hist-games: Knucklebones

Christian Joachim Hartmann lukian at Null.net
Mon May 4 05:57:16 PDT 1998

At 13:18 25.04.98 -0600, Chas wrote:
>So ... I know how to play with knucklebones as dice, or jacks, but I had a customer ask 
>if I had ever seen directions on how to use them for divination, or fortune telling? Any 
>sources out there anyone can suggest?
>MacGregor Historic Games


I've know of no direct reference for the use of Astragali for
divination purposes. But I know that the usual six-sided dice
have been used for fortune-telling from antiquity on.

I'm talking about the works known as "sortilegiaria" or 'lot-books',
in this case rather 'dice-books'.

I personally know only two of these 'dice-books', the first being
a fragementary inscription from Roman times in Pisidia, Asia Minor,
the second is a 16c. book(-let) printed in Straßburg.

But I read that there are many more of these 'dice-books' extant.

The ones I know use three six-sided dice, but one could use them as
well with three astragali by using only those 'lots' or throws which
contain only 1s, 3s, 4s or 6s.

A better way would be to throw _five_ astragali at a time. This
yields the same number of combinations (56) as the throw of three
six-sided dice -- amazing, isn't it!

It would be even more 'original' to track down one of the Indian,
Arabian or Hebrew 'dice-books' which I read about and which are said
to make use of four-sided die (Astragali?, stave-die?).

Did you ask the same question in some esoteric/divination news-group?
It may be worthwhile.

**       Christian Joachim Hartmann 
**       lukian at Null.net
**       christian.hartmann at uni-duesseldorf.de

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