DIVINATION


Man, by nature, longs to know what the future holds for him, either out of inherent curiosity or in order to anticipate the dangers that await him. Therefore, in all ancient civilizations - and even in some cultures of today - there were diviners who used various methods to predict the future. It is possible to distinguish between practitioners who use external means to guess the future and persons who perceive the future simply through their own awareness. The prediction of the future through technical means is closely akin to *magic, and the line between them is sometimes blurred. What distinguishes the one from the other is that divination only attempts to predict future events, while magic also professes to influence and change them for good or bad. In any case, man believed that prediction of the future was possible, and that it was bound up with superhuman, demonic, or divine powers, from which the diviner received his knowledge either directly or indirectly. This belief rested on the assumption that there were powers - spirits or gods - that knew the future and with which man could communicate in order to receive this knowledge. It was believed that some men have a natural talent for receiving revelations, either in a waking state or in dreams, and in the manner in which the future is revealed to them, such men resemble the prophets, at least outwardly. Others, who predict the future through signs, had to learn the signs and the means by which to interpret them. Divination was of both general and individual concern. In Mesopotamia fortunetellers first appear in the service of the community. Egyptian documents indicate that diviners served the needs of the country and the king, as well as the everyday needs of the individual. This is also the case in the biblical world. The Bible mentions that the *Urim and Thummim were consulted on the needs of the community (Num. 27:21; I Sam. 14:41; et al.), and the prophets for a prediction of the future (I Kings 22:5ff.; II Kings 3:11ff.); prophets were also sought after for the needs of the individual (I Sam. 9:10, 19). Among the masses, it was a widespread practice to seek false prophets and fortune-tellers, as is known from the polemics of the true prophets against them (Ezek. 13:17ff.; Micah 3:11; et al.).

The Prophet as a Mantic

There is a certain relationship, at least externally, between the mantic, who foretells the future by means of internal awareness, and the prophet (see *Prophets and Prophecy). Knowledge of mantics is drawn from Greek and Roman literature. The mantic achieved ecstasy through music, by use of intoxicating drugs, and by other means. Sometimes he ate the principal organs of a living animal upon which a magical act had been performed. Of all these methods only the use of music is found among the prophets, and that only twice: Saul is told that he will meet a band of prophets "with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, raving" (I Sam. 10:5); and when Elisha was asked to prophesy about the results of the war with Moab, he requested a minstrel – "And when the minstrel played, the power of the Lord came upon him" (II Kings 3:15). In some cases, the prophet performs the functions of the mantic. In Deuteronomy it is stressed that the prophet is to take the place of various types of fortunetellers (Deut. 18:14ff.). The criterion given for distinguishing between true and false prophets is the fulfillment of the prophecy or its non-fulfillment (18:20–22). The prophets were also consulted on mattersof a type that a mantic would answer. In the story of Saul and the asses, the servant says of Samuel the seer: "All that he says comes true" (I Sam. 9:6), i.e., the seer envisions the future and does not err. Jeroboam sent his wife to Ahijah of Shiloh to inquire whether his son would live (I Kings 14:1ff.), Jehoshaphat asked the prophets to tell him the outcome of the battle at Ramoth-Gilead (22:5ff.), and Elisha was asked to predict the outcome of the war with Moab (II Kings 3:11). This consultation of the prophets replaced the consultation of the *ephod found in earlier periods (cf. I Sam. 23:2–6, 9–12). Following Kuenen and Wellhausen, current theories hold that the early Israelite seer resembled the pre-Islamic Arab priest (kāhin), who understood omens and had dreams, but was not an ecstatic prophet. However, there is no evidence in the Bible that the Israelite men of God were ever guided by omens, and even the false prophets were not accused of this (although their prophecy is contemptuously called divination; Ezek. 13:7, 23; Micah 3:6, 7). The seer (Heb. ro'eh, as in I Sam. 9:9; I Chron. 9:22; II Chron. 16:7, 10; et al.; or ḥozeh, as in II Sam. 24:11; et al.) did not use technical means, although their use was customary among the priests, who wore the ephod under the breastplate upon which the Urim and Thummim were placed (see below).

