If you've ever pondered the beauty of a bonfire on a still night, you will understand the human fascination with fire and the belief that it can somehow predict the future. It’s thought that Pyromancy may have originated from the times when burnt offerings were made to the gods. The ancient seers would study the flames as the sacrifices were made and interpret auguries and omens.
The most basic form of Pyromancy is that in which the diviner observes flames and interprets the shapes that he or she sees within them. There are several variations on pyromancy, however, some of which are as follows:
Alomancy - which involves casting salt into a fire
Botanomancy - burning plants
Capnomancy - divination by smoke
Daphnomancy - burning laurel leaves
Osteomancy - heating bones to produce cracks and then interpreting the cracks
Plastromancy - burning turtle plastrons (the flat part, or belly, of a turtle shell); in China this was done by heating pits carved into them.
Scapulimancy - usually practiced in Asia and North America, this involved burning the scapulae (the shoulder blade bone).
Sideromancy - burning straw with an iron
A number of different pictures may appear but one should stand out from the rest as being particularly significant. If no image is seen, then the Pyromancy is abandoned and a new fire lit in 24 hours time. However, if one shape stands out clearly then this is considered to be important and is interpreted as the oracle for the future.
Once the symbol from the fire has been determined, it is interpreted according to a set of traditional meanings.
Good omens are present when the flame is vigorous and quickly consumes the sacrifice; if it’s clear of all smoke, transparent, or neither red nor dark in colour; if it does not crackle, but burns silently in a pyramidal form; if the flame is bright and pure without noise or smoke; and if the fire doesn’t go out until there’s nothing left but ashes. If you see the shape of a windmill or fountain it indicates a change for the better.
Bad omens are present when the flame is difficult to kindle; if it’s slow to consume the sacrificial victim; if the flame is divided; if the flame does not ascend in a straight line but swirls around or turns sideways or downwards; if it’s extinguished by wind, rain or by some other accident; when it crackles more than normal; or is black, casting smoke and sparks.
Besides the sacrificial fire, the ancients divined by observing the flames of torches, and even by throwing powdered pitch into a fire. The flame of a torch was good if it formed one point, bad if it divided into two; but three was a better omen than one. Sickness for the healthy, and death for the sick, was shown by the bending of the flame.
Another common technique for Pyromancy involves sitting quietly in front of a fire that has died down to a bed of glowing coals and entering a state of relaxed meditation. When the pyromancer is ready, ritual dictates that he should then scatter a handful of salt upon the glowing coals. Once the flames and crackling have died down, he gazes into the fire and contemplates the pictures he sees in the glowing shapes in the coals for between 10 to 15 minutes. It is considered particularly auspicious if the coals glow for this brings great good fortune.
The true diviner, however, will see beyond traditional meanings and listen to the voice of his intuition to ordain the true meaning of the omen. From this inner prompting, it is hoped he will gain a true and accurate precognition.