A form of divination, in this case by tears and/or crying.
"Flow my tears, flow from your springs
Exiled for ever, let me mourne
Where night’s black bird her sad infamy sings,
There let me live forlorne.
Downe vain lights, shine you no more,
No nights are dark enough for those
That in despair their lost fortunes deplore
Light doth but shame disclose.
Never may my woes be relieved,
Since pitie is fled, and tears, and sighs and groans
My weary days of all joys have deprived.
From the highest spire of contentment
My fortune is thrown
And fear and pain and grief
For my deserts are my hopes since hope is gone.
Hark you shadows that in darkness dwell
Learn to contemn light
Happy, happy, they that in hell
Feele not the world’s despite." John Dowland (1563-1625)
The Aztecs sacrificed children to procure rain, and the young victims were encouraged to shed tears copiously. This was not just a mere sign of a abundant rain fall, but was sympathetically connected with it. The Incas also indulged in such practices, and young children were particularly prized as human sacrifices and divination tools.
In ancient Babylon, on the fifth day of the New Year Festival (Akitu, the most important Assyrio-Babylonian festival, celebrated in the spring during the first eleven days of the month Nisan), the Babylonian king was subjected to a ritual humiliation, in which the high priest removed his royal insignia and placed before the god Marduk. The priest then struck the king in the face and pulled his ears. After the king knelt before Marduk declaring he was innocent of neglecting his royal duties, the high priest would strike the king once more; it was considered a good omen for the future if this brought tears to the royal eyes. The significance of this ceremony was to show that the king was responsible to Marduk, who renewed his kingship each year.
The Druids also practiced Dacryomancy of a sinister nature. In it, the cries and screams of hapless sacrificial victims were interpreted for divination purposes.
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Sources: (1) Spence, Lewis, An Encyclopedia of Occultism, Carol Publishing Group; (2) Dictionary of the Occult, Caxton Publishing; (3) Encyclopedia Britannica, Britannica Editors, Encyclopedia Britannica; Dowland, John, Second Booke of Songs or Ayres; Bromiley, Geoffrey W., The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
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