Amniomancy

In amniomancy, the diviner foretells the future of a baby born with the amniotic sac covering his head. Thus, the baby’s future is foretold. The word amniomancy comes to us from the Latin work “amnion”, meaning membrane.

The amniotic sac surrounds the fetus during pregnancy, holding the baby in a watery cushion designed to protect the young child from jolts and pressure. Inside the sac, the baby is able to move about and change positions. At childbirth, the sac ruptures, dilating the uterine enck and releasing about one quart of smniotic fluid. The sac becomes known as a caul if it covers the child’s head at birth or if it doesn’t rupture at all.

Diviners study this membrane for clues to the child’s future. If the membrane is red, the child will enjoy a happy life. However, if the membrane is the color of lead, misfortune will follow the child.

Ancient Romans believed that a child born with a caul was an omen of good fortune. To other ancient peoples, the caul would protect the child from witchcraft and drowning.

To medieval peoples, a caul remained a sign of good fortune. These cauls were gathered and dried, often kept for many years. Sailors would spend large sums of money to purchase a caul, which they saw as a talisman against a shipwreck and drowning. As recently as 1915, these cauls could be purchased in London’s shipping district.

Cauls were not only protection from the sea. They were used to assure victory in contests, and were in great demand. So popular were cauls with a torn knees that Sir Thomas Browne ridiculed the practice in his 1646 tome “Pseudoxia Epidemica” (Vulgar Errors).

Not all civilizations saw the caul as a symbol of luck. In some European countries, the caul suggested that the child might become a vampire. To prevent this tragedy, the caul was removed and destroyed. If twins are born, both bearing cauls, they have been marked by demons. Their souls are damned.

Overall, most beliefs associated with caulbearers indicate that this is good fortune. The caul will prevent drowning. While the child will spend its life traveling, it will never tire. In Scotland, it is believed the child will become psychic.

A drawing of the amniotic sac from Gray’s Anatomy
The amniotic sac opened during afterbirth examination. Courtesy Wikipedia.