We’ve looked into the future and we’ve seen… a roundup episode! Julia leads Amanda through the foggy future with some of her favorite divinatory practices. Also featuring rock kids, on-the-spot D&D character creation, our Pro-Onion Podcast, gelato-filled veins, and letting the universe surprise you.
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Amanda: Welcome to Spirits Podcast, a boozy dive into mythology, legends and folklore. Every week, we pour a drink and learn about a new story from around the world. I'm Amanda.
Julia: And I'm Julia.
Amanda: And this is Episode 93, Divination.
Julia: Yes. We've looked into the future and we see a very enjoyable episode.
Amanda: That's so much better. I was going to say not just the worst subject at Hogwarts.
Julia: Well, that would be also fair.
Amanda: Well, folks who could pass even the most, I don't know, let's say pseudosciency of magics are our new patrons, Josie, Clarissa and Madison as well as our supporting producer-level patrons. Those upper classmen who are like, "Yo, Trelawney is the worst." Here's what we have to know, everything's a grim. Don't worry about it. Philip, Julie, Christina, Eeyore, Josie, Sam, Amora, Ella, Ashley Marie, Neil, Jessica, Maria, Ryan, Phil, and Debra.
Julia: And you know who never sees death science in their divinatory practices, Amanda?
Amanda: Is that our legend level patrons?
Julia: It is.
Amanda: Alyssa, Zoey, Lorelei, Cassie, Sarah, Sandra, Audra, Jack and Leanne.
Julia: You all use only the coolest versions of divination and see only the best futures.
Amanda: Oh, so cute.
Julia: Our recommendation this week is the Audio Drama, Greater Boston, which I mentioned a little bit in the episode but if you like magic realism, world building and just like really good character development, their new season, season 3 just dropped yesterday as you're listening to this.
Amanda: It is really great. They were some of our first friends in the podcasting space. They're just all incredible people and you may hear some familiar voices if you decide to binge on the past seasons.
Julia: You may. You may also hear some familiar voices coming up in the upcoming season. We are sponsored this week by RXBAR. You can go to rxbar.com/spirits and enter the promo code SPIRITS at checkout for 25% off your first order and we'll tell you a little bit more about that later on in the episode.
Also, if you get the chance, please check out our sister shows at multitude.productions. We have amazing shows that are all about the pure, unadulterated love of nerdy things. So, we have HORSE which is about the NBA and basketball but not about who scored the most points. It's all about the like cool fuse and the conspiracy theories and stuff like that.
Amanda: We have joined the party which is an audio drama told through the rules of Dungeons and Dragons. It is so beautifully scored in sound design. I promise, it will keep you company if you're up like studying or commuting to work or just getting through your day. Whatever the fall has to bring you, it will be a great accompaniment.
Julia: We also have Potterless which is our friend Mike Schubert's journey through reading the Harry Potter books for the first time as a 26-year-old man. And let me tell you, it is some of the funniest stuff you can hear on the internet right now.
Amanda: And Waystation is your pop culture rewatch destination for the queer Canadian TV show Lost Girl. It's got some fae lore. It's got me and Eric trying to explain history and research of folklore and things. It's a lot harder than it seems. We love making podcasts for a living and the more you all love our shows, the more you recommend them to your friends and teach people who don't yet know the wonderful burden that is being a podcast listener, how to listen to podcasts, the happier we all are.
That is all waiting for you at multitude.productions or just search Multitude in your podcast player. And with that, enjoy Spirits Podcast Episode 93, Divination.
Julia: So, Amanda, let me set the scene for you.
Amanda: Yes, please.
Julia: It is late afternoon. You've taken the trip up to upstate New York. Maybe you did a little hiking or canoeing that day and after a long day, you're tired. What you do is you find a nice little area in a field. You lay at a blanket and you sprawl across it just kind of letting your aching muscles rest for a bit.
It's been a long day so you decide to partake in an age-old tradition, cloud gazing.
Amanda: Okay, watching the clouds go by. I like it.
Julia: So, the clouds move slowly overhead and you let your imagination wander. You're finding shapes in the clouds. First, you see a castle. You spot a castle. You can see the spires and the stonewalls and in your mind you connect these symbols with protection and strength. You feel kind of comforted by the slowly rolling clouds in a way that you can't quite describe.
Amanda: Checks out so far. I do find the clouds to be very idyllic, slow, let your mind wander, very meditative. Your smile tells me not for long though.
Julia: Well, no. Interestingly, Amanda, what may be just a mundane day for you is actually a practice that dates back to Deuteronomy and Moses and the Roman emperor Flavius Valerius Leo Augustus. And that is nephomancy, the divination where one reads omens in the position, color and shape of the clouds.
Amanda: Amazing. So close to necromancy and yet so far.
Julia: Not necromancy, very different things. But obviously, this is not the only way that people have attempted to divinate the past, present and future through science and nature either from the gods or just from the universe. It doesn't matter who's sending the messages. People have always looked through these messages.
Amanda: Yeah, that's all we want, right? It's like insight into the future and our present and if we're doing it right or wrong or like what the hell we should do next.
Julia: Exactly. So, during my research, I found over 300 different types of divination but for this roundup, we're obviously not going to dig into all 300 because we would be here for literal days.
