf".
phyllorhodomancy Sooth-saying from rose petals. Greek fortune-tellers clapped with a rose-leaf on the hand and judged the potential success of their desires on the basis of the sound of the clap. Greek phyllon "leaf" + rhodon, "rose".
physiognomancy Unveiling mysteries about a person's character and future by reading the features or his or her face. Physiognomantics read much into the wrinkes, moles, and warts on the face, a practice that even Aristotle wrote about. A facial variant of chiromancy and precursor of phrenology. A hybrid word from English physiognomy "facial features".
phytognomy Predicting medical powers of plants from their shape. The mandrake root was taken as an excellent herb for all that ails you because it was often shaped vaguely like a human beaing. Plants with heart-shaped leaves were assumed to be good for the heart. Greek phyton "plant" + -gnomonia "interpretation".
plastromancy Predicting things to come from a plastron, the bottom shell of a turtle. English "plastron".
pneumancy Divination by blowing, as in making a wish that will come true of you blow out all the candles on your birthday cake. Greek pneuma "blowing, spirit".
podomancy "Sole-reading", an odd variant of palm reading based on reading the lines in the soles of the feet for hints of the future. Most 'mancy' lists spells this one pedomancy but that would be telling the future using children. Greek pous, podi "foot".
psephomancy Divination by drawing lots or markers at random. Originally, readings were made from pebbles drawn from a pile by a chicken. Later, lots were placed in a vessel of some sort and, after supplication to the gods, they were drawn from the vessel and interpreted according to size, color, shape, and so on. Greek psephos "pebble".
pseudomancy Any form of sooth-saying that is purposefully deceitful or false. Greek pseudes "false".
psychomancy Fortune-telling through communications with the soul or spirit of the person in question or those of the dead, as in necromancy. Greek psykhe "soul, spirit".
pyromancy Reading the future in the shapes and heat of a sacrificial fire. According to one 19th century source, "The presage was good when the flame was vigorous and quickly consumed the sacrifice; when it was clear of all smoke, transparent, neither red nor dark in colour; when it did not crackle, but burnt silently in a pyramidal form. On the contrary, if it was difficult to kindle, if the wind disturbed it, if it was slow to consume the victim, the presage was evil." Greek pyr "fire".
• R •
Word Definition Origin
retromancy Prediction made from what is seen looking over one's shoulder. (A questionable word.) Latin retro "behind".
rhabdomancy Augury or magic by use of rods, sticks, staffs, or wands. Dowsing, the use of a Y-shaped hazel branch to locate water beneath the ground, is a form of rhabdomancy still practiced widely today in the US. Waving a wand over a hat while predicting a rabbit will emerge from the hat, is another form. Greek rhabdos "rod".
rhapsodomancy Divination by opening works of poetry at random and interpreting their content and sequence as indications of future events. Greek rhapsoidia "verse, poetry".
• S •
Word Definition Origin
scapulomancy Divination from reading the shoulder blade of animals that have been eaten. Generally the shoulder blade of a sheep is thrown into a fire and the fortune is then predicted from the cracks in the shoulder blade when retrieved from the fire. Latin scapula "shoulder blade".
scarpomancy A badly constructed nybrid word (Italian and Classical Greek) that is supposed to mean "divination by old shoes". Italian scarpa "shoe".
scatomancy Divination by studying excrement. It is medicine when Doctor Oz says that whether our feces floats or sinks tells us whether we are eating too much fat. (We are if it floats). It is good scouting when a scout interprets the health of an animal being tracked from its spor. It is scatomancy when the color, shape, and consistency of droppings are interpreted by someone without a medical degree and who is not a scout. Greek skor "excrement".
schematomancy Guessing the personal history of someone from their figure and personal appearance. Greek skhema "figure".
sciomancy Obtaining unknown information from ghosts of the dead as in a seance with a fortune-teller. Usually these ghosts take possession of the fortune-teller while he or she is in a trance and speaks through their voice. Sometimes the communication is through a Ouija board or other writing system. Greek skia "shadow".
scyphomancy Drinking cups have used for telling fortunes since Ancient Egypt. The Egyptians would pour a libation to the gods, and search for a message in the dregs left in the cup. Later drops of oil or pieces of tinsel were dropped in the liquid in the cup and their shapes were then interpreted. A forerunner of reading tea leaves. Greek skyphos "cup".
selenomancy Divination by studying the phases, colors, aspects of the moon. Greek selene "moon".
sideromancy Divination by burning straws on a hot iron and interpreting the figures made by the curling staws as the heat and burn. . Greek sideros "iron".
skatharomancy Interpreting the tracks of beetles as they crawl over a grave. It was sometimes used to read the name of a murderer from the beetle tracks on the grave of his or her victim. Greek skatharon "spot".
solaromancy Another hybrid mixture of Latin and Greek this time meaning interpreting the color, aspect, and activity of the sun for hints of the future. Latin sol, solaris "sun".
somatomancy Divining the personal history of someone by interpreting their form and figure. Greek soma "body".
