A person who claims to be capable of foretelling the future, or whose profession is telling the future.
A prophet, a diviner, a seer. One who foretells events by the art of soothsaying; a prognosticator, a person who foretells the future from omens.
An individual possessing higher faculties of knowing and seeing the unknown, the secret and the unseen. A clairvoyant, a person who is psychic, an augur, a channeller, a fortune-teller, a haruspex, a horoscopist, a medium.
In ancient Rome the position of soothsayer was well respected, and, like the augur, he was usually consulted by the emperor and other government officials before any major political or military move was made.
The significant feature the soothsayers observed to voice their predictions was the liver and its pyramid-shaped projection known as the processus pyramidalis, but portents could come in many different forms. From earthquakes and volcanic eruptions to the appearance of freaks (monstrously deformed children, calves with two heads and the like), such apparitions were considered deeply ominous, indicating that peaceful relations with the gods were under strain, and in serious cases the Senate would be consulted to determine the correct response.
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Sources: (1) Spence, Lewis, An Encyclopedia of Occultism, Carol Publishing Group; (2) Dictionary of the Occult, Caxton Publishing; (3) The Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Edition Handy Volume Edition, Oxford University Press; (4) Bailey, Nancy (editor), The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Spells and Magic, Sterling Publishing; (5) Dunwich, Gerina, A Wiccan's Guide to Prophecy and Divination, Carol Publishing Group.
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