Onomancy (or Onomamancy)

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Onomancy (or Onomamancy)

Divination using a person's name, satirically said to be nearer to divination by a donkey, and more properly termed onomamancy or onomatomancy. The notion that an analogy existed between men's names and their fortunes is supposed to have originated with the Pythagoreans.

Onomancy had two rules: first, that an even number of vowels in a man's name signifies something amiss in his left side; an uneven number, a similar affection on the right. Second, of two competitors, success was based on the competitor with the longest name; thus Achilles triumphed over Hector.

According to Caelius Rhodiginus, the Gothic King Theodotus practiced an unusual version of onomancy recommended by a Jew. The diviner advised the prince, on the eve of a war with Rome, to enclose 30 hogs in three different sties, having previously given some Roman and others Gothic names. On an appointed day, when the sties were opened, all the Romans were found alive, but with half their bristles fallen off; all the Goths were dead. From this, the onomantist predicted that the Gothic army would be destroyed by the Romans, who would lose half their own force.

The system uses the rationale of Jewish gematria to assign numerical values to the letters of names.


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