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Scapulimancy (also spelled scapulomancy and scapulamancy, also termed omoplatoscopy) is the practice of divination by use of scapulae (shoulder blades). In the context of the oracle bones of ancient China, which chiefly utilized both scapulae and the plastrons of turtle, scapulimancy is sometimes used in a very broad sense to jointly refer to both scapulimancy and plastromancy (similar divination using plastrons). However, the term osteomancy might be more appropriate, referring to divination using bones. Many archaeological sites along the south coast and offlying islands of the Korean peninsula show that deer and pig scapulae were used in divination during the Korean Protohistoric Period, c. 300 BC - AD 300/400.

Historically, scapulimancy has taken two major forms. In the first, "apyromantic", the scapula of an animal was simply examined after its slaughter. This form was widespread in Europe, Northern Africa and the Near East. However, the second form, "pyromantic" scapulimancy, involving the heating or burning of the bone and interpretation of the results, was practiced in East Asia and North America.

Scapulimancy was also mentioned in Chapter 5 of the Kojiki, the Japanese Record of Ancient Matters, in which the heavenly deities used this process of divination during a consultation by lesser gods.

It is also a method of divination among Greek and Serb farmers, even today. It is probably of extremely ancient origin. More recently, references are found in the memoirs of several warriors who fought during the Greek War of Independence. Whenever they had a feast, they used to roast lambs or kids, and after the meal, anyone who knew how to "read" the scapula would clean it of any remaining flesh and, lifting it up to the light, would interpret the various shadowy bits showing on the transparent part of the bone. A clear scapula was a good omen. Shadowy bits had their interpretation and by this they used to predict the outcome of a battle on the morrow, death or survival.

In Renaissance magic, scapulimancy (known as "spatulamancy") was classified as one of the seven "forbidden arts," along with necromancy, geomancy, aeromancy, pyromancy, chiromancy (palmistry), and hydromancy.[1]

See also


  1. Johannes Hartlieb (Munich, 1456) The Book of All Forbidden Arts; quoted in Láng, p. 124.
  • Keightley, David N. (1978). Sources of Shang History: The Oracle-Bone Inscriptions of Bronze Age China. University of California Press, Berkeley. Large format hardcover, ISBN 0-520-02969-0 (out of print); A ppbk 2nd edition (1985) ISBN 0-520-05455-5 is still in print.
  • Andrée, R. (1906) Scapulimantia. In Anthropological Papers in Honour of Franz Boas, edited by Berthold Laufer, pp. 143–165
  • Eisenberger, Elmar Jakob (1938). Das Wahrsagen aus dem Schulterblatt. Internationales Archiv für Ethnographie 35, pp. 49–116.
  • Philippi, Donald L. (1968). Kojiki. University of Tokyo Press, Tokyo. p. 52.