Lecanomancy (Gr. λεκάνη, "dish, pan" + μαντεία, "divination") is a form of divination using a dish, usually of water, which, like many ancient forms of divination, has multiple forms.

The earliest form of lecanomancy appears to have come from Ancient Babylonia, though it is only mentioned in one text.[1] Even there, there were two types of the divination used. Some court magicians would use inductive lecanomancy; whereby the magician or priest would observe patterns of oil within water to predict the future.[2] However, intuitive lecanomany is thought to have developed out of this, which merely required the magician to interpret ripples on the water through meditation.[2]

There are also reports of inductive lecanomany being used by the Mesopotamians, though they sometimes substituted flour for oil.[3]

In the Old Testament a form of lecanomancy was apparently used by Joseph in Egypt (Genesis 44:5) [4][5][6]

The Catawba people used an entirely different system of divination, which is still classified as lecanomany, whereby a bowl of water was placed by a deceased person's head.[7] On the third day of the bowl being present, the deceased's family would watch the bowl for ripples and these would be interpreted to determine the whereabouts of the deceased's soul.[7]

In medieval Europe, lecanomancy was described as clear bowls being filled with water to determine the future.[8] This is in stark contrast with earlier forms of the divination, which used clay bowls or basins.[8]

Other forms of lecanomancy throughout history involved dropping a rock in water and interpreting the ripples in the water.[6] In yet another form, demons were thought to enter the water whose ripples were being interpreted, and were forced to answer questions by the scryer.[9]

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  1. ^ Reiner, Erica (January 1960). "Fortune-Telling in Mesopotamia". Journal of Near Eastern Studies. The University of Chicago Press. 19 (1): 24. doi:10.1086/371554. JSTOR 543689.
  2. ^ a b Nelson, Max (May 2000). "Narcissus: Myth and Magic". The Classical Journal. The Classical Association of the Middle West and South. 95 (4): 365–383. JSTOR 3298150.
  3. ^ Hooke, S. H. (September 1955). "Omens. Ancient and Modern". Folklore. Taylor & Francis, Ltd. 66 (3): 332–338. doi:10.1080/0015587x.1955.9717485. JSTOR 1258141.
  4. ^ John H. Walton; Victor Harold Matthews; Mark William Chavalas (2000). The IVP Bible background commentary: Old Testament. InterVarsity Press. pp. 74–. ISBN 978-0-8308-1419-0. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  5. ^ Dessoir, Max (October 1980). "The Magic Mirror". The Monist. Hegeler Institute. 1 (1): 89. doi:10.5840/monist1890114. JSTOR 27896831.
  6. ^ a b "Lecanomancy". The Element Encyclopedia of the Psychic World. 10. Harper Collins. 2006. pp. 384–385.
  7. ^ a b Speck, Frank G (April 1939). "Catawba Religious Beliefs, Mortuary Customs, and Dances". Primitive Man. The George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research. 12 (2): 34–42. JSTOR 3316471.
  8. ^ a b Maguire, Henry (October 1997). "Magic and Money in the Early Middle Ages". Speculum. Medieval Academy of America. 72 (4): 1045. JSTOR 2865957.
  9. ^ Henry Christmas (1828). The Literary gazette: A weekly journal of literature, science, and the fine arts. H. Colburn. pp. 595–. Retrieved 29 October 2011.

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