Your iPhone: where chicken entrails, dice and Magic 8 Balls converge

Superstitious practices have abounded for as long as we have been around.  Even the snake in the garden, I suppose, was tempting our first parents into a sort of superstition when it, The Enemy, suggested that we could be as gods, knowing, plotting choosing our own courses, looking in a way inappropriate for creatures to have a grasp on the unknowable.

Baseball players are perhaps exempt from the sinful nature of most superstitions, because of the divine favor that rests on baseball.  Otherwise, the horoscope and fortune cookie thing is mostly still, except when it isn’t.

In ancient times, the Romans would look to the patterns of the flights of birds to discern divine favor on an endeavor.  Other celestial or weird phenomenon were taken as omens.  You could find out of a day was propitious for some undertaking by scattering grain in a pen of sacred chickens or, for a more intimate look, disembowel the chickens and read their entrails.

You could also cast lots.  People still do this when they flip a coin or consult their Magic 8 Ball.  A coin toss is fine for a kickoff, but anyone who makes real decisions based on the Magic 8 Ball deserves what happens next.

Sometimes people practiced bibliomancy, by opening a book, often Virgil, later the Bible, and reading the first passage they saw.   What Augustine did in the garden isn’t too far from that.  Divine inspiration?  Maybe.  I guess it depends on why you did it and how it turns out.

With that as a preamble, chicken entrails, rolls of the dice and Magic 8 Balls can now converge in your very own ancient Roman iPhone.

Into ancient omen gazing, divinizing?  There’s now an app for that.

I found here a story that amused, but left me feeling a little odd, given that this sort of thing can also – and I am not making this up – provide an entree to your life for the Enemy of your soul who desires your eternal suffering.

Astragalo, Greek and Roman Art of Divination for the iPhone and iPad

[] Rome, Italy – Independent app developer Giampiero Rossi is glad to introduce the update to Astragalo for iOS. The Astragalomancy, Astragalomanteia in Latin, also known as Astragyromancy or Cleromancy, is an ancient Greek and Roman art of divination, performed by rolling dice. According to a Greek myth known thanks to the Proverbs Zenobia, first century A.D., it is said that Athena invented this art.

Near the altar of Aphrodite Ourania in Athens, marked astragali have been found, suggesting Astragalomancy was performed near the altar after about 500 BC. The emperor Tiberius often went to see the Oracle of Geryon at the Baths of Abano, where a priest foresaw the future by three golden dice. The systems in use in Roman times then passed in the Middle Ages.

Now with this modern version, you can consult the oracle and seek advice from the gods. Think and ask a question, shake your iPhone or your iPad and see the response. If you like dice games and prophecies, Astragalo is your app!

$0.99, O Quirites!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Lighter fare and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Brad says:

    How charming that it comes from Rome.

  2. UncleBlobb says:

    Fr. Z: Wasn’t the Uwim and Thuwim (sp.?) a way for ancient Levite priests to divine God’s will? Not that I am saying that is pagan!

  3. They’re not mentioning that using three dice was primarily the standard Roman craps game (I believe it was called “Venus” or something like that), and that we have dice boards for it from Hadrian’s Wall forts.

    I guess they think there’s more money in marketing obscure forms of the occult than extremely common Roman games.

Comments are closed.