(Originally printed in the Spring 2011 Issue of the MCOI Journal) beginning on page 12
The word divine is related to the word divination, which in a broad sense means getting information from a divine being. The divine being can be a god, goddess, angel, any kind of spirit, or some other alleged supernatural entity. However, divination today usually refers to attempts to get hidden information by interpreting esoteric meanings in images, patterns, or the natural world (such as finding meaning in cards or the position of planets in astrology) via attempted contact with supernatural beings (angels or other disembodied beings) or via supernatural means (such as the use of psychic abilities).
Words Ending In “Mancy”
Words ending in mancy almost always refer to a form of divination. Mancy comes from the Greek manteia, which means divination. Divination is central to occult practices and is forbidden and strongly denounced by God in His Word. Deuteronomy 18:10-12 lists all the practices of the occult, including divination (which may be translated as fortunetelling in some Bible versions).
Some forms of divination referred to in the Old Testament include scattering arrows on the ground (probably to read the patterns) and looking at the liver of dead animals. Ezekiel 21:21 refers to both:
For the king of Babylon stands at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination; he shakes the arrows, he consults the household idols, he looks at the liver.
Cartomancy is card reading as is done, for example, using Tarot* cards. This involves discerning a hidden meaning in the images on the cards. There are hundreds of types of Tarot cards, and they are sold by many large bookstore chains. Other cards, such as Angel Oracle cards, are also used for divination.
Chiromancy is divination by reading the palm and is also known as palmistry.
Geomancy is reading meaning in the features of landscapes or structures. Feng Shui is based on geomancy and uses other divinatory arts as well.
Necromancy is divination via contact with the dead. Merely contacting the dead is spiritism, such as is allegedly done on some television shows featuring “haunted” houses, “ghost hunters,” etc. A medium is someone who claims to communicate with the dead. This may be done by the medium receiving messages from the supposed dead, by the medium inviting a disembodied “guide” to speak through him or her with messages from the dead (this guide is called a “control”), or by channeling the voice of the dead person. 1 If one is attempting to contact the dead to receive messages or advice about the future, it is necromancy. Therefore, mediumship or consulting a medium is engaging in divination as well as in spiritism.
Arithmancy is divination using numbers, especially when letters of the alphabet are converted into numbers as in numerology. Arithmancy is a course taken by Harry Potter and his classmates at their school, Hogwarts, in the Harry Potter series.
Bibliomancy is seeking to find a private message in a book, especially the Bible, by opening it at random. This does not mean one cannot open the Bible and find a meaningful passage; but rather, it is a belief there is a message or answer specifically for you (and no one else) found only by opening the book at random. Using the Bible this way treats it as though it is a magical book of sayings with private messages rather than a book whose passages should be read in context.
Non-Mancy Words for Divination
There are, of course, many words for divination methods that do not end in mancy. Some examples are:
Astrology: Reading meanings into the positions and patterns of the planets.
Scrying: Reading messages in opaque surfaces, such as a crystal (the opaque surface itself does not bring forth images, but it is actually used as a point of concentration for the diviner). However, this practice is also known as hydromancy.
Augury: Reading messages from the patterns or formations of birds in flight.
The augur was a priest and official in the classical world, especially ancient Rome and Etruria. His main role was to interpret the will of the gods by studying the flight of birds: whether they are flying in groups or alone, what noises they make as they fly, the direction of flight, and what kind of birds they are. This was known as “taking the auspices.” 2
Belief in omens means certain events indicate a forthcoming happening—good or bad. Examples include: The appearance of a comet, indicating a major disaster is on the horizon; a spoon dropping foretells a visitor; or a black cat crossing your path forebodes bad luck. Many of these beliefs are a part of folk tales and garden-variety superstitions (such as seven years of bad luck for a broken mirror).
