Olga Tokarczuk at Salmagundi:
I would like to focus on a special way of predicting the future, and to invite you to take a trip down paths that are rarely trodden by humanists. As we are living at a time of unusual uncertainty and anxiety about what will happen next, this topic is on many people’s minds, prompting us to ask: “What is our future going to be like?” And also: “Can we foresee it to any degree at all?” When I say “our future” I’m not thinking of the next few years, but rather about the gradual processes whose effects will be visible several centuries from now.
In ages past, various ways of predicting the future developed dynamically – dating back to oracles and predictions based on observations of nature, or by apparently communicating with supernatural forces corresponding to the ongoing demands of society. I shall provide some examples from the ancient world, where alongside astrology, with its centuries-old tradition, various schools of “something-mancy” co-existed, some more and some less obvious. The more obvious ones include oneiromancy, as in divination by dreams; arithmancy, which uses numbers for predictive purposes; cheiromancy, forreading the future from the palm lines; or ceromancy, which bases its predictions on wax poured into water, and which in Poland is also a familiar folk custom associated with St. Andrew’s Eve.