Libanomancy

29th July 2022. Reading Time: 5 minutes General, Paranormal Theories. 137 page views. 0 comments.

Divination is an ancient art with the purpose to seek knowledge or predict the future through what is thought to be using supernatural methods. Libanomancy is the practice of reading the smoke and ashes of burning incense. 

Divination is an ancient art with the purpose to seek knowledge or predict the future through what is thought to be using supernatural methods. Scrying is one that has been popular through the ages where people would use water or reflective surfaces to look within themselves or even to the oracles and gods for answers. 

One you may or may not have heard of is called Libanomancy.

Libanomancy

Also known as Capnomancy and Knissomancy, Libanomancy is an ancient practice of reading the smoke and ashes of burning incense.  When I say ancient, I am referring to old Babylonian times.  We know this because this technique was referred to in the Libanomic manuals roughly dated between 2,000-1,600 B.C.  These are incredibly rare but they do exist.  Starting in Mesopotamia (west Asia), it soon travelled to Egypt and later became known in Europe and soon across the world.

Image Source: https://mermadearts.com/i/divination-with-incense

The name libanomancy comes from the Greek stem libanos, meaning frankincense.  To perform a ritual, a diviner would throw frankincense onto a fire.  Much like scrying, the initial concept of this kind of divination was to seek answers from an oracle or god. The process involved analysing the actual smoke configuration itself.  It is thought that there are up to 32 omens or "laws of the divine world order”.  Some of these have been translated as follows:

  1. If when you sprinkle the incense its flame burns smokily, your army will defeat an enemy.        
  2.  If when you sprinkle the incense it stops short, and afterwards its flame burns smokily, an enemy will defeat your army.
  3. If when you sprinkle the incense (the smoke) goes to its right and not to its left, you will prevail over your adversaries.      
  4. If when you sprinkle the incense (the smoke) goes to its left and not to its right, your adversary will prevail over you. 
  5. If when you sprinkle the incense (the smoke) goes to the east and does not go towards the crotch of the diviner, downfall for your adversary. 
  6. If when you sprinkle the incense (the smoke) goes towards the crotch of the diviner and does not go to the east, your adversary will prevail over you.  
  7. If when you sprinkle the incense (the smoke) goes equally in all directions, equal weapons.
  8. If when you sprinkle the incense (the smoke) clusters: success: the man will enjoy profit wherever he goes.      
  9.  If the top of the incense (smoke) is fragmented, there will be financial loss and loss of cattle in the man’s estate.    
  10.  A) If the top of the incense (smoke) is cleft (in two): madness. B) If the top of the incense (smoke) is cut off, the man will experience hard times.
  11.    If the top of the incense (smoke) looks like the brick-basket of Šamaš, there will be di’u disease (remittent fever) in the man’s household. 
  12. If the top of the incense (smoke) gathers like a date palm and is thin (down) at its base, hardship will seize the man. 
  13. If the incense (smoke) after a while is constricted, hard times will befall the man. 
  14. If the incense (smoke) after a while pushes through and gets out, the man will pull through hard times.
  15.  If the incense (smoke) pushes through to the east and gets out, the man will pull through hard times.              

Translation of tablet UCLM 9-2433 (Obverse)

Finkel, Irving L. “A New Piece of Libanomancy.” Archiv Für Orientforschung 29/30 (1983): 50–55. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41661906

It is also thought that the odour was important as well.  If the odour was nice, it meant the oracle saw a more favourable outcome for you.  If the smell was bad, it meant the future was not so bright.

When we look back at another divination method - scrying, it too was originally something in which people would seek answers from the oracle/gods.  It became somewhat modernised and in the process, so did libanomancy with the two often becoming intertwined and confused with one another.  Instead of being used as a form of divination as such, they are thought by some to be used as a tool for spirit communication.  While scrying in a mirror, people will look for visions or changes in their own appearance.  When 'smoke scrying' they are looking for faces or patterns to appear.  Incense itself on a spiritual level is said to be the conductor that connects the material world to the subtle world.  The subtle world is where the non-physical is said to exist.  So if there are spirits for example, they would be a part of the subtle world. 

Check out my articles about Scrying 

Scrying

Scrying and the Troxler effect

Water ITC

Much of the original process of libanomancy has been more modernised and even combined with scrying as mentioned above, however there are some who do still read the smoke and the ashes - much like people read tea leaves.  The important thing to remember when it comes to any sort of divination is that it is considered to be a guide and reflection of oneself.  Nothing is set in stone and we are the masters of our own destiny.  Divination can help us gain the clarity we need to move forward.


References

https://thesirenlppacs.com/2641/witchy-wednesdays/the-art-of-libanomancy/

https://spellhouse.ca/blogs/news/libanomancy-the-art-of-reading-incense-smoke

Finkel, Irving L. “A New Piece of Libanomancy.” Archiv Für Orientforschung 29/30 (1983): 50–55. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41661906

https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/libanomancy

https://en-academic.com/dic.nsf/enwiki/4512514

https://www.occultopedia.com/l/libranomancy.htm

Anuus, Amar 2010. Divination and Interpretation of Signs in the Ancient World. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. 

https://mermadearts.com/i/divination-with-incense

https://solancha.com/how-to-read-incense-smoke-libanomancy-knows-the-answer/

Cover Photo by Dovis: https://www.pexels.com/photo/an-incense-stick-with-smoke-6719774/

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