A term derived from the Greek aspis ('shield') and manteia ('divination'), it is the art and practice of divination by forecasts made from advice given to a diviner supposedly by various gods, spirits, demons, and even the Devil himself; a method of divination in which the diviner sits on a shield and goes into a state of altered consciousness to gain prophetic knowledge.
Traditionally, the soothsayer traces a magic circle and positions himself inside it, sitting or kneeling on top of a buckler or shield, and by the means of conjuration, or by reciting ancient occult formulas, invokes the spiritual or satanic advisor.
The sorcerer then goes into a trance and falls into an ecstasy, in which he or she supposedly establishes spiritual contact with the deity, possibly the king of Hell. The performer only emerges from this state to tell things that his consultant wishes to know.
This type of divination was commonly practiced in the Indies, and at one time was widely popular among the Native American shamanic diviners.
Lewis Spence, in his 'An Encyclopedia of Occultism' (1920), defined Aspidomancy:
"Aspidomancy: A little known form of divination practised in the Indies, as we are told by some travellers. Delancre says that the diviner or sorcerer traces a circle, takes up his position therein seated on a buckler, and mutters certain conjurations. He becomes entranced and falls into an ecstasy, from which he only emerges to tell things that his client wishes to know, and which the devils has revealed to him."
Harry E. Wedeck, in 'A Treasury of Witchcraft' (1961), also mentions Aspidomancy:
"Sitting on a shield, within the magic circle, and pronouncing conjurations, the karcist falls into a trance during which he makes mantic revelations. This is aspidomancy."
Walter B. Gibson said of Aspidomancy in 'Complete Illustrated Book of Divination & Prophecy' (1973):
"Aspidomancy: A primitive form of divination in which an entranced sorcerer, seated in a magic circle, becomes inspired by the devil and upon awakening recounts the predictions revealed to him from that source."
Aspidomancy, like most divinatory systems, is quite ancient, and has been practiced since time immemorial.
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Sources: (1) Spence, Lewis, An Encyclopedia of Occultism, Carol Publishing Group; (2) Pickover, Clifford A., Dreaming the Future: The Fantastic Story of Prediction, Prometheus Books; (3) Dunwich, Gerina, A Wiccan's Guide to Prophecy and Divination, Carol Publishing Group; (4) Wedeck, Harry E., A Treasury of Witchcraft, Gramercy Publishing; (5) Gibson, Walter B., Complete Illustrated Book of Divination & Prophecy, Souvenir Press.
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