Anthropomancy or hepatoscopy is a method of divination by the entrails, particularly the intestines, of dead or dying men or women, often virgin female children, through sacrifice.
From Greek anthropos meaning ‘man’.
In ancient Etruria and Rome, the usual variety of divination from entrails was haruspicy (performed by an haruspex), in which the sacrifice was an animal. Antinopomancy is divination by the entrails of children while splanchomancy, consisted of divination by the entrails of women.
The diviner would open the chest of the live victim, to examine the entrails at work, the colors and shapes of the organs, carefully removing them in a given order until he is dead. Variants included taking omens from the interpretation of the victims death-spasms, desperate screams, by the way they fell, bled or burned.
This gruesome procedure of divination seems to date back to the Neolithic era. The ancient Egyptians were allegedly practitioners of this type of divination. The druids would put their captives and criminals in huge wooden “wicker man”, which were then burned. The druids would then read the future according to the smell of the burn, the colors of the flames, the screams of the victims and how long they took to die.
Herodotus wrote that Menelaus, King of Sparta, practiced it when detained in Egypt because of contrary winds. Because of his barbarous curiosity, he sacrificed two country children in order to discover his destiny.
Heliogabalus — the Roman emperor Varius Avitus Bassanius, 205-221 AD, also known as Elagabalus, also practiced anthropomancy.
Julian the Apostate (Flavius Claudius Julianus, 332-363 AD, another Roman emperor, nephew of Constantine the Great) incorporated anthropomancy in his magical operations. He had large numbers of children killed so he could read their entrails. During his last experiment at Carra, in Mesopotamia, he enclosed himself within the Temple of the Moon, and having performed all manner of evil within, he had the Temple doors sealed and placed a guard there so no one would enter until his return. However, he was killed in battle with the Persians. When men of Julian’s successor entered the Temple at Carra they discovered a woman hanging by her hair with her liver torn out.
It is speculated that the infamous Gilles de Rais aka ‘Blue Beard’ and Erzebeth Bathory also performed such hideous practices. Their fate was accordingly.
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