Amanda: Divination watch, a podcast within a podcast.
Julia: But today, I wanted to pick some of the more interesting ones for us to discuss today. Interesting being interesting to me because it's our show and I get to decide what we research. Here are Julia's Top 10 Forms of Divination in no particular order.
Amanda: Yeah, love a list. Love a list.
Julia: The first one I'd like to talk about is lithomancy. So I'm going to have you guess before each of these what they are. So, your first guess is lithomancy. Tell me what you think.
Amanda: I am thinking about the printing process, so I'm thinking about either paper or ink.
Julia: Okay. Do you know what litho is in the printmaking field?
Amanda: I thought a lithograph was like a pre-copy or pre-xerox way of copying stuff.
Julia: It is, but specifically it's one where it's carved into a stone, so lithomancy is divination told using either gems or stones.
Amanda: Hell, yeah. Guess not totally off base.
Julia: I'm very proud of you actually. I expect you to get none of these, to be quite honest.
Amanda: I did take a lot of classes about early printing process in early books because I find it fascinating but it must have been buried in my subconscious somewhere.
Julia: I appreciate that. So, lithomancy was a popular practice in the British Isles though some historians date it back to Constantinople during the late 800s. Described by St. Photius I, who describes the practice being used by a physician named Eusebius.
Amanda: If you could like TARDIS style, visit a time and place without any language or health barriers, wouldn't you choose Constantinople like that would be pretty high up on my list. It just seems like such a fascinating melding of worlds and moments and that sounds great.
Julia: I 100% agree. I would totally go to Constantinople. So, the British Isle method uses 13 stones that represent love, magic, fortune, home, life and then the astrological science: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the sun and the moon. The meanings of each of these stones depends on the reader. Love meaning passion, honesty, relationships but then Venus could also cover the same aspects.
One would throw the stones and the omens were interpreted through the pattern that the stones landed in, how the light reflected off of them, all that kind of stuff.
Amanda: Fascinating. It's like tea leaves but bigger and heartier.
Julia: Well, they didn't necessarily have to be like giant stones. They could have just been like I have a couple of like amethyst and I'm going to throw these down.
Amanda: I know both of us are rock kids, Julia, and that rest stops and museums gift shops where they just sold rocks to kids because capitalism we both took.
Julia: Now, I kind of want to think like, well, if you were a rock kid in the 90s, what does that say about you now?
Amanda: You're a bisexual podcaster, I think.
Julia: I mean, honestly, probably. The stones are read in order from the stone that is closest to the center stone so they would set one center stone and then throw the rest around it. So, you would read them in order from closest to the center stone to farthest from the center stone.
Amanda: It's fortune botchy.
Julia: I know and if the stone lands more than six inches away from the center stone, they were not considered during the reading. So, you see that like moon one roll away like two feet away, like yeah, no moon this time.
Amanda: No moon for the rest of your life, I guess. No, Jeremy, it went into a sand trap.
Julia: The stones are supposed to be read like a story rather than an answer. So, when you're reading it, it's not being like, "Oh, will I find true love and the stones are like, 'Yeah, you got it.'" It's more like, "What's my next year going to be like?" And then the stones tell the story of what your next year is going to be like.
Amanda: I like it. I like it and regardless of your stance on if any of the stuff has a real ties to things that might happen in the future, it is helpful to ask yourself what questions you're interested in, what problems take up your mind and what stories are appealing to you like that's good information to have.
Julia: Absolutely. Usually, the certain stones are recommended to represent certain aspects. For example, the love stone was usually used as rose quartz, pink tourmaline, alexandrite or pink diamond which seems expensive. I wouldn't just be throwing around pink diamonds everywhere. That's just me.
Amanda: I guess this is done by high society folks. They may have the flashy set of divination stones.
Julia: There are like tarot decks out there are expensive as hell and-
Amanda: Or Dungeons and Dragons dice.
Julia: Oh, yeah. I love a good ... actually, Dungeons and Dragons dice as these stones would be very interesting, just saying for the future.
Amanda: Yeah, like little stars.
Julia: The next form of divination is chiromancy. Amanda, would you like to guess what chiromancy is?
Julia: Okay. No, it is a form of prognostication that involves melting wax.
Amanda: Nope, didn't get that one. Another sexual enhancement of your bedroom for some, I supposed.
Amanda: Therefore, I'm not completely in left fields. I'm kind of close to the dugout.
Julia: I almost for a sec was like, "What do you mean another?" And then you're like, "Oh, feathers." Got it.
Amanda: Yeah, yeah.
Julia: It has roots in ancient Celtic traditions with the earliest recorded mention of it from 500. It is sometimes associated with hydromancy which is interpreting omens through water.
Julia: Proud of you.
Amanda: See, I got that one.
Julia: You're so good.
Julia: Because it is traditionally done by melting a candle then pouring the hot wax into a bowl of cold water and reading the shape that the wax mix.
Amanda: This sounds like great modern arts so far.
Julia: No, it sounds really pretty, right? Imagine the different colors and stuff if you're melting different colored candles?
Amanda: Yeah, MOMA, get in touch. We can curate this.
