Words of Divination – Words that end with the Greek element ‘-mancy’

Continuing my series of posts on words from the same etymological families, in this post we will look at words that end in ‘-mancy’.

‘-mancy’ is a word-forming element of Greek origin that means ‘divination by means of’. For example, ‘cartomancy’ is ‘divination by means of playing-cards’. And ‘tasseomancy’ is ‘divination by means of reading tea leaves’ (which you might remember from Harry Potter).

We also use words ending in ‘-mancy’ to denote kinds of magic. ‘Necromancy’ is often used to mean a type of magic capable of reanimating dead bodies. ‘Pyromancy’ is often used as a general term for ‘fire magic’ – as in Game of Thrones. (Interestingly, it is the Mad King’s fire mages who are called ‘pyromancers’, but Melisandre is far more fitting of the term, since she does actually use fire for divination.)

This family of words is, clearly, of great use to writers of fantasy. And, it turns out, there are a lot more words in this family than one might first expect – most of them aren’t used very often – perhaps an opportunity to bring some back.

Below are words ending in ‘-mancy’ that I’ve been able to find in dictionaries.

WordMeaning and EtymologyAgent Noun
bibliomancydivination by means of opening a book at random; from Greek biblion, meaning ‘paper’, ‘scroll’; could perhaps also be used to refer to any magic that uses booksbibliomancer
spodomancydivination by means of ashes; from Greek spodos, meaning ‘ashes’, ’embers’spodomancer
sciomancydivination by communication with shades of the dead; from Greek skia, meaning ‘shade’, ‘shadow’; could perhaps also be used just to mean ‘shadow-magic’sciomancer
chiromancydivination by the hand – palm-reading, essentially; from Greek kheir, meaning ‘hand’; could also be used to refer to any kind of magic that uses hand gestureschiromancer
geomancydivination by means of signs in the Earth – from Greek ge, meaning ‘Earth’geomancer
lecanomancydivination by inspection of water in a basin; ultimately from Greek lekos, meaning ‘plate’, ‘pan’; could also be used to mean divination by inspecting broken plates or potterylecanomancer
capnomancydivination by smoke; from Greek kapnos, meaning ‘smoke’capnomancer
gyromancydivination by walking in circles; this is quite a funny one; from Greek gyros, meaning ‘circle’gyromancer
crystallomancydivination by means of crystals – looking into a crystal ball; from Greek krystallos, meaning ‘clear ice’; this word could also be used for ‘divination by looking into ice’ or ‘ice magic’crystallomancer
rhabdomancydivination by use of a divining rod; from Greek rhabdos, meaning ‘rod’, ‘wand’, ‘staff’; could also just be used to mean ‘wand-magic’ – so possibly quite a useful word; much of the magic in Harry Potter could perhaps be described as rhabdomancyrhabdomancer
rhapsodomancydivination by means of verses; from Greek rhapsodos, meaning ‘reciter of epic poems’; could be used to refer to any kind of magic that uses incantations – and so, like rhabdomancy, could refer to a type of magic that appears commonly in fiction; could also be used to refer to a kind of magic that uses songsrhapsodomancer
cartomancydivination by means of playing-cards; from Greek khartes, meaning ‘layer of papyrus’; could be used for any kind of magic that involves papercartomancer
astromancydivination by means of the stars and planets – what today is commonly called ‘astrology’astromancer
oneiromancydivination through dreams; from Greek oneiros, meaning ‘dream’oneiromancer
ophiomancydivination through interpreting the movements of coiling snakes; from Greek ophis, meaning ‘snake’ophiomancer
anthracomancydivination by inspection of burning coals; from Greek anthrax, meaning ‘live coal’; potentially a useful word in combination with ‘pyromancy’anthracomancer
arithmancydivination by numbers; from Greek arithmos, meaning ‘number’arithmancer
catoptromancydivination by means of a mirror; this is quite a good one; from Greek katoptron, meaning ‘mirror’catoptromancer
psephomancydivination by means of pebbles; from Greek psephos, meaning ‘pebble’psephomancer
tephromancydivination by means of ashes (from a sacrifice); from Greek tephra, meaning ‘ashes’tephromancer
ornithomancydivination by means of birds; from Greek ornis, meaning ‘bird’ornithomancer
pegomancydivination by fountains; from Greek pege, meaning ‘fountain’, ‘spring’pegomancer
pyromancydivination by means of fire; from Greek pyr, meaning ‘fire’; also just a general word for ‘fire magic’pyromancer
cubomancydivination by throwing dice; from Greek kybos, meaning ‘die’cubomancer
ceromancydivination by inspection of melted wax; from Greek keros, meaning ‘beeswax’ceromancer
psychomancydivination by consultation with souls of the deceased; from Greek psykhe, meaning ‘soul’, ‘mind’; could just be used to refer generally to psychic powerspsychomancer
necromancydivination by communication with the dead; from Greek nekros, meaning ‘dead body’; has the more general meaning of ‘black magic’, and is often used to mean ‘magic involving dead bodies’necromancer
xylomancydivination by means of wood; from Greek xylon, meaning ‘wood’, ‘timber’xylomancer
onomancydivination from the letters of a name; from Greek onoma, meaning ‘name’onomancer
phyllomancydivination by means of leaves; from Greek phullon, meaning ‘leaf’phyllomancer
hydromancy divination by the appearance or motion of liquids; from Greek hydor, meaning ‘water’; could just be used as a general term for ‘water-magic’ (such as water-bending in Avatar)hydromancer
aeromancy divination by means of air; from Greek aer, meaning ‘air’; could just be used as a general term for ‘air-magic’ (such as air-bending in Avatar)aeromancer
lithomancy divination by stones; from Greek lithos, meaning ‘stone’; can be used for ‘stone-magic’lithomancer
chronomancy divination to determine the favourable time for an action; from Greek khronos, meaning ‘time’; could just be used for ‘time-magic’chronomancer

