Nostradamus's most popular work. Since 1555 they have rarely been out of print and there have been over 200 editions published. To make his predictions Nostradamus made use of astrology and Bible interpretation, but he also described going into a meditative trance state to bring everything together and see clearly into the future. In his descriptions Nostradamus mentions a "bronze tripod," which he compares to the three-legged stool that the oracle of Delphi sat on.15 Historians are not sure if he was comparing himself to the oracle or if he had an object with three legs that helped him to meditate. In spite of this uncertainty, many writers over the centuries have claimed that Nostradamus focused on a bowl of water supported on a bronze tripod when he peered into the future. Although these writers have made Nostradamus one of the most famous scryers in the world, it is uncertain if he actually was a scryer.
Nostradamus has been credited by various authors with predicting the great fire in London in 1666, the rise of Napoleon, the rise and demise of Hitler, the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on New York's World Trade Center, and many other disasters. None of his predictions are dated, however, and they are written in a vague symbolic style that allows them to be applied to many situations. It is a matter of opinion as to whether or not he has been successful in his predictions and most scholars and scientists are not impressed. In all of these examples people have credited him with a prediction only after the event has happened. If predictions are to be useful they should warn about a harmful event beforehand so that people can avoid it. In fact, it seems that is what Nostradamus was hoping to accomplish, to change history for the better.16 He would probably be disappointed with the credit he is getting for predicting disasters that no one was able to avoid.
This story brings us to the next tool that is popular for scrying: the mirror. A mirror resembles the surface of a smooth pond, frozen so that it can be conveniently carried around. In the fairy tale
Snow White, the wicked queen looked into her magic mirror to see who was the fairest. She was scrying. In The Canterbury Tales, written by Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400), travelers amuse each other with stories while on a trip. In one story, a squire tells of a magic mirror that can be used to see anywhere in the kingdom, sort of like the witch's cauldron in the story of Oz. In The Faerie Queene, an Arthurian legend written by Edmund Spenser (1552-1599), the wizard Merlin uses his magic to create a magic mirror with the same power. It seems that these magic mirrors are often associated with magicians, but the occult author Emile Grillot de Givry (1874-1929) tells us that the queen of France, Catherine de Medici (1519-1589), had a mirror in which she could see everything that was happening in France. Also, the French king Henri IV (1553-1610) had access to a similar mirror.12
Glass mirrors were not used in Europe until the thirteenth century. In the ancient world mirrors were not made of glass but of a plate of polished metal, like bronze or silver. Glass mirrors are coated with silver. The ancient Greeks mostly had magic bronze mirrors, so did the Indians, and the Chinese. It is not surprising, therefore, that some heroes in legends also use the polished blade of a sword or a shield for scrying. One of the most unusual tools, yet one of the most readily available, is a polished thumbnail. This is a popular scrying tool in Arab countries where the best scryers are young boys, who tend to lose the gift by age 10 or 11.13 Often, Renaissance magicians used mirrors that were glass with the back painted black instead of silvered. Perhaps they were trying to imitate another ancient scrying tool, a piece of polished black stone called onyx. But, the most popular stones for scrying were transparent.
It seems that the first people known to use stones for scrying were the Celts (pronounced kelts), an ancient people of the British Isles. The Celtic priests were called druids, and Roman historians said that the druids used stones such as beryl or polished quartz for scrying. Discoveries that archeologists have made confirm that the druids or their predecessors were probably scrying with polished stones as early as 2000 bce. In the Middle Ages the practice continued among the Scottish people. By the time of the Renaissance, John Dee (1527-1608), an astrologer, scientist, magician, and a real-life Merlin to Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603), was using a polished quartz crystal egg for scrying. These eggs seemed to be popular in England.14 In other parts of Europe the quartz crystal ball developed in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Many other people around the world have used different magical stones of various shapes for divination but the crystal ball, which became the favorite tool of Gypsies and carnival psychics, has become the standard object associated with scrying today.
omens n the spring of 289 bce, Quintus got out of bed early. He washed in the bath in the center of his house and then wrapped himself in his expensive, white, wool toga. He was one of the nine Roman priests called augurs, who were honored to be the spokesmen for Jupiter, the king of the gods. Jupiter lived in the heavens and to communicate with him Quintus would have to go to a special field, called the Auguraculum, on Capitoline Hill, in the heart of Rome. When he got there he would look into the sky for Jupiter's messengers, the birds, and interpret their actions to determine Jupiter's opinion on the matter at hand.
The matter at hand this time was a planned commercial sea voyage. Many Romans would not think of agreeing to any major decision about politics, war, commerce, or even marriage without first getting Jupiter's opinion, which could be favorable or unfavorable. As one of the official diviners of the Roman Republic, Quintus was not involved in obtaining predictions from the god but only in asking the question, "Do I have Jupiter's favor to do what I intend to do?" Jupiter's opinion might effect the outcome and certainly with Jupiter's blessing an action was more likely to succeed, but Romans were more concerned with not offending the king of the gods. Asking Jupiter for his blessing was sort of like asking for your father's permission before borrowing the family car.
