haec est


a Ioanne Opsopoeo scripta
magistro ordinis haruspicum LX

* * *

which is

by John Opsopaus

  1. Introduction
  2. Procedure
  3. Theory
  4. Pronunciation Guide
  5. Bibliography


  1. History
  2. Ancient and Modern Practice


"Haruspicy" is a method of divination that was practiced by the ancient Etruscans, who had an advanced civilization in Italy before the Roman Empire. In fact the Romans learned much of their culture and art from the Etruscans (or Rasna as they called themselves). They also brought the art of writing to Europe: the Latin alphabet is mostly derived from the Etruscan, and Runes are based on a northern Etruscan alphabet. Although the Etruscans have been called The People of the Book, very little of their writing survives. Their language is mysterious, being non-Indo-European and apparently unrelated to all other languages in the area; it has been only partly deciphered, and that quite recently.

The principles of haruspicy were contained in the Libri Tagetici, a collection of books dictated by Tages, who was said to be a childlike being unearthed in a field by Tarchon, a Tarquinian peasant. After teaching the art of haruspicy to the Lucumones (high priests) of the twelve Etruscan tribes, Tages disappeared as suddenly as he had appeared.

"Haruspices" (diviners) from Etruria were consulted privately throughout the history of the Roman Empire. The Roman Senate also held haruspicy in the highest regard and consulted haruspices before all important state decisions. The emperor Claudius was a student of Etruscan language and learning, and created a "college" of 60 haruspices that existed until the beginning of the fifth century AD. In 408 they offered their services to Pompeianus, the Prefect of Rome, to save the city from the Goths; Innocent, the Christian bishop, reluctantly agreed, so long as the rites were kept secret. It is likely that in the end the rites were not performed; in any case Rome fell. The open practice of "The Etruscan Discipline" continued into the sixth century, but disappeared after that.

Ancient and Modern Practice

In ancient times the haruspex (diviner) interpreted the divine will by inspecting the entrails of a sacrificial animal. First the animal was ritually slaughtered. Next it was butchered, with the haruspex examining the size, shape, color, markings etc. of certain internal organs, usually the liver (hepatoscopy), but also the gall, heart and lungs. (One bronze "instructional liver" (the Piacenzi liver) has survived from Etruria, but there are also a Hittite (Boghazkeui) and a Babylonian version.) Finally, when the animal had been butchered, the meat was roasted and all the celebrants shared a sacred meal.

Nowadays, few of us slaughter our own livestock; it is done in a factory where we don't have to see it. Also, entrails are offensive to modern sensibilities and most of us would prefer not to examine them. Fortunately there is a form of haruspicy, called "ooscopy", that is quite compatible with the modern world. Ooscopy substitutes an egg for the sacrificial animal and inspection of the opened egg for examination of the entrails. This works just as well as the ancient procedure, and perhaps better. Ancient haruspices didn't use it because you can't make a great public celebration out of the cracking of an egg. Ooscopic divination is described in the following.


  1. Preparation
  2. Part I
  3. Part II
  4. Sacred Meal


i. In order that Haruspicy be effective, the Haruspex must be mentally prepared and have the proper attitude of Respect for the Gods. He [or she] must be Sober. He must have bathed and wear clean, festive clothes. [Special robes are not necessary; any clean, neat clothes will do. On the other hand, a special robe helps delimit the sacred from the profane. In ancient times a Haruspex wore a fringed mantle and a tall, conical hat with slightly concave sides. This is perhaps the origin of the stereotypical sorcerer's costume.]

ii. The Haruspex should fast for at least twelve hours before the Rite; three days is best. During this time the Haruspex may meditate on the Question that is the object of the Divination.

iii. The Egg must be pure white and unblemished; it should be cleaned of all defilement. Otherwise the Haruspex has created a Vitium [defect in the ritual]. [It is not necessary to use a fertile egg.]

iv. A Patera [plain, white saucer], a Vessel of Water and a candle or other Flame should be brought.

v. Music, especially Flute music, may accompany the Ritual.

