Also Alectromantia, Alectryomancy, Alectoromancy, Alectryomantia and Alectormancy.
Derived from the Greek alectruon ('cock') and manteia ('divination'), this is an ancient method of divination using a cock or hen.
According to occult tradition, Alectromancy should be performed when the Sun or the Moon are in Aries or Leo.
Movements on the ground such as pluming, dust-bathing, scratching holes, or standing on one leg, all had divinatory meaning.
This form of divination is wholly fortuitous. Instead of appealing to the interior faculties of a clairvoyant or diviner, it makes use of an indiscriminating instrument, in this case, the chicken.
In the most common method, the bird was placed inside a circle of grain around which were positioned letters of the alphabet. The letters close to where the animal pecked were then gathered and assembled to answer specific questions. If a simple 'yes' or 'no' was required then only two piles of grain would be used.
This practice was used extensively in ancient Rome, typically by magicians who wanted to identify robbers, and has been attributed to the famous philosopher Iamblichus, who died about the year 330 AD, after restoring various mystic rites dating back to the times of the ancient oracles.
Magical preparations of the bird and the area where the creature was supposed to perform the divination were typically necessary. In one cruel form, after the question was asked, the diviner would cut off both claws of the unfortunate rooster and then, after wrapping them in small roll of lambskin parchment containing magical words and symbols, force the packet down the animal's throat before releasing it inside the lettered circle. Other protocols included the phrasing of incantations while holding the cock, after placing the bird inside the ring and, of course, while the letters were arranged in the outer edge of the circle.
Norman Bailey, in his Universal Etymological Dictionary (1727), wrote of Alectromancy;
"It is a very mysterious divination, in which they made use of a cock in discovering secret and unknown transactions or future events. The method was this; they first wrote on the dust the 24 letters of the alphabet, and laid a grain of wheat or barley upon every one of them; then having prepared a cock magically, they let him loose among them, and those letters out of which he picked the corns being put together, were thought to declare whatever they had a mind to know."
Reverend Edward Smedley, in his The Occult Sciences (1855), also mentions this type of divination;
"Alectromancy, or Alectoromantia, an ancient method of divination with a cock. In practising it, a circle must be made in a good close place, and this must be divided equally into as many parts as there are letters in the alphabet. Then wheat-corn must be placed on every letter, beginning with A, during which the depositor must repeat this verse, Ecce enim veritatum. This must be done when the sun or moon is in Aries or Leo. A young cock, all white, should then be taken, his claws cut off, and these he should be forced to swallow with a little scroll of parchment made of lambskin upon which has been previously written [heb chars]. The diviner holding the cock should repeat, O Deus Creator omnium, qui firmamentum pulchritudine stellarum formβsti, constituens eas in signa et tempora, infunde virtutem tuam operibus nostris, ut per opus in eis consequamur effectum. Next, on placing the cock within the circle, he must repeat these two verses of the Psalms: Domine, dilexi decorum domϋs tuζ et locum habitationis tuae. Domine Deus virtutum, converte nos et ostende faciem tuam, et salvi erimus. These are exactly the midmost of the seventy-two verses mentioned under the head of Onimancy, and it is to be noted on the authority of an ancient Rabbi, that there is nothing in these seventy-two which is not of some cabalistic secret. The cock being within the circle, it must be observed from what letters he pecks the grains, and upon these others must be placed, because some names and words contain the same letters twice or thrice. These letters should be written down and put together, and they will infallibly reveal the name of the person concerning whom inquiry has been made."
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