The Language of Birds, by Dale Pendell
Three Hands Press, 71 pp., 2010
Pendell views divination as being directed by spirits or gods, likened to possession or seduction, weaving poetry and meditation through myth and history. Etymologies offer shifting meanings, and we learn “Cicero thought fish too dumb to speak for the gods”.1
Interspersed throughout are lists of divination methods, including some rather obscure ones, such as alectryomancy – divination by roosters pecking grain,2 gelomancy – divination from laughter,3 myomancy – divination by squeaks of mice,4 or (my favourite) tiromancy – divination by milk curds or the holes on cheese.5
It’s fascinating to explore the range of approaches we use to draw meaning from the abstract. In the search for truth we take our chances.
Ultimately the most potent technique may be thumomancy – divination by intense introspection of one’s own soul.6 As Pendell notes:
Dice seem unnecessary, and slightly vulgar: reason is chancy enough.7
This is a beautiful little book.