Part I

  1. The Sacrifice
  2. The Inspection
  3. The Parts
  4. Regions of the Templum Albi Exterioris
  5. Regions of the Templum Albi Interioris
  6. Regions of the Templum Vitelli
  7. Regions of the Templum Embruou

The Sacrifice

i. Say "TULAR EISNA SATH!" [Make the Divine Boundaries!] and carry the Egg and the Water in a Circle around the Altar, thus delimiting the Sacred from the Profane. Say "TA SACNI!" [This is the Sanctuary!]

ii. Say "AC EISI NERICN VACL!" [Offer the Water as a Libation for the Gods!] and pour out some of the Water to wash the Celebrants' hands.

iii. The Haruspex faces South, stretches out his hands, and in a loud voice implores the Gods to give Omen, with an invocation such as this:

"APLU! Phoebos! Apollo! Delian! Pythian! Lord of Delphi! Guardian of the Sibyls! Or by whatever other name You wish to be called, I pray and beseech You that You may by Your majesty be propitious and well-disposed to me, for which I offer this Egg. If I have worshiped You and still do worship You, You who taught Mankind the Art of Prophecy, You who have inspired my Divination, then come now and show Your Signs that I might know the Will of the Gods! I seek to know (say the Question) THUI SRENAR TEV! [Show Signs, here, now!]."

[APLU is the Etruscan name of the god of prophecy; you may of course call him by other names, Apollo, Hobal, Shamash, Horus, Mont (Menthu), etc.]

iv. The Assistant (if there be one) says, "FLERCHVA RATUM TUR!" ["Carry out the sacrifice according to the Law!"]

v. The Haruspex uncovers the Knife, with a single blow cracks the Egg, and then carefully opens and empties it onto the Patera. If the Yolk breaks, it is a Vitium and the Haruspex must begin again.

vi. The dedication is completed by all Celebrants saying: "IKAN NETSVIS ALPNU APLUS TURUCE." ["The Haruspex has given this as a gift to APLU."]

The Inspection

i. The Patera is turned so that the place where the Fibra Umbilicata [umbilical cord] leaves the Vitellus [yolk] and connects to the Embruon [embryo] is in the Southeast direction.

ii. The shape of the Album [egg-white] should be definite and firm; if it runs then the Gods have refused to give clear Signs. Some Vitium may have been committed.

iii. The Album should divide naturally into two parts, the thicker Album Interius around the Vitellus, and the thinner Album Exterius around that. If these are not distinct, then the Signs cannot be clearly read.

iv. The Vitellus should be uniform and bright of Color and regular of Shape; not being so is an Ill Omen. The Sacrifice should be repeated.

v. Blood in the Vitellus is a Frightful Omen.

vi. The Album should be moderately clear, except for a Bubbles and Pale Features.

vii. The Egg is divided into Parts, Templa, Quadrants and Regions [see below], and the Haruspex must note carefully the Position and Character of every Mark, Bubble or other Feature, and their Number and Configuration. [A little practice will help distinguishing normal features of eggs from those that are significant.]

viii. If the Fibra crosses the Vitellus, it indicates a connection of the Regions crossed.

ix. The Haruspex should also note if any Region is excessively large, or diminished in size or absent.

x. A Monstrum [disfigurement] in a Part, Quadrant or Region is an especially Significant Sign and an Evil Omen.

The Parts

Look at the chart.

i. The Cardo [North-South axis] divides the Egg into East and West Parts.

ii. To the Haruspex's Left is the East, and this is the Pars Familiaris [Friendly Part].

iii. To the Haruspex's Right is the West, and this is the Pars Hostilis [Enemy Part].

iv. The Decumanus [East-West axis] divides the Egg into North and South Parts.

v. Behind the Haruspex is the North, and this is the Pars Postica, which is the Home of the Gods of Heaven and Light and is ruled by USIL [the Etruscan Sun god], the King of Day.

vi. In front of the Haruspex is the South, and this is the Pars Antica, which is the Home of the Gods of Earth and Nature and is ruled by TIV [the Etruscan Moon goddess], the Queen of Night.

vii. Many of the Gods have Dual Aspects, depending on the Part or Quadrant in which they Dwell. Thus the Meaning of a Sign is determined both by the Part in which it occurs and by the Region in which it occurs.

viii. Reading the Signs begins in the Southeast, and proceeds to the South [i.e., clockwise] around the Regions. The Outer Regions are inspected before the Inner Regions.