Methods of Foretelling the Future in the Bible

In the Bible *dreams and consultation of the Urim and Thummim were considered valid means of inquiring into the future. The dream as a source of divine revelation was widespread in all ancient civilizations, and there are even books of dreams from Egypt and Mesopotamia. The dream informs the dreamer of what awaits him in the future, as in the examples of the dreams of Joseph (Gen. 37:5–9), the cup-bearer and the baker (40:5ff.), Pharaoh (41:1ff.), and many others; however, it does not explicitly reveal the future, and must be interpreted (41:8ff.). To do this, one must know what the phenomena in the dream symbolize and to what they are directed. Books of dreams were written in Egypt and Mesopotamia for the purpose of teaching the interpretations of dreams according to their symbols, and it is reasonable to assume that a system of dream-interpretation (oneiromancy) was also known in Israel. In some passages the phenomenon of the dream is negatively evaluated: "the dreamers tell false dreams, and give empty consolation" (Zech. 10:2), and "for when dreams increase, empty words grow many" (Eccles. 5:6; cf. v. 2).

The Urim and Thummim, a type of lot oracle, were placed in the breastplate over the ephod of the priest. He who consulted the Urim and Thummim sought to determine between only two possibilities, as in the case of David: "Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down? … And the Lord said, 'He will come down.'" (The Urim and Thummim answer only the second question.) "… Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the Lord said, 'They will surrender you'" (I Sam. 23:10–12). Egyptian documents indicate the manner in which the oracle worked. The appointed priest would call out to the divine oracle two answers to his question, and the god would react to one of them. By another method, the priest would call out a list of names of suspects to the god, who would react to the name of the guilty one. Thus, for example, in a description of consultation of the statue of Pharaoh Amenhotep I, who became a divine oracle after his death, the god is asked to clarify who is guilty of the theft of clothing belonging to thecomplainant. The priest called out the names of all the households in the village before the statue of the god, and the house of the thief was identified (cf. I Sam. 10:19ff.). In Egypt, the reply was given by the idol-bearers, who stepped backward to signify a negative answer, and forward for a positive one. Lucian relates a similar method of replying, in which the statue of Apollo carried in a chariot would gallop forward to indicate a positive answer (De Dea Syria, 36). Several terms for diviners, who are connected with the consultation of the spirits of the dead, appear in the Bible (Isa. 19:3): ʾov, yiddeʿoni, and iṭṭim. The Hebrew word ʾov, which is derived from the Hittite a-a-bi, means the pit from which the spirit of the dead rises, or the spirit of the dead which rises from the pit (cf. I Sam. 15:23; Isa. 29:4). The yiddeʿoni ("wizard") is apparently synonymous with the ba'al ʾov ("medium"), either because of his ability (yadaʿ, "to know") to call up the spirit of the dead or his knowledge of the future. Iṭṭim appears to be a synonym for ʾov, and is explained according to the Akkadian eṭemmu, the spirit of the dead. Consultation of the terafim is also mentioned in connection with divination (Judg. 17:5; 18:14; Ezek. 21:26; Hos. 3:4; Zech. 10:2). The word terafim is derived from Hittite tarpi(sh). The primary sense of the word is "spirit," and from this it came to designate the object that served as the symbol of the spirit, e.g., a statue or statuette. The size of the terafim was not defined. Those which Rachel stole from Laban were small enough to be concealed in a camel-saddle (Gen. 31:34), while those in David's house were large enough for Michal to place in bed and delude Saul's messengers who came in search of David (I Sam. 19:13). Some scholars hold that the meʿonen or ʿonen ("soothsayer"; Deut. 18:10, 14; Isa. 57:3; Jer. 27:9; Micah 5:11) also consults the dead to foretell the future, and they explain the root ʿnn according to the Arabic ʿanna ("to appear"). The meʿonen, therefore, is one who causes the spirit of the dead to appear. However, since the meʿonen and his activity are mentioned a number of times together with divination (the Heb. verb naḥesh and noun naḥash; Lev. 19:26; Deut. 18:10; II Kings 21:6; II Chron. 33:6), the term possibly refers to a special type of divination.

