This ancient form of divination depends on observing the parents and behavior of various animals in order to divine the past, present, and future.
There are many forms of divination that use animals – felidomancy, arachnomancy, and more. They are all forms of zoomancy.
Since ancient times, mankind has relied on his observations of animal behavior. This allowed ancient hunters to track and kill game in order to stay alive. As we moved to a more agricultural society, zoomancy grew to include both wild and domesticated animals.
To the ancient Etruscans, hens and roosters would foretell the future. The Babylonians splashed water on to the heads of sleeping oxen, seeking omens in the animal’s reactions. Insects are also used – the Dogon observe termites, while the Polynesians study beetles and the African Zandes rely on ants.
Given all this study of animals, it is no surprise that there are also many superstitions about animals. In the middle ages, howling dogs were a portent of calamity and death. If a pigeon, robin, or bat flew into the house, or if swallows or jackdaws took up residence in the chimney, it was an evil omen. An owl during the daytime was a sign of bad luck to come. If an owl crashed into the window at night, a family member would die soon.
In Victorian times, a hare seen running through town meant that someone would have a fire. Since ancient times, China has used animal behavior to predict earthquakes. In some traditions, the activities of animals, fish, and birds can also help to forecast the weather.
Among African aborigines, a similar type of zoomancy is practiced. Theriomancy uses the migrations of wild animals to foretell the future.