Extispicy

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Extispicy

Postby FreeThinker » Sat Jan 12, 2008 11:42 am

Hey all, have you ever known a word exists but you don't remember what it was or have any clue how to find out? I have, and for some time I have been fretting over the word used to describe the practice of divination from animal (or sometimes human) entrails. Well, I just found the word and so now I can write about it. The word is "extispicy". This method of divination was common in ancient times in Mesopotamia and the Romans recorded its use with human sacrifice being practiced by the Celts (perhaps an example of Roman anti-Celtic propaganda, but most likely accurate). In some parts of the world it is still used to this day.

I am curious if any of the distinguished minds represented here have any info on the use of this practice from ancient times, whether from surviving ancient texts or archaeological remains.

As a starter here is the Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extispicy
Science: the PROOF shall set you free
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Postby Minimalist » Sat Jan 12, 2008 1:25 pm

I don't about archaeological remains for these practices but the concept of "taking the auspices" is frequently referred to by Livy and Caesar, as I recall. Thus we have historical (textual) testimony.

"Two chicken livers to go" had an entirely different meaning back then.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

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Postby Frank Harrist » Sat Jan 12, 2008 6:04 pm

Make mine Extispicy chicken livers!!!!!!
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Postby kbs2244 » Sat Jan 12, 2008 6:35 pm

I cannot recall the source, but I have read that, in the Roman case at least, to determine of it was a good location for a town, they wanted a locally hunted rabbit.
One of the things the Priest (or whatever they were called) looked for was cancerous growths.
If he found them, then it was not a good place to be living.
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Postby john » Sat Jan 12, 2008 7:00 pm

Here you go ...........


Oracle bone
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article contains Chinese text.
Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Chinese characters.


Replica of an oracle bone -- turtle shell
Oracle bones (甲骨片 pinyin: jiǎgǔpiàn) are pieces of bone or turtle shell used in royal divination from the mid Shang to early Zhou dynasties in ancient China, and often bearing written inscriptions in what is called oracle bone script.
[edit]Discovery

The Shang-dynasty oracle bones were unearthed in 19th-century China, and were sold as dragon bones (lóng gǔ 龍骨) in the traditional Chinese medicine markets, used either whole or crushed for the healing of various ailments, including knife wounds. They were not recognized as bearing ancient Chinese writing until 1899, when they fell into the hands of two scholars, Wáng Yìróng (王懿榮) (1845-1900), who according to one legend was sick with malaria, and his friend Liú È (刘鶚) (1857-1909), who was visiting and helped examine his medicine. They discovered, before it was ground into powder, that it bore strange glyphs, which they recognized as ancient writing. Word spread among collectors of antiquities, and the market for oracle bones exploded. Decades of uncontrolled digs followed, and many of these pieces eventually entered collections in Europe, the US and Japan.
Upon the establishment of the Institute of History and Philology at the Academia Sinica in 1928, the source of the oracle bones was traced back to modern Xiaotun (小屯) village near Anyang in Henan Province. Official archaeological excavations in 1928-1937 led by Li Ji (李济) discovered 20,000 oracle bone pieces, which now form the bulk of the Academia Sinica's collection in Taiwan. The inscriptions on the oracle bones, once deciphered, turned out to be the records of the divinations performed for or by the royal household. These together proved beyond a doubt for the first time the existence of the Shang Dynasty and the location of its last capital. The writing on them is also the earliest significant corpus of Chinese writing, and is essential for the study of Chinese etymology, as it is directly ancestral to the modern script.
[edit]Usage