The techniques of divining mentioned in the Bible are with a goblet, with arrows, by attaching a pre-agreed significance to the manner in which one was addressed, by the inspection of a liver (hepatoscopy), and by astrology. Divination by means of a goblet is mentioned in the story of Joseph who divined with his silver goblet (Gen. 44:5). This method was apparently based on the patterns formed by drops of water ina cup of oil (lecanomancy), or by beads of oil in a cup of water; in some cases they also divined from the patterns formed in a cup of wine. This type of divination is known from Babylonian documents dated as early as the 18th century B.C.E. Divination by arrows (balomancy) is explicitly mentioned in Ezekiel 21:26, according to which Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, "shakes the arrows, he consults the teraphim.…" The word qilqal ("shakes, flings") shows that this method of divination involved the shaking of arrows. Mesopotamian documents indicate that it was customary to cast lots by flinging arrows into a quiver. Divination by arrows was practiced by Arab tribes before Islam and was prohibited by the Koran (Sura. 5:4, 92). According to the testimony of scribes, during the "period of ignorance" (jāhiliyya), the Arabs divined with blunt arrows in the sanctuary. They would place the arrows in a quiver and fling it until an arrow fell from it. The first arrow to fall was the one that expressed the will of the god. There is also evidence that the arrows were named according to the answers that they represented, and were cast before the statue of the god. It is possible to interpret the above passage concerning Nebuchadnezzar to mean that he consulted the terafim by casting lots with arrows in front of them. Bronze arrowheads of the 11th–10th centuries B.C.E., on which the word ḥeẓ ("arrow") was written, were found near Betḥ-Lehem, in Galilee, and in the Valley of Lebanon. S. Iwri interprets the word ḥeẓ here as "luck, good luck" (according to Arabic and Ugaritic), but this is only a surmise. The Bible also mentions fortune-telling or divination of the type known in Akkadian as egirru and in Greek as klēdōn, by which an interpretation was given to a conventional word that was seen as a sign. In this way, one can understand the peculiar sign conceived by Jonathan when he went to fight the Philistines: "If they say to us, 'wait until we come to you,' then we will stand in our place, and we will not go up to them. But if they say, 'come up to us,' then we will go up; for the Lord has given them into our hand. And this shall be the sign to us" (I Sam. 14:9–10; cf. v. 12). The same holds for the sign given by the servants of Ben-Hadad when they went to Ahab to beg for the life of their master (I Kings 20:32–33): "… and they went to the king of Israel and said, 'your servant, Ben-Hadad …' and he said, 'Does he still live? He is my brother.' Now the men were watching for an omen … and said, 'Yes, your brother Ben-Hadad.'"

Hepatoscopy and astrology were more advanced methods of divining the future. The study of the liver is mentioned in Ezekiel 21:26. This custom was widespread in Mesopotamia, in the land of Canaan, among the Hittites, Greeks, and Romans, and, in a later period, also among the Arabs. The qualified augur inspected, in an established order, all the internal organs of an animal sacrificed to a god, in particular the liver. According to the signs that he found in the liver, and which were learned in schools established for that purpose, he predicted the future. "The astrologers, the stargazers," are mentioned in the prophecy concerning Babylon in Isaiah 47:13. Some scholars explain the Hebrew word for astrologers hoverei shamayim, according to the Arabic habara ("to cut into large parts"). That would indicate that astrologers divided the sky into star-families, as did Babylonian astrologers, and were identical with stargazers. Others interpret hoverei shamayim according to the Ugaritic hbr ("to bow") and consider hoverei shamayim to be those who bow to the celestial bodies; thus the passage connects the worship of stars with astrology. The observation of celestial bodies or other heavenly signs is referred to in Jeremiah 10:2: "Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens …"