There are a few others that I found, but they were less interesting. As you can see, there’s a lot of them – you could use them in some quite interesting ways in fantasy stories.

The table below gives some words ending in ‘-mancy’ that I’ve made up with my limited knowledge of Classical Greek. (I haven’t checked if anyone else has made these up too – it’s quite possible.)

WordMeaning and EtymologyAgent Noun
electromancydivination by means of amber; divination by means of electricity; electricity-magic; from Greek elektron, meaning ‘amber’electromancer
chromomancydivination by means of colour; colour-magic; from Greek khroma, meaning ‘colour’chromomancer
heliomancydivination by means of the Sun; Sun-magic; from Greek helios, meaning ‘the Sun’heliomancer
logomancyword-magic; speech-magic; perhaps a term for any magic that involves incantations; from Greek logos, meaning ‘word’, ‘speech’logomancer
anthomancyflower-magic; from Greek anthos, meaning ‘flower’anthomancer
selenomancydivination by means of the Moon; from Greek selene, meaning ‘the Moon’selenomancer

As is usual with these posts, I may add more words over time.

Star Trek Picard – Series 1 Episode 4 – I guess this is the level we’re working at

Hmmm. I liked this episode, but I have five pages of notes on it – that’s a lot more than usual. They’re all quite disconnected, and I think the only way of going through them is to go through them as they appeared in the episode.

Firstly, I liked the planet Vashti. This was actually the main reason why I liked the episode. I thought the look of the planet was very well designed – it was very distinctive. The whole opening sequence was set on the planet, and I think it was very immersive.

It was also nice to hear some Romulan. As much as I can’t stand Star Trek Discovery, one of the few things I did like about it was the inclusion of a lot of Klingon. Having characters speak in alien languages in a show adds to the realism. It creates more of a sense that these alien races are real and have real cultures.

The next point in my notes is that the dialogue in the show is still very, very unnatural. This is something that came up A LOT in the episode – I’ll return to it later with specific examples. So often the things that the characters say are not the things that any real person would say at that point in a real conversation. It’s jarring.

Another quick aside, Ian Nunney, who plays the young Elnor in this episode, is outstanding – he’s better than many of the older actors.

