Belomancy is the art of divination by arrows. The Babylonians, Scythians, et. al., were fond of belomancy. The Chaldean magicians of Nebuchadnezzar, famously mentioned in Ezekiel xxi, 21, are thought to have originated the practice. The instructions for the process are variously described as:

Herodotus describes a similar practice whereby Scythian soothsayers spread bundles of rods on the ground and interpreted them.

Tacitus claims to have observed German barbarians in the act of belomancy, which was called sortes sagittariæ in Classical Latin. It was later known as belomantia in Late Latin, from whence we receive the modern term.

The last recorded practitioners were Arab Bedouins who persisted in using belomancy long after it was condemned by the Qur’an.

Have you ever practiced belomancy?


This entry is part of Jack Rusher’s archive, originally published May 12th, 2003, in Baltimore. Inspired by Anglo-American efforts to justify war with Iraq.