Julia: So, a diviner could take a look at the hardened wax and determine distinct patterns, letters, numbers or symbols that the hardened wax make. Another form of this is by placing wax in a bronze bowl, covering it with water, and then bringing the water to boil and then reading the shape of the wax once the water is cooled.
Amanda: That sounds like harder to clean up.
Julia: There's another form that doesn't involve water at all but rather the reader examines a candle as it burns making note of the actions of the flame and the shape of the melting wax as it drips. This practice started in Europe but it has since spread to the Americas, and specifically it's been practiced as part of Santeria or hoodoo traditions.
Amanda: That's really lovely and sounds again very meditative like starting into a candle flame. I know that when I want to have like a nice night and have like self-care and be really like quiet and lovely and restore myself, I like to light some candles on my dresser and that's a part of a tradition for me. I can definitely see how like getting quiet, going into yourself really concentrating and watching one thing can help you find some answers.
Julia: And these traditions, they tend to focus more on the candle reading than the actual shape of the wax so they read science by the way that the candle burns. The type of smoke that emerges, the glass that the candles encased in whether it shatters or breaks. For example, if a glass shatters or breaks during a candle reading, it means that you're up against something larger than yourself or that you're not strong enough to deal with what is being thrown at you.
Julia: Yeah. White smoke from the candle indicates spiritual communication or purity while a city burn references a negative influence or an obstacle that is to be unblocked.
Amanda: I wonder if ... Now, I'm thinking about like political intrigue novel where courtesan or whatever like makes candles that they figure out will burn with certain signs or like puts them in a container that they know is too small or in a candle-making process like laces it with phosphorus or something that will make like a white smoke plume. That sounds like a great way to get a ruler to do what you want.
Julia: I want you to make a D&D character that does that, please, and thank you.
Amanda: I think Anara would have to get a lot classier to make that happen but I love it.
Julia: Next up is gastromancy and I'll let you take a guess.
Amanda: Is it food or stomachs?
Julia: You're half right. This is a trick question because it has two definitions. The first form of divination is interpreting the sounds and signs from the belly.
Amanda: Sounds, yes. No, please never put your ear anywhere near there.
Julia: And the other is crystal ball gazing which is a reference to gazing at a round or belly shaped object in order to foresee the future.
Amanda: I don't believe that. I don't believe that.
Julia: No, it's true. It's genuinely true.
Amanda: I believe it but that sounds like some early medieval scholars being like, "No, these words sound similar."
Julia: I will give a shout-out to the Audio Drama Greater Boston because they have a character that uses gastromancy as a recurring theme.
Amanda: Okay, I take it back. Those guys do their damn research so I wholeheartedly believe the both of you.
Julia: And I don't, Amanda.
Amanda: Listen, it looks like a belly. Also looks like, I don't know, a ball or a circle or a globe or anything.
Julia: Listen, it has other names but gastromancy is one of the names that it has. I'm just saying.
Amanda: Okay, tell me about this digestive witchery.
Julia: Okay. The first definition that I gave you has a slightly complicated history actually. On the surface, it would seem that a diviner could either read their own or someone else's stomach noises after they ate, and therefore could interpret the grumblings to predict a person's future.
Amanda: How about their immediate future and digestive wellness?
Julia: Yeah, that too probably. That's something you talk to your doctor about instead though.
Amanda: Yeah, I must say though every time Griffin McElroy mentions his IBS on one of his podcasts, I think like "Fuck yeah, solidarity." So, fellow IBS sufferers, I think this is not the form of divination for us and our loved ones.
Julia: Well, interestingly, this form of divination actually is a history-related to ventriloquism.
Julia: Yeah. So, in this version, the diviner would stand over a grave and would speak in a voice that was low and hallow, a voice that they were said to come from their stomach, hence, the name gastromancy. And they would be said to channel a dead spirit during a trance-like state making it sound as if the voice was coming from the grave.
Amanda: Oh, damn.
Julia: Yeah, which is really cool. It's like, "Oh, I'm going to make ..." Like throwing your voice so it makes it sound like the voice is coming out of a grave. That is so awesome. I love that.
Amanda: That is really awesome and spooky and I love it a lot.
Julia: So, the crystal ball gazing version of gastromancy is much more well-known. A diviner is said to see visions in a crystal ball while in a trance-like state. It could be divination but it's also a form of scrying which specifically visions that the diviner chooses to see.
Amanda: So, like going for a specific question instead of like general, "What's in store for me?"
Julia: Right, or more like, "I want to see what so and so is doing. Is he cheating on me right now?" That kind of thing.
Amanda: Got it.
Julia: "Let me see what my enemies are up to." That kind of thing is more scrying style.
Amanda: I see.
Julia: The next form that we're going to do is called literomancy.
Amanda: Is it about books?
Julia: Kind of. You're getting good at this. I'm proud of you. It's actually a Chinese method of divination. In China, it is known as "cezi". It is a form of divination based on shapes of characters or letters. So, the literomancer asks the person requesting the reading for a subject either a single character or letter or maybe a name. They then analyze the character that they've been presented with, then read the curves and the lines of the character.
Sometimes, it's applied to signatures as well, similar to like what a professional handwriting analyst would do, reading the way that the word or character is written and then interpreting that.