Regions of the Templum Albi Exterioris

i. The Album Exterius is a Templum, which is divided into Regions wherein dwell the Gods, and these Regions are grouped into four Quadrants, Southeast, Southwest, Northwest and Northeast. [A Templum is an area in which the haruspex observes omens.]

ii. These are the Regions and Quadrants and their Meanings. [It is very helpful to make a diagram of the following Regions and Quadrants. Also the gods are identified below by their Etruscan names and annotated with Graeco-Roman or other equivalents, where they exist. The significance of the deities is merely indicated below; supplement with your own interpretation.]


Going to the East of the Fibra the Regions are:


CATHA, Daughter of the Sun, governs quick beginnings, sudden dawnings.

NETHUNS [Neptune, Poseidon]

NETHUNS is Lord of the Sea, and governs the Depths of the water, and of the Psyche.

Going to the South of the Fibra the Regions are:

FUFLUNS [Dionysus, Bacchus, Liber, Soma]

FUFLUNS is Lord of the Grape and Intoxication, and of the Delights of Vitality of all kinds.

SELVANS [Silvanus]

SELVANS is Lord of Forests and of their clearing for cultivation. He is bad for children and for women in labor.

SELVANS is also a Tutor Finium [guardian of boundaries] and so terminates the Southeast Quadrant, which is known is Felicitas [Good Fortune].


Continuing West from SELVANS the Regions are:


LETHAM: he protects like MARIS [Mars], but dwells in EITA [Hades].


The TLUSCVA are Tellus and Tellumo, the Nurturing and the Inseminating, the Earth Mother and the Earth Father.

CEL [Gaia]

ATI CEL [Mother Cel], the Deep-Breasted, the Fruitful Earth.

CULSU & ALPAN [Libens, Harmonia, Concordia]

Willing Consent is the gift of ALPAN, handmaid to TURAN [goddess of love].

The Infernal Demon CULSU, Goddess of Gateways, is a Tutor Finium, and so terminates the Southwest Quadrant, which is known as Regiones Dirae [The Fearful Regions].


Continuing North from CULSU the Regions are:

VETIS [Vedius, Vejovis]

Evil-Jove, Lord of Death and Destruction.

CILENS [Tyche, Fortuna]

CILENS is Lady Luck, Mistress of Chance, bringer of Victory or Disaster.

TIN [Zeus, Jupiter, Tiu] & CILENS

TIN [or TINIA], Lord of the Thunderbolt, is a God of Heaven and Light. From this Region TIN sends Destroying Lightning, but only if the Di Involuti [Veiled Gods] concur. [For CILENS, see above.]

TINS THUFLTHA [Punishment of TIN]

THUFLTHA, the Fury, inflicts punishment for TIN, her Father. For from this Region TIN sends the Lightning which does some Good as well as Harm, but he does so only if his Council concurs.

TIN is also a Tutor Finium, and so terminates the Northwest Quadrant, which is known as Regiones Maxime Dirae [The Most Fearful Regions].


Continuing East from TINS THUFLTHA the Regions are:


From this Region TIN sends Gentle Lightning as a Warning to Mankind, and He does this without consultation. [For NETHUNS, see above.]

UNI [Juno, Astarte, Ishtar, Inanna, Dione, Lucetia, Lucina] & MAE

UNI, Goddess of Light and Fertility, is Sister and Wife of TIN. Uni oversees Marriage, the Wedding Night, Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Nursing. She also protects the State and her Rulers. . . . . [MAE is unknown, but may be Maius, a Jupiter-like consort of UNI. We get our month names May and June from Maius and Juno.]

