Scapulimancy (also known as scapulomancy, scapulamancy, or omoplatoscopy) is a divination of the future by observation of the cracking of a mammal's scapula or shoulder blades that has been heated by a fire or hot instrument.
Derived from the Latin scapula ('shoulder blade') and manteia ('prophecy')
Scapulimancy has been practiced since antiquity around the world; everywhere from China, to Greece to the British Isles, to Native American communities in North America.
Historically, scapulimancy has taken two major forms. In “apyromantic”, the scapula of an animal was simply examined after its slaughter. This form was widespread in Europe, Northern Africa and the Near East. The second form, “pyromantic” scapulimancy, was practiced in Northeast Asia and North America which involves heating or burning of the bone and interpretation of the results.
In ancient Greece, soldiers would read the bones the night before big battles, a translucent scapula meant victory.
The oracle bones of ancient China used scapulae and the plastrons of turtle.
Many archaeological sites along the south coast and other islands of the Korean peninsula show that deer and pig scapulae were used in divination during the Korean Protohistoric, 300 B.C. – A.D. 300/400.
Scapulimancy was also mentioned in Chapter 5 of the Kojiki, the Japanese Record of Ancient Matters, in which the heavenly deities used this process of divination during a consultation by lesser gods.
The lamb's shoulder blade is the part to read the future that has survived to modern times. The divination technique varies from region to region, sometimes the bone is boiled, held up to the light and the translucent parts where interpreted. Other traditions bake the bone and read the cracks.
References are found in modern Greece in the memoirs of several warriors who fought during the Greek War of Independence (1821). Whenever they had a feast, they used to roast lambs or kids, and after the meal, anyone who knew how to “read” the scapula would clean it of any remaining flesh and, lifting it up to the light, would interpret the various shadowy bits showing on the transparent part of the bone. A clear scapula was a good omen. Shadowy bits had their interpretation and by this they used to predict the outcome of a battle on the morrow, death or survival.