Graveyard Shift

From Acultomancy To Zygomancy, Here Are Some Of The Strangest Methods Of Divination That Put Tarot Cards To Shame  

Zach Seemayer
17 items

From reading tarot cards to palmistry - interpreting the lines and creases on your hand to predict your fate and future - there is a whole slew of divination methods and fortune telling techniques that still thrive today. Throughout the centuries, people have turned to everything from moldy cheese to rose petals to the intestines of the deceased to try and get a sneak peek at what the future has in store for them.

From the Greeks to the ancient Romans and Egyptians, different cultures with wildly different religious beliefs shared a common goal, which was to use magic and invisible mystic forces to determine their fate, coming weather conditions, or the guilt of suspected criminals. From using weights and scales to shooting off arrows, here's a look at some of the ancient forms of fortune telling that are far stranger than anything you'll see used by your average tarot card reader these days.

Acultomancy is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list From Acultomancy To Zygomancy, Here Are Some Of The Strangest Methods Of Divination That Put Tarot Cards To Shame
Photo:  Anderson Mancin/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0
Acultomancy

This form of divination, which attempted to read and envision someone's future, was performed by dropping between seven to 20 metal or bone needles into a bowl of water or onto a flat surface covered in powder. The arrangement of the needles or the tracks they made in the powder would be read and interpreted.

Often used by nomadic gypsies, this type of divination is known as sortilege, which means predicting the future based on the casting or throwing of token items. The term itself comes from the latin word acus, meaning pin or needle, or aculeus, which means pointed barb.

Ailuromancy is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list From Acultomancy To Zygomancy, Here Are Some Of The Strangest Methods Of Divination That Put Tarot Cards To Shame
Photo:  Adrian Jack Bunsby/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0
Ailuromancy

Cats have long been linked to Pagan magic and folkloric tradition, so it makes sense they would be incorporated into methods of divination. Practitioners of ailuromancy turn to cats to predict future events, specifically reading special meaning into their movements and, particularly, how and when they jump, and the way in which they land.

Ailuromancy was most commonly used to predict weather events. For example, if a cat turned away from a burning log in a fireplace, it could mean the coming of rain or frost. Also known as felidomancy, the term ailuromancy comes from the Greek term ailouros, meaning "small cat." 

Alectryomancy is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list From Acultomancy To Zygomancy, Here Are Some Of The Strangest Methods Of Divination That Put Tarot Cards To Shame
Photo:  4028mdk09/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0
Alectryomancy

When it comes to telling the future, this form of divination is for the birds. Literally, you use birds. The practitioner will scatter grain or seed on the ground and then observe the movements of a bird, or multiple birds, as well as the way they eat the grain. The ideal animal to use for alectryomancy is a white rooster.

One of the most popular forms of alectryomancy - which comes from the Greek word alectryon, meaning rooster - would be performed by having the diviner write letters on the ground and scatter the feed on the letters, then observe which letters the rooster pecked from. It has been linked to the same sort of divination techniques that went on to form the basis for the Ouija board.

Alphitomancy is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list From Acultomancy To Zygomancy, Here Are Some Of The Strangest Methods Of Divination That Put Tarot Cards To Shame
Photo: Peggy Greb/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Alphitomancy

Instead of being used to tell the future, alphitomancy was used primarily to determine guilt or innocence among a group of suspects. The accused were fed specially prepared barley bread; those who choked or suffered from indigestion would be deemed guilty. After a while, this was expanded from questions of criminality to determining loyalty and infidelity.

Used primarily during the Middle Ages, the bread used for the purpose of alphitomancy had to be prepared in a specific way thought to imbue it with the power of divining truth. It was kneaded with salt and milk and baked on freshly burnt cinders, after which the loaf was rubbed with specific leaves. It's believed that barley bread was favored because it was considered the hardest to eat without coughing - and therefore would more likely lead to someone they could point to as the guilty party.