F Mode, with Shifting tonal centers

The " Fortune Telling Song" starts with a slow introduction, both as a kind of invocation to the spirits, and as an example of the introductory "overture" that suggests a mode and sketches a theme at the beginning of many pieces of near eastern music.
This song is a combination of themes, one of which is based on an ancient Armenian divination song, plus a second theme that is hardly more than a descending line of five notes, and thirdly, a lively dance tune entitled the Rashid theme, of my own making.
The notes on Gasparyan's CD "Apricots from Eden" tell us that Armenian divination songs are now performed outdoors, near some kind of stream or water, on Ascension Day. These songs

"...usually consist of 2 to 4 lines and a refrain recurring at the end of each stanza...The stanzas (verses), often about love, are sung solo, while the refrain is sung by the chorus of girls. Afterward comes the dance accompanied by the clapping of hands..."

We are struck by the similarity of this description and the actual performance of the "Berber Wedding Song" women from Algeria, the first song on the seven Modes CD.

Without getting into the specifics of occult practices, which are not easy to come by in written form, we can describe a divination as follows:

A Divination Ceremony generally consists of

1. A procedure performed by the diviner that opens the channels of communication between the living and the realm of the gods or spirits involved.
2. The diviner has a material object or substance with which she sets up and performs a definite action; drawing a design, pouring out water into a vessel, holding hands over an object, arranging stones, killing an animal etc.
3. An act of random chance is then usually involved, such as stirring tea leaves, stirring a drop of oil on water, spinning a wheel, tossing articles in a random way, etc.
4. The end results are interpreted by the diviner to answer the question asked by the person or the situation.
5. Some physical contact is sometimes made between the ritual materials and the client-- water is tasted, a powder rubbed, perhaps a token given, etc.

Yoruba opon ifa tray

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As an example of a divination ceremony existing in today in Africa, the Carlos Museum in Atlanta has an educational site that describes such a ceremony among the Yoruba in Nigeria. The diviner uses a special tray

The diviner begins by marking a cross-roads pattern in powder on an elaborately carved divination tray. This cross-roads pattern "opens" the channel of communication between aye, the realm of the living, and orun, the cosmic realm of the gods. By tapping the center of the tray with an ivory tapper the diviner evokes Orunmila, god of wisdom...

The description continues on the site,


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In China special signs were found on shoulder blades, from the Shang Dynasty,1200 B.C. which have been attributed to oracles. Many picture viewers allow magnification of images on your computer, which makes these signs very interesting, especially to scholars of the early cuneiform signs.


Clay model of a sheep's liver, Old Babylonian period

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Photo from H.W.F. Saggs, "Babylonians," p. 148

The great king Shulgi (founder of the third dynasty of Ur), who was far from timid about announcing his skills and virtues, claimed to know better than priest or diviner, the proper methods of divining omens through "extispicy" (examining dead animal entrails) or "hepatoscopy" or "hepatomancy" (divination by examining specifically the liver of sacrificed animals) :

After I have determined a sound omen through extispicy from a white lamb and a sheep, water and flour are libated at the place of invocation. Then, as I prepare the sheep with words of prayer, my diviner watches in amazement like an idiot. The prepared sheep is placed at my disposal, and I never confuse a favourable sign with an unfavourable one. I myself have a clear intuition, and I judge by my own eyes.

King Shulgi, founder of the third dynasty of Ur, late third millennium B.C.

Etruscan sheep's liver diagram.

Click for larger view. Be careful.

Just in case we need to refer to our notes the next time we need to interpret the omens in a dead sheep's liver, we have included here a helpful diagram, from the web site http://home.att.net/~oko/etruscan/e-divination.htm

The Etruscans:  Divination
copyright ©  by John Stojko

In Setima near Piacenza bronze model of sheep liver was discovered and is known as Piacenza Liver. The bronze model of sheep liver probably was used in school where they taught the diviners. The liver is divided into 40 compartments.

FIG1. Each compartment has writing in Etruscan alphabet.
Fig2 shows the shape of the liver but the writing is replaced with number.

We find this useful document of great convenience when the occasion arises, the only problem being with the Etruscan alphabet, which seems to look upside down no matter which way it is turned. But then perhaps we are also not orienting our sheep's liver correctly either. These things take practice.

1. Berber Wedding Song
2. The Music Class
3. Twilight on the Water
4. Hurrian Moonrise
5. Ninkasi’s Dance
6. Lament for Linus
7. Solitary Theme
8. Long Ago Lullaby
9. Fortune-Telling Song
10. Hurrian Moonset
11. Ea, the Creator
12. The Queen of Sheba
13. Hal Libba Marya


©Bella Roma Music 2002