Replica of an oracle bone -- ox scapula
The oracle bones are mostly ox scapulae (shoulder blades) and turtle shells, although some other animal bones, and even the skulls of deer and humans were sometimes used. Both the dorsal or back shell (carapace) and ventral or belly shell (plastron) of turtles were used, and since these are actually a bony material, the term "oracle bones" is applied to them as well.
The bones or shells were prepared for use by sawing and smoothing them, and notations were often made on them recording their provenance (e.g. tribute of how many shells from where and on what date). These notations were generally made on the back of the shell's bridge (called bridge notations), the lower carapace or the xiphiplastron (tail edge). Scapula notations were near the socket or a lower edge. Some of these were not carved after being written with a brush, proving (along with other evidence) the use of the writing brush in Shang times (Keightley, 1978).
Pits or hollows were then drilled or chiseled partway through the bone, and a topic was divined upon during a ceremony, during which a heat source was applied into one of the pits until the bone cracked at that point. Due to the shape of the pit, the front side of the bone cracked in a rough 卜 shape. The character 卜 (pinyin: bǔ; Old Chinese: *puk; "to divine") may be a pictogram of such a crack; the reading of the character may also be an onomatopoeia for the cracking. A number of cracks were typically made in one session, and the diviner in charge of the ceremony, who was sometimes the Shang king himself, then read the cracks to learn the answer to the divination. How exactly the cracks were interpreted is not known. The topic of divination was raised multiple times, and often in different ways, such as in the negative, or by changing the date being divined about. One oracle bone might be used for one session, or for many, and one session could be recorded on a number of bones. The question was nearly always posed in a yes or no format, so that the divined answer would be either "auspicious" or "inauspicious."
The inscriptions are fairly formulaic, generally "(on) AB date (using the sexagenary cycle), divination was performed by person C regarding (topic)". Additional inscriptions include notations as to provenance of the bones or shells, numbering of the cracks made, annotations as to their auspiciousness, proclamations as to the conclusion of the divination session, and sometimes verifications of whether a future event indeed came to pass. The topics, and sometimes the answers, are then thought to have been brush-written on the oracle bones or accompanying documents, later to be carved in a workshop. A few of the oracle bones found still bear their brush-written records, without carving, while some have been found partially carved.
This kind of divination, involving the application of heat or fire, is called pyromancy; when applied to a scapula or plastron, it is also termed scapulimancy or plastromancy respectively. The divination questions or topics were often directed at ancestors, whom the ancient Chinese revered and worshiped, as well as natural powers and Dì (帝), the highest god in the Shang society. A wide variety of topics were asked, essentially anything of concern to the royal house of Shang, from illness, birth and death, to weather, warfare, agriculture, tribute and so on. One of the most common topics was whether performing rituals in a certain manner would be satisfactory.
Evidence of pyromancy and scapulomancy in ancient China extends back to the 4th millennium BCE, with finds from Liaoning, but these were not inscribed. Evidence of scapulomancy with inscriptions may date back to the pre-Shang site of Erligang (二里崗) in Zhengzhou, Henan, where burned scapula of oxen, sheep and pigs were found, and one bone fragment from a pre-Shang layer is inscribed with a graph (ㄓ) corresponding to Shang script.
However, significant quantities of inscribed oracle bones date only to the middle of the Shang Dynasty, probably in the reign of Pangeng, around 1350 BCE when the Shang capital was moved to Yin at modern Anyang. The vast majority date to around the 13th to 11th centuries BCE, or late Shāng. The oracle bones are not the earliest writing in China. A few Shāng bronzes with extremely short inscriptions predate them. However, the oracle bones are considered the earliest significant body of writing, due to the length of the inscriptions, the vast amount of vocabulary (very roughly 4000 graphs), and the sheer quantity of pieces found (now well over 100,000). There are also graphs found inscribed or brush-written on Neolithic period pottery shards, but whether or not these constitute writing or are ancestral to the Shang writing system is currently a matter of great academic controversy.
After the Zhou conquest, the Shang practices of bronze casting, pyromancy and writing continued. Oracle bones found in the 1970s have been dated to the Zhou dynasty, with some dating to the Spring and Autumn period. However, very few of those were inscribed. It is thought that other methods of divination supplanted pyromancy, such as numerological divination using milfoil (yarrow) in connection with the hexagrams of the I Ching.
[edit]References

Keightley, David N. (1978). Sources of Shang History: The Oracle-Bone Inscriptions of Bronze Age China. University of California Press, Berkeley. ISBN 0-520-02969-0; Paperback 2nd edition (1985) ISBN 0-520-05455-5.
Keightley, David N. (2000). The Ancestral Landscape: Time, Space, and Community in Late Shang China (ca. 1200 – 1045 B.C.). China Research Monograph 53, Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley. ISBN 1-55729-070-9.
Qiu Xigui (裘錫圭) (2000). Chinese Writing. Translation of 文字学概要 by Gilbert L. Mattos and Jerry Norman. Early China Special Monograph Series No. 4. The Society for the Study of Early China and the Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley. ISBN 1-55729-071-7.
Xu Yahui (許雅惠 Hsu Ya-huei) (2002). Ancient Chinese Writing, Oracle Bone Inscriptions from the Ruins of Yin. Illustrated guide to the Special Exhibition of Oracle Bone Inscriptions from the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica. English translation by Mark Caltonhill and Jeff Moser. National Palace Museum, Taipei. Govt. Publ. No. 1009100250.