The Biblical Attitude Toward Divination in General

Divination is included among the abominations of the nations which the Israelites were forbidden to learn and practice (Deut. 18:9–11). Leviticus 19:26, 31 also contains the prohibition against the use of magic to tell the future: "You shall not practice divination or soothsaying" and "Do not turn to ghosts and do not inquire of familiar spirits to be defiled by them." The punishment for those who do consult them is excommunication (20:6). However, in response to human nature, the Bible allowed consultation of the Urim and Thummim on the one hand and the prophets on the other, and considered them the only proper means of inquiring into the future. The Book of Deuteronomy designates the prophet to satisfy the needs that were met among the nations by fortunetellers using systems of magic (Deut. 18:14ff.). The dream was also a proper method of prophesying the future (cf. I Sam. 28:6; et al.), since God would often reveal Himself to His chosen ones in a dream (See *Dreams). According to the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, fortunetellers and mantics predicted the future in the name of God (Jer. 27:9–10; 29:8–9; Ezek. 22:28; cf. 12:24; 13:6–9). They probably functioned in the area of popular religion, and the prophets saw them as falsifying the word of God and therefore fought them. That fortunetellers were persecuted is known from the story of the medium and Saul, who removed the mediums and "wizards" and cut them off from the land (I Sam. 28:3, 9). In contrast to Saul's act, which he performed in accordance with the precepts of the Torah, Manasseh, king of Judah, introduced idolatry into Jerusalem: "[he] practiced soothsaying and augury, and dealt with mediums and with wizards" (II Kings 21:6; II Chron. 33:6). The cultic reform of Josiah put an end to these (II Kings 23:24).

[Shmuel Ahituv]

In the Talmud

The rabbis adopted an ambivalent attitude toward divination. On the one hand there is the clear prohibition of the Bible (see above); on the other the rabbis, particularly the Babylonian amoraim, lived in an environment which was the classic home of divination, where it was extensively practiced. To some extent they overcame the difficulty by distinguishing between naḥash (divination proper), which was forbidden, and simanim ("signs"), which were permitted.

The Sifra Kedushim 6 and the Sifrei Deuteronomy 171 give different examples of divination. The former merely talks of divination by "weasels, birds, and stars," apparently referring to the cry of the animal and the bird, the bird in flight, and the stars in their courses. The latter is more explicit, giving examples of a man regulating his conduct by omens, "For instance, if he says that bread has fallen from his mouth, his staff from his hand, a snake passed on his right and a fox on his left and his tail crossed his path [which are considered bad omens], or if he refuses to do something because it is the New Moon, or the eve of the Sabbath, or Saturday night." The same passage, however, includes the enchanter (kosem) in the category of divination: "the enchanter is one who seizes his staff [and decides according to the direction in which it falls] whether I will go or not." The Talmud (Sanh. 65b) combines these with some variations and adds other bad omens, e.g., if a raven croaks at a man or a deer crosses his path. These are enumerated in Maimonides (Yad, Akum 11:4).

The dividing line between divination and signs is indicated by the statement, "Any divination which is not as the divination of Eliezer the servant of Abraham at the well [Gen. 24:14] or Jonathan the son of Saul [I Sam. 14:9–10] is no divination" (Ḥul. 95b). There is, however, a curious difference of opinion among the medieval commentators as to the import of this statement. Maimonides (Yad, loc. cit.) regards it as meaning that divinations of this kind are forbidden. Abraham b. David of Posquières (ad loc.) roundly disagrees with him, stating emphatically that the passage means that this kind ofdivination is permitted. Similarly, the tosafot (Ḥul. 95b) agree with Maimonides, while Isserles adopts the view of Abraham b. David, though with reservations (Sh. Ar., YD 179:4). The former view seems to be more in accordance with the text and context, and the difference between divination and signs seems to be that in the cases of Eliezer and Jonathan the course of action taken was dependent on the happening, whereas a "sign" merely interprets an event as an omen for good or evil and is permitted.

Thus it is specifically stated in the name of R. Simeon b. Eleazar, "A house, a child, and a wife, though they do not constitute divination, do act as signs" (Ḥul. 95b); i.e., good or bad fortune immediately following the purchase of a house, the birth of a child, or marriage may be regarded as auguries of future success or failure. In the same context comes a special kind of divination which was regarded as permitted: the custom of asking a child to recite "his" biblical verse (Ḥag. 15a; Gitt. 57a et al.) and interpreting the answer as a sign. One interesting example is given by the Talmud (Ḥul. 95b). R. Johanan decided to visit Samuel in Babylon after the death of Rav. He asked a child to quote his verse and the child cited, "Now Samuel was dead" (I Sam. 28:3). Johanan took this as a sign but the Talmud adds, "It was not so. It was only that Johanan should not be put to the trouble of visiting him." The special importance of this form of divination is provided by two passages in the Talmud, one to the effect that "since the destruction of the Temple prophecy was taken from the prophets and given to fools and children" (BB 12b) and the other "if a man wakes up and finds that a scriptural verse has fallen into his mouth, it is a minor prophecy." David ha-Levi presumably combines these two sayings when he justifies this form of divination as "minor prophecy" (Taz, YD 179:4). The Talmud is replete with "signs" which do not belong to the category of divination, and the same applies to the Middle Ages, particularly in the Sefer Ḥasidim of Judah he-Hasid.

