Alectromancy (or Alectryomancy)
An ancient method of divination with a cock. In practicing
it, a circle must be made and divided equally into as many parts
as there are letters in the alphabet. Then a wheat-corn must be
placed on every letter, beginning with A, during which the depositor
must repeat a certain verse. This must be done when
the sun or moon is in Aries or Leo. A young cock, all white,
should then be taken, his claws cut off and the cock forced to
swallow them together with a little scroll of parchment made of
lambskin upon which has been written certain words. Then the
diviner holding the cock should repeat a form of incantation.
Next, on placing the cock within the circle, he must repeat two
verses of the Psalms, which are exactly in the middle of the 72
verses cited in the entry on onimancy.
With the cock inside the circle, it must be observed from
which letters he pecks the grains, and upon these letters new
grains must be placed. The letters, when written down and put
together will reveal the name of the person concerning whom
inquiry has been made.
According to legend the magician Iamblicus used this art to
discover the person who should succeed Valens Caesar in the
empire, but the bird picking up four of the grains, those which
lay on the letters ‘‘T h e o,’’ left it uncertain whether Theodosius,
Theodotus, Theodorus, or Theodectes, was the person
designated. Valens, however, learning what had been done, put
to death several individuals whose names unhappily began with
those letters, and the magician, to avoid the effects of his resentment,
took a draught of poison.
A kind of Alectromancy was also sometimes practiced upon
the crowing of the cock, and the periods at which it was heard.
Ammianus Marcellinus (fourth century C.E.) describes the ritual
that accompanied this act rather differently. The sorcerers
commenced by placing a basin made of different metals on the
ground and drawing around it at equal distances the letters of
the alphabet. Then whoever possessed the deepest occult
knowledge, advanced, enveloped in a long veil, holding in his
hand branches of vervain, and emitting dreadful cries, accompanied
by hideous convulsions. He would stop before the magic
basin, and become rigid and motionless. He struck on a letter
several times with the branch in his hand, and then upon another,
until he had selected sufficient letters to form a heroic
verse, which was then given out to the assembly.
The details of an operation in Alectromancy are described
in the fourth song of the Caquet Bonbec, of Jonquieres, a poet
of the fourteenth century.
Waite, A. E.. The Occult Sciences. 1891. Reprint, Secaucus,
N.J.: University Books, 1974.

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