6 Strange Things That Have Been Used to Predict the Future

Since the world is world, there are human beings who continually seek to discover the great secrets and mysteries that the future holds. Many look for signs, symbols and anything else that may indicate what is yet to happen. Here are six of the strangest items ever used for divination throughout history:

1. Birds

The ancient Romans loved to guess the future through birds: people of all classes studied species, flight patterns, and other characteristics of these animals. Chickens in particular were often used to predict the success or otherwise of a battle. It worked as follows: priests scattered grain on the ground, and the voracity with which the animals ate matched the success of the Roman forces. As absurd as it may seem, such a belief seemed to work very well at the time.

During the First Punic War, Consul Publius Claudius Pulcher was responsible for the Roman navy. So he consulted with the chickens to determine the perfect day to attack the Carthaginian troop. To Publius's dismay, the birds were not at all excited about his war plan and simply refused to eat any grain. Outraged, he commanded the poor to be thrown overboard while saying, "If they do not eat, let them drink."

His men went into battle and suffered a crushing defeat. Publius was soon recalled to Rome and tried, not for losing the fight, but for killing the sacred chickens! The consul was sentenced to exile and eventually died some time later.

2. Bread

Long before Didi asked if he had bread in heaven, the ancients already used such food to guess who was to blame for any crime. The suspects were fed a loaf of bread: for the innocent, only a snack, but for the guilty, pain, indigestion, and asphyxiation.

People really believed that the bread revealed who the criminal was, but the truth was that the judge had poisoned the food he wanted to condemn.

3. Noises in the stomach

Do you know when you are in a quiet room and your belly makes that noise? Well, some people believe in gastromancy: guessing based on sounds and signals from the stomach. Noises, which are common in digestion, were considered voices of the dead and were interpreted by seers.

4. Pearls

As the only gemstones in the world made by animals, pearls were once considered magical by the ancients. There was a guessing method based on its heating, but because of the high cost of the material, it was not widely used.

They placed the stone in a cast iron pan over the fire. A soothsayer was then reading a list of names of people suspected of theft. The result you can already imagine: As soon as the pearl moved, the person whose name was being uttered at the time was found guilty.

5. Human Sacrifice

Anthropomancy was one of the most horrible forms of divination in history: predictions were made based on the agony, the amount and volume of the screams, the direction of blood flow or even the position where the victim's body fell to the ground. According to Roman writer Suetonius, the seer Spurinna performed this kind of divination before warning Julius Caesar of the "Ides of March."

6. Metal

Molibdance is a form of divination that was used in the Greek and Roman Empires and spread throughout Germany and the Nordic countries. Those employing this method had to choose a metal that was easily molten, such as lead, which, when liquefied, hardens into different shapes. The seer's job was to interpret such structures.

Interestingly, this practice is still a New Year's tradition in Finland, where each family member gets a small piece of tin. The pieces are then melted and, when cooled, are placed next to a candle flame: the shadows formed from the object will indicate things that will happen next year.

* Posted on 6/12/2016