Derived from the Greek myrmigki ('ant') and manteia ('divination'), it is the art and practice of divining the past, the present and the future from the appearance and behavior of ants and/or termites.
The main focus of this type of divination was on the ants eating habits. For that purpose, sacrifices sometimes were placed over ant and termite mounds for their consumption, so diviners had the chance of fully observe their eating patterns. Such proceedings sometimes lasted many days, depending on the type and size of the offering meal.
The ancient Greeks had numerous beliefs about portentious ants and termites. Ants were meant to have presaged the death of Cimon, the Athenian statesman, and, also, the great wealth of Midas was foretold by ants coming to him as a boy while asleep and dropping grains of wheat into his mouth.
According to one of the Greek versions of the cosmogony, ants were also regarded as the firstborn. In one legend, Aeacus, the king of the island of Aegina in the Saronic Gulf, had a country without a people until, at the command of Zeus, the ants on the island assumed human shape and became his subjects. Folktales of gods and goddesses seen coming out of, or returning into, an anthill, were also abundant in ancient mythologies.
Anthill worship is an ancient cult, but it survived in many parts of India, even up to the present day. The cult once occupied a central place in Vedic and Hindu religion, and from at least as early as the first millennium BC, and probably earlier, it has figured prominently — if somewhat incomprehensibly — in rituals associated with all the critical events of human life, including birth, marriage, sickness, and death.
Anthills have also played an important part in the consecration of temples, the warding-off of evil, ritual destruction of an enemy, calling divine witness, and securing material prosperity. Anthills are thought to be such potent agents of fecundity that in some parts of India, up to the present day, it is believed that dancing around an anthill is enough to induce pregnancy, without the intervention of any man. The ancient Indian also used anthill clay mixed with water as a curative medicine.
Myrmomancy is a form of Zoomancy and Augury, and it is, like most divination techniques, quite ancient.
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Sources: (1) Spence, Lewis, An Encyclopedia of Occultism, Carol Publishing Group; (2) Dictionary of the Occult, Caxton Publishing; (3) Johnstone, Jane and Pilkington, Maya, The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Fortune Telling Published by Sterling; (4) Pickover, Clifford A., Dreaming the Future: The Fantastic Story of Prediction, Prometheus Books; (5) Irwin, John C., The Sacred Anthill and the Cult of the Primordial Mound, The University of Chicago Press.
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