And, by the way, there is a school of thought

Which believes that the structure and symbology of

The I-Ching derives directly from

Scapulomancy.



hoka hey

john
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Postby Frank Harrist » Sun Jan 13, 2008 1:18 am

kbs2244 wrote:I cannot recall the source, but I have read that, in the Roman case at least, to determine of it was a good location for a town, they wanted a locally hunted rabbit.
One of the things the Priest (or whatever they were called) looked for was cancerous growths.
If he found them, then it was not a good place to be living.


That makes sense. Something in the area may have caused that growth. Might be a good practice nowadays too.
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Postby War Arrow » Sun Jan 13, 2008 7:00 am

Don't recall seeing any mention of this in the context of Mesoamerica, or at least the highland basin. Most divinatory references pertain to either the calendar or casting lots (pebbles - outcome decided by groupings in either odd or even numbers). That said, this could be my memory failing me and I'd be surprised if the practice hadn't been adopted anywhere in Mesoamerica (particularly away from the larger ceremonial centers). I've got a copy of Sahagun's Florentine Codex (specifically the volume pertaining to omens and divination) due from Amazon (the website, not the river) any day now so no doubt I'll be retracting this admittedly vague statement in a few days time.
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Postby Minimalist » Sun Jan 13, 2008 10:08 am

More than you ever wanted to know on the subject, FT!

:D



http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/secondary/SMIGRA*/Augurium.html
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

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Postby Rokcet Scientist » Sun Jan 13, 2008 5:04 pm

Frank Harrist wrote:
kbs2244 wrote:I cannot recall the source, but I have read that, in the Roman case at least, to determine of it was a good location for a town, they wanted a locally hunted rabbit.
One of the things the Priest (or whatever they were called) looked for was cancerous growths.
If he found them, then it was not a good place to be living.


That makes sense. Something in the area may have caused that growth. Might be a good practice nowadays too.


It makes just about as much sense as astrology does, Frank....
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Postby Frank Harrist » Sun Jan 13, 2008 9:33 pm

Astrology makes no sense. However if you find that the animals in an area are sickening and dying then you'd be a fool to move there.
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Postby FreeThinker » Wed Jan 16, 2008 11:14 am

Hey all, thanks for all the great info. John, I never really thought about the oracle bones as a form of extispicy but now that you bring it up I see that it is. Got me to thinking about a common form of extispicy still in use...any of you ever wish on a wishbone?
Science: the PROOF shall set you free
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Postby john » Wed Jan 16, 2008 6:32 pm

FreeThinker wrote:Hey all, thanks for all the great info. John, I never really thought about the oracle bones as a form of extispicy but now that you bring it up I see that it is. Got me to thinking about a common form of extispicy still in use...any of you ever wish on a wishbone?


Freethinker -

.......also the Australian aboriginal practise of "pointing the bone", the practise of shamans of many cultures of "throwing the bones" as a divinatory act, the practise of collecting and displaying the skulls of ancestors or enemies (sometimes painting them with hematitie!.......actually quite a wide cultural and temporal range once you start looking.

john
"Man is a marvellous curiosity. When he is at his very, very best he is sort of a low-grade nickel-plated angel; at his worst he is unspeakable, unimaginable; and first and last and all the time he is a sarcasm."

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Postby War Arrow » Thu Jan 17, 2008 2:35 am

For what it may be worth, Florentine Codex IV and V have turned up and I can find no references to central Mexican divinatory practices beyond the purely calendar-determined, though as stated above, that's only really evidence that they weren't recorded in this particular volume if anything.

As an aside, I was already aware that a few Mexica superstitions or folk beliefs had a bit of a Monty Python aspect to them, but this book is a real treasury of nutty omens. The strangest I've found so far is a warning of dire consequences that might be expected upon the sighting of A MAN LEANING AGAINST A POST!
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