Amanda: So, this would be a character or word written by the person you want to learn more about?
Julia: Either that or it's written by the asker if it's like a phrase or a question.
Amanda: That sounds really cool and it does have merit.
Julia: Modern interpretations of this now use things like email addresses and instant message handles as subject for a literomancer which is really cool.
Amanda: Yeah, and it also like completely judge people by their OkCupid usernames. Yeah.
Julia: Absolutely. That's just like it makes sense. You can tell a lot about a person by like the name that they choose or the way that they write things down so I think that it's completely fair to use this type of divination.
Amanda: Hell, yeah.
Julia: There is also another form of this called gematria, which is similar to numerology assigning numerical value to words but this specifically uses the Hebrew alphabet. I like that one. I feel words can hold a lot of meaning past just like their literal translation as we know.
Amanda: Yeah, especially people's signatures or I imagine in Chinese, just having that really like lovely and dense writing system. It gives you so much to analyze and it's all about, I think usernames is a great modern example of how people decide to present themselves to the world like that is a choice that maybe it's the opposite of how they are in their day to day or it's an ideal version of how they want to present themselves. But it's information and that is absolutely worth knowing.
Julia: Absolutely. I agree 100%. Number five is maybe one of my favorites on the list and I've mentioned it on the show before. But this is cromniomancy.
Amanda: Well, chrono is clocks so it's probably not that one.
Julia: Cromnio. It's a hard one. You'll probably not going to get it.
Amanda: I should have taken Latin.
Julia: It is divination told by onion sprouts.
Julia: I've mentioned it on the show before but I think it's really, really cute and I totally want to dig into it a little bit further.
Amanda: Making IBS, I guess, the true light of our divination episode, I know that I am completely intolerant to all members of the allium family, which is like onions and garlic and all the delicious things that make food and life worth living.
Julia: You are.
Amanda: I would have guessed that if that is the Latin root of this word. I'm trying to help myself feel better than-nevermind
Julia: No, it's okay. It's okay. You're not going to get all of them. You're not like Mike Schubert who has taken just all the Latin and knows all the words.
Amanda: Apparently, he's a Latin's man.
Julia: He's a Latin's man. Okay-
Amanda: Latin's menos, I don't know any Latin, I'm so sorry.
Julia: No. It's okay. It's okay. I'm doing my best here. I know a little bit. I know enough to get by. Okay, so we find examples of cromniomancy in Europe, Africa, Northern Asia, but mostly because the onion is a much revered symbol of spirituality in a lot of cultures.
Amanda: Didn't know that.
Didn't know that either.Traditionally, omens were read by color, smell, direction and form of onion sprouts but there was a more direct way of asking the onions the secrets of the universe. Like you do, you think, "Oh, I have this question that only the universe or the gods can answer. Let me carve it into an onion."
Amanda: Listen, onions are beautiful foods that give us so many tastes and smells and enjoyments.
Julia: That is true.
Amanda: And it makes sense to me that something that looks so unassuming but actually is so like delicious and worthwhile and has health benefits that people have used for a long time as natural remedies, I'm going to defend the onion here. Shrek was not the first, in fact, to use the onion as a particularly rich metaphor and way to live your life.
Julia: Listen, I'm pro onion. Let's get this straight for the listeners. I am pro onion.
Amanda: All right, tell me more. Tell me more.
Julia: The best example is what is suggested that a young woman do in order to choose between suitors. She would take two or more onions depending on how many suitors she's balancing. Maybe she's a badass, whatevs. And she would carve the names of the suitors into the onions. She would then either leave them by the fire or bury them preferably on the first day of December. I don't know why but- like you do.
She would then wait to see which onion would sprout because that would indicate who her true love was.
Amanda: Interesting. I mean, it makes sense that you would want to choose the person who seems to have good vibes and like life sprouting from them. And that's a really ... Can you imagine like sitting there day after day and looking at the ground in the depths of December and waiting for some seedling to poke up? Like what a lovely feeling that must be or I guess bad, depending on who you actually wanted it to be the one.
Julia: I love it and also, if you're already know who you want to be one, maybe you like bury that. Subconsciously, you bury that one a little closer to the top of the soil than the other ones.
Amanda: Yeah, give it a little more loving, I don't know.
Julia: Basically, one could kind of pose any sort of question, carve the answers onto the onion and then whichever one sprouted first would be their answer, which is just kind of great. It'd be like yes or no questions. One onion is the yes onion. One onion is the no onion.
Amanda: It's like playing 20 questions or figuring out if you should move away from home or not, like it's awesome. Oh, gosh, I love this.
Julia: It's definitely not the quickest form of divination that we have on the list but it's certainly one of the more entertaining ones.
Amanda: Yeah, and like I don't know, just this image of like looking at the ground and waiting for something to pop up like that is so ... I don't know, to me so far that's the most striking like actual image you would see with your eyes when the answer arrives. Like okay, so you look in the water and there's wax that's formed. You look in the crystal ball and you see a glint or you look in candle flame and you see a certain color but this is like an unfurling of green where there's previously nothing. And I don't know, in my head, it just pops like if a couple decides to get engaged, maybe they can like plant a plant the day they decide and then like when it grows and comes out of the soil, that's time to get ...
