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published: 11/16/10
updated: 6/26/13

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The Occult

The Occult: definitions

divining rod
A Divining Rod.
The word "occult" has different modern-day usages, but as it relates to spiritual matters, the word refers to any number of religious practices, which may or may not involve rituals and activities that utilize the blood of an animal or person. The English word “occult” comes from the 16th century Latin word “occulere,” which means “to hide or conceal."

It's important to know that the word "occult" isn't limited to metaphysical beliefs. It is also commonly found in the context of medical testing, referring to something that isn't visible with the naked eye (e.g. an "occult bleed" requires the use of microscope or chemical testing to confirm it).

Reasons people practice various expressions of the occult can be quite different depending on the acitivity and the individual. Generally, practitioners are attempting to discover information that is unknown to them, such as information about the future or what can be done to fascilitate physical healing. Most occult practices aren't directly associated with Satanism, but they can be. Some expresion may involve black magic, but many don't. Some expressions may involve elements of shamanism, but many don't.

Occult Chart: practices, descriptions, associations

The following chart is an attempt to introduce the reader to various occult practices. It's not intended to be an assessment of beliefs or behaviors, but give brief descriptions and serve as a starting point for further study.

Occult Practice
Brief Description
alchemy the attempt to convert base metals into gold and silver ancient cultures such as Egypt and Greece
alomancy divination by means of salt spilling salt is bad luck, throwing salt over the shoulder
amniomancy divination of the membrane which sometimes envelopes a child at birth  
amulet an object worn as a charm against evil or injury  
anthropomancy divination by the entrails of men or women Menelaus, Heliogabalus, Julian the Apostate
axinomancy divination by means of a hatchet  
belomancy divination by means of arrows Chaldeans
catoptromancy divination by use of a mirror Thessaly
ceroscopy divination by wax  
clairaudience hearing voices; meaning, "clear hearing"  
clairvoyance seeing things; meaning, "clear vision"  
crystalomancy divination by means of a crystal globe, a pool of water, or a mirror  
dactylomancy divination by means of rings mood rings
daphnomancy divination by means of throwing a branch into a fire to see if it crackles  
demonomancy divination by means of demons  
divination the method of obtaining knowledge of the unknown or the future by means of omens  
divining rod, aka "dowsing" a two-pronged tree branch that signals an underground source such as water by means of spastic movements ancient Egypt
eromanty one of six kinds of divination utilizing air Persians
extispicy inspection of entrails Erturians
gastromancy divination by means of listening to sounds from the stomach  
gyromancy walking in a circle, which was marked with letters, and forming words out of those upon which one stumbled  
hydromancy divination by water Nereus

The Illuminati

(a few theorists accuse this
secret society of occult behavior)
a secret society that some believe is still operational today  
lithomancy divination by stones  
lyeanthropy the transformation of a human being into an animal  
margaritomancy divination by pearls  
myomancy divination by rats or mice  
necromancy divination by means of spirits of dead people  
onomancy divination by a donkey The Gothic King, Theodotus
onychmancy divination by the finger-nails  
ooscopy divination by eggs  
palmistry divination by means of the lines on the palm of a hand  
phyllorhodomancy divination by rose-leaves  
poltergeist supernatural causes of noises and other disturbances; "polter geist" means "rattling ghost"  
psychics utilizing people with extrasensory experience (ESP) to acquire information  
psychomancy divination by spirits  
pyromancy divination by fire Temple of Minerva at Athens
rhapsodomancy divination by means of reading a line of poetry at random  
seance a sitting held for the purpose of communicating with the dead  
sorcery the use of supernatual powers to summon evil spirits  
sortilege divination by lots  
spells spoken or written formulas capable of magical effects  
stoicheomancy divination by means of reading a line of Homer or Virgil at random  
stolisomancy divination by means of how one dresses  
tarot cards playing cards used for the purpose of divination  
tephramancy divination by means of reading ashes from a fire  
xylomancy divination by wood Slovenia
zlazza a black and white stone, causes horrifying visions  


The Salem Witchcraft Trials




Satanic Symbolism

Vampires and Vampirism



Lewis Spence. The Encyclopedia of the Occult. Bracken Books. London, England. 1988

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