TECVM [Tikamne Iuvie]

APA TECUM [Father TECUM] is the God of the Ruling Class.

LVSA [Dea Dia or Lynsa silvestris?]

LVSA: Goddess of Field and Forest.

LVSA is also a Tutor Finium, and so terminates the Northeast Quadrant, which is known as Summa Felicitas [Greatest Good Fortune]. The Circle is complete; it has returned to the Region of NETHUNS.

Regions of the Templum Albi Interioris

i. The Album Interius is a Templum, which is divided into Regions wherein dwell the Gods, and these Regions are grouped into four Quadrants, Southeast, Southwest, Northwest and Northeast.

ii. These are the Regions and Quadrants and their Meanings.


Going to the East of the Fibra the Regions are:

HERCLE [Hercules, Herakles]

HERCLE is God of Water, Springs and the Sea. He is also, like MARIS, a God of Strength and Martial Valor, and so protects Families and their belongings.

TVATH [Demeter or Aphrodite Epitymbia?]

Goddess of Resurrection, and Love for the Dead.

Going to the South of the Fibra the Regions are:


[See above.]


[See above.]



[See above.]


[See above.]


[A second region for the TLUSCVA.]

LVSA & VELCHANS [Velchanos, Mulciber, Volcanus]

VELCHANS, Most Ancient of the Gods, is Father of the Earth and God of Vegetation. VELCHANS throws the Thunderbolt and governs Fire in all its Forms, both Helpful and Dangerous. [For LVSA, see above.]



. . . . of the Rural Districts.

MARIS [Mars, Ares, Mares]

MARIS is God of Fertility, of all Growing Things, of Spring. MARIS is a Protector, and governs War and Conflict of all kinds, and takes Souls into EITA. APA MARIS [Father MARIS, Marspiter] is the Consort of ATI TURAN [Mother TURAN, goddess of love], they are Conflict and Concord.


[See above.]


[See above.]



[See above.]


[See above.]


[See above.]

TUL [Terminus]

TUL is God of Boundaries, and completes the Templum Albi.

Regions of the Templum Vitelli

i. The Vitellus is a Templum, which is divided into Regions wherein dwell the Gods, and these Regions are grouped into four Quadrants, Southeast, Southwest, Northwest and Northeast.

ii. These are the Regions and Quadrants and their Meanings.


Going to the East of the Fibra the Regions are:

TURAN [Venus, Aphrodite]

ATI TURAN is Goddess of Love and Desire in all its Aspects, Pure and Impure. She brings the Spring and Fruitfulness.

MEAN [Victoria, Nike, Vacuna]

MEAN, a very Ancient Goddess, brings Success in Armed Conflict, in Protecting the Fields, and in Striving of all kinds.

Going to the South of the Fibra the Regions are:

ARITIMI [Artemis, Hecate, Artio, Britomartis, Diana]

ARITIMI, Queen of the Moon, is Goddess of the Chase and of Forests. She oversees Childbirth, but may bring Sudden Death to Women.

VOLTUMNE [Vertumnus]

Dius Etruriae Princeps [Chief God of the Etruscans]: He is master of all Vegetation, but especially Fruit Trees.


TURMS [Mercury, Hermes, Sarameya]

TURMS, Facile of Tongue, always resourceful, Protector of Travellers and others who must Interpret. He also governs Commerce and protects Homes and Flocks.


Foul Demon of Death, a Beast with writhing snakes and vulture's beak, he drags his terrified Victims into EITA.

SETHLANS [Hephaistos, Agni, Yavishtha]

SETHLANS teaches Man to harness Fire and other Natural Forces for his Benefit. He is guardian of all Artisans and of their Arts.

SATRE [Saturnus]

SATRE is God of the Abundance of the Fields.



[See above.]


[See above.]

APLU [Apollo, Hobal]

APLU brings many Useful Gifts to Man: Divination and Prophecy, the building of Great Cities, relief from Disease and Pests, cultivation and protection of Crops, Music and the other Arts. But APLU may also bring Plague and Sudden Death to Men.


