views updated


A method of divination by rats or mice, supposedly alluded to in the biblical book of Isaiah (62:17). Their peculiar cries, or some marked devastation committed by them, was taken for a prognostic of evil. Aeilan related that Fabius Maximus resigned the dictatorship in consequence of a warning from these creatures, and Cassius Flaminius retired from the command of the cavalry for no greater reason.

Herodotus stated that when the army of Sennacherib invaded Egypt, mice invaded their camp by night and gnawed their quivers and bows to pieces. In the morning, therefore, without arms, they fled in confusion; many were slain.

Horapollo, in his work on the hieroglyphics of Egypt, described the rat as a symbol of destruction and said that the Hebrew name of this animal is from a root that means to separate, divide, or judge. It has been remarked by one of the commentators on Horapollo that the mouse has a finely discriminating taste.

An Egyptian manuscript in the Bibliothèque Royale in Paris contains the representation of a soul going to judgment, in which one of the figures is depicted with the head of a rat. It is understood that the Libian rats and the mouse of Scripture are the same as the Arabian jerboa, which is characterized by a long tail, bushy at the end, and short forelegs.


Waite, Arthur Edward. The Occult Sciences. 1891. Reprint, Secaucus, N.J.: University Books, 1974.