A Brief History Of Divination

A Brief History Of Divination

A fascinating practice, divination, defined as “the practice of determining the hidden significance or cause of events, sometimes foretelling the future, by various natural, psychological, and other techniques,” has played a central role in the history of many civilisations throughout the years.

The word divination derives from Latin divinationem (nominative divinatio), meaning "the power of foreseeing, prediction".

a map of mesopotamia

According to Oxford Bibliographies, “Written evidence for divination goes back to the early 2nd millennium in Mesopotamia and is attested to throughout the ancient world, primarily the Near East, Egypt, the Levant, Greece, Italy, and China.”

As with many of the esoteric arts, divination was frowned upon by certain religions and banned in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), however it persisted in the Roman empire until well after the rise of Christianity.

In fact many forms of divination are so entrenched within particular societies, such as the Chinese divinatory arts, that their original conception is not known.

Why people created and utilised various methods of divination is, and will probably always, remain a mystery.

Diviners in the various disciplines were often regarded (and still are regarded in many cultures) as intermediaries between the mundane and spiritual realms. The Etruscans in Italy, and the Maya of Mexico are two such cultures that regarded the diviner/priest as sacred. 

ouija board with tarot cards and black candlesPractitioners of the divinatory arts have been historically sought out for tasks ranging from contacting loved ones who have passed on, to finding lost items and predicting future events. In history, diviners were also used to predict the outcomes of battles and to advise on affairs of the state.

There are a multitude of reasons as to why individuals turn to divination. These can include seeking guidance in decision-making, understanding the unknown, obtaining reassurance, finding spiritual meaning, or connecting with loved ones who have passed away. These reasons will be very personal and are not often obvious to the outsider. 

Whatever the reasons, since day dot us humans have been obsessed with controlling our future & trying to figure out our place in the universe.

Divination has served as a fascinating tool that, whether it was gifted to us (such as in clairvoyance) or learnt (such as the tarot) has been an invaluable partner in our human existence and I believe will remain as such into the future. That is my prediction anyway ;)

Harper, D. (n.d.). Etymology of divination. Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved July 21, 2023, from https://www.etymonline.com/word/divination 
Gilbert, R. A., & Park, G. K. (2021, November 23). Divination. Oxford Bibliographies. Retrieved July 21, 2023, from
Koch, Ulla (2021). Divination and Omens. obo in Biblical Studies. doi: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0287
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