Alternatively Nomency, Onomancy, and Onomantics.
From the Greek onoma ('name') and mantia ('prophecy'), it is a method of divination and prophecy by interpreting a person's name.
The notion that an analogy existed between men's names and their fortunes is supposed to have originated with the Pythagoreans.
Since at least classical times there has been a belief that names can be the basis for predicting someone's future. Divination using names overlaps with Gematria in that the numerical values of letters play a part. Onomancy was widely used to predict the winner of a contest by considering the number values of the letters in the names of the contestants, the number values of the days of the week, and so on. As one commentator notes, 'The practice of Onomancy was rooted in the same presuppositions noted in protective magic using magic squares and numbers, that language has a mathematical correspondence to reality' (Jolly 2002: 57).
"Two leading rules in the science of Onomancy were first, that an even number of vowels in a man's name signifies something amiss in his left side; an uneven number a similar affection on the right; so between the two, perfect sanity was little to be expected. Secondly, of two competitors, that one would prove successful the numeral letters in whose name when summed up exceeded the amount of those in the name of his rival; and this was one of the reasons that enabled Achilles to triumph over Hector." Edward Smedley, The Occult Sciences (1855).
Onomastic texts are also found in English liturgical books from an early date. Two examples are the Leofric Missal, which includes such a text amongst a group of additions made circa 970 AD at Glastonbury, and a Psalter written at Winchester circa 1050 AD.
Generally, Onomancers found out whether the inquirer would recover from illnesses, defeat an enemy in battle or legal procedings, outlive his wife or her husband, etc., by simply turning the letters of his or her name and that of the opponent, which could be a spouse, political adversary, country, or astrological planet, into numbers and make certain calculations with the result.
Variant forms of Nomancy are Onomantics, where a person's character is the focus of the divinatory pursuit, and Onomatomancy, where the results of letter interpretation are applied to numerological and/or gematric systems. These practices are still in use today.
In Thomas Dyche and William Pardon's New General English Dictionary (1740), an entry for Nomancy states:
"A pretended divination or fortune-telling, by the disposition of letters that form a person's name."
Simple modes of this type of divination were very popular in Europe and England in the Middle Ages, where they were associated with love and marriage. There were various methods for a young lady to foretell the name or initials of her future husband, and/or how soon the marriage will take place. If three young maidens sharing the same name sit at a table together, one of them will get married before year's end. To divine your future love, write the candidates names on slips of paper and . . . there may be more than hundred different ways to prophetically select the appropriate slip of paper and/or name of one's potential sweetheart; roll them up inside pieces of bread and throw them into a bowl of water the first one that rises up is the correct one; put the slips of paper on a table and blow on it the one that remains on the table is the appropriate one; throw the slips face down into a basin filled with water, the first slip that turns face up is the chosen one; if none of them turns, none of those will be your love, but somebody else, and so forth.
Most of these Nomantic practices endured to modern times, and its techniques hardly changed. Sometimes the term Nomancy is also used for divination by a person's features.
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Sources: ; (1) Dunwich, Gerina, A Wiccan's Guide to Prophecy and Divination, Carol Publishing Group; (2) Shipley, Joseph T., Dictionary of Early English, Littlefield, Adams & Co. Publishers; (3) Hellweg, Paul, The Insomniac's Dictionary: The Last Word On The Odd Word, Ivy Books; (4) Walker, Charles, The Encyclopedia of the Occult, Random House Value; (5) Johnstone, Jane, and Pilkington, Maya (editors), The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Fortune Telling, Sterling; (6) Blake, Barry J., Secret Language: Codes, Tricks, Spies, Thieves, and Symbols, Oxford University Press.
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