Psychologist Julian Jaynes (1920-1997) categorized divination into the following types:
- Omens and Omen Texts: 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 strategies. 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, or sortes, whether with sticks, stones, bones, beans, coins, or some other item. Modern playing cards and board games developed from this type of divination.
- Augury: This 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) (for example, Haruspices examined the livers of sacrificed animals). Augury is normally considered to specifically refer to divination by studying the flight patterns of birds. But also, the use of the rooster through Alectryomancy may be further understood within that religious character and likewise defined as a cockfight, or cockfighting with the intent of communication between the gods and man.
- 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”.
In addition to these four broad categories, Julian Jaynes add palmistry, also called chiromancy, a practice common to many different places on the Eurasian landmass; it has been practiced in the cultures of India, Tibet, China, Persia, Sumeria, Ancient Israel and Babylonia. In this practice, the diviner examines the hands of a person for whom they are divining for indications of their future.
I don’t totally disagree with Julian Jaynes, but it seems that this way of sub-categorize divination is somewhat erroneous or misguiding. To me “Omens” and “Augury” and “Spontaneous” are part of the same category because there are messages received without really asking for them. The other category from my list are divination perpetrated by the diviner itself, by casting a lot, by studying the movement of a tool, or by analyzing subliminal messages reflected in a reflective object or element. Look at this at my own version only and not as the definitive and absolute version used by every diviner!
Cleromancy (Sortilege): Sortilege is the taking of omens by the drawing of lots.
- Cartomancy (Tarot, Lenormand, Eteilla, Oracle, Playing Cards)
- Runes (Elder Futhark Runes, Witches’ Runes)
- Throwing the Bones (Bones, Dice, Dominoes, Shells, Stones)
Dowsing: Divination by movements generated from a tool, answering a question or searching what is hidden.
- Spirit Board (Ouija)
- Rhabdomancy (Water Dowsing Rod)
Scrying: Foretell the future using a crystal ball or other reflective object or surface.
- Crystallomancy (Crystal Ball, Mirror Scrying, Lithomancy)
- Pyromancy (Fire Gazing)
- Hydromancy (Water Gazing)
Omen: Phenomenon believed to foretell the future, often signifying the advent of change.
- Chiromancy (Palmistry)
- Tasseography (Tea Leaves Reading)
- Augury (Auspice and Ornithomancy)
- Oneiromancy (Dream Interpretation)
- Clairvoyance (Mediumship)
I must say, I have still trouble figuring out where should I put Tea Leaves Reading and Palmistry. They are Omens, but they feel out of place… Anyway, please tell me if you agree, disagree, or if you think I forgot an important technique to you!