The augurs were highly respected and it was a great honor to be chosen as one. Quintus was one of the four augurs chosen from the upper class, called patricians. The Romans also chose five augurs from the lower class, called plebeians. All of the augurs had to be trained to learn the meanings of the various types of wild birds, the sound that they made, their flight patterns, eating habits, and most of all, whether they approached the Auguraculum from the left, which is called sinister in Latin, or from the right, which is called dexter in Latin. The name sinister might suggest that if the birds flew in from the left it was a bad sign but it depended on the type of birds. It was bad if ravens came from the left, but if crows did it was good.17 There was a lot to learn but the augurs had time because they were chosen to serve for life.
Quintus arrived early and climbed the hill to enter the Auguraculum. He walked up onto the small mound in the center of the field and lit the incense in the bronze burner as he prayed to Jupiter for a sign.
Then, taking his wand in his right hand, Quintus marked out the area of the sky where the omen would appear. He drew a square so that he could determine the left and the right and waited. To his surprise an eagle, Jupiter's patron bird, flew in from the right. This was one of the best signs he could imagine.
omens in the sky
Most ancient people believed that the spirits, the gods, or God wanted to talk to them. This communication happened through dreams and in waking life through signs sent by the divine. These signs could be any natural object or event that was meaningful to the viewer. These were omens. Basically, omens are a way of treating events as if they are dreams and the things and actions are symbols.
At its worst this can turn into a superstitious belief in which a certain thing is always a symbol of good or bad luck, such as the superstitions that breaking a mirror or stepping on a crack is bad luck and finding a coin on the ground or a four-leafed clover is good luck. Similar beliefs exist around the world, but in different cultures some of the same symbols can be bad in one and good in another. For example, in England a black cat crossing your path is good luck, while in the United States it is bad luck.18 Yet if we treat events and objects in our life like the unique symbols in our dreams that are meaningful for us in a personal way, there is no difference between omens and Jung's synchronicity, which was discussed in the Introduction. Then omens can be powerful messages from our Higher Self, like the kingfisher that Jung found by the lake. In ancient cultures there is often a mixture of both types of omens, some that seem silly and some that have marked profound changes in the lives of individuals or in the beliefs of entire cultures.
All ancient civilizations had gifted people trained to look for signs or omens from the gods. The ancient Sumerians and Babylonians, like many people, primarily looked to the sky, the home of the gods, for omens. This practice eventually led to the development of astrology. Because Jupiter was the god of the heavens, the augurs of ancient Rome looked to the flight of birds for omens but they also practiced brontoscopy, the interpretation of lightning or thunder as a message from Jupiter. Likewise, in ancient Greece lightning was considered a sign from Zeus, the king of the gods; in India it was a sign from Indra, the god of weather and war; in Eastern Europe among the Slavs it was a sign from Perun, the king of the gods; and in the Germanic countries it was a sign from Thor, the god of thunder and strength. Even in the Bible, lightning and thunder are signs of Jehovah's presence. They mark the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, and foretell the second coming.
Christ's birth was marked by a different heavenly omen, an unusually bright star called the Star of Bethlehem. Changes in the night sky were always looked upon as omens but not necessarily favorable ones. The word disaster, for example, is derived from the Latin word for star, astro. Originally it may have referred to an unfavorable star in an astrology chart but it could also refer to the disruption a comet makes in the night sky. Many early cultures considered a comet an attacker in the sky and, therefore, a bad omen. Comets as bad omens are mentioned in the story of Gilgamesh, in Revelation in the Bible, and in Nostradamus's predictions. Sometimes, however, a comet may be interpreted as a good omen.
People have also always found eclipses of the sun or moon to be impressive signs from the gods but often the eclipse of the moon is more impressive because people can actually watch it. The Babylonians thought of a lunar eclipse as a sign of the moon's anger, and that was bad. In China, traditionally an eclipse of the moon is thought of as a dragon eating the moon, another bad omen. To scare away the dragon, people would come out of their houses and make noise by banging pots and other things.
Some of the most important events in history have been marked by signs in the sky. In 312 ce the Roman emperor Constantine
(r. 306-337) had to fight an important battle at Milvian Bridge, outside of Rome. Before the battle he saw an omen in the shape of a cross above the sun in the sky and realized it was an omen from Christ that assured his victory. Because of this omen Constantine became the first Christian emperor and helped make Christianity the religion of Rome.
According to legend, in 832, before an important battle with the English, the Scottish king Angus Mac Fergus (r. 820-834) saw in the sky an omen in the form of a white X, which was the shape of the cross on which Scotland's patron, St. Andrew, was martyred. He won the battle and, to commemorate the omen, the Scottish flag today has a white X on a blue field.19
Not all omens are so huge and celestial. Beside the augurs in ancient Rome, there were official diviners, called haruspices, who looked for omens in the livers of animals sacrificed to the gods. Similarly Scottish diviners looked at an animal's shoulder blade for omens, and the Chinese were said to look at tortoise shells. The equivalent of haruspices can be found in most ancient cultures. The animals that received the honor of being sacrificed would probably have liked it better if people continued to look to the sky for omens, but not all earthly omens are so bloody.