I don't know, I love like the plant poking out of the ground as a sign and it's beautiful.
Julia: No, it's much more straightforward answer than a lot of the other forms of divination that are on this list for sure.
Amanda: What if none thought? Do you become a witch then if none?
Julia: Oh, no. Then you're just ... Yeah, you're just the talented witch now. Your fiancee is the raven that hangs out on your porch.
Amanda: Bird husband, bird husband.
Julia: Bird husband.
Amanda: It's a husband who's a bird, bird husband.
Julia: Bird husband. So good. Cromniomancy was also used in Southern Germany to predict the weather during the year. On the 31st of December on the feast of Pope Sylvester I, 12 onions are chosen. Their tops are cut off and the several of the inner layers are removed in order to form a cup shape.
Then a pinch of salt is dropped into every onion and they're left in a darkened room overnight. So the amount of liquid in each onion represents how much rain or snowfall there will be and each onion coincides with the month of the year.
Amanda: Fascinating, completely devoid from reality from what I can tell.
Julia: Fair, probably.
Amanda: But my grandmother always told me that in Upstate New York where they live, there are rowan trees and she says that you can predict how much snow is coming in a given winter by how voluminous the berries are on that tree in spring. Every winter, whenever we went up for the first time in the spring, we would like look eagerly at the rowan tree next to the house to say like, "Oh, wow, like how many berries? If it's really laden, it's going to be a super snowy winter."
Julia: To be fair weather it's a crapshoot no matter what.
Amanda: What is a crapshoot?
Julia: It's impossible. Anyway, we'll move on to more prognosticatory practices, Amanda. But first, I need a refill.
Amanda: Me too.
Julia: So, Amanda went to go grab some ice real quick but guess who showed up?
Eric: It's me, Editor Eric, the bartender.
Julia: Hello, Editor Eric, the bartender. You've so many titles now.
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Julia: And thank you so much, Eric, for bartending for us during this refill and we're going to get back to the story. Amanda, the next one that we're going to talk about, the next form of divination is the I Ching which is a specific type of form of a divination known as cleromancy. Do you want to take a guess?
Amanda: I'm thinking about Clariel by Garth Nix, and I don't want to get it wrong.
Julia: You're going to get wrong. I'm sorry.
Amanda: No, I got nothing.
Julia: It is the casting of lots or basically any tossing of random items such as dice.
Julia: I Ching is slightly complicated, so I'm going to do my best to explain it but it's really interesting. The Book of Changes which is the English translation for I Ching consists of 64 different combinations and what they represent. Each combination is made out of six lines which are either a broken line which is the yin or the solid line which is the yang. The lines are generated randomly through various methods, depends on what period of time we're looking at.
The original method was done through cracks in a turtle shell known as plastromancy. The diviner would heat the shell up usually using a hot poker and then interpret the cracks using the I Ching method. Other versions would use ox shoulder bones instead of turtle shells. There's another version that uses yarrow stalks where 50 cuts of stalk were used roughly sorted to do piles and then separated into lots of four. And then the separation continues until the values could be determined in order to form the lines in the I Ching. A little complicated, lot of math going on here.
Amanda: Yeah, but it gives you a lot of data. I see how this feels like quantitative. You know what I mean?
Julia: Yes. I am one of those bi-s that can drive but not do math. This is a little complicated for me. The other form of I Ching is the three-coin method which is probably one of the more popular methods. Three coins are tossed at once. Each coin is given a value of either three or two depending on if it's heads which is three and tails which is two. The coins are then tossed six times and that forms the hexagram which is the lines that you're using to interpret what your thing is basically.
Dice can also be used. Traditionally, a D8 is used and the values are determined using the same yarrow method as before. Other things can also be used: Rice grains, marbles, beads, astrological calendars, anything that you can basically quantify numbers to and then interpret it later on into the solid line, broken line, whatever.
Amanda: Cool. It sounds very adaptable, like you use what's at hand to get the cosmological data that you need and then you interpret it using this known system.
Julia: Yeah, and I think that works great because when we talked about the first one, we're talking about how like, "Yeah, it seems inexpensive," just be like throwing diamonds around to predict the future. But this one is just like, "You have rice grains? That works."
Julia: You got some marbles or some bead maybe? Perfect.
Amanda: Yeah, and it feels very connected to the universe, like the universe and fate and whatever the word is that you use can make itself known through whatever channel is at hand.
Julia: We're going to move on to our next form of divination which is called geloscopy.
Amanda: Sounds like a medical procedure where they put gelato into your veins.
Julia: I wish that was me.
Amanda: I know.
Julia: I wish that was me. If my veins were just filled with hazelnut gelato all the time, it would be amazing.
Amanda: What if an endoscopy-
Julia: I don't care if I die immediately.
Amanda: That would be really good.
Julia: Is that your guess?
Julia: Gelato in the veins?
Amanda: Yes, it is.
Julia: It is in fact the interpretation of someone's tone or manner of laughter.
Amanda: Okay, like I do when I taste really good gelato. I yell and then laugh.
Julia: Fair enough. Let's see what the fates would have in store for you if that's the case.
