This form of divination takes its name from the Greek words arithmos, meaning “number”, and manteia, meaning “divination”. Practitioners use numbers and letters values to foretell the future. Because of this, many believe arithmomancy, also known as arithmancy, to be a precursor of numerology.
There were several forms of arithmomancy. In one version, diviners would assign a number value to each letter of the alphabet. For each word, the number value of each letter was added up and the final number was then analyzed. Names were especially important –a person’s future could be determined by using arithmomancy. The significance of numbers is still found in the Bible, where the number 666 is the “number of the beast”.
Pythagoras saw numbers and mathematics as a way for the gods to communicate with mankind. To him, the entire universe could be represented numerically. Everything revolved around mathematics. Many of his followers, nicknamed Pythagoreans, practiced the ancient art of arithmomancy, as did the Platonists. In ancient gladiator contests, early Olympic Games, and even battles, fortunetellers would predict the outcome by arithmetically examining the letter values in the names of each competitor. The name with the greatest value was believed to be the winner. Legend tells us that this method predicted Achilles’ victory over Hector in the battle of Troy.
The science of Gematria has long been part of Hebrew mystic tradition. It is found in the Jewish Kabbalah, and is proof that ancient Hebrews practiced Arithmomancy as well as other forms of divination.
Arithmomancy was performed differently by the Caldeans. Their 21-letter alphabet was divided into three parts, each with seven letters. These seven sections corresponded to each of the seven planets known at that time. Rather than calculating the numerical value of names, the Caldeans assigned numerical values to each planet. The planet’s numerical value allowed them to make predictions of the future.
Today, arithmomancy is still used. While it is rarely used to foretell the future, it is still a valuable tool when divining information on a person’s character and inner potential.