Augury, Auspices and Augurs - Sign Interpretation as a Divinatory Class
What is Augury?
Augury is a class of divination that involves the interpretation of signs and events occurring in nature. Practitioners of augury believe that everything in the natural world has a divine spirit that can, and sometimes will, reveal the will of the divine regarding human matters, such as decisions and actions.
Augurs carefully study and interpret natural phenomena, such as cloud formations, eclipses, weather conditions, the behavior of animals, the flight of birds, etc. In some rare cases, the behavior of people are also augured. The signs that allow practitioners of augury to gain insight into the will of the divine are called auspices. In simple terms, these auspices show the augur whether or not it is favorable to undertake some action.
History of Augury
Adopted from the Etruscans, in ancient Rome, augury was viewed as a science. The oral tradition of augury that grew in significance over many generations was finally institutionalized and formalized. It was taught and practiced in formal colleges during the era of Roman Republic. The auspices were to be determined in such important matters of state as elections, ceremonies, and war declarations. Secret archives of augury readings were at the disposal of decision makers to back their decisions up. The augurs kept the Sibylline books, a collection of prophecies made by oracles.
Weather augurs were blindfolded to do the readings to rely solely on their intuition and psychic ability. At a given site they would listen as a magistrate described what he saw in nature. Then, they would give their interpretation. As far as weather augury, the most important auspice was certainly lightning, considered to be direct communication from the primary god, Jupiter. Lightning in the west was considered a bad sign, with those in the northwest being the worst of all.
Sometimes, augurs would draw a circle in the mud divided into pie sections, each marked with a letter of the alphabet. Then, they would scatter bird feed over the circle and perform animal augury using roosters. The augur would ask a question and then observe how a rooster eats his way around the circle, spelling out the answer.
Roman augury was eventually overruled by another type of divination, practiced by haruspices, diviners that examined the entrails and livers of sacrificed animals.
Divination is the use of magical, supernatural or psychic powers to foresee the future, find lost objects, learn secrets, uncover the truth. Divination is a universal practice throughout human history, usually carried out by priests, prophets, oracles, witches, shamans, etc. Divinatory methods are also called mantic, a word coming from the Greek mantis, meaning diviner. The names of many disciplines of divination end in -mancy.
Almost every culture has developed its own set of divination techniques over the course of their history.
The Babylonians developed elaborate divinatory systems involving priests that saw portents in everything in nature.
The Middle Kingdom of ancient China had court astrologers that interpreted cast lots of yarrow sticks, bones, etc.
Early Egyptian priests dwelt in temples hoping they would receive divinatory communication from the gods in their dreams.
In ancient Rome, a special caste of priests called augurs read signs in(to) natural phenomena and believed they were messages sent by the gods.
Augury lives on...
When we talk about synchronicity today, we actually continue the tradition of augury or sign reading in an informal way. Looking to signs in nature and interpreting coincidences as message from above are a way for many "modern augurs" to help them make difficult decisions and gain validation for them. Furthermore, a multitude of methods of augury have been developed over the course of history involving the reading of everything imaginable in natural phenomena and objects. Some common types of augury are:
Types of Augury
- Aeromancy: the observation of atmospheric phenomena.
- Alectromancy: the eating patterns of roosters.
- Alphitomancy: the swallowing of special wheat or barley cakes by the guilty.
- Anthropomancy: the behavior of dying sacrificial humans.
- Apantomancy: the meeting of animals.
- Armomancy: haphazard appearances of objects.
- and hundreds more.
Do you believe in reading signs before making an important decision?
Learn more about augury and other types of divination from these books.
Interesting Augury Links
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Books on Augury and Divination
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