Julia: Traditionally, the diviner would put the subject in some sort of trance or mania. And then while in that trance, get them to achieve hysterical laughter. They would then be able to interpret this laughter in order to determine the omens that would affect their fate.
Amanda: Okay, could be worse. Could be screening but still strikes me as a pretty scary image.
Julia: Yeah. It seems a little terrifying. Imagine you're just like sitting in like a trance and all of a sudden, you just start hysterically laughing.
Amanda: Or seeing someone else do that. Yeah, that's a lot.
Julia: Yeah, no. it's like some weird joker gas bullshit.
Amanda: I don't know but like handwriting, I feel like laughter can tell a lot about a person. My grandma has sort of complimented people's laughs before and be like, "Oh, she has a lovely laugh. Like she seems like a really genuine person." And I'm like, "Okay, grandma, like sure."
Julia: Well, your grandma might be practicing geloscopy. One of the folk beliefs of geloscopy says that "If you laugh till you cry, you'll have sorrows till you die".
Julia: So, I'm fucked because I cry-laugh all the time.
Amanda: Me too. That does not bode well for me.
Julia: It is also said that you can tell the kind of person that someone is by the way their laugh happens. So, your grandma was right. For example, someone who actually says, "Ha," when they laugh is an honest person but they can also be undependable.
Amanda: Okay, okay. Tell me more.
Julia: A person who laughs a lot and openly is said to be sincere and good natured.
Amanda: Checks out.
Julia: People who hardly laugh are persistent and reserved, though that kind of seems obvious. We'd just assume that's the case.
Julia: Quiet laughter means someone is easy and kind while loud laughter means that someone is harsh and has the tendency to lie which doesn't seem right to me.
Amanda: Maybe the people who came up with the system were like people are not funny. If you think people are funny all the time, you're obviously lying.
Julia: Fuck people who are loud, basically is what that comes down to.
Amanda: I don't know. This is so wrapped up in like conditioning, like societal conditioning also.
Julia: Oh, for sure, 100%. Okay, the next one is called Nggam. It is a type of divination specifically practiced by the Mambila people of Cameroon and Nigeria. The term Nggam is a general Mambila term for divination but it's specifically refers to divination told through the actions of spiders or crabs.
Julia: The spider/crab is important because they symbolically are associated with wisdom and the royalty/upper classes. It is also said that the spider/crab is able to cross between the world of the living and the dead which provides them with otherworldly knowledge, so makes sense that we're respecting the crab/spider in this case.
Amanda: Oh, yeah.
Julia: What you do in order to get the spider/crab, usually a spider, to help you tell the future is you would use a system of leaf cards that are marked with symbolic images. These are cards that are made out of tree leaves or palm ribs. The diviner would go out and find a spider hole, clearing the surrounding area. An old pot with a broken bottom is taken which is used to contain the spider.
The diviner would then ask a question, place a set of leaf cards in the pot along with the spider. The diviner then would call to the spider to come out, come out and then the pot is left there overnight. Once the spider has left the pot, the lid is removed and the cards are checked. And the resulting pattern is interpreted by the diviner to answer the question. So, either the spider moved around the cards in order to answer the question or the crab did or what have you.
I like the idea. It's just like, "Okay, we're going to trap the spider in here. However he moves around, that's going to answer our question."
Amanda: Yeah, and it reminds me of a nonce and kind of like the spider seems to be a pretty significant figure or at least like a good target for projecting otherworldliness onto it. It does seem like spooky and knows things, and comes out of nowhere and I can definitely see that association, and what are crabs but the spiders of the sea.
Julia: I mean, that's true. They both have 10 legs?
Julia: Spiders have 10 legs, right?
Julia: Eight? Fuck. Well, crabs have eight legs and then pincers in the front. So, yeah, checks out. They're just spiders of the sea. You're right.
The next one we are going to talk about is moleosophy or moleomancy.
Amanda: Moleo ... A, can I just say, isn't mancy just the best suffix?
Julia: I really like it.
Amanda: So witchy. I want what we do to be called audiomancy. I think it would be amazing. I got no guesses, Julia. Sorry.
Julia: If we wanted to get the dictionary term for what "mancy" is, it is basically a combining form meaning divination and a kind specified by the initial element. For example, necromancy would be dead divination.
Amanda: Is that true? I thought necromancy was like the raising of the dead.
Julia: It kind of is. A necromancy in particular is the practice of communicating with the dead but not necessarily bringing them back from the dead.
Amanda: Oh, got you.
Julia: If we're talking like D&D, you get spells as a necromancer to like raise the dead and stuff. But mostly it's like talking to the dead in order to receive like information from beyond.
Amanda: And Spirit's favorite official necromancer, Sabriel, speaks with the dead and communicates and learns from them in addition to being able to raise or kill the dead. It's complicated. Read Sabriel.
Julia: It's great. You should 100% read it. Moleomancy, it is divination based on the observation or interpretation of bodily marks, specifically moles.
Amanda: I was just thinking that. As you were saying it, I was like, "Man, I should have guessed moles but that might have been too dumb even for me." Wow.
Julia: I would have then asked you mean the ones on your bodies or the ones that dig through the ground? But it's the ones on your bodies.
