The word divination literally means to get in touch with the divine. It is derived from the Latin “divinus,” which meant soothsayer, which, in turn, was derived from “deus,” meaning God. We often think of the ancient soothsayers or oracles as making predictions. However, we have written records from Delphi and other oracles, and they show that the majority of statements of the oracles were not predictions but advice on how to make improvements and keep the favor of the divine.
In the ancient world, it was generally believed that the gods desired to communicate with people and divination was how that communication happened. Techniques for divination included dream interpretation, the interpretation of the flight of birds and other omens, the examination of the entrails of sacrificial animals (particularly the liver), the declarations of oracles (the spokes person for a specific god, located at the appropriate shrine, also called an oracle), astrology, and throwing dice or lots. All important decisions at a personal or state level involved divination. As there was no central authority to decide religious issues, often the questions that were asked were concerned with the will of the gods.
In modern culture, the Tarot has replaced dice as the common tool for divination. As in the past, this tool is best used as a device for communicating with our higher self, the voice of the divine within ourselves. Instead of predicting the future, it can guide us to a better future.
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