Belomancy is an ancient art, one that seeks to tell the future using arrows. In the ancient world, this was practiced, by the Babylonians, Scythians, Arabs, and Greeks.
To divine the future, each arrow would be marked with occult symbols, representing every possible answer to a question. Often, a blank arrow would be included as well. Two methods were used. In the first, each arrow would be shot from a bow. The arrow that flew the furthest would indicate the answer. In the second method, the arrows were placed in a quiver. The answer was indicated by the first arrow to be drawn – if that arrow was blank, the questioner would draw again.
Not only could this divine the future, it could help in other ways. A traveller, finding himself lost, could use an arrow to find his way home. He would toss the arrow into the air, then follow the indicated direction.
This practice was presumably very ancient. The Book of Ezekiel refers to the king of Babylon using belomancy, as shown in this passage (the original Hebrew, along with the English translation, are included):
כִּי-עָמַד מֶלֶךְ-בָּבֶל אֶל-אֵם הַדֶּרֶךְ, בְּרֹאשׁ שְׁנֵי הַדְּרָכִים–לִקְסָם-קָסֶם: קִלְקַל בַּחִצִּים שָׁאַל בַּתְּרָפִים, רָאָה בַּכָּבֵד.
“For the king of Babylon stands at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination; he shakes the arrows, he consults the household idols, he looks at the liver.”
St. Jerome observed that a similar practice was used by the Assyrians. In Hosea 4:12, a similar technique uses a rod or staff instead of arrows (technically known as rhabdomancy). Grotius, meanwhile, shows that both techniques were used by the magi, Scythians, and Chaldeans. It was later adopted by the Slavonians and Germans.
In the Book of Mormon, Liahona was an oracle. It was made of two spindles in a brass ball. One of these spindles would point the traveller in the right direction. Writings also appeared on the device, providing sacred messages to the people.