Extispicy (also Splanchomancy, Haruspicy, Aruspicy, Hieroscopia, and Hieroscopy) is the practice of using anomalies in animal entrails to predict or divine future events.
From Latin extispicium, to view, to consider. The officials were known as Extispieces or Auspieces and one of the instruments they used was called by the same name as their craft, the extispicium.
Organs inspected can include the liver, intestines, lungs, or other major organs, which afterwards were burnt in a sacrificial fire. Sometimes the observation of how the flame burnt the sacrifice was also necessary for the prognostication. The animal used for extispicy (usually a sheep or an ox) must often be ritually pure and slaughtered in a special ceremony.
The practice was first common in ancient Mesopotamian, Hittite and Canaanite temples. It came to the Etrurians from the Babylonians as most forms of divination were derived from Mesopotamia. Organ models and extispicy manuals in cuneiform script are widely found in archaeological excavations in the regions, showing the prevalence and significance of extispicy.
It is said that Romulus chose Aruspices from the Etrurians. Soothsayers from Ancient Roman times used the entrails of a bull to determine the advisability of a particular endeavor and Etruscans used patterns seen in the livers of sheep to assess their future.
The Roman auspieces had four distinct duties: to examine the victim or animal before it was opened, to examine the entrails, to observe the flame of the sacrificial fire, and to examine the meat and drink offered in accompaniment of the sacrifice. It was a fatal sign when the heat of the fire was wanting. This occurred when two oxen were immolated on the day Caesar was killed. Signs predicting a potential instant disaster were if the priest let the entrails fall, if there was more bloodiness than usual, or they entrails were of a livid color. Extispicy is still practiced today in remote parts of the world. For the Gurung, a farming people living in Nepal, the shape and color of a sacrificed chicken's lungs may foretell sickness or good fortune.
Although extispicy would commonly be viewed with skepticism by the modern mind, some 20th century scholars suggested that this technique was also a valuable and legitimate form of, essentially, autopsy, which might indicate internal disease tied to poor environmental factors, information that would be important to nomadic peoples.