Augury is the practice from ancient Roman religion of interpreting omens from the observed flight of birds (aves). When the individual, known as the augur, interpreted these signs, it is referred to as "taking the auspices". 'Auspices' is from the Latin auspicium and auspex, literally "one who looks at birds."[1] Depending upon the birds, the auspices from the gods could be favorable or unfavorable (auspicious or inauspicious). Sometimes bribed or politically motivated augures would fabricate unfavorable auspices in order to delay certain state functions, such as elections. Pliny the Elder attributes the invention of auspicy to Tiresias the seer of Thebes, the generic model of a seer in the Greco-Roman literary culture.[2]

This type of omen reading was already a millennium old in the time of Classical Greece: in the fourteenth-century BC diplomatic correspondence preserved in Egypt called the "Amarna correspondence", the practice was familiar to the king of Alasia in Cyprus who needed an 'eagle diviner' to be sent from Egypt.[3] This earlier, indigenous practice of divining by bird signs, familiar in the figure of Calchas, the bird-diviner to Agamemnon, who led the army (Iliad I.69), was largely replaced by sacrifice-divination through inspection of the sacrificial victim's liver—haruspices—during the Orientalizing period of archaic Greek culture. Plato notes that hepatoscopy held greater prestige than augury by means of birds.[4]

One of the most famous auspices is the one which is connected with the founding of Rome. Once the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, arrived at the Palatine Hill, the two argued over where the exact position of the city should be. Romulus was set on building the city upon the Palatine, but Remus wanted to build the city on the strategic and easily fortified Aventine Hill. The two agreed to settle their argument by testing their abilities as augures and by the will of the gods. Each took a seat on the ground apart from one another, and, according to Plutarch, Remus saw six vultures, while Romulus saw twelve.

Rider BM B1
A confident rider, surrounded by birds of good omen is approached by a Nike bearing victor's wreaths on this Laconian black-figured kylix, ca. 550–530 BC


According to unanimous testimony from ancient sources the use of auspices as a means to decipher the will of the gods was more ancient than Rome itself. The use of the word is usually associated with Latins as well as the earliest Roman citizens. Though some modern historians link the act of observing Auspices to the Etruscans, Cicero accounts in his text De Divinatione several differences between the auspicial of the Romans and the Etruscan system of interpreting the will of the gods. Cicero also mentions several other nations which, like the Romans, paid attention to the patterns of flying birds as signs of the gods' will but never once mentions this practice while discussing the Etruscans.[5] Though auspices were prevalent before the Romans, Romans are often linked with auspices because of both their connection to Rome’s foundation and because Romans were the first to take the system and lay out such fixed and fundamental rules for the reading of auspices that it remained an essential part of Roman culture. Stoics, for instance, maintained that if there are gods, they care for men, and that if they care for men they must send them signs of their will.[6]

Position of the augur

In ancient Rome, the appointment and inauguration of any magistrate, decisions made within the people’s assembly and the advancement of any campaign always required a positive auspicium. Unlike in Greece where oracles played the role of messenger of the gods, in Rome it was through birds that Jupiter’s will was interpreted.[7][8] Auspices showed Romans what they were to do, or not to do; giving no explanation for the decision made except that it was the will of the gods. It would be difficult to execute any public act without consulting the auspices.

It was believed that if an augur committed an error in the interpretation of the signs or, vitia, it was considered offensive to the gods and often was said to have disastrous effects unless corrected.[9] Elections, the passing of laws, and initiation of wars were all put on hold until the people were assured the gods agreed with their actions. The men who interpreted these signs, revealing the will of the gods were called augures. Similar to records of court precedents, augures kept books containing records of past signs, the necessary rituals and prayers and other tricks of their trade to help other augures and even member of the aristocracy understand the fundamentals of augury.[10]

The augures themselves were not the ones with the final say: Though they had the power to interpret the signs, it was ultimately the responsibility of the magistrate to execute decisions as to future actions.[11] The magistrates were also expected to understand the basic interpretations as they were often expected to take the auspices whenever they undertook any public business.[12]

Until 300 BC only patricians could become augures. Plebeian assemblies were forbidden to take augury and hence had no input as to whether a certain law, war or festival should occur. Cicero, an augur himself, accounts how the monopoly of the patricians created a useful barrier to the encroachment of the populares.[13] However, in 300 BC a new law Lex Ogulnia, increased the number of augures from four to nine and required that five of the nine be plebeians, for the first time granting the ability to interpret the will of the gods to lower classes. With this new power it was not only possible for plebeians to determine the gods will in their favor but it was also now possible for plebeians to critique unfair interpretations by patricians.

