Alternatively Empyromancy, Piromancy, Pyromancie, Pyromantia, Pyroscopia, Pyroscopy.
From the Greek pyros ('fire') and manteia ('prophecy'), it is the art and practice of divination by fire.
This method of divination has been practiced since Neolithic times, possibly as far as from the time when fire was first discovered and fire making techniques were achieved. Later on, more complicated methods were developed and incorporated to these basic divinatory procedures and rituals.
The most common forms of Pyromancy involve divination by interpretation of the color, the shape, and the intensity of a fire into which sacred herbs, twigs, peas, or incense have been cast. When a sacrificial fire was used, this type of divination was called Empyromancy.
The presage was good when the flame was vigorous and quickly consumed the sacrifice, but, if in the other hand, if it was slow to consume the victim or offering, the presage was evil.
Pyromancy was also used for health and wellness divination. Bending of the flame was taken as sickness for the healthy, and death for the sick. A nice and strong flame, with little or no variation in size and shape, was the most agreeable outcome. Its sudden extinction was presaged as the coming of a frightful disaster or catastrophe.
In another pyromantic system, the diviner throws objects into the flames, and makes the prognostications from the manner they burn. If the fire was clear of all smoke, transparent, neither red or dark in color, and if it did not crackle and burnt silently, the omen was good. On the contrary, if the fire was difficult to kindle, if the wind disturbed it, and crackling was loud, it was a bad presage.
Another method, supposedly used by those gifted with higher prognostic vision, was to observe the activities of the fire elementals, the fire-souls or salamanders which sport in the flames, possibly after some prayers and/or invocations were pronounced.
In yet another method, usually called Pyroscopy, a burning sheet of paper is placed on a white surface and the resulting stains are then prophetically interpreted.
In another form of Pyromancy, which in this case is closely related to Scrying, the diviner stares at the fire until prophetic visions appear. In a variation of this method, related to Hydromancy and Catoptromancy, the diviner observes the fire in a reflection, either from a consecrated mirror or a sacred pool.
Pyromancy was widely practiced by the vestals in the temple of Minerva at Athens. They were in charge of making prognostications by the observation of the perpetually burning fire there.
The ancients divined not only by observing sacrificial fires, but also the flames of torches. If the flame formed a single point it was a good omen; bad if it split in two. Curiously, three was a better omen then one.
Different forms of Pyromancy include Alomancy, Pyroscopy, Sideromancy, Lychnoscopy, Daphnomancy, Causinomancy, Lampadomancy, Capnomancy and Botanomancy.
Bailey, in An Universal Etymological English Dictionary (1727), defines Pyromancy:
"Divination by the Fire of the Sacrifice. The good Signs were these: If the Flames immediately took hold of and consumed the Victims; if the Flame were bright and pure, without Noise or Smoak; if the Sparks tended upwards in Form of a Pyramid, and the Fire went not out, till all was reduc'd to Ashes. The contrary Signs were, when the Fire was kindled with Difficulty; when the Flame was divided; when it did not immediately spread it self over all the Parts of the Victim, but creeping along consumed them little and little; when it ascended not in a straight Line, but whirled round, turned sideways or downwards, and was extinguished by Wind, Showers, or any other unlucky Accident; when it crackled more than ordinary, was black, casting forth Smoak and Sparks. All these and such like Omens signified (with them) the Displeasure of the Gods."
In Gibson's Complete Illustraded Book of Divination and Prophecy, Pyromancy is also described:
"This covers a wide range of fire omens. If a sacrificial fire kindled slowly or uncertainly, the prospect was bad indeed. If smoky or crackly, it still augured ill. A bright, strong flame, growing rapidly and evenly, was the best of signs. With ordinary fires, omens were obtained by throwing substances such as powdered peas or pitch upon the flames; the more rapidly these were consumed, the better. In northern climes, where winter nights were long, these traditions carried on through the Middle Ages and were common to every hearth and home. Sudden sparks from knotty logs, colored flames from burning driftwood, curious shapes caused by flames or smoke, all were accepted as omens, good or bad."
Pyromancy, like most divinatory systems, is quite ancient, and has been practiced since time immemorial.
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Sources: (1) Dictionary of the Occult, Caxton Publishing; (2) Pickover, Clifford A., Dreaming the Future: The Fantastic Story of Prediction, Prometheus Books Publishing; (3) Dunwich, Gerina, A Wiccan's Guide to Prophecy and Divination, Carol Publishing Group; (4) Buckland, Raymond, The Fortune-Telling Book: The Encyclopedia of Divination and Soothsaying, Visible Ink Press; (5) Gibson, Walter B. and Litzka R., Complete Illustraded Book of Divination and Prophecy, Souvenir Press; (6) Bailey, N., An Universal Etymological English Dictionary, Gale ECCO Publishers; (7) Spence, Lewis, An Encyclopedia of Occultism, Carol Publishing Group.
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