Pyromancy was an ancient type of divination used by those in Ancient Greece and Rome. Vestal Virgins in Rome were keepers of the eternal flame; they divined the future whilst observing the forever burning flames. In these times fire was looked upon as being intrinsically pure – a primary element that would purify anything offered up be it plants, animals or people, making them acceptable to Vesta the Goddess of the Hearth.
Everything about the flames would have been analysed – the way they flickered, their height, their colour, their rise and fall, the amount of smoke, any sounds they made…
During a sacrifice it was considered good if the flames were quickly consumed, it was considered bad if the flames were disturbed by wind, took a long time to start or took a long time to burn. A favourable interpretation was taken from no sounds and a bright orange colour, but things were adverse if the fire crackled, there was a lot of smoke or it was deep red in colour.
The ancients would also divine by fire torches, a flame divided in two meant a bad omen, but a single flame or one with three or more aspects was a good sign. A bent flame could mean sickness or even death, the most feared sign was if the flame went out suddenly – signifying great disaster. (more…)