Divination – Almost Anything Goes
Almost anything can be used for divination: Using a pendulum to get advice, even for just a “yes” or “no” answer; dowsing, whether using branches, wire, or other object, to find water, buried treasure, oil, etc.; tying a pencil at the end of a string and holding it while asking a question to see which way it sways; and applied kinesiology (muscle testing) is a form of divination mixed in with New Age pseudo-science.
These techniques should be questioned. After all, who decides what it means for an object at the end of a string to swing back-and-forth or side-to-side? Why does one way mean “yes” and another “no?” Upon what authority do these methods lie? It certainly is not any scientific, medical, or biblical authority. Interpretation of patterns or other responses using divinatory tools has its origin in the occult and in pseudo-science—most of which is based on an occult world view.
Psychics and mediums, if not accessing information via guesses, imagination, or fraud, are receiving hidden information from spirit guides. 3 Thus, since they are retrieving hidden information through paranormal means, they are not only practicing spiritism (contact with spirits), but also divination as well. Others in the occult, such as astrologers and card readers, also have guides and get information this way. 4
After all, how can an object (such as a pencil or branch) or a non-thinking organism (such as a muscle) provide supernatural information or guidance? When one is going beyond the normal five senses for information, advice or answers, then it is very likely to be divination.
What About . . . ?
What about Joseph’s cup of divination referred to in Genesis? In testing his brothers, Joseph had his servant secretly pack his cup of divination in the youngest brother’s sack (Genesis 44:1- 12). After the brothers left, the servant follows them and eventually opens the sacks, accusing Benjamin of taking the cup. Two verses refer to Joseph using this cup. In verse 5, Joseph directs servant to say his master uses the cup. In verse 15, Joseph himself states to his brothers:
Joseph said to them, “What is this deed that you have done? Do you not know that such a man as I can indeed practice divination?” (NASB)
First of all, there is no clear indication Joseph ever actually used the cup; the servant only relayed what he was told. The brothers do not yet know this Egyptian official is Joseph, and Joseph is playing the role of an Egyptian in a high position in that kingdom, who certainly would have such a cup. Perhaps the cup was put in the sack because it was valuable in order to bring the brothers back for a valid reason. Secondly, even if Joseph did use the cup, which is doubtful in light of Joseph’s faithfulness to God throughout his life and lack of any biblical report of such usage, that does not put God’s seal of approval on divination since there are numerous passages condemning it. Furthermore, one should not derive theology from narrative unless other passages support it. In this case, other passages forbid divination; so no matter what Joseph may have done, there is no allowance for divination.
Some may wonder about the Urim and Thummim from the Old Testament. 5 Apparently, these were objects the high priest kept in a bag in his breastplate and were used to determine God’s will. Some believe they were stones or lots. The reason the Urim and Thummim are not the same as pendulums, dowsing rods, or other objects used for divination, is because the Urim and Thummim originate with God and seem connected to God’s judgment. 6 When Saul had disobeyed God and later was seeking God’s counsel, the Bible states:
When Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by prophets. (1 Samuel 28:6, NASB)
God withdrew from Saul as a judgment on Saul’s earlier disobedience. With no response from God and no prophet (Samuel had died), Saul’s desperation led to a defiance of God’s laws against consulting mediums; and he sought out the medium at Endor and asked her to contact Samuel. 7
God does not tell us what the Urim and Thummim were, how they worked, or how the high priest initially got them; but since God is the one directing the high priest to use them, it is clearly a God-ordained way of non-occult divination.
There are many cases of God’s people casting lots. In some cases, God directs certain people to cast lots (Leviticus 16:8) or it seems to be done according to God’s will, because the lots are cast “before the Lord” (Joshua 18:6-10). In other cases, it is not clear, but casting lots also was done as a pagan practice (Obadiah 1:11; Jonah 1:7; Matthew 27:35). In many examples, it was done as a random decision-making process—similar to tossing a coin today—and was not divination (seeking a hidden message or meaning).
