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Unfolding the FutureFortune-telling Methods around the world
Kim Ji-yoon  |
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승인 2014.09.05  14:47:44
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“WHAT WILL happen to me this semester?”, “Could I have prevented this from happening?”, “If only I had known...” Do these thoughts sound similar to yours? If so, you are one of the millions of people throughout history, all over the world. It is human nature to wonder about the future and make attempts to predict it, and it is such curiosity that has led to the astonishing leaps in the development of science. However, although science has resolved the answers to some physical inquiries, such as predicting when a volcano will erupt, or when lightening will strike, much of human being’s experience in daily lives still defies scientific explanation. Therefore, as an alternative source of understanding, humans have created superstitions and rituals to resolve the uncertainty that lies in the future. What is interesting is that this common desire is expressed in different ways around the world. Among the numerous fortune-telling methods from around the world, here are five unique methods.


Kau Cim (China)

Often referred to as “Chinese Fortune Sticks” by Westerners, Kau Cim is a fortune telling practice that dates back to the Jin dynasty of China. Simply put, a person asks a question about the future, and the answer is given through Kau Cim sticks* and its corresponding list of results, called oracle outcomes. After the 100 Kau Cim sticks are placed inside a Cim bucket, the preparation for the procedure is done.

The fortune-telling begins with the querent** requesting answers from a sacred oracle lot in a Taoist or Buddhist temple. Then, the querent tips the cylinder bucket slightly downward, which results in at least one stick falling down to the floor. The number on the stick corresponds to one written oracle on the list, which answers the question asked. Afterwards, the oracle can be interpreted by a temple priest upon request, or even by oneself. The interpreted answers are usually Chinese historical stories retold in a modern sense. These stories predict the events that the querent is to experience in the future.

*Kau Cim sticks: Flat sticks made of bamboo with numbers written on them

**Querent: The person asking the question


Tasseography (Turkey)

Have you ever watched the movie *Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban?* If so, remember Professor Trelawney and her tea-leaf reading classes? This is actually an existing tradition in the world. Only this time, it is not in Hogwarts, but in Turkey! Tasseography is a form of divination that interprets patterns of remains after drinking beverages like tea, coffee and wine. The Turkish developed their unique tasseography in the 16th century with their own specialty, Turkish coffee.

The uniqueness of Turkish coffee reading comes from its special preparation method. Prepared in small pots called *cezve*, brewing coffee consists of repeated boiling and distribution of foam. It is this method that creates abundant foam and left-over grains that differentiate Turkish coffee from other coffees and make fortune telling possible. So, how does this tasseography work? Below is the step-by-step guide to coffee reading. Why not try it yourself with a friend?  

Box 1:

1. Prepare your Turkish coffee.

2. Drink from only one side of the cup.

3. After finishing, place the saucer on top of the cup, and make a wish.

4. With the saucer covering the top, hold the cup at chest level, and turn it counter-clockwise a few times.

5. Turn the cup upside down onto the saucer, and leave to cool.

6. Interpret the shape in the cup by two horizontal halves. The lower half talks refers to the past, while the top half refers to forty days into the future. Shapes on the right side bring positive interpretation, while the shapes on the left are negative, indicating bad events, enemies, and illnesses.

7. Interpret the shapes on the saucer. The saucer is generally interpreted as the home of the person, referring to their domestic lives. Large blank areas indicate relief and peace, while disorderly shapes indicate a funeral or an illness.  


Ceromancy (Europe: Britain, Sweden and Lithuania)

A bowl, water, and candle. This is all that is needed to try this popular method of fortune telling! This simple fortune-telling method was developed by ancient Celts and Romans. Prepare a bowl of cold water, light a coloured candle, and drip the melted wax into the bowl. With a little imagination, you can read your fortune! Here are a list of wax shapes and its meanings.

Chart 1:

Anchor: Your loved one is a true love
Ball: Your problem will not last very long
Beans: Money difficulties
Crown: Sickness
Feather: The problem will be solved
Fish: Someone will betray you
Heart: A friendship will turn into love
House: Better times are coming
Mountain: Good friends are willing to help you
Ring: Marriage may be possible in the near future
Star: Happiness
Worm: Business troubles ahead if you are not careful


Alectryomancy (Africa)

   Have you ever observed pigeons pecking at breadcrumbs on the street? Well, you were doing a form of alectryomancy without realizing it! Originating from the Greek word *alectryon** and *mantia***, alectryomancy is a fortune telling method that observes a bird, usually a cockerel, pecking at grain scattered on the ground. There are various methods for doing this, and one method is to arrange the grains in letters, and observing which letters the birds peck at. After observation, the letters that were pecked at are interpreted in the order of the pecking. Another method is scattering grain randomly on the ground and observing the pattern left by the birds’ pecking.

*Alectryon: “Rooster” in Greek

**Mantia: “Divination” in Greek


Pyromancy (Greece)

*Pyros*, Greek for “fire,” is the etymology for pyromancy. Making and controlling fire is regarded as one of the crucial steps in the development of the human civilization. The significance of fire that dates back to the prehistoric times is perhaps what makes pyromancy one of the oldest traditions of fortune telling. Throughout its long history, there are many variations depending on the material for burning and the method for reading. Here are some of the variations:

- Alomancy: observing the fire after casting salt into the fire

- Botanomancy: observing the smoke and the ashes leftover after burning plants

- Osteomancy: observing the cracks in bones after incineration


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