Dactylomancy comprises of various types of divination methods using rings. Other than the use of rings, this method of divination also uses pendulums, planchettes, Ouija boards, or finger movements upon tripods. It is also known as Dactyliomancy, and is the amalgamation of two Greek words – dakterlios, meaning finger ring; and manteia, meaning divination.

This form of divination has been in use from the ancient times, and according to Ammianus Marcellanus – a historian who lived from 320 to 390 AD – Dactylomancy was used to predict the successor of Flavius Valens, the Eastern Roman Emperor, who died in 378 AD. The prediction turned out to be true when Theodosius was selected.

The most widely used method in the ancient Greece was the use of tripods and pendulums. It is believed that the Oracle at Delphi – believed to be the most truthful of all oracles – used a pendulum suspended from a long chain from a tripod.

The Methods Involved

Using rings as a form of divination has been in use since the ancient times. There are many different methods involving the use of rings, one being the placing of gold, silver, copper, iron or lead rings on the nails of the fingers in conjunction with certain planets. However, there seems to be no clear account how the method was practiced. In most cases, the wedding ring was considered the most preferred ring.

Another method involved the suspension of a ring above a round table, on which the letters of the alphabet have been subscribed, or over a Ouija board. The ring spelled out the message or the answers to the questions. According to Marcellanus, this was the method used to predict the ascension of Theodosius to the throne of eastern Rome. 

Another method involved the suspension of the ring within, or just outside, a glass. Struck against the glass once meant the answer is ‘yes’ and if twice the answer is in the negative.

The Myth

The ancient Greek myth has it that the Dactyls – invisible children, five girls and five boys - born at Delphi from the fingertips of the sky goddess Rhea were entities or oracles that were used for communication, as go betweens between the mortals and the gods. The Dactyls were destined to protect Zeus from his father, Kronos.

Legend has it that the Dactyls were armed with a shields and swords, and often cast spells – good, as well as evil – on behalf of those who summoned them. Dactylomancy, then, was considered a sacred art, often preceded by solemn religious services. Today, this art form is used only as a form of divination.

The use of pendulums, which was widespread in the ancient times, has come down to us, and is in practice even today. Women often suspend their wedding ring over, or near a glass, just as the ancient Romans did. The more difficult form of dactylomancy is the one where a ring in suspended over a board where alphabets have been written. Also placed alongside was a card with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’ The answer to a question was obtained when the pendulum painstakingly swung from one letter to another, spelling out the word. 

Dactylomancy using pendulums is a form of Radiesthesia.


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