ATI CATHA [Mother CATHA, see above]



[See above.]

MENRVA [Minerva, Athena, Sarasvati]

The Etruscan Trinity: TIN, UNI and MENRVA. Her Gift is Prudent Intelligence, and she protects Industrious People, Commerce, and Schools.


LASA, an assistant to TIN, is a Goddess of Love and Insight.

ANE [Janus]

ANE is God of Entries and Exits, Departures and Returns, Beginnings and Endings. He protects Initiative in any activity, and helps Communication of all kinds.

Regions of the Templum Embruou

i. The Embruon is a Templum, which belongs to the Pars Familiaris and is divided into Regions wherein dwell the Gods.

ii. Beginning from the Fibra and going towards the end of the Embruon these Regions are:


[See above.]


[See above.]


LARAN is Custos Agri [Protector of Fields], and, with MARIS and LETHAM, watches over the Household. [For MARIS, see above.]


[See above.]

Thus is completed the Reading of the Regions wherein dwell the Gods.

Part II

i. Part II of the Procedure is not to be performed by all, as it requires greater Skill and Experience on the part of the Haruspex.

ii. Say "VERS RACHTI!" [Prepare the Fire!], and light the Flame.

iii. Heat the Vessel until the Water just begins to boil; remove it from the Flame.

iv. Intone a Prayer such as this:

"I beseech You, TURMS, Hermes, Trismegistus, Argephontes, Diactoros, Mercurius, Thoth, Lord of Holy Words, Opener of the World Egg, Djehuti, The Elder, Taaut, or whatever other name it pleases You to be called, fly to me, touch me with Your Caduceus [wand] and inspire me with the True Will of the Gods! I seek to know (say the Question). I pray that you show me the Images and Forms, for which I offer this Egg. TURMS HATHRTHI! THUI MUR TEVC SRENARTN! [Be kind Hermes! Stay here and show the Images!]"

v. Tilt the Patera so that the Egg slides into the Water, saying:

"TURMS THUNZ: SUTH! TURMS ESLZ: ZICH! TURMS CIZ: MINI TES!" [Hermes once: stay! Hermes twice: write! Hermes thrice: help me!]

vi. The Album will arrange itself into significant Forms and Shapes. The Haruspex must observe the Album in all ways, looking for Forms and Images that are relevant to the Question.

vii. In general, parts of the Album that float are connected with the Sky and the Sky Gods; those that sink are connected with the Earth and the Earth Gods.

viii. Be especially observant of any Letters or other Characters that appear in the Sky.

ix. Beyond this little can be said on Interpretation; practice is required; invoke TURMS and APLU for aid.

Sacred Meal

i. When the Divination has been completed, all say: "NETSVIS SACCE! ZERI UTU RATUM! EISAR IPA LUCAIR THUI UTICE!" [The Haruspex has carried out the Sacred Act! The Rite is legally done! The Gods who rule have withdrawn from here!]

ii. The Egg may be removed from the Water and eaten by the Celebrants as a Sacred Meal.


The documented practical application of haruspicy goes back 3000 years, so it may seem pointless to seek an explanation of its efficacy in modern terms. Nevertheless, modern quantum theory does provide one explanation of why it works. This theoretical explanation may not be right, and in any case is unnecessary to the proper practice of The Art. It is largely a matter of taste: do you prefer the ancient mysticism of the pagans or the modern mysticism of physics?

Quantum theory tells us that the state of a system is indeterminate so long as it is unobserved, and so the innards of the egg are indeterminate; this means they have no definite configuration. Cracking the eggshell and observing its contents causes a "collapse of the wavefunction," in other words the egg enters a definite state. So what the haruspex observes is in no way determined by simple mechanical laws, but the probabilities of its configurations can be influenced by the past, present and future.

Quantum theory also tells us that the wavefunctions of all objects extend infinitely in all directions. More accurately, the wavefunctions of objects (such as the egg) are just pieces of the wavefunction of the universe, which means that the interior of the egg is connected with everything else in the universe: the macrocosm is reflected in the microcosm. Thus the egg may reflect any other condition in the present universe.

