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Cast A Stone...
As collected by Shea Thomas

Casting stones in the Rede of the Wiccae is a reference to a form of divination called hydromancy. (Hydro meaning 'water' and mancy meaning 'to divine'). In one account, this particular method of prophecy involved throwing three pebbles into standing water and then observing the overlapping ripples this created. [n.1] Another 1800-year-old story tells of German women who "watched the whirls and courses of rivers for prognostic interpretations." [n.2]

Among the many different kinds of divination, hydromancy may be especially significant to witchcraft because it is cited in ancient histories as one of the wellsprings of "classic" Paganism. In St. Augustin's apologia City of God (A.D. 426) this method of divination was considered the one principally used by the second Roman King, Pompilius Numa (715-673 BC). [n.3]

Whether King Numa relied solely on magickal or mundane sources is a matter of debate (he was also said to be in a relationship with a water nymph named Egeria). However, Numa remains the arguable "grandfather" of the Roman (pre-Christian) rites. Numa was highly respected by later citizens of Rome, and is credited for "reforming the calendar, reorganizing the state religion, regulating religious rites and ceremonies, organizing several sacerdotal colleges, and establishing the system of sacral law." [n.4]

Other forms of hydromancy still in use today include dowsing, scrying, and the practice of reading tea leaves or coffee grinds.

Footnotes (some old links have disappeared):

  1. The Mystica. Hydromancy, 2000. citing Leslie A. Shepard, Ed., Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, 3rd ed. Detroit: Gale Research, Inc. 1991.
  2. Id. citing Clemens Alexandrinus (150-215 A.D) and J. Ludovicus Vives (1492-1540 AD) in Commentary upon St. Augustine.
  3. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Rev. Marcus Dods, D.D. Trans. St. Augustine’s City of God. Book VII. Chapter 35. Concerning Hydromancy, 2000.
  4. The Mystica Numa, Pompilius, 2000. citing The Encyclopedia Americana, International Edition. Danbury, CT, Grolier. 1987.