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Capnomancy (otherwise known as libanomancy[1]) signifies a method of divination using smoke. This is done by looking at the movements of the smoke after a fire has been made. A thin, straight plume of smoke is thought to indicate a good omen whereas the opposite is thought of large plumes of smoke.[2][3] If the smoke touches the ground, this is thought to be a sign that immediate action must be taken to avoid catastrophe.[4]


Capnomancy comes from two Greek words: καπνός (kapnós), meaning smoke, and μαντεία (manteía), meaning divination or to see.[5]


The first recorded use of capnomancy was in ancient Babylonia where the ceremony was performed at religious dates throughout the year using cedar branches or shavings.[4][6] In Ancient Greece priests would burn animal sacrifices and then perform Capnomancy over the smoke produced by the fire.[1][7]

The Celts were thought to practice dendromancy, a form of capnomancy, using oak and mistletoe branches.[4]

It was also used by the Semang of Malaysia, who would use the ritual to determine whether a camp was safe for the night.[1] There is reference made to the practice in both 17th and 19th century religious texts, although these do not describe how the practice was performed.[7]

Modern usage[edit]

Capnomancy has been reportedly used as late as 2003 in New England, where citizens would practice the ritual by using smoke plumes from chimneys.[6] Other modern variations of the ritual involve burning cedar sticks, incense or candles with ribbons tied around them.[1] Hands are sometimes used to manipulate the smoke with practitioners reading the shapes that are then produced.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Scott Cunningham (1 May 2003). Divination for beginners: reading the past, present & future. Llewellyn Worldwide. pp. 90–. ISBN 978-0-7387-0384-8. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
  2. ^ J. S. Forsyth (1827). Demonologia: or, Natural knowledge revealed: being an exposé of ancient and modern superstitions, credulity, fanaticism, enthusiasm, & imposture, as connected with the doctrine, caballa, and jargon, of amulets, apparitions, astrology, charms, demonology ... witchcraft, &c. J. Bumpus. pp. 146–. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
  3. ^ Cheung, Theresa. The Element Encyclopedia of the Psychic World. Harper Element. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-00-721148-7.
  4. ^ a b c Gerina Dunwich (1 January 2002). Herbal Magick: A Witch's Guide to Herbal Folklore and Enchantments. Career Press. pp. 50–. ISBN 978-1-56414-575-8. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
  5. ^ Encyclopędia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World p. 1659
  6. ^ a b Clifford A. Pickover (1 March 2001). Dreaming the future: the fantastic story of prediction. Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-1-57392-895-3. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
  7. ^ a b Raymond Buckland (1 August 2003). The fortune-telling book: the encyclopedia of divination and soothsaying. Visible Ink Press. pp. 85–. ISBN 978-1-57859-147-3. Retrieved 30 June 2011.