purposes of divination, by the process known as incubation or temple sleep. Dreams are sometimes regarded as visits to or from gods or the souls of the dead, sometimes as signs to be interpreted symbolically by means of dream-books, which are found not only in Europe but in less cultured countries like Siam.
(B) In heteroscopic divination the process is rather one of inference from external facts. The methods are very various. (i.) The casting of lots, sortilege, was common in classical antiquity; the Homeric heroes prayed to the gods when they cast lots in Agamemnon’s leather cap, and Mopsus divined with sacred lots when the Argonauts embarked. Similarly dice are thrown for purposes of sortilege; the astragali or knucklebones, used in children’s games at the present day, were implements of divination in the first instance. In Polynesia the coco-nut is spun like a teetotum to discover a thief. Somewhat different are the omens drawn from books; in ancient times the poets were often consulted, more especially Virgil, whence the name sortes virgilianae, just as the Bible is used for drawing texts in our own day, especially in Germany. (ii.) In haruspication, or the inspection of entrails, in scapulomancy or divination by the speal-bone or shoulder-blade, in divination by footprints in ashes, found in Australia, Peru and Scotland, the voluntary element is prominent, for the diviner must take active steps to secure the conditions necessary to divination. (iii.) In the case of augury and omens, on the other hand, that is not necessary. The behaviour and cries of birds, and angang or meeting with ominous animals, &c., may be voluntarily observed, and opportunities for observation made; but this is not necessary for success. (iv.) In astrology we have a method which still finds believers among people of good education. The stars are held, not only to prognosticate the future but also to influence it; the child born when Mars is in the ascendant will be war-like; Venus has to do with love; the sign of the Lion presides over places where wild beasts are found. (v.) In other cases the tie that binds the subject of divination with the omen-giving object is sympathy. The name of the life-index is given to a tree, animal or other object believed to be so closely united by sympathetic ties to a human being that the fate of the latter is reflected in the condition of the former. The Polynesians set up sticks to see if the warriors they stood for were to fall in battle; on Hallowe’en in our own country the behaviour of nuts and other objects thrown into the fire is held to prognosticate the lot of the person to whom they have been assigned. Where, as in the last two cases, the sympathetic bond is less strong, we find symbolical interpretation playing an important part.
Sympathy and symbolism, association of ideas and analogy, together with a certain amount of observation, are the explanation of the great mass of heteroscopic divinatory formulae. But where autoscopic phenomena play the chief part the question of the origin of divination is less simple. The investigations of the Society for Psychical Research show that premonitions, though rare in our own day, are not absolutely unknown. Pseudo-premonitions, due to hallucinatory memory, are not unknown; there is also some ground for holding that crystal-gazers are able to perceive incidents which are happening at a distance from them. Divination of this sort, therefore, may be due to observation and experiment of a rude sort, rather than to the unchecked play of fancy which resulted in heteroscopic divination.
(N. W. T.)
DIVINING-ROD. As indicated in the article Magic, Rhabdomancy, or the art of using a divining-rod for discovering something hidden, is apparently of immemorial antiquity, and the Roman virgula divina, as used in taking auguries by means of casting bits of stick, is described by Cicero and Tacitus (see also Divination); but the special form of virgula furcata, or forked twig of hazel or willow (see also Hazel), described by G. Agricola (De re metallica, 1546), and in Sebastian Munster’s Cosmography in the early part of the 16th century, used specially for discovering metallic lodes or water beneath the earth, must be distinguished from the general superstition. The “dowsing” or divining-rod, in this sense, has a modern interest, dating from its use by prospectors for minerals in the German (Harz Mountains) mining districts; the French chemist M.E. Chevreul assigns its first mention to Basil Valentine, the alchemist of the late 15th century. On account of its supposed magical powers, it may be taken perhaps as an historical analogue to such fairy wands as the caduceus of Mercury, the golden arrow of Herodotus’s “Abaris the Hyperborean,” or the medieval witch’s broomstick. But the existence of the modern water-finder or dowser makes the divining-rod a matter of more than mythological or superstitious interest. The Schlagruthe (striking-rod), or forked twig of the German miners, was brought to England by those engaged in the Cornish mines by the merchant venturers of Queen Elizabeth’s day. Professor W. F. Barrett, F.R.S., the chief modern investigator of this subject, regards its employment, dating as it does from the revival of learning, as based on the medieval doctrine of “sympathy,” the drooping of trees and character of the vegetation being considered to give indications of mineral lodes beneath the earth’s surface, by means of a sort of attraction; and such critical works as Robert Boyle’s (1663), or the Mineralogia Cornubiensis of Pryce (1778), admitted its value in discovering metals. But as mining declined in Cornwall, the use of the dowser for searching for lodes almost disappeared, and was transferred to water-finding. The divining-rod has, however, also been used for searching for any buried objects. In the south of France, in the 17th century, it was employed in tracking criminals and heretics. Its abuse led to a decree of the Inquisition in 1701, forbidding its employment for purposes of justice.
In modern times the professional dowser is a “water-finder,” and there has been a good deal of investigation into the possibility of a scientific explanation of his claims to be able to locate underground water, where it is not known to exist, by the use of a forked hazel-twig which, twisting in his hands, leads him by its directing-power to the place where a boring should be made. Whether justified or not, a widespread faith exists, based no doubt on frequent success, in the dowser’s power; and Professor Barrett (The Times, January 21, 1905) states that “making a liberal allowance for failures of which I have not heard, I have no hesitation in saying that where fissure water exists and the discovery of underground water sufficient for a domestic supply is a matter of the utmost difficulty, the chances of success with a good dowser far exceed mere lucky hits, or the success obtained by the most skilful observer, even with full knowledge of the local geology.” Is this due to any special faculty in the dowser, or has the twig itself anything to do with it? Held in balanced equilibrium, the forked twig, in the dowser’s hands, moves with a sudden and often violent motion, and the appearance of actual life in the twig itself, though regarded as mere stage-play by some, is popularly associated with the cause of the water-finder’s success. The theory that there is any direct connexion (“sympathy” or electrical influence) between the divining-rod and the water or metal, is however repudiated by modern science. Professor Barrett, who with Professor Janet and others is satisfied that the rod twists without any intention or voluntary deception on the part of the dowser, ascribes the phenomenon to “motor-automatism” on the part of the dowser (see Automatism), a reflex action excited by some stimulus upon his mind, which may be either a subconscious suggestion or an actual impression (obscure in its nature) from an external object or an external mind; both sorts of stimulus are possible, so that the dowser himself may make false inferences (and fail) by supposing that the stimulus is an external object (like water). The divining-rod being thus “an indicator of any sub-conscious suggestion or impression,” its indications, no doubt, may be fallacious; but Professor Barrett, basing his conclusions upon observed successes and their greater proportion to failures than anything that
- La Baguette divinatoire (Paris, 1845).