Types of auspices

There were five different types of auspices. Of these, the last three formed no part of the ancient auspices.

ex caelo [from the sky]
This auspice involved the observation of thunder and lightning and was often seen as the most important auspice.[14] Whenever an augur reported that Jupiter had sent down thunder and lightning, no comitia (a gathering deemed to represent the entire Roman population) could be held.[15]
ex avibus [from birds]
Though auspices were typically bird signs, not all birds in the sky were seen as symbols of the will of the Gods. There were two classes of birds: Oscines, who gave auspices via their singing; and Alites, who gave auspices via how they flew.[16] The Oscines included ravens, crows, owls and hens, each offering either a favorable omen (auspicium ratum) or an unfavorable depending on which side of the Augur's designated area they appeared on.[17] The birds of the Alites were the eagle, the vulture, the avis sanqualis, also called ossifraga, and the immussulus or immusculus.[18] Some birds like the Picus Martius, the Feronius, and the Parrha could be considered among the oscines and the alites. Every movement and every sound made by these birds had a different meaning and interpretation according to the different circumstances, or times of the year when it was observed.
ex tripudiis [from the "dance" (of birds feeding)]
These auspices were read by interpreting the eating patterns of chickens and were generally used on military expeditions. Cicero shows that at one point, any bird could perform the tripudium[19] [sacred dance], but that as the practice progressed it soon began customary to use only chickens. The chickens were kept in a cage under the care of the pullarius (keeper of the auspice chickens) who, when the time came, released the chickens and threw at them some form of bread or cake. If the chickens refused to come out or eat, or uttered a cry, or beat their wings, or flew away, the signs were considered unfavourable.[20] Conversely, if the chicken left its cage to feast so that something fell from its mouth and landed on the ground, these signs were termed tripudium solistimum (or tripudium quasi terripavium solistimum) [from solum, the ground], according to the ancient writers),[21] and were considered to be a favourable sign.
ex quadrupedibus [from quadrupeds]
Auspices could also be taken from animals who walked on four feet, though these auspices were not part of the original science of augurs, and were never used for state affairs. Often these auspices took the form of a fox, wolf, horse, or dog who crossed a person's path, or was found in an unusual location— the meaning could be interpreted, by an appointed augur, as some form of will of the Gods.[22]
ex dīrīs [from portents]
This category of auspices represented every other event or occurrence which could result in an auspice which does not fit into the above categories. Often actions of sneezing, stumbling, and other slightly abnormal events could be taken as a sign from the Gods to be interpreted.[23]

Offered and requested signs

There were two classifications of auspice signs, impetrative (impetrativa, sought or requested) and oblative (oblativa, unsought or offered). Signs that fall under the category of impetrativa were signs that resulted due to the actions performed by the augur during the reading of the auspice.[12] The other category of signs, oblativa, were momentous events which occurred unexpectedly, while the magistrate was either taking auspices or participating in public debate.[12] Ex Caelo ("from the sky") signs of thunder and lightning or other natural phenomena, would be considered an “offered” sign. Unless the magistrate was accompanied by an augur it was up to them to decide whether or not the “offered” sign was significant.[12]


