Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Coscinomancy - Night of the Sieving Dead

Some idiot holding a sieve to his head and looking all mystical
"I'm getting something, I'm getting something, but it's mainly just funny looks from my wife."


Noun. Early 17th century.
[medieval Latin coscinomantia from Greek koskinomantis, from koskinon sieve.]

Divination by the turning of a sieve (held on a pair of shears etc.).

Umm ... divination by sieve? C'mon, guys. Take some pride in your charlatanism. At least axes and mirrors and smoke and cards have a scintilla of mystique about them. But sieves? Did you just forget an appointment and have to grab whatever was to hand in order to see the future? "Oh, no ... I hadn't forgotten about the séance ... I was just ... umm ... baking the All-Seeing Bun. Now, let me just grab my magical ... uh ... sieve ... yes, a sieve'll do ... and we shall peer into the forsievable future! Ooowooo!"

Are you a coscinomancist?

Have you ever had a revelation while baking a cake?

Do please leave your most finely powdered comments in the box below.


  1. I didn't know about coscinomancy, but in Greece, elderly women (mostly) read your (Greek/Turkish) coffee cup. They turn it upside down and wait for the sediment (is that the word? I had to look it up) to create shapes and symbols and then they supposedly see letters and all kinds of other things. Hahaha! "Oooh I see a Λ (lamda), you will read Λεξικολατρυ today!"

    1. Old ladies (apparently) read tea leaves here too, though I've never seen anyone try and do it.

    2. 'Reading the tea leaves' or tasseography ( tasseomancy or tassology) is one of the TV comic fortune-telling stock "Gypsy Rose Lee" stereotypes of fairground charlatanism. Being essentially a tea drinking nation in the UK the 'coffee grounds' reading is probably less well known than perhaps the rest of mainland Europe? In Greece "διαβάζει το φλιτζάνι" (reading the cup - to flitzani) I think would cover both tea leaves and coffee cup divination but there is the slightly erroneous term 'coffee tasseography' (coffee tea reading?) which is better rendered in Greek as "καφεμαντεία" (kafemandeia).

    3. So are these skills interchangeable? Can one versed in the art of reading tea leaves automatically switch to coffee and vice versa? And, as someone suggested on Lexi's Facebook page, could a coscinomancist be as equally foreknowledgeable with a colander?

  2. Well, obviously you have to say 'Dies, mies, jeschet, benedoefet, dowima, enitemaus' to make the invisible demon turn the sieve, or it doesn't work.

    I found that on Wikipedia and am now cogitating on authority, ancient and modern.

    1. Oh really? Nuts. So that's why it didn't work.

      I'm still waiting for an angry email from a coscinomancist: "No, you idiot! That's not how it's done!"

    2. I don't know why you're being so cynical about the art of coscinomancy as for centuries it has correctly predicted when all the lumps are out of your self-raising flour! ;-)

    3. I am being unduly mocking, aren't I?

      One reader has already written to me to say that she tried it and had a premonition that she would later bake a cake, and she did!

      And I, while taking the above photo, had a premonition that my wife would lose patience and tell me to stop messing around with her sieve ... and she did!