Atlas Obscura's Diana Hubbell writes about telling the future using eggs. A fascinating history. Here is an excerpt -
The Long, Extremely Witchy History of Telling the Future With Eggs - From ancient Greece to the Salem Witch Trials.
Shortly before his death in 1700, John Hale, a Puritan reverend from Beverly, Massachusetts, decided to document a dark historical moment. His posthumously published work, A Modest Inquiry Into the Nature of Witchcraft, is one of the few written records from someone present at the Salem Witch Trials.
Hale’s accounts described one particularly interesting form of divination: oomancy, or using eggs to interpret the future. Even by the 17th century, the idea of oomancy was aleady age old. Ancient Greek soothsayers coined the term, which stems from the words for “egg” (oon) and “divination” (manteia). Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, a Roman historian who lived from 69 to 122 B.C., once described how the Empress Livia Drusilla kept a chicken egg in her cleavage believing that its sex would foretell the sex of her unborn child.
Cultures around the world, from Southeast Asia to Latin America, have relied on eggs to unscramble the mysteries of the future. One method, described by Hale as the “Venus glass,” may have its roots in Scotland. The concept is simple: take a glass of warm water, slowly pour in a raw egg white, and watch what shapes form as the proteins denature. Much like tea leaf-reading, or tasseomancy, the resulting shapes offer clues as to whom you might marry or how you might die.
“If you see that the egg whites kind of look like a plow or a horse, your husband might be a farmer,” Muise explains. “Or if it looks like a fortress, your husband might be a soldier, or if it looks like a boat, your husband might be a fisherman.”
For the ancient Druids, oomancy was often an important part of the celebrations for Samhain, the pagan holiday from which most Halloween traditions originated. German pagans used a similar fortune-telling technique with egg whites in water, which they sometimes referred to as Eierorakel, or an “egg oracle.” In his 1878 book Deutschen Mythologie, Jakob Grimm describes tossing an egg in water to find out if a child was bewitched.
Part of its widespread appeal may lie in the egg’s inherent connection to birth and the cycle of life; a greater part has to do simply with its near-universal accessibility. “[Puritans] didn’t have a lot of material stuff,” Muise says. “You see magic with apples, eggs, cabbage, nuts, because that’s what people had around the house. They didn’t have tarot cards or crystals.”
It’s not a coincidence that food-centric magic features so prominently in the lore of the witch trials. Tales of witches from the 1600s often fixate on their culinary elements. “The butter won’t churn, because a witch has bewitched the cream itself,” Muise says. “They may make food spoil, they may make a cow give rotten milk out of its udders. So often the witch is very much imagined to be disrupting the domestic production of food.”
At the time, women were responsible for virtually all food production, from the beer that kept the Puritans hydrated in the absence of sanitary water, to the bread on their tables. Any woman who dared to disrupt her domestic lot in life, was a threat to the social hierarchy and stability of these small, fragile societies. It’s little wonder that many of the women accused of black magic in Salem were those who lived somewhat outside the social norms; or that their supposed transgressions often started in the kitchen.
As the mass hysteria around witches began to fade, so did the moral panic around fortune-telling. Food-centric methods of fortune-telling, from oomancy to dumb cakes, which the Puritans had regarded as dangerous entry points to Devil worship, were increasingly regarded as harmless party games. While the “Venus glass” may have fallen out of fashion, there’s nothing to stop modern-day Halloween celebrants from attempting to decipher their future in a swirling mass of egg whites.
When: Monday, October 25 at 7:00pm ET Where: YouTube Live
At the turn of the last century, the Lower East Side was home to more than 1,000 people working as psychics, palm readers, and fortune tellers. One such businesswoman, Dora Meltzer, ran her palm reading studio from 97 Orchard Street, now home to the Tenement Museum. Join us on YouTube Live for a free virtual Tenement Talk with historian and Yiddishist Edward Portnoy and Tenement Museum President Dr. Annie Polland on the role of clairvoyants in the world of the Jewish Lower East Side, streamed live to YouTube from inside our historic tenement building at 97 Orchard Street.
Excerpted from the New York Times, this article describes how psychics are moving to more online readings and the rising popularity of consulting psychics during this stressful time.
What, if Anything, Can Psychics Tell Us About All of This?
Demand for their services has illuminated another kind of health crisis.
A few weeks before the U.S. presidential election, Zulema Hormaeche, a tarot reader in Los Angeles, chose a card to reflect the state of the nation. It was the one that depicts a tall building struck by lightning, with flames bursting from the top and occupants leaping to their deaths. “The Tower,” she said, “is the end of a system as we know it, the end of an era as we know it.”
Ms. Hormaeche has an intimate understanding of the ways this year upended people’s lives and sapped their optimism. She has peered into a huge number of homes during virtual consultations. Her clients tell her they are eating and drinking more, and that they feel desperately lonely. And sometimes they mention even more troubling details. One client, she said, described a dream in which she harmed her children.“All of us are feeling the fear of everybody,” Ms. Hormaeche said, and that fear, coupled with uncertainty about when it might abate, has caused demand for spiritual guidance to soar. According to data from Yelp, interest in businesses in the somewhat niche “Supernatural Readings” category more than doubled in April. Keen, an online marketplace for psychics, has reported a steep rise in customers.
These consultations function almost as armchair counseling sessions: clients can open up and have their thoughts reflected back at them through a nonscientific — even mystical — lens. And while there is good reason to doubt the material of psychic readings (the mystical realm being inherently unknowable, or at least, endlessly interpretable), these consultations provide comfort for some.
I just discovered a fascinating blog on forensic astrology. According to the site, Forensic Astrology is the art of using Horary and Birth Charts in combination to determine the nature of events as they occurred in unsolved crimes and missing persons cases. I have over 30 years experience in Astrology, both Forensic and in general.
Horary charts are electional astrology charts of an exact moment in time.
The astrologer who runs the blog (and whose name I could not locate) has an explanation of how they came to use astrology in this manner:
I began to study Astrology at age 11 and had a fascination with all things metaphysical most of my life. It was many years before I truly understood Astrology, all of its elements and dimensions. I published many features and articles in magazines like American Astrology and Dell Horoscope. After years as a student in the Astrological Research Guild I was drawn into studying the charts of murderers to discover some secret. However, after much research and painful hours of study I became aware that it was not the murderer who dictated the death of another but the victim!. Now I do charts for locations and victims to determine the deadly combination that creates a violent death.
The blog offers extensive analysis on some of the more famous cold crime cases including Jimmy Hoffa, Natalee Holloway the young American student that went missing in Aruba, and Chandra Levy, the Washington DC intern who was found dead in a park. Check out this fascinating blog for all the arguments, analysis and conclusions.