Oomancy is foretelling the future with eggs. The usual method is to drop the egg white in a plate with water and look for the future in the swirls. In England, the best time is New Year’s Eve; in Spain on Midsummer’s Eve; in Scotland on Halloween.
One writer explains that a Columbian New Year custom is to have your fortune told by raw eggs in water. Your swirls describe your future husband or reveal if you have the evil eye trained on you. They could even somehow reveal the next possessor of the oomancy powers.
But watch out: the next step was to knock back your glass of congealed, wobbling raw egg. Salud! I predict lots of (egg) white faces.
The Venus Glass
The Venus Glass, the game to find out the profession of your future spouse, has a macabre history. To play, you drop egg whites into a clear glass of water and divine the profession of your future spouse.
This innocent game may have played a part in egging on the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s. Young Salem residents (possibly Abigail Williams and her cousin Betty Parris) played Venus Glass with a catastrophic outcome.
One of the girls saw the shape of a coffin and took this to mean that she would die before being married:
“There came up a coffin, that is, a spectre in the likeness of a coffin. And she was afterward followed with diabolical molestations to her death; and so died a single person.”
In any case, soon after the girls began to show symptoms of agitation, struck dumb, limbs flailing and striking unusual postures. Physician William Griggs was the first to suggest they could be the victims of witchcraft…
Which came first: The chicken or the egg?
Oomantia was often used in ancient times was to predict the gender of an unborn child. According to folklore, you can foretell much about a birth if you roll a hen’s egg of a hen on the tummy of a pregnant woman and then carefully break it onto a saucer.
For instance, a single yolk indicated the birth of one child while a double yolk would suggest twins. Beware if the egg yolk was streaked with red. That was seen as a bad omen, indicating the possibility of a miscarriage or complications during.
Another more bizarre version of Oomancy involved pregnant women incubating a hen’s egg between their breasts. The chick’s gender would match the unborn child.
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, gives an account of this divination in Ancient Rome. According to him, the Roman Empress Livia Drusilla was extremely anxious to know whether her unborn child would be a girl or boy.
She took a hen’s egg and kept it carefully between her hands or her bosom, depending on the version. Eventually, a chick came out sporting a dazzling cockscomb; this meant a male child.
(In fact, it was. He became Emperor Tiberius.)
Oomance is not dead
Here’s an old English superstition: if you’re a girl who wants to see who your true love is, place an egg in front of your fire on a stormy night. As the storm howls, the man you will marry will come through the door and pick up the egg. In an Ozark version, a girl boils and egg and then removes the yolk, filling the core with salt. At bedtime, she eats the salted egg, and dreams about a man bringing her water to salve her thirst. This is her future husband.
Another British tale was popular among sailors. It warns that after you eat a boiled egg, you should always crush up the shells. Otherwise, evil spirits and witches could sail the world snug in the shell cups, and use dark magic to sink entire fleets!
Some eggs are more equal than others. Owls’ eggs are said to be a cure for alcoholism, when cooked up and fed to someone with a drinking problem. Dirt found under a mockingbird’s egg could heal sore throats. To appease witches in Appalachia, toss a hen’s egg can be tossed on the roof of your house. If a woman throws an egg shell into the fire on May Day and spots blood on the shell, it means her days are numbered.
A seemingly innocent egg when left in the home, will draw all negative energy into itself. This may be why there are rules about disposing of the eggs used in future predictions. Discard the egg in a pot of soil. Take it far away and bury it deep in the earth.
Forgot to get eggs? You can read your future using cheese.