Divination by fire, already alluded to in extispicy. The
presage was good when the flame was vigorous and quickly consumed
the sacrifice; when it was clear of all smoke, transparent,
neither red nor dark in color; and when it did not crackle, but
burnt silently in a pyramidal form. On the contrary, if it was difficult
to kindle, if the wind disturbed it, or if it was slow to consume
the victim, the presage was evil.
Besides the sacrificial fire, the ancients divined by observing
the flames of torches and even by throwing powdered pitch into
a fire; if it caught quickly, the omen was good. The flame of a
torch was good if it formed one point, bad if it divided into two;
but three was a better omen than one. Sickness for the healthy,
and death for the sick, was foreshadowed by the bending of the
flame and some frightful disaster by its sudden extinction.
The vestal virgins in the Temple of Minerva at Athens were
charged to make particular observations on the light perpetually
burning there.