  1. ^ auspic-, auspec- + (Latin: to look, to observe in order to make a prediction; to see omens; from auspex [genitive form auspicis] avi-, stem of avis, "bird" plus -spex, "observer", from specere)
  2. ^ Gaius Plinius Secundus, Naturalis Historia 7.203.3
  3. ^ J.A. Knudtzon, Die El-Amarna Tafeln (1915:no. 35.26) noted in Walter Burkert, The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influences on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age (1992), p 42.
  4. ^ Walter Burkert 1992:49, noting Plato's Phaedrus 244C.
  5. ^ Cic. de Div. I.41, II.35, 38; de Nat. Deor. II.4
  6. ^ Cic. de Leg. ii. 13
  7. ^ “Aves internun-tiae Jovis.” Cic. de Divin., ii. 34
  8. ^ “Interpretes Jovis optimi maximi publici augures.” Cic. de Leg., ii. 8
  9. ^ Potter, David. (1994). Prophets and Emperors, p. 152. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University.
  10. ^ Potter, David. (1994). Prophets and Emperors, p. 154. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University.
  11. ^ spectio, Cic. Phil. 2,81
  12. ^ a b c d Potter, David. (1994). Prophets and Emperors, p. 153. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University.
  13. ^ F. Guillaumont. (1984). Philosophe et augure, recherches sur la théorie cicéronienne de la divination, Brills. New Pauly footnote 7 “Augures”.
  14. ^ Serv. ad Virg. Aen. II.693; Cic. de Div. II.18, &c.; Festus, s.v. Coelestia
  15. ^ Cic. de Div. II.14, Philipp. V.3
  16. ^ Cic. de Div. II.34
  17. ^ Plaut. Asin. II.1.12; Cic. de Div. I.39
  18. ^ cf. Virg. Aen. I.394; Liv. I. 7, 34; Festus, s.v. sanqualis; Plin. H. N. X.7
  19. ^ [1] A classical and archaeological dictionary of the manners, customs, laws, institutions, arts, etc. of the celebrated nations of antiquity, and of the middle ages: To which is prefixed A synoptical and chronological view of ancient history - P. Austin Nuttall - Printed for Whittaker and co., 1840 - page 601
  20. ^ Liv. X.40; Val. Max. I.4 §3
  21. ^ Cic. de Div. II.34),
  22. ^ See e.g. Hor. Carm. iii. 27.
  23. ^ cf. Serv. ad Virg. Aen. IV.453


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChambers, Ephraim, ed. (1728). "article name needed". Cyclopædia, or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. 1 (first ed.). James and John Knapton, et al. pp. 177–178, 180, 232.

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Andraste, also known as Andrasta, was, according to the Roman historian Dio Cassius, an Icenic war goddess invoked by Boudica in her fight against the Roman occupation of Britain in AD 60. She may be the same as Andate, mentioned later by the same source, and described as "their name for Victory": i.e., the goddess Victoria. Thayer asserts that she may also be related to Andarta. The goddess Victoria is related to Nike, Bellona, Magna Mater (Great Mother), Cybele, and Vacuna—goddesses who are often depicted on chariots. Her name has been translated as meaning "indestructible" or "unconquerable"Many neopagan sources describe the hare as sacred to Andraste. This idea seems to be extrapolated from the passage in Dio Cassius in which Boudica releases a hare from her gown:

"Let us, therefore, go against [the Romans], trusting boldly to good fortune. Let us show them that they are hares and foxes trying to rule over dogs and wolves." When she [Boudica] had finished speaking, she employed a species of divination, letting a hare escape from the fold of her dress; and since it ran on what they considered the auspicious side, the whole multitude shouted with pleasure, and Boudica, raising her hand toward heaven, said: "I thank you, Andraste, and call upon you as woman speaking to woman ... I beg you for victory and preservation of liberty."

The hare's release is described as a technique of divination, with an augury drawn from the direction in which it runs. This appears to be similar to the Roman methods of divination which ascribe meaning to the directions from which birds fly, with the left side being unfavorable (sinistra) and the right side favorable.


An augur was a priest and official in the classical Roman world. His main role was the practice of augury: Interpreting the will of the gods by studying the flight of birds – whether they were flying in groups or alone, what noises they made as they flew, direction of flight, and what kind of birds they were. This was known as "taking the auspices".

The augural ceremony and function of the augur was central to any major undertaking in Roman society – public or private – including matters of war, commerce, and religion. Augurs sought the divine will regarding any proposed course of action which might affect Rome's pax, fortuna, and salus (peace, good fortune, and well-being).For similar practices in other places, see Ornithomancy.

