From the Latin 'amnion' (meaning membrane), it is a method of divination by means of the membrane which sometimes envelopes the head of a baby at birth. From the inspection of this membrane, or embryonic sac, the diviner predicts what sort of future the newborn will have. Sometimes the amniotic fluid is also observed to achieve the desired prognostication.
Throughout pregnancy the amniotic sac acts as a water cushion, absorbing jolts, equalizing pressures, and permitting the fetus to change posture. At childbirth it serves as a fluid wedge that helps dilate the neck of the uterus. When the sac ruptures, about a quart of fluid escapes. If the sac does not rupture, or if covers the head at birth, it is known as a caul.
This membrane, if red-colored, signifies that the child in question will have a happy life. But if the membrane's lead-colored, the infant will have misfortunes.
In ancient Rome when a child was born with a caul it was believed to be an omen of phenomenal good luck, and in other parts of the ancient world such a person was considered to be immune to witchcraft and protected from drowning.
In medieval times, the appearance of a caul on a newborn baby was also seen as a sign of good fortune. The cauls, which were easily dried and kept, were also believed to be a specific talisman against drowning and shipwreck, being sold amongst sailors for large sums of money. They were available in London's shipping district as recently as 1915.
Sometimes the dried caul was used as a cup to to catch the blood of sacrifices. Possessing a caul also meant sure victory in any contests entered into, thus cauls were formerly in great demand by attorneys, a practice that was ridiculed by Sir Thomas Browne in his 'Pseudoxia Epidemica' (Vulgar Errors) in 1646.
In Scotland the caul was known as the happy hoo, sely hoo, syly hoffe or the sillyhoo, which all literally mean the "lucky hood."
See Radiesthesia, Astrology, Acutomancy, Agalmatomancy, Divination, Coscinomancy, Cleidomancy, Augur, Stoichomancy, Dowsing, Tarot, Heptameron, Demonology, Sortilege, Idolomancy, Demonomancy, Tephramancy, Anemoscopy, Eromancy, Austromancy, Chaomancy, Roadomancy, Capnomancy, Pyromancy, Meteormancy, Ceraunoscopy, Zoomancy, Felidomancy, Horoscope, Horary Astrology, Zodiac, Numerology, Bibliomancy, Mystic Gifts and Charms - New Age Gift Shop & Wicca and Pagan Supplies, Love Spells -- Use these powerful love spells to help you find and keep your true love, The Tarot Store, The Chakra Store, Divination & Scrying Tools and Supplies, Unique Amulets, Talismans, Good Luck Charms, and Love Tokens, Powerful Witch Doctor Spell Kits, Powerful Spells - Cast by Andreika the Witch, Webmasters Make $$$, AzureGreen - Celebrating All Paths to the Divine, ISIS - Tools for Your Soul's Journey, and The Pyramid Collection - Myth, Magick, Fantasy and Romance.
Sources: (1) Dunwich, Gerina, A Wiccan's Guide to Prophecy and Divination, Carol Publishing Group; (2) Pickover, Clifford A., Dreaming the Future: The Fantastic Story of Prediction, Prometheus Books; (3) Aldrich, Chris, The Aldrich Dictionary of Phobias and Other Word Families, Trafford Publishing.
| || |