Nevertheless the distinction between divination and signs is sometimes so fine as to be almost imperceptible. When Rav was on a journey and came to a ford, if he saw the ferryboat coming toward him he regarded it as a good omen, if departing from him a bad one (Ḥul. 95b). Similarly it is difficult to decide whether the knowledge of "the language of birds" and "the language of the palm-trees" belongs to divination or not. Although, as has been stated, the Sifra specifically forbids divination by the cries of birds, and the third of the *Sibylline books (224) states, "the Jews do not consider the omens of flight as observed by the augurs," the Talmud tells the story of R. Ilish for whom the language of the raven was interpreted; he refused to obey it since the raven is a lying bird, but when a dove repeated the message he did (Git. 45a). Of *Johanan b. Zakkai it is related that among his accomplishments was a knowledge of "the language of palm-trees" (Suk. 28a; BB 134a). The following explanation is given by Nathan b. Jehiel in the Arukh (S.V. si'ah. The text here given is by B.M. Lewin (Oẓar ha-Ge'onim, 6 pt. 2 (1934)), Sukkah, no. 67, which is slightly different): "On a completely windless day, so still that even when a sheet is spread out it does not sway, he who understands the speech of the palms takes up his position between two adjacent palms and watches how their branches turn toward one another, and there is in this movement signs from which he can recognize many things." It is also said of R. Abraham Kabassi Gaon (who lived in the year 828) that he was an adept in the speech of the palms, and as aresult used to communicate "great and wonderful things, the truth of which was attested by many."

Moses *Isserles qualifies the permissibility of such divinations as that of Eliezer and Johanan (see above) with the reservation, "But he who trusteth in the Lord, mercy compasseth him about" (Ps. 32:10), and the Talmud (Ned. 32a) states "He who refrains from practicing divination is brought within a [divine] barrier which even the ministering angels are not permitted to cross." Generally speaking, the view of the halakhic authorities is that divination, like all the other forms of superstitions mentioned in the Bible in this context, such as sorcery, necromancy, and "familiar spirits," is possible but forbidden. A strikingly different, rational, view is taken by Maimonides. After faithfully detailing their laws as found in the Talmud he concludes: "But all those things are lying and falsehood and it is with them that the ancient idolaters led astray the nations of the lands that they should follow them. It is not fitting that the people of Israel, who are wise and perspicuous, be attracted by those follies or imagine that they are of any effect, as it is said, 'For there is no enchantment with Jacob, neither is there any divination with Israel' (Num. 23:23); and it is also said, 'For these nations which thou art to dispossess, hearken unto soothsayers and unto diviners; but as for thee, the Lord thy God hath not suffered thee to do so' (Deut. 18:14). Whosoever believes in those matters and their like and imagines that they are true, and matters of wisdom, but the Torah has forbidden the practice of them, is but of the fools and the retarded and in the category of women and minors whose mind is not whole. Those who possess wisdom and are of wholesome mind, however, know clearly that all these things which the Torah has forbidden are not words of wisdom but confusions and vanity to which those lacking in knowledge are attracted and as a result they have forsaken all the ways of truth. For this reason the Torah, when it warns against all these follies, says (Deut. 18:13), 'Thou shalt be wholehearted with the Lord thy God'" (Yad, Akkum 11:16). *Elijah b. Solomon, Gaon of Vilna, however, criticized Maimonides for this rational approach, saying that "accursed philosophy led him astray."