That it can also reflect the past and future is shown by relativity theory, which tells us that whether something occurred in the past, present or future is a matter of point of view: what is past for one reference frame is future for another. The wavefunction exists in a space-time continuum, and so is connected to the past and future as well as the present. Thus the past and the future condition the shape of the wavefunction of the inside of the egg, and thus the probabilities of its configurations when it is observed.

The microcosm of the egg contains the macrocosm of the universe, but the skill of the haruspex is required to ensure that the configuration of the egg is relevant to the question at hand. This is because the wavefunction of the haruspex's mind is also connected to that of the egg and the rest of the universe. Thus the concerns, questions, purposes, attitudes and intentions of the haruspex can influence the collapse of the egg's wavefunction by causing its wavefunction to couple with the relevant aspects of the past, present or future wavefunction of the universe. It also couples with the wavefunction of the skilled haruspex's mind, with the result that the signs are interpretable. The art of haruspicy, if performed with care, accomplishes this coupling. Do not forget, however, that the state of the egg is not determined; all the haruspex can do is influence the probabilities; there is no guarantee that the procedure will work.

The simpler theory of haruscipy is that by proper prayer and ritual we may influence the gods to send us a sign, though they may choose not to do so, either through caprice or to suit their larger plan. But when they are willing, they can project the Macrocosm into the Microcosm and embody in the egg signs which answer our needs.

Pronunciation Guide

The pronunciation of Etruscan is well understood. There are four vowels: A = ah, E = eh, I = ee, U = oo. The consonants are the same as in English, except: C = k, V = w and Z = ts. Thus CIZ is pronounced kits. In addition, CH, PH and TH are aspirated C, P, T (like the initial sounds of kin, pin, tin). The consonant clusters are pronounced by vocalizing L, M, N, R (as in castle, bottom, button and butter). The accent (stress) is always on the first syllable.

Terms related to The Art: haruspicy = ha RUS pi sy, haruspex = ha RUS pex, haruspices = ha RUS pi sees, etc. (This is English convention; Latin would be: harupicium = ha rus PIK i um, haruspex = HA rus pex, haruspices = ha RUS pi kays, haruspicina = ha rus pi KEE na, etc.)


Primary References

Piacenza bronze liver (c. 150 BCE), published in Van Der Meer (see below).

Zagreb mummy wrappings (c. 150-100 BCE), published in C. Pauli & al., Corpus Inscriptionum Etruscarum, supplement, 1919-21; also published in M. Pallottino, Testimonia Linguae Etruscae I, Florence: 1968.

Martianus Capella (fl. 410-439 CE), De Nuptiis Mercurii & Philologiae (On the Marriage of Mercurius and Philologia).

Nigidius Figulus (fl. 60-50 BCE), De Extis (On Entrails).

Cicero (106-43 BCE), De Divinatione (On Divination).

Cicero, De Haruspicum Responsis (On the Answers of the Haruspices).

Pliny (27-67 CE), Naturalis Historia (Natural History).

Seneca (c. 4 BCE-65 CE), Quaestiones Naturales (Natural Questions).

Secondary Sources

L. B. Van Der Meer, The Bronze Liver of Piacenza, Amsterdam: J. C. Gieben, 1987.

M. Pallottino, The Etruscans, tr. J. Cremona, ed. by David Ridgeway, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975.

G. & L. Bonfante, The Etruscan Language: An Introduction, New York: New York University Press, 1983.

W. R. Halliday, Greek Divination: A Study of its Methods and Principles, London: Macmillan, 1913.

G. Luck, Arcana Mundi, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985.

C. O. Thulin, Die etruskische Disziplin, Part II: Die Haruspizin, Goteborges Hogeskolas Arsskrifter 12,1906.

C. Clemen, Die Religion der Etrusker, 1936.

A. S. Pease, M. Tulli Ciceronis De Divinatione libri duo, 1920-1923.

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Last updated: Thu Dec 16 17:05:25 EST 1999