Julia: One of the best historical examples of moleomancy was by Seleucus Nicator who is the first Macedonian king of Syria. And he claimed that he had received from Apollo an anchor-shaped birthmark on his right thigh.
Amanda: I mean, it seems like the touch of a God, right?
Julia: It certainly does.
Amanda: Kids are born with ... They're blank except when they're not and like the ... I don't know. It makes sense to me that this is sort of like inbred characteristic that's so personal, so private, unchangeable and nothing can't really like get rid of over time. Yeah, like why wouldn't that be significant?
Julia: I 100% agree. I think that like ... It kind of delves into the idea of what's the thing called where it was like if you get read the bumps on someone's head, you could tell their future or whatever, or like what kind of person they are.
Amanda: Oh, yeah, phrenology and anaphoresis.
Julia: Exactly. I'm always a little hesitant about like if your body looks this way, that means you're going to be a criminal or something like that. That seems kind of shitty but I think this one is just teetering on that edge.
Amanda: Yeah. I'll just specify I like it as a self-diagnostic tool and being like, "Do you see this? I'm going to be captain of the sea." I don't know. I think it's great.
Julia: If that's what your mole say, power to you. There is a text on how to read moles called "On the Olives of the Body" which just, oh my god, calling moles and birthmarks olives is my favorite thing in the world.
Amanda: That is fucking adorable. Also, can we return to the time where all books started with the word "on"?
Julia: Yes, I would like that very much.
Amanda: I was such an academic nerd. I missed it. Just bring it to me, please.
Julia: Here are some examples from the text, On the Olives of the Body.
Amanda: Oh my God.
Julia: It's so good. A mark on the back of the throat suggests that the person in question will die of beheading.
Julia: Yeah, because that's something that definitely happen still.
Amanda: Is it supposed to be like target for the ax? Because that's poetically fuck.
Julia: It'd be like, "Ah, well, you got to a mark there. That means your head is going to come off."
Julia: So, it's a bit of a jump, a bit of a leap there. If you have a mark on your nose and also genitals, you are a horny person.
Amanda: No. That's completely not true.
Julia: The shape and color of the moles also influences what your fate will be. You have a red colored mole, you have a very favorable fortune. Black moles, nah, you're fucked.
Amanda: Uh-oh. I mean, pay attention to your moles, it may be an early indication of skin cancer but-
Julia: That is true.
Amanda: ... beyond that? No, man.
Julia: There are some very weirdly specific futures that can be told for moles on boobs. And as someone who has like two or three moles on my boobs, I will tell what my future is. A mole on the right breast of a woman means that she will have more sons, lead an ordinary life and will die before her husband.
Amanda: Fuck you.
Julia: I know. It's like, "Don't tell me what it's going to be. Don't tell me my life just because I have this mole." But yeah, that's moleomancy which is just kind of hilarious to me. Our final method of divination is apantomancy.
Amanda: Well, pantomime is silent acting via the body.
Amanda: So, maybe through motion?
Julia: You're not completely off.
Julia: I will give you that. It is basically divination using things that present themselves by chance.
Amanda: Okay, not what I was guessing but cool.
Julia: It doesn't sound as interesting as some of the other ones that I've listed but I actually really like it because I feel like it's something that people do all the time. For example, the superstition about black cats crossing your path comes from apantomancy.
Amanda: Oh, sure.
Julia: The diviner or seer basically interprets symbolic meaning from chance encounters with things like birds or animals or what have you.
Amanda: Like omens.
Julia: There are several different ... Yeah, exactly. But there are several different types of apantomancy which can interpret the appearance of animals and nature. For example, ailuromancy interprets the appearance of cats. Ophidiomancy is about snake behavior, and myromomancy is ants.
Julia: And then augury is about interpreting bird formations in nature.
Amanda: Fascinating. I mean, this to me is such a kind of natural extension of like pattern recognition. And if this, then that stuff that made our brains really good at surviving as a species like, "Oh, I see a bunch of trampled weeds. Probably someone bigger than me has come through here. Probably I should hide."
Julia: No, it's your weird monkey brain being like, "Oh, no. This thing. We shouldn't do this."
Amanda: Yeah. And I don't know, the Spidey senses like that sounds like it kind of checks out.
Julia: I think that one, I wanted to end on that one only because it does logically make the most sense for human beings to kind of put those things together, and like you said, recognize patterns. One of the biggest ones that I can think of is by how many black birds are in an area, you can tell like what your day is going to be like. One for sadness, two for mirth, three for marriage, four for birth, five for laughing, six for crying, seven for sickness, eight for dying, nine for silver, ten for gold, 11 for a secret that will never be told.
Amanda: I love creepy nursery rhymes. Childhood was so much creepier looking back on it than we knew at the time.
Julia: Yeah. I feel like kids just in general don't think of things as creepy until they are adults, like the Coraline book. Coraline creeps me out now as an adult human being. I loved the book as a kid.
Amanda: Yeah. And as always, we are super open to your creepy kid stories or things that looking back on, you did not realize was creepy about yourself or your surrounding spiritspodcast.com.
Julia: I'm going to wrap it up with some honorary mentions.
Amanda: Oh, yeah.
Julia: The first one is rumpology which is basically palm reading but for butts.