[Louis Isaac Rabinowitz]

In the Middle Ages

OMENS

During the Middle Ages, both Jews and Christians readily read omens from bodily phenomena. The following passages by *Eleazar b. Judah of Worms seem to derive from non-Jewish sources: "Just as the astrologers foresee events from the stars, so there are some who can foretell the future from human signs. If the flesh under one's armpit quivers, they will be broaching a match to him soon … If the sole of one's foot itches … he will be journeying soon to a strange place …if his palm, he will hold in his hand gold or silver … itching in any part of the body is an omen … God apprises man, through bodily phenomena, of what will transpire" (Ḥokhmat ha-Nefesh, 25d). Another powerful omen was sneezing. The behavior of animals was also regarded as a portent for the future. A dog howling mournfully is a clear sign that the angel of death is walking through a town; similarly, a dog dragging his hindquarters along the floor toward the door is an indication of the approach of death.

A number of occurrences betokened good or ill fortune; it was unlucky to open the day or the week with an action involving loss, for it was possible that this action could color the whole subsequent period. For this reason, it was considered undesirable to pay the tax-collector or repay a debt on the first day of the week. Other such superstitions include a seminal pollution on the Day of Atonement which was generally believed to herald death within a year, though the talmudic authorities differed in their interpretation of this; a Pentateuch falling to the ground was so bad an omen that it was customary to try to counter it by a period of fasting; making a mistake in prayer also heralded disaster; in the Rhineland it was believed that when the flames on the hearth leap unusually high, a guest will shortly arrive. If the fire is doused with water, the visitor will be drowned (Yoma 88a; Responsa Maharil, 83a–b, etc.; Balu, 149; Grimm, vol. 3,467, para. 889).

Particular tokens of good fortune were some foods. The main meal on Rosh Ha-Shanah included a number of foods symbolizing happiness and prosperity: a lamb's head, "that He may put us at the head and not the tailend" of things; fat meats, and sweets such as apples dipped in honey, "that the new year may be prosperous and happy"; pomegranates, "that our merits may be as numerous as its seeds"; fish, which are proverbially symbols of fruitfulness, and others. The practice of eating on New Year's Day foods specially chosen for their good influence on the future probably initially reflected Roman custom, and it was also widespread in Christian Europe in the Middle Ages and modern times.

THE ART OF PREDICTION

The desire to know the future was not satisfied through interpretations of omens alone. The active creation of signs and portents was also widely practiced. Although, like leading non-Jewish thinkers, religious and lay, the rabbis forbade these practices on moral and religious grounds, their more or less open recognition that such "evils" bore results made all their prohibitions ineffectual. Medieval Jewry was acquainted with a considerable variety of means of divination deriving from Oriental and Greco-Roman sources as well as from contemporary Christian practice, and they resorted to many of these. One method was to place a lighted candle during the ten days between Rosh Ha-Shanah and the Day of Atonement (traditionally regarded as the period when the fate of each man is determined in heaven) where no draft could extinguish it. If the light went out, then the man in question would die before the year's end; if the candle burned to the end, then he could count on at least one more year of life.

On the night of *Hoshana Rabba, when it was believed that the decision concerning men's fate during the new year was finally and irrevocably set out in the heavenly book of records, it was a widespread practice among medieval Jews to go out into the moonlight to see if the shadows they cast were lacking heads, for the absence of a head was a certain sign that what had happened to the shadow would soon befall the body. The earliest Jewish reference to this custom is made by Eleazar of Worms, and Nahmanides also mentions it, as well as many later German-Jewish writers.

Like Christians, Jews occasionally used the Bible as a method of divination. They followed the usual procedure of opening the Bible at random and taking as a portent the first word or sentence that met the eye, but in the Middle Ages they also adhered to a practice common in talmudic times of asking children what verses they had studied in school that day and taking them as good or bad omens.

Divination through casting lots was common throughout the Middle Ages. Although it was usual to employ simple devices like tossing a coin or throwing dice, even in these cases the procedure was complicated by rules governing when the operation could be performed, how the lot was to be held, and how the results should be interpreted, as well as prescribing what prayers or charms should be recited. The Hebrew "booksof lots," like their Christian counterparts, were of Arabic origin; the Jewish versions seem to have been composed mainly in southern Europe and in the Orient.

The method of divination most common among Jews, which was well known in Oriental and classical antiquity, was also frequently practiced by medieval Christians. By this method a young child was made to gaze into a polished or reflecting surface until he saw figures that revealed the desired information. While this method of divination appears to have been most frequently used for detecting theft, it was also employed to divulge future events.

