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Astragalomancy: Divination by Bones

Astragalomancy, derived from the Greek word “astragalos” literally means divination by knuckle bone or vertebra of an animal. It’s an ancient form of divination that uses dice made from animal bones, preferably sheep or goat. These dice are engraved with special letters and numbers in order to help practitioners draw effective answers to questions that a person may have about their present, past or future. The practice is similar to casting lots, as a list of potential answers is made before starting up with the process. The dicer then interprets the symbols that roll out after the throw of the dice. 

History of Astragalomancy

The idea of contacting the divine truth has been around for decades. And it was the result of mankind’s curiosity to know about future outcomes that gave birth to Astragalomancy. Astragalomancy is believed to have been introduced in Athens in the 5th century. Marked knuckles of sheep and goat were found near the altar of Aphrodite Ourania in Athens, suggesting that Astragalomancy was performed near the region around 500 BC. The marked astragali of sheep and goat are common at Mediterranean and near Eastern archeological sites. The Metropolitan museum has evidence of “bone” dice used by Shona people in Africa.

How Astragalomancy is Done    

Even though Astragalomancy can’t predict specific events, it can provide you with an idea of the circumstances or situations that would surround a particular event or person at a particular time. Several methods are employed to administer the process. However, the most common of all is the modern technique, which begins with a small cup consisting of two or more dice. A dicer can use a minimum of two and maximum of 20 dice to practice Astragalomancy.  A 12’’circle is drawn on a piece of paper or soft cloth, which is divided into 12 equal segments. The subject is then asked to place their question. The dicer then rolls out the set of dice on the circle while concentrating on the question at hand. If any of the dice fall out of the circle, the dice is discarded from the reading. However, if all the dice fall out of the circle, the reading is taken again. It is believed that if the process fails three times the reading should not be taken on that day.

Astragalomancy in Tibet

In Tibet the practice of Astragalomancy is known by the name “Mo” divination. Dalai Lama is reported to have employed this method many times to determine whether a person is eligible for an important position or not. Tibetans employ dough balls instead of using dice to find an answer to their question. These balls are reported to consist of paper slips inside, with “possible choices” written over them. Of the lot of balls, one ball is picked and the outcome is matched to the corresponding response. It is believed that the process helps people make well informed decisions. Tibetans employ Astragalomancy to make everyday decisions.

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