Dactylomancy

This ancient form of divination derives its name from the Greek words for ring and divination. Using rings, it is possible to divine the past, present, and future.

The ancient Romans believed in this form of divination, often accompanied by solemn religious services.  According to written accounts, dactylomancy was the chosen method to determine the successor of Valens. The ring indicated the name Theodosius, who indeed succeeded Valens in a ruler.

Over time, methods of ring divination have changed.  The ring was often used as a pendulum – the direction that the ring would swing or rotate would indicate a yes or no answer.  A similar method suspended the ring over a board or table, upon which letters and numbers had been written.  This worked in a similar fashion to a Ouija board, and there is some evidence that Ouija boards derived from these early oracles.

In a different method, the ring was dropped into a container of water.  The diviner asked a question, then studied the ring’s position at the bottom of the container for clues.  The container could be a simple bowl, or it could be very complex, including symbols and patterns that would aid in the foretelling.

Of course, it wasn’t necessary to fill the bowl with water.  In some cases, the ring is Tied to a thread, then hung inside of a vessel partly filled with water.  The thread was shaken, causing the ring to dance about.  The diviner observed how many times the ring clanged into the container’s inner wall, divining the future from that answer.

In an obscure version, rings of different metals were used.  Gold and silver were always popular, although copper, iron, and lead rings were also used. As each metal corresponded to astrological symbols, so did each finger.  These rings were placed on the fingernails, the metal carefully chosen to align with planetary conjunctions. Wedding rings were particularly prized. The metals chosen were as follows:

  • Monday – Silver, to represent the moon
  • Tuesday – Iron, to represent Mars
  • Wednesday – Tin/lead, to represent Mercury
  • Thursday – Tin, to represent Jupiter
  • Friday – Copper, to represent Venus
  • Saturday – Lead, to represent Saturn

Sunday – Gold, to represent the sun

A golden ring. Associated with Sunday in dactylomancy practices of the Middle Ages.