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What are haruspices?

Haruspices, or haruspex in singular form, are people seasoned to carry out a type of divination known as Haruspicy. Haruspicy is a divination that uses natural phenomenon such as lightning and this practice also uses the internal organs or innards of animal sacrifices. Haruspices examine intestines and livers of, mostly but not restricted to, sheep and poultry. Another term for Haruspicy is Extispicy.

In ancient Rome, the practice sprung from the Etruscan religion. The haruspices would interpret and perform their practice with the unusual phenomena and peculiar wonders with the nature such as the thunder and the lightning, after which they will redeem and conduct necessary ceremonies. This divination had been a reason of the birth of one of the most elaborate and complicated pseudoscience that shows great difference and distinction from the native Roman divination.

Haruspicy was an art by the Etruscans and had been greatly acknowledged and recognized by the Romans but it was never really seen as a part of the state religion. They were not considered as priests but they were known as expert advisers. Haruspices, also known as diviners, were consulted secretly and confidentially all throughout the Roman Empire. In fact, haruspices were being consulted with the highest respect and regard before making a very important state decision. They offer their services to Pompeianus with the intention of saving the city of Rome from the Goths but they were very strict and demand that the rites were held and kept in secret.

How do they perform their practice?

Haruspices ritually slaughters animals and butcher them before inspecting the color, markings, sizes, and shapes of the innards of the sacrificed animal. Usually they examine the liver, but they can also do well with the heart, gall bladder, intestines and lungs.

In preparation for the ritual and for the Haruspicy to be effective, the haruspex should be mentally prepared and has a decent and befitting attitude of respect for the Gods. The haruspex should be well-bathed and should wear chaste and festive clothes. Clean normal clothes would do, however, a special robe could be worn in order to show great respect during the ritual. Back at the ancient times, haruspices wear long robes and tall, conical hats whilst doing their art, this must be where the idea of how a sorcerer must be dressed as stereotyped in today’s costumes.

Also, before the ritual, the haruspex must fast for at least twelve hours, preferably days before the ritual is to be performed. During their fast, they could meditate and focus on the question which is the main reason of the upcoming divination. An Egg would take part in the ritual and therefore it should be spotless and unblemished. If the egg yolk breaks, it would be considered as a Vitium and therefore, the haruspex must begin the ritual again until it is perfect.

After the ritual, the butchered sacrifice gets roasted and all the people who have gathered together will share a sacred meal. This means that the haruspex had performed the sacred act and that the rite has been legally done.

In a much simpler note, Haruspicy can be done by genuine and decent prayer and a ritual that may ask and reach the Gods for a sign that may help decide with great decisions and plans.


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