Dedicant's Work

Study Program











Pagan Student Association

CafePress Shop


Give three specific examples of divination within one Indo-European culture. (minimum 100 words each)


1. Dream interpretation. There's a folk custom in some Celtic lands that appears to have involved wrapping the bard tightly in a bull's hide and laying him beside running water for a day and a night. Another variant of this involves the bard laying in a windowless house with two doors, one at each end, and making up poems upon waking. Often the Bard was said to eat the raw flesh of the bull, or drink its blood. Called tarbh feis in Irish, these things are similar to an incident in The Dream of Rhonabwy, in The Mabinogion, where the hero enters a dark hall, the abode of an old hag. He falls asleep for three days and nights on a yellow ox-hide and has a vivid dream of a chess match that influences a battle. Many, many people in Irish myth have dreams that involve foretelling the future, especially the downfalls or elevation of great men.

2. Augury. Diodorus Siculus tells us that Druids "tell the future by watching the flights of birds." (Histories) Cicero, when discussing divination in De Divinatione, says that the Druids claimed to make predictions "sometimes by means of augury." (1, XLI, 90) Several other ancient authors mention this, and it was also popular in Rome. Tacitus later mentions augury in his famous section in Germania chapter 10, though only in passing. We can't be sure Tacitus was talking about Gaul, but then we can't be sure he was talking about real Germans, either. In fact, birds figured heavily into The Dream of Rhonabwy, mentioned above, which ties the two methods together in an interesting manner.

3. Flat-out Prophecy. Vopiscus mentions an incident in Gaul, when the emperor Dioclecion stayed with a Druidess, and she predicted his assent to the Emperorship, saying, "Laugh not, Diocletian, for when you have killed the boar, you will indeed be the Emperor." (Numerianus) He also mentions a prophecy by Gaulish Druidesses about the line of Claudius. (Aurelianus, XLIII, 4, 5) The Augustan Histories discuss a Druidess who acted as a prophetess for Roman officials. The position of advisor to kings seems to indicate that the Druids had some form of other-worldy knowledge, as well. One method that exists is called tenm laida, and is a way to identify dead persons. Finn's tooth of knowledge is another example of flat-out prophecy or wisdom.


Content © 2003, Michael J Dangler
Updated on 11/06/2003. Site Credits / Email Me!
Basic site design from
(Yes, I stole it!)