Alternatively known as Sortition and Lot Casting.
From the old French Sortilège, from medieval Latin Sortilegium, from the Latin sors (‘sort’) and legere (‘choose’), it is the art and practice of divination by means of Sortes or lots.
The casting or drawing of lots is perhaps the oldest form of divination known to mankind, and its practice is described in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 14:41) and in several of Homer works.
The typical method, also known as Cleromancy, uses only two objects, one of which is marked 'yes' and the other is marked 'no'. The diviner formulates the question, and then casts the lots to discover the answer.
Other forms of Sortilege frequently used more than two items as lots, and the objects employed were various, such as dice, slips of paper, shells, knucklebones, stones, crystals, pieces of wood, beans, etc. In fact, the methods of using the lot have been numerous, including Rhabdomancy, Clidomancy, Sortes Sagittariae or Belomancy, Sortes Thriaecae or Thriaen lots, Sortes Viales or street and road lots, Sortes Prenestinae or Prenestine lots, Sortes Sanctorum or Sortes Sacrae, Sortes Homericae or Homeric lots, and the Sortes Virgilianae or Virgilian lots.
Sortilege and Cleromancy were practiced in ancient Egypt and in ancient Rome, typically consecrated to the god Mercury, regarded as their patron. Among Oriental nations, Sortition was used to detect a guilty person, as when Saul by this means discovered that Jonathan had disobeyed his command by taking food, and when the sailors by a similar process found Jonah to be the cause of the tempest by which they were overtaken.
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Sources: (1) Dunwich, Gerina, A Wiccan's Guide to Prophecy and Divination, Carol Publishing Group; (2) Spence, Lewis, An Encyclopedia of Occultism, Carol Publishing Group; (3) Dictionary of the Occult, Caxton Publishing.
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