Now we get to some bigger points. The character of Dr. Jurati, who in previous episodes I quite liked, in this episode spontaneously becomes completely obnoxious. She has a conversation with Chris Rios, the captain of the ship they’re all on. She opens with ‘Space turns out to be super-boring.’ while something very interesting happens behind her. I don’t know about anyone else, but to me the idea of getting to look out of a ship as it’s travelling faster than the speed of fucking light sounds pretty fucking amazing.

After Chris Rios says something that’s full-on fucking edgelord, she says sarcastically ‘Well that’s not a conversation killer at all.’. But while what Chris Rios said was a bit weird and trying too hard, it wasn’t a fucking conversation killer – it had the potential to be quite interesting. What was a conversation killer, Dr. Jurati, was you listing off stats about the galaxy. See what I mean about this show having really weird dialogue? The show is trying to be banter-y, but the writers have no fucking idea how to write that.

It occurred to me while watching this episode that Dr. Jurati is basically just Tilly from Star Trek Discovery. They’re both nerdy; they’re both awkward; they’re both hyper-positive. They both just go up to people and start talking to them. They even have many of the same facial expressions. While I didn’t dislike Tilly in STD, is new Star Trek capable of writing any other kinds of character? This is just what non-nerds think nerds are like.

On the subject of obnoxious characters, Raffi is endlessly annoying. She can never let anyone else be right – she always has to correct them, often with patronising incredulity – particularly if anyone dares to infer what she might mean by something she’s said. It’s infuriating to watch, and I think it’s both a writing problem and an acting problem.

It’s become evident that this show is trying to assemble its ‘gang’. This is a concept that’s very familiar from shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender – your main characters form a group that goes around from place to place and adventure to adventure – each person in the group has distinctive personality traits and abilities (so that they all depend on each other), but they work well together as a group, even if some of them don’t get along sometimes.

The problem is that having a ‘gang’ like this depends on having likeable characters, and only Jean-luc is likeable out of this lot.

Anyway, we had some more stupid dialogue. Dr. Jurati says ‘Anyone else think the Way of Absolute Candor sounds potentially annoying.’ Oh ha ha very funny but no. That actually sounds pretty fucking convenient. What is annoying, however, is you.

Raffi says ‘Your basic impenetrable shield of orbital killer drones.’ – Who the fuck wrote this? A fucking five-year-old?

Elnor is just an elf from Middle Earth. Even the name ‘Elnor’ is pretty fucking elvish. Picard even asks him ‘Will you bind your sword to my quest?’ at one point – this is just Lord of the Fucking Rings!

While on the subject of Elnor, it’s annoying that when he and Picard meet for the first time after about fourteen years, we don’t get to see their initial reactions – it cuts away. This is something that seems to happen a lot in film and television nowadays, and it’s very annoying.

Not-quite-finally, another thing that I really didn’t like about this episode was the portrayal of many of the Romulans on Vashti. The Romulans weren’t very Romulan. In The Next Generation, the Romulans are of course militaristic, but they are also pensive, cunning, cautious, and sly. That makes them unique among the enemies of the Federation, and very ominous.

All of that is gone here. In this episode, they’re just space thugs. Why does every alien race in new Star Trek seem to become space thugs? It’s the same thing that happened with the Klingons in STD. It’s as though the writers of new Star Trek can’t conceive of any other form of evil than thuggishness.

On this same point, the actor who played the former Romulan senator clearly has never seen classic Star Trek. He has none of the presence that previous actors who’ve played Romulans of that kind of status had.

And then finally … Jeri Ryan’s still got it. The five seconds of her that we got at the end of the episode were better than the rest of the fucking episode. What is it about these actors from older shows that means that they’re just far better on screen? I’m not completely sure, but I think it’s probably that they can do performances with subtlety. The two or three facial expressions that we got from Jeri Ryan at the end of the episode were more engaging than any line said by any other character in the whole forty minutes.

So when I say I enjoyed this episode, I mean that it was engaging to watch, but it was also punctuated by lots of very annoying moments. In that regard it was similar to all of the episodes we’ve had so far – it looks like this whole series is going to be filled with these annoying moments.