- In ancient Greece, it was believed the gift of prophecy ran in certain families, and only they were allowed to divine from the ashes left by fires on sacrificial altars.
- The Etruscans, who flourished from 1200 BCE to 550 BCE in what is now Italy, also practiced spodomancy in a fashion similar to the ancient Greeks.
- During the Qin and Han dynasties in China (221 BCE to 220 CE), spodomancy was practiced by raking the bones of sacrificial animals out of the fire and observing the marks left in the ashes, and the cracks left in the bones by the fire, and deriving portents therefrom.
- Several Native American tribes believed it possible to determine the future of a newborn or the fate of a friend who had left on a journey, by observing the lines and marks left in the ashes of the fire the next morning after the birth, or departure.
- The Romany (Gypsies) practiced spodomancy by gathering up the ashes from a fire, then casting them onto a floor. Smooth, uniform ashes were considered a good omen, whereas ashes landing in one or more uneven piles were a bad omen.
- From the 16th century CD to the mid-19th century CE in England, unmarried people would draw a series of lines in the smooth ashes on the hearth. If two unmarried people sat along the same line, it was considered an omen of future marriage between them both.
- Another, more ominous 19th century English tradition involved ‘riddling the ashes.’ This took place on St. Mark’s Eve, which is April 24th. In this practice, the ashes from the fire were left on the hearth on St. Mark’s Eve, and examined the next day. Tradition had it that the footprint of anyone found in the ashes indicated one who was to die in the coming year.
- The Manx on the Isle of Man had a similar death tradition on St. Mark’s Eve, but they believed it only indicated a death of the footprint pointed inward; an outward (pigeon-toed) footprint was believed to indicate a coming birth. Also on the Isle of Man, there was another ‘riddling of the ashes’ tradition. It was practiced on either St. Mark’s Eve or Halloween. Any foot-print found in the ashes the next day was believed to the spirit-imprint of the foot of the future spouse of a member of the household.
- The Pre-Christian Celts in Europe had a tradition of spreading the cold ashes from the fireplace on the hearth at Imbolc (February 1st). The ashes were checked the next morning, to see if the Goddess Brighid, whose feast day it was, had visited the home and blessed the inhabitants. If there were markings in the ash, it was presumed She had been there. If no markings of any significance were found, it was taken to be a bad omen. To counteract this, the body of a rooster was buried at the confluence of three streams and incense was burned on the fire the next evening to curry Brighid’s favor.
- Speaking of the Celts, both they and the Mongolians had a way of ash divination that incorporated burnt-bone divination, but this form of the art was only done by the priests or shamans of their respective societies.
- In Poland and Slavonia, only women were allowed to divine by Spodomancy. In this practice, the ashes from a fire were spread around the bed of a sick person. The ashes were then examined for signs indicating whether the sick person would regain their health or not. In Slavonia and in ancient Rome, it was used to determine a positive or negative answer to a question. A random number of lines would be scratched into the ash. An even number of lines meant a positive response, an odd number of lines meant a negative response, and bad luck.
- Some modern Wiccans advocate practicing it at Lughnasadh (August 1st), with the ashes from a fire or even a barbeque grill spread on the ground and examined for images or symbols.
- Among the Loma people of western Africa, ash divination is used to divine the sex of a child before it is born.
As you can see from the above examples, there were as many different ways to divine by ashes as there were cultures practicing it. And this isn’t even touching on those rare people with a particular talent for reading the ashes as if it were a crystal ball or a scrying mirror. Ash is a very universal way of divining.