Auguries of Innocence

"Auguries of Innocence" is a poem from one of William Blake's notebooks now known as The Pickering Manuscript. It is assumed to have been written in 1803, but was not published until 1863 in the companion volume to Alexander Gilchrist's biography of William Blake. The poem contains a series of paradoxes which speak of innocence juxtaposed with evil and corruption. The poem is 132 lines and has been published with and without breaks that divide the poem into stanzas. An augury is a sign or omen.

Augury (band)

Augury is a technical death metal band from Montreal, Quebec, Canada who released their debut album, Concealed in September 2004 on Galy Records, and a follow-up, Fragmentary Evidence, in July 2009 on Nuclear Blast Records. Their third album was released in 2018 on The Artisan Era.

Aventine Hill

The Aventine Hill (; Latin: Collis Aventinus; Italian: Aventino [avenˈtiːno]) is one of the Seven Hills on which ancient Rome was built. It belongs to Ripa, the twelfth rione, or ward, of Rome.

Concealed (album)

Concealed is the full-length debut album by the Canadian technical death metal band Augury. It was released on September 14, 2004 through Galy Records.

De Divinatione

Cicero's De Divinatione (Latin, "Concerning Divination") is a philosophical treatise in two books written in 44 BC. It takes the form of a dialogue whose interlocutors are Marcus (speaking mostly in Book II) and his brother Quintus. Book I deals with Quintus' apology of divination (in line with his essentially Stoic beliefs), while Book II contains Marcus' refutation of these from his Academic philosophical standpoint. Cicero concerns himself in some detail with the types of divination, dividing them into the "inspired" type (Latin furor, Gk. mania, "madness"), especially dreams, and the type which occurs via some form of skill of interpretation (i.e., haruspicy, extispicy, augury, astrology, and other oracles).

It is notable as one of posterity's primary sources on the workings of Roman religion. It also includes a fragment of Cicero's poem on his own consulship.

Fragmentary Evidence

Fragmentary Evidence is the second full-length album by the Canadian technical death metal band Augury. It was released in Europe on July 17, 2009 and in North America on August 11, 2009.

Glen Ballard

Basil Glen Ballard Jr. (born May 1, 1953) is an American songwriter, lyricist, and record producer. He is best known for co-writing and producing Alanis Morissette's 1995 album Jagged Little Pill, which won Grammy Awards for Best Rock Album and Album of the Year, and was ranked by the Rolling Stone as one of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. He is also well known for his collaborations with composer Alan Silvestri. He was involved in the recording and writing of Michael Jackson's albums Thriller and Bad. As a writer, he co-wrote songs including "Man in the Mirror" (1987) and "Hand in My Pocket" (1995). He is the founder of Java Records. He won the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media for "Believe" (The Polar Express). In 2011, he founded his own production company known as Augury, a Hollywood atelier focused on developing music-driven projects in film, television, and theatre.


In the religion of Ancient Rome, a haruspex (plural haruspices; also called aruspex) was a person trained to practice a form of divination called haruspicy (haruspicina), the inspection of the entrails (exta—hence also extispicy (extispicium)) of sacrificed animals, especially the livers of sacrificed sheep and poultry.

The reading of omens specifically from the liver is also known by the Greek term hepatoscopy (also hepatomancy).

The Roman concept is directly derived from Etruscan religion, as one of the three branches of the disciplina Etrusca. Such methods continued to be used well into the Middle Ages, especially among Christian apostates and pagans, with Thomas Becket apparently consulting both an aruspex and a chiromancer prior to a royal expedition against Brittany.The Latin terms haruspex, haruspicina are from an archaic word haru "entrails, intestines" (cognate with hernia "protruding viscera", and hira "empty gut"; PIE *ǵʰer-) and from the root spec- "to watch, observe". The Greek ἡπατοσκοπία hēpatoskōpia is from hēpar "liver" and skop- "to examine".

