Since the beginning of civilization, men have always wanted to learn more about the future through various practices and pastimes. In today’s Wacky Word Wednesday, we will explore one of the oldest fortune telling practices.
A form of divination involving listening to stomach sounds.
Today’s wacky word is the English version of the Greek word “gastromanteia,” which is made up of gaster meaning “pot-belly” and manteia meaning “power of divination.” A popular 17th century after-dinner pastime, the practice of gastromancy initially involved closely examining the sounds of, or lines and marks upon the stomach in order to make predictions about the future. The Greeks believed that the noises inside one’s stomach are the voice of the non-living which, residing in the stomach of an interpreter, are then able to be interpreted and predict the future. Pythia, the priestess of the temple of Apollo in Delphi, is known to be the one of the earliest recorded group of prophets to use the technique of gastromancy. A later form of practice that bares the same name involved fortune telling using a clear pot-bellied glass bowl filled with water placed in front of candles (a precursor of crystal-ball gazing).
Such belief in gastromancy helped to develop the subsequent practice of ventriloquism, which is “an act of stagecraft in which a person manipulates his or her voice so that it appears that the voice is coming from elsewhere.” By the late 18th century, as the practice of gastromancy as a divination died down, ventriloquism performances became a well-established form of performance in England. While the study of “belly-examining” divination slowly faded away, the derived entertainment became one of the biggest, most popular forms of performance; the 1950s and 60s saw more than 400 ventriloquists working full-time both on television and in theatres in the United Kingdom.
Here are two examples of how to use gastromancy in a sentence:
- I just adored the cabbage, black beans, and sausage, Frederica. Now, let’s see what we can predict about tomorrow’s market through gastromancy. (Alpha Dictionary)
- After a few beers your stomach is a gastromantice chorale, George. I predict you are in for a long night of heart-burn and indigestion. (Alpha Dictionary)
Today, divination practices such as gastromancy are not as popular as they used to be, however, learning about the interesting method of its original practice, the spiritual belief behind and the art forms influenced by it, it means gastromancy will forever remain an important historical pastime.
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