sortilege Drawing lots or straws, choosing someone for a task by drawing lots. Medieval Latin sortilegus "diviner" made up of sors, sort- "lot" + legere "to read".
spasmatomancy Reading things into the twitching of the body, diagnosing or predicting diseases from twitches. Greek spasmos "spasm".
spatilomancy Another word for scatomancy, except spatilomantics often included bones and skin as objects of their readings. Greek spatile "excrement".
spatulamancy Another words for scapulomancy. Latin spatula "splint".
sphondulomancy Divination by reading the movements of spindles and the round weights that twirls them. Greek sphondulos "spindle".
splanchomancy Divination by examining the entrails of sacrificial animals or victims. Greek splankhna "innards, guts".
spodomancy Divination by reading ashes left by a fire. A question written in ashes from a ritual sacrifice is left outside overnight. The next morning the changes in the lettering left by the wind are interpreted as answers to a question. Greek spodos "ashes".
stareomancy A misspelling of Greek stereomancy from Greek stereos "solid". This is a method of blending four types of divination into one: aeromancy (air), geomancy (earth), hydromancy (water), and pyromancy (fire). Greek stereos "solid".
sternomancy Divination by studying the breastbone and the abdominal area in general. No doubt this was part of early medicine. Greek sternon "breastbone".
stichomancy Divination by picking passages from books at random adn interpreting them, a process similar to bibliomancy. Greek stikhos "line of verse".
stigonomancy Divination of writing on tree bark. No one seems to know exactly what this means: words written by someone else, the fortune-teller, or interpreting the lines in the bark as words? Greek stizein "to brand, tattoo".
stolisomancy Divination from the manner you dress yourself. Augustus believed that a military revolt had been predicted by the fact that his valet had buckled his right sandal to his left foot. Greek stolis "garment".
sycomancy Fortune-telling or magic involving fig leaves. Messages were written on fig leaves. Those that dried up first or were blown away by the wind were assumed to be false or have negative omens. In modern times, practitioners write messages on slips of paper, ball them up, and hold them in a strainer above boiling water. The one that opens first is considered positive. Greek sykon "fig".
symbolomancy Reading things into objects found lying on the road. Road kill divination? Greek sumbolon "sign".
• T •
Word Definition Origin
tasseomancy Reading tea leaves, coffee grounds, or wine sediments. Tasseomancy is still practiced widely in Europe and the US. Tea leaves are read without turning over the cup but are swished around in the last sip of tea. The shapes they form as they settle are then read for meaning. In the Balkans, a cup which has held Turkish coffee with the grounds in it is turned upside down until the grounds are dry. The shape and figures in the grounds are then interpreted. French tasse "cup".
tephromancy Another means of divination by ashes, especially by reading the burned ashes of a sacrificed victim..Messages were written iin ashes on a plank and left to the elements. The letters remaining the next day were then interpreted. Greek tephra "ash".
theomancy Divination by means of oracles, pronouncements of priests in temples assumed to have a special relation with the gods. This word is often used in reference to those Hebrew prophets and Christian disciples who reported hearing directly from God. Greek theos "god".
theriomancy Divination by observing animals; the same as zoomancy. English contains several sayings that hark back to this belief, such as barking dogs don't bite. Greek ther "wild animal".
thumomancy Prophesying by means of one's own soul, i.e. without the assistance of any magic medium. The predictions of Nostradamus and similar prophets fall under this category. Greek thumos "soul".
topomancy Reading things into the contours of the landscape or topology. Greek topos "place".
trochomancy Divination by reading wheel tracks left by vehicles. Greek trokhos "wheel".
tyromancy Any type of fortune-telling involving cheese, especially predicting the success of the cheese by reading the holes it produces during coagulation. Greek tyros "cheese"
• U •
Word Definition Origin
umbromancy Divination by reading meaning into the shapes of shadows and shade. Latin umbra "shadow".
uranomancy Divination from the study of the heavens. The most advanced type of uranomancy is very much alive today: the creation of horoscopes based on the positions of heavenly bodies at birth or on a specific day. The same as astromancy. Greek ouranos "firmament".
uromancy Divination by reading the color, flow, and bubbles of urine in a p-pot. I'll leave this one to our imagination by simply saying that it was a method used to diagnose physical disorders by doctors (such as they were) of the middle ages. Greek ouron "urine".
• X •
Word Definition Origin
xenomancy Divination from names and types of strangers. Russian girls once thought that the name of the first man that passed their gate on their birthday would be the name of the man they would marry. Greek xenos "stranger".
xylomancy Divination by examining wood found in your path or twigs that have fallen from your tree. This word is also applied to the use of arrows or wooden sticks to predict the future. The belief that knocking on wood will bring good luck falls under this category, too. Greek xylon "wood".
• Z •
Word Definition Origin
zoomancy Divination by observing animals; another term for theriomancy. Greek zoion "being".
zygomancy A rare word referring vaguely to divination using weights from an ancient scale with a balance. There is no specific reference as to exactly how this worked. Greek zygon "yoke, balance".

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