What is significant, however, is that casting lots is not done by Christians after Pentecost. Prior to Pentecost, casting lots is mentioned only one time as the way to determine who would replace Judas as an apostle (Acts 1:26). After that incident, there are no further references to casting lots. Christians clearly can conclude that casting lots to get messages certainly is not a Bible-based way of making decisions today, especially since the counsel of God is available in His Word.
What God Says About Divination
Divination is forbidden throughout the Bible. Divination is listed in a passage in Deuteronomy, which lists all the practices of the occult. 8 Divination practices, like other forms of the occult, arose out of the worship of false gods and are considered by God to be spiritual adultery. 9 In fact, rebellion against God is compared to the “sin of divination” (1 Samuel 15:23). 10
Divination replaces seeking the counsel of God 11 and puts one at risk for contact with fallen angels, who are only too happy to disguise themselves—as the dead, as good angels, guardian angels, aliens, ascended masters, or “higher beings” on another plane—in order to deceive. 12
Aside from numerous passages in the Old Testament, there is a strong passage in the New Testament which not only condemns divination, but also reveals its demonic tie. In Acts 16:16, Paul casts a demon out of a slave girl who is practicing divination for her masters. This not only uncovers the evil supernatural source of divinatory arts, but also indicates divination can bring one into demonic bondage.
Thus, two very easy red flags to avoid are any activity described by a word that ends in mancy and any person who practices one of these forms of divination. However, if a Christian can understand the principles of divination as explained in this article, he or she will be better equipped to recognize and avoid any form of divination—no matter how the word may be expressed, or how the action itself may be disguised.
All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard version.
*Tarot=a system of fortune-telling using a special deck of 78 cards
Before trusting Christ in late 1990, Marcia Montenegro was a professional astrologer and taught astrology for several years, as well as having been involved in Eastern and New Age practices. Through her ministry, Christian Answers for the New Age, Marcia speaks around the country and writes on New Age and occult topics. Based in Arlington, VA, she is the author of Spell- Bound: The Paranormal Seduction of Today’s Kids, (Life Journey/Cook, 2006)
- The alleged dead people being contacted, if not imaginary or done via fraud, are in actuality fallen angels (demons.) ↩
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augury ↩
- A spirit guide, sometimes merely called a guide, is a disembodied being believed by the psychic or medium to be a benevolent spirit, whether angel, dead person, or some advanced being in another sphere. However, such guides are always fallen angels, also called demons ↩
- The writer of this article, before becoming a Christian, was a practicing professional licensed astrologer who had spirit guides ↩
- Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; Number 27:21; 1 Samuel 28:6; Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65 ↩
- “ You shall put in the breastpiece of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aaron’s heart when he goes in before the LORD; and Aaron shall carry the judgment of the sons of Israel over his heart before the LORD continually.” Exodus 28:30 (NASB); also Numbers 27:21and Deuteronomy 33:8 ↩
- 1 Samuel 28:7-19. This action was firmly condemned by God in 1 Chronicles 10:13-14: “So Saul died for his trespass which he committed before the Lord, because of the word of the Lord which he did not keep; and also, because he asked counsel of a medium, making inquiry of it, and did not inquire of the Lord. Therefore, He killed him and turned the kingdom to the son of Jesse.” ↩
- Deuteronomy 18:10-12 ↩
- Leviticus 20:6; divination practices, including mediumship, spiritism, and consulting mediums or spiritists, are condemned in Leviticus 19:26, 31; Jeremiah 27:9; 1 Samuel 28:3; 2 Kings 17:17, 21:6; 2 Chronicles 33:6; and Isaiah 19:3 ↩
- Some translations say witchcraft rather than divination. This is because the Hebrew terms for these practices do not easily translate one-on-one into other languages and the Hebrew terms often overlap ↩
- “When they say to you, ‘Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter’ should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?” Isaiah 8:19 ↩
- “No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” 2 Corinthians 11:14 ↩