Oomancy is divination using eggs. The word derives from the ancient Greek oon “egg” and manteia “divination”.
Also known as ovomancy, ovamancy, ooscopy
Oomancy was performed in ancient Greece and Rome. It was reported by Reverend John Hale in A Modest Inquiry into the Nature of Witchcraft that the girls at the heart of the Salem Witch Trials played at fortune telling using eggs and a glass to determine the profession of their future husbands. It seems that this was a common form of divination used by New England girls in the late 17th century.
There are several methods for performing a reading using oomancy.
First, the client may select an egg from those provided by the reader or bring one from home. Generally, the egg should be reasonably fresh. The client may then hold the egg in their hand while focusing on their question or the reader may pass the egg over the client’s body to attune the egg to the client’s energies before beginning the reading.
Readings can be performed using only the egg white, with the yolk separated from it. The egg may be cracked and separated, or the shell may be pierced and the white blown out through the hole. The egg white may be dropped into hot water or a warm surface, so that is partially or fully cooked, or it may be read raw, swirling down through cold water or spreading across a flat surface. Shapes form in the white and are interpreted by the reader in a similar manner to molybdomancy or carromancy.
In many cases, the yolk is also used. A yolk with blood spots in it, for example, may confirm that a client is suffering from some bewitchment or the evil eye.
Oomancy has been used to discover information about an unborn child. The egg is passed over the belly of the mother and then cracked onto a flat surface. A double (or triple) yolk indicates a multiple birth. Blood spots foretell as possible miscarriage or complications with the pregnancy. In his Life of Tiberius, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus reports that Livia Drucilla hatched an egg in her own hands to determine the sex of her child (14).
Other methods of divination involve boiling and dying eggs. The egg may be boiled in colored water and peeled, the marks left on the surface of the white by the dye leaking through minute cracks in the shell examined for symbols. Or the may be dyed and then boiled in clear water and gently cracked- the cracks in the shell examined for images.
Hoodoo practitioners and traditional healers often use oomancy to check the condition of a client who has been treated using an egg cleansing technique, using the same egg that was used for the egg cleansing ceremony.
In the 1800s, girls would place an egg near the fireplace and watch to see if a young man came and picked it up. He would be her destined husband.
Once the divination is complete, there are a few different methods for disposing of the egg. I have seen suggestions that the egg be eaten to internalize the message, but this would not be something you want to do if it’s not a very pleasant message or if the egg has previously been used to draw out negative energy. In this case, the egg should be buried, preferably at a crossroads, or left at the base of a tree.
Some General Egg Divination Folklore and “Old Wives Tales”
- An unexpected double yolked egg is a sign of an unexpected pregnancy or a family death!
- If you break the yolk when you crack your morning egg, the rest of your day will not go well.
- A bloody yolked egg is said to be a sign of impending death.
- If you accidentally drop an egg and it smashes, you will soon hear good news. If you drop an egg and it doesn’t smash, the news will be bad.
Egg Divination at the Association of Independent Readers and Root Workers