The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Fortune Telling – Michael Johnstone

Divination: ME [-OFr. divination or L divinatio, f. divinat, pa, ppl stem of divinare; see DIVINE v., -ION.]

  1. The action or practice of divining the foretelling of future events or discovery of what is hidden or obscure by supernatural or magical means. Also with a [article] and pl. [plural] an exercise of this, a prophecy, an augury.
  2. Successful conjecture or guessing.

Not content with telling us that the word ‘divination’ is a Middle English one that has its roots in Old French or Latin, and then defining the word, the 1983 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary goes on to tell us that the first recorded written use of the word in its longer meaning is found in the work of Sir Thomas North (c. 1535-c 1601). The Tudor port wrote. The flying of birds, which doe geue a happy divination of things to come. The second meaning was first used in written form by North’s contemporary, William Shakespeare, who in Henry IV part II wrote:

Why he is dead.

See what a ready tongue suspicion hath! He that but fears the thing he would not know Hath by instinct knowledge from others’ eyes

That what he fear’d is chanced. Yet speak, Morton: Tell thou an earl his divination lies,

And I will take it as a sweet disgrace And make thee rich for doing me such wrong

What these dictionary definitions fail to do is give any hint of the breadth of the ways in which the action of divining can be practised. For that we must move several centuries on from Thomas North and William Shakespeare and turn to twenty-first century technology-the Internet.

Switch on a computer, select a search engine and key in the word. Google alone offers over 490,000 sites to choose from! Hitting on one them,, and then selecting from the various options offered eventually leads to the following glossary compiled by an organization called BoxArt, the headlist of which is reproduced here with their generous permission.

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