Jean-François Dagenais

Jean-François Dagenais (born October 16, 1975) is a Canadian Juno Award-winning record producer, recording engineer, mixer, guitarist, and songwriter. He is best known as guitarist for the death metal band Kataklysm and for producing and mixing many heavy metal albums and its subgenres.


Negativa were a Canadian avant-garde technical death metal band from Montreal, Quebec formed by Steeve Hurdle ex member of the technical death metal band Gorguts. It also includes musicians from Ion Dissonance and Augury. The band released their first three-song recording, a self-titled release limited to 1000 copies, in November 2006. The CD was recorded at Wild Studios by Pierre Rémillard. Their first performance took place at Cafe Chaos on November 12, 2006. Because of the high profile of the band's members, this new tech metal supergroup has been eagerly awaited by fans of the genre.

Negativa had been recording songs for their next release. In 2007, guitarist Steeve Hurdle stated: "We have nearly 75 minutes of new music ready for the album and we're very anxious to share it with all of you. We'd like to warn you that our new songs are nothing like what you heard on the MCD; they're more ambient and emotional."Hurdle died on May 20, 2012, following post-surgical complications.


Numen, pl. numina, is a Latin term for "divinity", or a "divine presence", "divine will." The Latin authors defined it as follows. Cicero writes of a "divine mind" (divina mens), a god "whose numen everything obeys," and a "divine power" (vim divinam) "which pervades the lives of men." It causes the motions and cries of birds during augury. In Virgil's recounting of the blinding of the one-eyed giant, Polyphemus, from the Odyssey, in his Aeneid, he has Odysseus and his men first "ask for the assistance of the great numina" (magna precati numina). Reviewing public opinion of Augustus on the day of his funeral, the historian Tacitus reports that some thought "no honor was left to the gods" when he "established the cult of himself" (se ... coli vellet) "with temples and the effigies of numina" (effigie numinum). Pliny the younger in a letter to Paternus raves about the "power," the "dignity," and "the majesty;" in short, the "numen of history." Lucretius uses the expression numen mentis, or "bidding of the mind," where "bidding" is numen, not, however, the divine numen, unless the mind is to be considered divine, but as simply human will.Since the early 20th century, numen has sometimes been treated in the history of religion as a pre-animistic phase; that is, a belief system inherited from an earlier time. Numen is also used by sociologists to refer to the idea of magical power residing in an object, particularly when writing about ideas in the western tradition. When used in this sense, numen is nearly synonymous with mana. However, some authors reserve use of mana for ideas about magic from Polynesia and southeast Asia.


Ornithomancy (modern term from Greek ornis "bird" and manteia "divination"; in Ancient Greek: οἰωνίζομαι "take omens from the flight and cries of birds") is the practice of reading omens from the actions of birds followed in many ancient cultures including the Greeks, and is equivalent to the augury employed by the ancient Romans.

Ornithomancy in some form has been found globally among a wide variety of pre-industrial peoples.


The genus Perisoreus is a very small genus of jays from the Boreal regions of North America and Eurasia from Scandinavia to the Asian seaboard. An isolated species also occurs in north-western Szechuan province of China. They belong to the Passerine order of birds in the family Corvidae. Not closely related to other birds known as jays, they are instead related to the genus Cyanopica.The genus was introduced by the French zoologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte in 1831. The type species was subsequently designated as the grey jay. The name of the genus may come from the Ancient Greek perisōreuō "to heap up" or "bury beneath". Alternatively it may be from the Latin peri- "very" or "exceedingly" and sorix, a bird of augury dedicated to Saturn.


Picus was a figure in Roman mythology, was the first king of Latium. He was the son of Saturn also known as Stercutus. He was the founder of the first Latin tribe and settlement, Laurentum, located a few miles to the Southeast of the site of the later city of Rome. He was known for his skill at augury and horsemanship. According to Festus he got his name as a consequence of the fact that he used to rely on a woodpecker for the purpose of divination. Picus was also described to be quite handsome, sought after by nymphs and naiads. The witch Circe attempted to seduce him with her charms and herbs while he was on a hunting trip, but he savagely rejected her. She turned him into a woodpecker for scorning her love. When his comrades accused Circe of her crime and demanded Picus' release, she turned them too into a variety of beasts. Picus' wife (to whom he was wholly devoted) was Canens, a nymph. After Picus' transformation she wandered madly through the forest for 6 days until finally she lay down on the bank of the Tiber and died. They had one son, Faunus.