Amanda: Yes. I thought so. I hope so. I prayed so, and so it was.
Julia: The next one is cephaleonomancy which is fortune told by boiling a donkey's head.
Julia: Retromancy which is future told by looking over someone's shoulder.
Amanda: Damn it. I really thought you're going to say from looking over your past, by which I was going to say like, "Yeah, dog. Like do that."
Julia: Yeah, do that all the time. Shufflemancy which is on your iPod. You skip a certain number of songs and then the lyrics or tune of the song will answer a divinatory question.
Amanda: Oh, man.
Julia: We used to do that all the time in high school.
Amanda: Oh, yeah. And I would do like live journal memes which was like the first five words of the first five songs on shuffle, blah-blah-blah. Oh, God, it has taken me back.
Julia: Yeah. And then the last one is megapolisomancy, which is prophecy told by interpreting the movements and goings on of a large city.
Amanda: Okay, not totally wrong.
Julia: No. You could tell a lot about like the way that a city moves and whatnot.
Julia: And I think just the moral of this episode because we always need a moral at the end of a roundup is that human beings are always looking for answers, and human beings are really good at identifying patterns and seeing meaning in those even when the patterns are completely involuntary or surprise, like not actually a thing.
Amanda: Yeah. We learned about psychology in high school and psychological biases which are helpful to know. But one of the ones that I have the most trouble getting around in my daily life is the sunk cost fallacy where you think like, "Oh, man, I bought this dress six months ago. I have never worn it. I know I probably will never wear it but I want to keep it until I get out of it, the $30 of use that I want. I pay $30 for it. I was like get $30 with the use side of it before I can let it go." But that is a little bit wrong because you already paid the $30. You're not going to get it back like wearing the dress a bunch won't get that money back for you and regardless of what you do now that money is already gone.
Especially with financial choices, it's hard to like get that in your mind and it's even worse if like you're in a job you don't like and you think to yourself, "Well, you know, I really did ... I don't want this to have been the wrong choice, so let me just like stick around until I get something out of it." A lot of the time, that isn't right.
And it's tough because like you said, our brains are so good at storytelling. Our brains are so good at taking past data and abstracting it and kind of projecting it to what might happen in the future. That is great for writing books and it is great for identifying predators and learning when a thunderstorm is going to happen and whatever helps. But it can be really destructive when you want to like break patterns or I don't know just be a little bit more comfortable with uncertainty.
Julia: Yeah. And I think that as human beings, we want to have certainty which is why we're so interested in telling the future or getting the answers of the universe. The fact that there are over 300 different types of divination kind of lends itself to this idea that human beings have always been looking for answers. Human beings always want to know what's going to happen next to them.
And I think that sometimes it takes away from living in the moment and actually creating a plan for your life rather than just like, I don't know, focusing on what's going to happen rather than what you can make happen for yourself.
Amanda: Yeah. I think of it as like blizzard preparatory brain. So, we grew up in the northeast. We get nor'easters. We get hurricanes. So, every time there's going to be a big storm whether rain or snow-
Julia: Got to get the bread and milk.
Amanda: My mom calls me on the phone which she rarely does unless someone died and is like, "Amanda, go get bread and milk. A storm is coming." Everybody else is doing this too. The supermarkets are empty and probably we're not going to lose power. If we did lose power, then milk will go bad. So, I don't know why we need milk in particular, but yeah.
Julia: You put it outside where it's cold. That's what you do with your milk.
Amanda: If it's cold, yeah. If it's a hurricane, not so much. But anyway point being you stack up and you hoard the things that are valuable to you and you do the least risky behavior because you want to like minimize the chance of something bad happening to you. And I find myself going into that mode all the time whether it's starting of relationship that is completely unknown and could end in heartbreak.
It could be risky. There's no way to know unless you actually go through it and like live out that uncertainty. But my brain wants to be like, "No. We're going to do exactly what we've done in the past. We're going to do what we know will not kill us and really stick to the things that we've done before."
But that's not for me a way to live a life. Julia knows that at 18, I got my first tattoo which is a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke, German writer giving advice to a young, aspiring poet who wrote to him who was ... Goethe was a famous poet at the time. And the poet is like, "I do not know if I'm a writer. I am kept up at night by the question of like is this worth doing? Am I worthy of doing this? Am I like being completely fraudulent calling myself a writer in the first place?"
And Rilke's response is lovely but includes the advice to love the questions themselves, like don't hate the questions or hate that they come to you. Just live in that uncertainty. Love the uncertainty. Love the thrill, like I always add the metaphor but I think of it as a roller coaster, like you're going up there. You don't know what's going to happen. Your body is like we're about to die but actually it's pretty thrilling.
That is my first tattoo because I knew and I know that I have trouble dealing with anything that is unpredictable, uncertain and not completely in my comfort zone. I think eight years ago me knew what she was doing. I still need that reminder. It still brings me comfort to think of that phrase and knowing that human beings have gone to such lengths to answer the same questions. That time makes me feel a little bit less alone.
Julia: I like that. And I think that we can leave our listeners with the advice, "Hey, let the universe surprise you today, and to remember to stay creepy."
Amanda: And stay cool.