Word of The Day for Tuesday, May 17, 2011


har•us•pi•cy (hur-RUS-puh-see; huh-)  n

a form of divination by natural phenomena, especially from inspection of the entrails of animal sacrifices, especially the livers of sacrificed sheep and poultry

haruspex noun; haruspical adjective

from Latin haruspicium, from haruspex, from hira "entrails" from PIE *ghere- "gut, entrail" + specere "to look at" from L. spic- "beholding, inspecting"

Synonyms: extispicy, haruspication, aruspicy, hieromancy, hieroscopy, hepatoscopy,  hepatomancy
Related Words: hernia, yarn

Sentence Examples:
• Astrology did away with, and gradually relegated to oblivion, all the ancient methods that had been devised to solve the enigmas of the future. Haruspicy and the augural art were abandoned, and not even the ancient fame of the oracles could save them from falling into irretrievable desuetude.  - The Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism, Franz Cumont

• Really, magic was repellent to the honesty of his mind, as well as to his nerves, by reason of the suspicious and brutal part of its operations. As a rule, it was involved with haruspicy, and had a side of sacred anatomy and the kitchen which revolted the sensitive--dissection of flesh, inspection of entrails, not to mention the slaughtering and strangling of victims. - Saint Augustin, Louis Bertrand

Haruspicy goes back far beyond Biblical times. In Ezekiel 21:21 it says: “For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to us divination: he made his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver." - The fortune-telling book, Raymond Buckland


In Roman and Etruscan religious practice, a haruspex (plural haruspices; Latin auspex, plural auspices) was a man trained to practice a form of divination called haruspicy, hepatoscopy or hepatomancy. Haruspicy is the inspection of the entrails of sacrificed animals, especially the livers of sacrificed sheep and poultry. The rites were paralleled by other rites of divination such as the interpretation of lightning strikes, of the flight of birds (augury), and of other natural omens. Practitioners during the period of Roman dominance gradually adopted the title auspex from the older word haruspex, or from the Latin avis (bird) and specere or spectare (to look/see).

Being a specific form of the general practice of extispicy, haruspicy is not original to Etruscans nor Romans. Rather, it is now considered to have originated from the Near East where one would once find Hittites and Babylonians performing similar rites with entrails and producing comparable stylized models of the sheep's liver.
Sources: Free Dictionary, WordSmith

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