CALLING UP THE DEAD

Two kinds of necromancy are recognized in the Talmud, that of raising the dead man by naming him, and that of questioning him through the medium of a skull. Although both types were often referred to in the Middle Ages, it is doubtful if they were still employed. Other methods seem to have been more popular, such as the practice of two friends agreeing that the first to die should return to reveal the secrets of heaven to the other, appearing either in a dream, or during waking hours.

Other methods described in the sources include: (1) "incantations" at the grave, which were apparently frowned upon,for the word lahash usually refers to a forbidden kind of magic; (2) spending the night on a grave, distinctively dressed and burning spices "until one hears an exceedingly faint voice from the grave responding to his questions"; this method was also considered unacceptable for it was included in the forbidden category of magic; (3) "A man and a woman station themselves at the head and foot of a grave, and on the earth between them they set a rattle, which they strike while they recite a secret invocation; then while the woman looks on the man puts the questions, and the deceased reveals the future to them"; (4) an apparently acceptable method which invoked the dead through the use of angelic names: "Stand before the grave and recite the names of the angels of the fifth camp of the first firmament, and hold in your hand a mixture of oil and honey in a new glass bowl, and say 'I conjure you, spirit of the grave, Nehinah, who rests in the grave upon the bones of the dead, that you accept this offering from my hand and do my bidding; bring me N son of N who is dead.'"

DIVINING TREASURE

It was widely believed in the Middle Ages, particularly in Germany, that treasure lay hidden in the earth. Many northern European folktales recount how a ghostly blue flame sometimes flickers on the ground above the hiding place of a hoard. However, since such capricious signs were a rare occurrence, people were not content to wait patiently for the chance appearance that would make them rich. A surer way of reaching the earth's treasures, therefore, was provided by the diviningrod. Several 15th-century Jewish formulas for making and using a diviningrod, which follow closely the texts of German recipes, have been printed. The language of spells, the names used in them, and the very belief on which they are based, are clear indications that they were borrowed from German originals. Not only buried treasure but also soughtafter information could be revealed by this method. The preparation of the rods followed the same pattern, but the invocations were altered to suit the differing needs.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

T.W. Davies, Magic, Divination and Demonology Among the Hebrews … (1898); E.B. Taylor, Primitive Culture, 1 (19135), 78–81, 117–33; J. Doeller, Die Wahrsagerei im Alten Testament (1923); J.G. Frazer, The Golden Bough (19353), passim; Y. Kaufmann, Toledot, 1 (1937), 358ff.; idem, Mi-Kivshonah shel ha-Yeẓirah ha-Mikra'it (1966), 208–15; A. Guillaume, Prophecy and Divination … (1938); A.L. Oppenheim, in: AFO, 17 (1954–56), 49–55; idem, Ancient Mesopotamia (1964), 206–27, 366–9; de Vaux, Anc Isr, 349–53; H. Wohlstein, in: BZ, 5 (1961), 30–38; S. Iwry, in: JAOS, 81 (1961), 27–34; M. Vieyra, in: Revue Hittite et Asiatique, 69 (1961), 47–55; J. Nougayrol et al., La divination en Mésopotamie ancienne (1966); H. Hoffner, in: JBL, 86 (1967), 385–401; H.L. Ginsberg, in: VT supplement, 16 (1967), 74–75; idem, in: JNES, 27 (1968), 61–68; W.F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (1968), 123–94. MIDDLE AGES: J. Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition (1961); L. Blau, Das altjuedische Zauberwesen (1898); J. Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie, 3 vols. (1875–84); Gross, Gal Jud, 692–700; Grunwald, in: MGJV, 5 (1900), 1–87; 77 (1933), 161–71, 241–52, 467; Guedemann, ibid., 24 (1875), 269f.; 60 (1916), 135–9; H.C. Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, 3 (1911), 379–549; Lévi, in: REJ, 22 (1891), 332f.; 25 (1892), 1–13; 26 (1893), 69–74, 131–5; 29 (1894), 43–60; 47 (1904), 214; 61 (1911), 206–12; 68 (1914), 15–21; L. Thorndike, The Place of Magic in the Intellectual History of Europe (1905); idem, History of Magic and Experimental Science, 8 vols. (1923–58).


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.