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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.23 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. "Kapnos-" meaning smoke and "-Manteia" 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.46 In Ancient Greece priests would burn animal sacrifices and then perform Capnomancy over the smoke produced by the fire.17

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

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. 

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