Omenology, the First Fortunetelling
It is likely that the first divination had to do with the interpretation of omens. It’s easy to say that omens are based upon superstition and feel superior to 'those primitive people'. However in actuality omens are based in a type of inductive reasoning, the intuitive Right Brain’s approach to the analysis of patterns. Although the Left Brain mentality employs a deductive approach these were frequently built upon intuitive associative connections. For instance the early humans might have seen flocks of geese flying south and associated this with the coming cold of winter. Although they did not know the reason why, it helped them to survive by storing up supplies.
These humans probably also noticed an association between cloud patterns and weather, which enabled them to act accordingly, i.e. perhaps get inside and batten down the hatches. Despite the readily available weather forecasts available over the Internet, most of us still analyze cloud patterns to determine the weather – although we lack any understanding as to the cause-effect relation behind our associations.
In terms of the celestial omens those associated with the lunar and solar cycles were most important to our ancient ancestors. On a daily level the cycle of the Moon was the most important omen for determining high and low tides for the fishing, times for planting crops, and times for hunting. Of course on an annual level the Sun's position in the sky reflected the changing of the seasons. They probably noticed that as the birds left the sun also shifted to the south on the horizon, which they associated with the coming scarcity of game. So without understanding anything of the whys of seasons & tides the early humans sensed the connections between these seemingly disconnected events and lived their lives by them.
So at this time there were only associative, not deductive, reasons for the lunar/solar interactions with the Earth. By the present time some of these connections have been shown to have a causal relation – i.e. the gravitational effect of the Sun and Moon upon the Earth’s tides, and others have not. But Newton’s gravity was discovered only several hundred years ago, while these connections were being made several thousand years ago. Thus at that time none of these relations had been verified by science. So all the celestial relations were based in intuitive, associative logic.
However the ability to determine weather and seasons through pattern recognition allowed our earliest ancestors to survive in a variety of diverse climates. Hence the ability to intuitively associate seemingly random events conferred an evolutionary advantage. Our innate belief in omens derives from this ability to recognize patterns. This intimate link between patterns and omens is also the foundation of the widespread belief in astrology
Scientists eventually proved that some of these intuitive associations had a basis in fact, while they disproved others – calling them old wives’ tales, superstition or urban legend. For instance the health benefits of garlic have been well established while no connection has been found between the throwing of salt over the shoulder and long life. While some of these omens or random associations were proved to be true and others false, there are always a far greater number of associations, which haven’t been proved true or false. This is true of astrology. Many of us and many throughout historic and prehistoric times have observed a connection between human behavior and the movements of the celestial bodies. Without needing to understand the reason why we act as if there is some connection between the stars and our lives.
Of course part of the correlation we notice has to do with the placebo effect. Frequently the medicine works because we believe it will. The human mind is the most powerful medicine of all. This is why an astrologer has such a huge responsibility. He must suggest a positive course of action because we will have a tendency to make it happen – for better or worse. This is the most valid and important connection between these celestial omens and our lives.
Be that as it may the earliest fortunetelling, from which astrology derived, was based upon the reading of omens. For how this turned into the interpretation of the celestial events read the article: The Eclipse, an enduring Celestial Omen.