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From the earliest stages of civilization people have used various means of divination to communicate with the supernatural when seeking help in their public and private lives. Divination is most often practiced as a means of foretelling the future, and sometimes the past. It is one of the primary practices used by witches, wizards, medicine men, sorcerers, and shamans. These various groups of persons are often called diviners, who often belonged to special classes of priests and priestesses in past and present civilizations, and are specially trained in the practice and interpretation of their divinatory skills.

The methodology for practicing the divinatory skills seems to divide into two categories: the first is the observation and interpretation on natural phenomena, and the second is the observation and interpretation of man-made "voluntary" phenomena. Natural phenomena includes two major subcategories of activity: astrology, and hepatoscopy. To a lesser degree the observation of the following occurrences also can be listed under natural phenomena: unexpected storms, particular cloud formations, birth monstrosities in both man and animal, howling or unnatural actions in dogs, and night-marish dreams.

Man-made or "voluntary" phenomena is defined as being deliberately produced for the sole purpose of soothsaying and includes such acts as necromancy, pouring oil into a basin of water to observe the formation of bubbles and rings in the receptacle, shooting arrows, casting lots, and numerous other acts.

The ancient Romans favored augury and haruspicy. The Egyptians, Druids, and Hebrews relied on scrying. The Druids also read death throes and entrails of sacrificed animals.

The Greeks had their oracle which spoke for the gods. In the Middle Ages grain, sand or peas were tossed onto a field in order to read the patterns after the substances fell. As far back as 1000 BC. the Chinese had "I CHING," an oracle which involved the tossing and reading of long short yarrow sticks. Another ancient Chinese divinatory practice which is still used is "feng-shui," or geomancy, which involves the erecting of buildings, tombs, and other physical structures by determining the currents of invisible energy coursing through the earth. Presently people also are using this principle for the arrangement of furniture in their homes.

Many divinatory methods are still used today, especially in paganism, witchcraft, voodoo and Santeria. Most Christians would probably disagree but prayer might also be considered a divinatory act. Many practitioners today do not feel signs of divination are absolute or fixed, but believe they still have free choices in their future. They believe divination helps them in making better choices. A.G.H.