Word of the Week: Gastromancy

Written by Science

You know when you finish your Sunday dinner and that food baby is nestled up in your belly gurgling like nobody’s business, putting on a concerto commemorating the sinful gorging you’ve recently partaken in? Have you ever considered that those noises could be the voices of the dead, making hushed predictions about the future of mankind?

Me neither, but I guess that’s why you need some education in the after-dinner pastime, gastromancy. You see, it comes from the greek word gastromanteia: gaster meaning ‘pot-belly’ and manteia meaning ‘the power of divination’.

Hellenistic and even Medieval folk would gather around the stomach of a well-feasted person and listen to the soothsaying of their Yorkshire puddings, as they thought they would whisper soft truths about the future. Even the Oracle of Delphi thought this was fair game, so next time you’re lazing after a heavy meal, light some candles, alert an interpreter, and get ready for some gravy-laden prophecy!

Last modified: 17th October 2016

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