AskDefine | Define divination

Dictionary Definition



1 successful conjecture by unusual insight or good luck
2 a prediction uttered under divine inspiration [syn: prophecy]
3 the art or gift of prophecy (or the pretense of prophecy) by supernatural means [syn: foretelling, soothsaying, fortune telling]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. The act of divining; a foreseeing or foretelling of future events.
  2. The pretended art of discovering secrets or the future by preternatural means.
  3. An indication of what is future or secret; augury omen; conjectural presage; prediction.

Derived terms

Related terms


act of divining
  • Czech: věštba, věštění
  • Finnish: ennustaminen
  • Japanese: 占い
art of discovering secrets or seeing the future by supernatural means
  • Finnish: selvännäkeminen, kaivonkatsominen
indication of future, prediction
  • Finnish: ennustus

See also

Extensive Definition

Divination (from Latin divinare "to be inspired by a god", related to divine, diva and deus) is the attempt of ascertaining information by interpretation of omens or an alleged supernatural agency, either by or on behalf of a querent.
If a distinction is to be made between divination and fortune-telling, divination has a formal or ritual and often social character, usually in a religious context; while fortune-telling is a more everyday practice for personal purposes. Divination is often dismissed by skeptics, including the scientific community, as being mere superstition: in the 2nd century, Lucian devoted a witty essay to the career of a charlatan, Alexander the false prophet, trained by "one of those who advertise enchantments, miraculous incantations, charms for your love-affairs, visitations for your enemies, disclosures of buried treasure, and successions to estates", though most Romans believed in dreams and charms.

Categories of divination

Psychologist Julian Jaynes categorized divination according to the following four types:
  • Omens and omen texts. "The most primitive, clumsy, but enduring the simple recording of sequences of unusual or important events." (1976:236) Chinese history offers scrupulously documented occurrences of strange births, the tracking of natural phenomena, and other data. Chinese governmental planning relied on this method of forecasting for long-range strategy. It is not unreasonable to assume that modern scientific inquiry began with this kind of divination; Joseph Needham's work considered this very idea.
  • Sortilege (cleromancy). This consists of the casting of lots whether with sticks, stones, bones, beans, coins, or some other item. Modern playing cards and board games developed from this type of divination.
  • Augury. Divination that ranks a set of given possibilities. It can be qualitative (such as shapes, proximities, etc.): for example, dowsing (a form of rhabdomancy) developed from this type of divination. The Romans in classical times used Etruscan methods of augury such as hepatoscopy (actually a form of extispicy). Haruspices examined the livers of sacrificed animals.
  • Spontaneous. An unconstrained form of divination, free from any particular medium, and actually a generalization of all types of divination. The answer comes from whatever object the diviner happens to see or hear. Some religions use a form of bibliomancy: they ask a question, riffle the pages of their holy book, and take as their answer the first passage their eyes light upon. Other forms of spontaneous divination include reading auras and New Age methods of Feng Shui such as "intuitive" and Fuzion.

Common methods of divination

See also

References and notes


  • Robert Todd Carroll (2003). The Skeptic's Dictionary. Wiley.
  • Lon Milo Duquette (2005). The Book of Ordinary Oracles. Weiser Books.
  • Clifford A. Pickover (2001). Dreaming the Future: The Fantastic Story of Prediction. Prometheus.
  • Eva Shaw (1995). Divining the Future. Facts on File.
  • The Diagram Group (1999). The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Fortune Telling. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.


  • D. Engels, Das römische Vorzeichenwesen (753-27 v.Chr.). Quellen, Terminologie, Kommentar, historische Entwicklung, Stuttgart 2007 (Franz Steiner-Verlag)
  • E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Witchcraft, oracles, and magic among the Azande (1976)
  • Toufic Fahd, La divination arabe; études religieuses, sociologiques et folkloriques sur le milieu natif d’Islam (1966)
  • Michael Loewe and Carmen Blacke, eds. Oracles and divination (Shambhala/Random House, 1981) ISBN 0-87773-214-0
  • J. P. Vernant, Divination et rationalité (1974)
2. Philip K. Hitti. Makers of Arab History. Princeton, New Jersey. St. Martin’s Press. 1968. Pg 61.
3. Ahmed ibn Muhammad al-Makkari. The History of the Mohammedan Dynasties in Spain; extracted from the NAFHU-T-TIB MIN GHOSNI-L-ANDALUSI-R-RATTIB WA TARIKH LISANU-D-DIN IBNI-L-KHATTIB. Translated by Pascual de Gayangos, member of the Oriental Translation Committee, and late professor of Arabic in the Athenæum of Madrid. In Two Volumes. VOL. II Johnson Reprint Corporation, New York, NY. 1964. Pages 96 (Book VI, chapters 1 & 2).
4. W. Montgomery Watt. Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman. Edinburgh, Scotland. Oxford Press, 1961. Pgs 1-2.

External links

divination in Danish: Divination
divination in German: Weissagung
divination in Estonian: Ennustamine
divination in Spanish: Videncia
divination in French: Divination
divination in Italian: Divinazione
divination in Dutch: Wichelarij
divination in Japanese: 占い
divination in Portuguese: Divinação
divination in Romanian: Prezicere
divination in Russian: Гадания
divination in Slovak: Veštenie
divination in Swedish: Divination
divination in Chinese: 占卜

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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