This ancient form of divination and gets its name from the Greek words kapnos, meaning smoke, and manteia, meaning divination. Ancient peoples used this method, also known as libanomancy, to foretell the future by studying the smoke rising from fires, especially sacrificial blazes.
Commonly, smoke that rose gently to the heavens was a good omen. On the other hand, if that sacrificial smoke hung in the air, evil was afoot.
In a related method, diviners would toss laurel leaves, poppy seeds, Jasmine, or incense onto burning coals. By watching the smoke and sniffing it for clues, they could tell what the future would hold.
In some cases, the diviner would breathe in the smoke from the sacrificial fire. Occasionally this would lead to a trance-like state, particularly when specially prepared hallucinogenic drugs were used.
Smoke held mystical qualities for many people of the world. Because of this, it is commonly used in rituals related to blessing, purification, and magical protection.
Capnomancy may have originated with the ancient Babylonians. On sacred days, cedar branches and shavings were burned in the sacrificial fire. The smoke was then studied for omens that would foretell the future.
The Druids, meanwhile, preferred to use smoke from the burning of sacrificial animals and humans on an altar.