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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

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a conjecture or surmise, formed concerning future events, from things which are supposed to presage them. The eastern people were always fond of divination, magic, the curious arts of interpreting dreams, and of obtaining a knowledge of future events. When Moses published the law, this disposition had long been common in Egypt and the neighbouring countries. To prevent the Israelites from consulting diviners, fortune tellers, interpreters of dreams, &c, he forbade them, under very severe penalties, to consult persons of this description, and promised to them the true spirit of prophecy as infinitely superior. He commanded those to be stoned who pretended to have a familiar spirit, or the spirit of divination, Deuteronomy 18:9-10; Deuteronomy 18:15 . The writings of the prophets are full of invectives against the Israelites who consulted diviners, and against false prophets who by such means seduced the people.

2. Different kinds of divination have passed for sciences, as

1. Aeromancy, divining by the air.

2. Astrology, by the heavens.

3. Augury, by the flight and singing of birds, &c.

4. Cheiromancy, by inspecting the lines of the hand.

5. Geomancy, by observing cracks or clefts in the earth.

6. Haruspicy, by inspecting the bowels of animals.

7. Horoscopy, a branch of astrology, marking the position of the heavens when a person is born.

8. Hydromancy, by water.

9. Physiognomy, by the countenance.

10. Pyromancy, a divination made by fire.

3. The kinds of divination, to which superstition in modern times has given belief, are not less numerous, or less ridiculous, than those which were practised in the days of profound ignorance. The divining rod, which is mentioned in Scripture, is still in some repute in the north of England, though its application is now confined principally to the discovery of veins of lead ore, seams of coal, or springs. In order that it may possess the full virtue for this purpose, it should be made of hazel. Divination by Virgilian, Horatian, or Bible lots, was formerly very common; and the last kind is still practised. The works are opened by chance, and the words noticed which are covered by the thumb: if they can be interpreted in any respect relating to the person, they are reckoned prophetic. Charles I. is said to have used this kind of divination to ascertain his fate. The ancient Christians were so much addicted to the sortes sanctorum, or divining by the Bible, that it was expressly forbidden by a council. Divination by the speal, or blade bone of a sheep, is used in Scotland. In the Highlands it is called sleina-reached, or reading the speal bone. It was very common in England in the time of Drayton, particularly among the colony of Flemings settled in Pembroke- shire. Camden relates of the Irish, that they looked through the bare blade bone of a sheep; and if they saw any spot in it darker than ordinary, they believed that somebody would be buried out of the house. The Persians used this mode of divination.

4. Of all attempts to look into futurity by such means, as well as resorting to charms and other methods of curing diseases, and discovering secrets, we may say, that they are relics of Paganism, and argue an ignorance, folly, or superstition, dishonourable to the Christian name; and are therefore to be reproved and discouraged.

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Divination'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary.​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​d/divination.html. 1831-2.