According to grammarian Servius, Picus's love for Pomona was itself scorned. But in another place he states she consented to marriage, but Circe transformed Picus into a woodpecker and her into a pica, a kind of bird, probably a magpie or an owl. He is featured in one of the Metamorphoses of Ovid. Virgil says that he was the son of Saturnus and the grandfather of Latinus, the king of the Laurentines whom Aeneas and his Trojans fought upon reaching Italy.

Italic people believed Picus was the son of the god of war Mars and attributed his avine transformation to his skills at interpreting bird omens.

One of the function he performed was to lead the deduction of colonies (made up of younger generation folk) with his flight, which traditionally took place in spring and was performed according to a religious ritual known as ver sacrum. The people of the Piceni derived their name from the memory of this ritual.

Roman mythology

Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans. "Roman mythology" may also refer to the modern study of these representations, and to the subject matter as represented in the literature and art of other cultures in any period.

The Romans usually treated their traditional narratives as historical, even when these have miraculous or supernatural elements. The stories are often concerned with politics and morality, and how an individual's personal integrity relates to his or her responsibility to the community or Roman state. Heroism was an important theme. When the stories illuminate Roman religious practices, they are more concerned with ritual, augury, and institutions than with theology or cosmogony.The study of Roman religion and myth is complicated by the early influence of Greek religion on the Italian peninsula during Rome's protohistory, and by the later artistic imitation of Greek literary models by Roman authors. In matters of theology, the Romans were curiously eager to identify their own gods with those of the Greeks (interpretatio graeca), and to reinterpret stories about Greek deities under the names of their Roman counterparts. Rome's early myths and legends also have a dynamic relationship with Etruscan religion, less documented than that of the Greeks.

While Roman mythology may lack a body of divine narratives as extensive as that found in Greek literature, Romulus and Remus suckling the she-wolf is as famous as any image from Greek mythology except for the Trojan Horse. Because Latin literature was more widely known in Europe throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, the interpretations of Greek myths by the Romans often had a greater influence on narrative and pictorial representations of "classical mythology" than Greek sources. In particular, the versions of Greek myths in Ovid's Metamorphoses, written during the reign of Augustus, came to be regarded as canonical.


The Seonaidh (anglicised Shony or Shoney) was a water spirit in Lewis, according to Martin Martin.

Dwelly defines seonadh (without the "i", a related form in Scottish Gaelic) as "1. augury, sorcery. 2. Druidism" and quotes Martin further.

Martin says that the inhabitants of Lewis used to propitiate Seonaidh by a cup of ale in the following manner. They came to the church of St. Mulway (Mael rubha), each man carrying his own provisions. Every family gave a pock (bag) of malt, and the whole was brewed into ale. One of their number was chosen to wade into the sea up to his waist, carrying in his hand the cup full of ale. When he reached a proper depth, he stood and cried aloud:

Seonaidh, I give thee this cup of ale, hoping that thou wilt be so good as to send us plenty of seaware [seaweed used as a fertilizer] for enriching our ground during the coming year.

He then threw the ale into the sea, in a ceremony performed at night. On his coming to land, they all repaired to church, where there was a candle burning on the altar. There they stood still for a time, when, on a given signal, the candle was put out, and straight-away, they adjourned to the fields where the night was spent mirthfully over the ale. Next morning, they returned to their respective homes, in the belief that they had ensured a plentiful crop for the next season.

It seems likely that Seonaidh was originally some kind of god, whose worship had been lightly Christianised by the addition of various church features. However, it is also possible that Seonaidh, the Scottish Gaelic form of the English Johnny, may also be a reference to one of the Saints John.

USS Augury (AM-149)

USS Augury (AM-149) was an Admirable-class minesweeper built for the United States Navy during World War II and in commission from 1943 to 1945. In 1945, she was transferred to the Soviet Navy, in which she served as T-334.

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