People have also looked for omens in ordinary household objects. One of the most common objects is a book. This is called biblioman-cy. Biblio is derived from the Greek for book. To practice bibliomancy, all you have to do is ask a question of your Higher Self, open a book to a random page, point to any sentence or paragraph on that page, and read your answer. This works especially well with a book that you feel is important or sacred. Ancient Greeks used the Iliad and the Odyssey, Hindus used the Vedas, Islamic people used the Koran, and Christians have used the Bible for this for centuries.
^^ 52 astrology and divination
Almost any object can be used as a source of omens in this way. For example people have looked for omens in the patterns or shapes of tea leaves left in the bottom of their cup. This is called tasseomancy. Tasse is derived from the French word for cup. This term also applies if we look for omens in what is left in the bottom of our coffee cup. In the Middle East, people tend to look at the residue in an emptied wine glass instead. Similarly, looking for omens in the movements of a candle flame is called lychnomancy; looking for omens in the movements of horses, like the ancient Celts did, is called hippomancy; and looking at the behavior of cats is called ailuromancy. The list seems endless and to name the method just find the Greek word for the thing you are looking at and add mancy. You can make up your own.
omens in the body
One of the most common places that humans have sought omens is the human body. For example, people have read the lines on foreheads, which is called metoposcopy. This practice was developed by sixteenth century physician and astrologer, Jerome Cardan (1501-1576). Basically, he assigned the lines on the forehead to different planets and read them like a horoscope. Another method is to read bumps on top of a person's head, or look at the shape of his or her skull to determine a person's character. This is called phrenology and was developed by a German physician, Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828), in the nineteenth century. An older method of discerning character is to look at the shape of the face. This is called physiognomy and it can be traced back to ancient Greece. The most popular and perhaps the most ancient place to look for omens on the body, however, is the hand.
Reading the hand, more commonly known as palm reading or palmistry, is also called chiromancy. Palmistry is one of the oldest forms of divination. Palm prints found in cave paintings in France show us that prehistoric people up to 30,000 years ago were fascinated by the palm and believed that it had magical power. There is evidence that the ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Hebrews, and Chinese saw a connection between the features of the hand and a person's fate. Ancient India, however, seems to be the source of modern methods of palmistry and it is possible that the Chinese,
5erome Cardan, who invented metoposcopy, was also a devoted astrologer. Unfortunately, however, he seems to have taken a fatalistic approach and aimed at prediction rather than true divination. According to legend, Cardan used astrology to predict that he would die when he reached the age of 75. To assure the accuracy of his prediction he is said to have starved himself to death when he reached that age.20
y j the Tibetans, and the Greeks all learned the art from the Indians. Palmistry is also associated with Gypsies, who originated in India, and, at one time, it was thought that they brought the art to Western Europe. There is evidence, though, that palmistry was already taught in the West in the Middle Ages and Gypsies arrived later in the fifteenth century.
Here is a brief outline of how palmistry is done. The first thing a palmist looks at is the shape of the hand, to see if it is square or long and if the fingers are longer than the palm or the other way around. Next the palmist determines the proportions and the shape of the fingertips. There are four finger shapes that relate to four temperaments:
1 square: careful
2 pointed: sensitive
3 conic: flexible
4 spatulate: dynamic
Then there are the lines in the palm to consider (See Figure 4.3). Besides the minor lines, there are four principal lines:
1 heart line: tells of your emotional life
2 head line: tells of the quality your thinking
3 life line: shows your vitality and health (no, the length of your life line does not determine the length of your life)
4 fate line: shows if you are settled or unsettled
Generally, deep and straight lines tend to be positive and splintered, wavy, or shallow lines less positive. In addition, there are the mounds on the palm, with eight principal mounds, each associated with one of the seven planets of the ancients, except there are two for Mars, an upper and a lower (see Figure 4.4 for positions).
1 Venus: health and sexuality
2 Moon: sensitivity and imagination
3 Mars: courage and temper (split into an upper and lower mound)
4 Jupiter: selfishness or generosity
5 Saturn: ambition
6 Apollo or Sun: taste and self-image
7 Mercury: thinking and wit
The larger mounds show overdeveloped traits and flat mounds are underdeveloped traits. Medium size mounds are best. The palmist also needs to consider all those funny little marks like Xs and Os and how they interact with everything else. You can see the five principle minor marks in Table 4.1.
Although different palmist may have different ideas about what these things in the hand mean, traditionally, a palmist would look at each part of the hand in this way and tell a person all about their character and their life in the past and in the future. At their worst, palmists have actually tried to tell clients when they will marry, how many children they will have, when they will get sick, and how long they table 4.1: The Minor Marks of the Hand
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