Lesson 7) Phrenology and Cephalonomancy
The Divination lounge was brightly lit as the fourth years filed in for their lesson. The sun shone through the open window, a beacon of light and discovery. Upon each desk was a small, hand-held mirror, turned mirror side down. Some of the students picked up the mirrors to adjust their hair or to check for blemishes on their skin. As the bell chimed in the castle signaling the start of the lesson, Professor Cattercorn entered and flicked her wand at the upturned mirrors, forcing them to return to their resting position on the table before addressing the class.
Hello class! I hope that you learned in the last lesson that body divination does not only concern itself with the hands of a person! I trust that the assignment was easy as well. Today, we will still be concentrating on the head, however, there are some definite differences to be mentioned. We will begin with cephalonomancy, as it is a much older practice and will only be viewed in a brief historical sense and explanation. Think of it as a bit of a break from an otherwise very hands-on year!
The History of Cephalonomancy
Pictured above is a painting representing the assassination of King Alboin, King of the Lombards from 560 to 572 C.E. Never heard of the Lombards? I’m not surprised, really, as they don’t appear in many history books. They were a Germanic tribe that ruled a section of Italy from 568 to 774 C.E. Why am I bringing them up? They were really the only known people to practice cephalonomancy.
When a suspected criminal was caught and tried, the Lombards would practice this form of divination. It required the accuser to bake the skull of an animal, commonly a goat or a donkey, and after letting it cool, the accuser would apply a sudden burst of extreme heat to the skull and call out the accused's name. If the skull cracked in any way or the teeth chattered, it meant an instant guilty verdict for the accused. Of course, as you can guess, this caused a fair amount of incorrect verdicts and fell out of popular use for that very reason. Not all divination is real, students! Of course, that is not to say that such an event (the cracking of a skull) could not be interpreted with the application of your Inner Eye, but things are rarely so black and white.
Armed with that information, you may be wondering why this faux form of divination caught on in the first place. Unfortunately, the true derivation of the practice is yet something of a mystery and cannot be confirmed: all I can really offer is this legend. While legends can occasionally be mere fabrication, you will know from your Mythology or History of Magic classes (or even from your discussion of vampires in Defense Against the Dark Arts) that more often than not legends hold a grain of truth from which we can learn something. So please, sit back and allow me to spin a tale for you.
In ancient times, there lived a witch and seer of extraordinary power. Legend says that her name was Rozaliya and the story puts her in the southernmost part of what we now refer to as the United Kingdom. Rozaliya lived by herself in the woods and far from the others of the town. As is often the case with powerful persons, rumors sprung up around her. No one would go near her or her home in fear that she would cast harmful spells on them or their children. After a time, she became so isolated that she began to feel the pangs of loneliness. She was self-sufficient enough that she did not need to ever leave her farm, and so her only comfort was her animals. She had two in particular that she was particularly fond of: a donkey she named Jaffrey and a goat called Clifton. In her long life of solitude and study, it is said she eventually found a way to enchant the two animals to speak. They kept her company throughout her life and up to her last remaining days. If that wasn’t enough, in some way yet unknown to the magical community, her gift of the second sight was transferred to the two creatures when she died.
After her death, the animals wandered off in all directions in search of food. Jaffrey the donkey and Clifton the goat made their way to what is now known as modern day Germany, happening upon the Lombard tribe. When their gift of speech and foresight was discovered, they were rushed immediately to the king and lived the rest of their days in the lap of luxury, helping the king with their prophetic proclamations.
Having received such favors - including mates - during their time with the king, the two animals also left behind a number of offspring when they died. These offspring had many more offspring and so on and so on. None of these offspring could speak, so it was unclear whether or not they possessed the Inner Eye. However, when any of the offspring died, their skulls were collected and the practice of cephalonomancy began. It was thought that if they did possess the Inner Eye, their power of prophecy would be concentrated in their skull.
Whether this legend has any basis in fact, the tradition was certainly a real practice. The Lombards did use the skulls of donkeys and goats to attempt to read the future and guilt of others. Sadly, as I noted, as a result of this ineffectual practice, many a woman and man went to their deaths as an innocent victim.
Phrenology, a Brief History
Though still quite an old practice, phrenology is younger than the other form of skull-based divination in this lesson. Phrenology began in the early 1800’s and was born of a famous psychologist, neuroanatomist (or scientist that studies the nervous system), and seer by the name of Franz Josef Gall. This renaissance man developed a method of divining a person’s characteristics and future by mapping out certain points on their skull. Due to his dabbling in both the magical and Muggle worlds, it comes as little surprise that he created a type of Muggle machine called the psychograph to aid in this process, as it was thought to be more accurate, as well as preferable to having a stranger dig their fingers into your scalp.
Muggles, ever resourceful in their pursuit of trying to perfect their divinatory techniques, didn’t realize just how ridiculous some of their methods and tools were. A true seer knows that if you do not have the gift of seeing, no man-made machine is going to help you. Actually seeing someone’s future is a feeling or vision that one gets. If you remember from your first year of this course, this is based on instinct. It is not as simple as just staring at a line and measuring it properly. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Muggles or those without the sight can’t work hard enough to get a rough approximation of the art, but it will never be the same, or really quite as good. For now, though, enough talk of Muggles. I would like for you to turn your attention to that chart over there on the wall.
You may be thinking that this looks overly confusing, but trust me, if you keep the chart on you and devote some time to committing it to memory, it really isn’t as difficult as it looks, I promise. Do you see the position of each of those numbers? Each of them corresponds with a certain aspect of an individual's life. They are listed here in their original terminology, and as you can see, some of this is very dated.
Now for the fun part: how it is done. With those two aforementioned tools at your disposal, the method behind it is fairly easy enough to understand. An indentation in any of the outlined areas is an indication that the person is lacking in these aspects of their life. Should that region of the skill be level -- that is to say no dent or bumps in the area -- they are neither lacking nor exceeding expectations in this area of their life. Finally, a bump or lump implies that the person exceeds in that particular area of their life. Simple enough!
How should you feel for these bumps or indentations? As I’m sure you have realized from the chart above, many numbered regions correspond to two different spots on the skull that are symmetrically identical. The best method is to massage both points at the same time. A true seer will be able to tap into their Inner Eye and keep an open mind in order to be able to to interpret these hills and valleys. All of these feelings or visions should be kept in mind when doing the reading, and potentially discussing or asking of the individual, along the lines of, “I feel that you have had some trouble in your marital life,” or “I’m sensing something about one of your sons, is he well?” However the downside is that you must leave space for human error when making these predictions. After all, someone may have been hit in the head with a hammer a year ago, thus leaving an indentation and throwing off a prediction. It happens.
Now, as we have talked about one example of divination that is quite unabashedly hogwash, you may be having your own personal crisis at the moment. Can you trust divination? Is it no more than fancy guesswork? For Muggles, yes. However, with the application of our Inner Eye, we can bring our observations to the next level. When we cast about with our Inner Eye, we are delving into the unknown, and these practices simply serve to help center and focus us, direct our mind towards answering specific questions, or help us channel our inherent magic.
That wraps up this week’s lesson nicely! For now I’ll leave you with your homework, a practical application of phrenology and a quiz about the information presented in this lesson. Next week, we will be moving on to podomancy and oculomancy. Fair fortune!