Alternatively known as Macharomancy and Machaeromancy.
Derived from the Greek machaira ('short sword, dagger') and manteia ('divination'), it is the art and practice of divining the past, the present and the future by blades, daggers, knives and swords.
The Englishman John Gaule, in his The Magastromancer (1652), lists Machairomancy as "divination by swords, daggers and knives."
One of the most popular methods of Machairomancy consists of placing a consecrated athame or dagger in the center of a circle bordered with letters and numbers. After asking the spirits a question, the dagger is spun around in a spin-the-bottle fashion. Each time it stops, the letter or number its blade points to is written down. This continues until the answer is spelled out, usually scrambled or in a foreign or ancient language such as Latin or Greek.
Gypsies practice Machairomancy also using the spin-the-dagger method, by placing the blade onto a wooden board, sometimes a bread cutting board, which is divided into sectors, with each sector having its own meaning. The diviner spins the dagger three times and interprets the answer depending on which sector the blade or the tip of the dagger points to. One of these three answers — not necessarily the first — would be the answer to the question asked to spirits, while others may be interpreted in some connection to it or sometimes ignored.
Another method consists of throwing sickles (a semicircular blade attached to a short handle, used for cutting grain or tall grass) into the air and then drawing omens from the positions in which they fall.
This sickle-throwing type of divination was very popular in Scotland, where it was traditionally performed on August Eve (July 31) to predict the following year's marriages and deaths.
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Sources: (1) Spence, Lewis, An Encyclopedia of Occultism, Carol Publishing Group; (2) Dictionary of the Occult, Caxton Publishing; (3) Johnstone, Jane and Pilkington, Maya, The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Fortune Telling Published by Sterling; (4) Dunwich, Gerina, A Wiccan's Guide to Prophecy and Divination, Carol Publishing Group.
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