The ancient Babylonians considered the liver of a sacrificial sheep,
amutu, to be the mattalat ame, the
"mirror of Heaven." In the same way that one can read the
decisions of the Gods in the Heavens, by astrology, one
can also read their minds in its image, the liver. I
cannot do better than quote Babylonian Hepatoscopy's
foremost living student, Ulla Jeyes of Copenhagen, for a
concise introduction to its basic
The visceral surface of the liver,
which was the object of a thorough examination by the
Babylonian diviner, was divided into zones. The main zones
had the colorful names of "Station," "Path," "Strength,"
"Palace Gate," "Well-being," gall-bladder, "Path to the
left of the gall-bladder," "Finger," "Yoke," and
"Increase." These zones were always examined in the order
given. Each zone consisted of its particular feature and
the surrounding area, for which the term is "land." In the
case of, for example, the "Station," the zone consists of
the vertical crease of the left lobe and its
"land." The key principle in Babylonian extispicy is
that the right represents pars familiaris and the
left pars hostilis. This means that any depression
or deficiency which in itself was considered of negative
value would cause an unfavorable omen result when it
appeared on a right side and a favorable one on a left
Extispicy, divining by the entrails
of sacrificial sheep, and more specifically hepatoscopy,
"liver-examination," was the highest form of the diviner's
art. Because I suspect the great majority of readers
will neither be raising nor slaughtering their own sheep,
I want to provide an adaptation for the Liver-oracle on
The principle on which the cards are based is
logarithmic. You stand a 50 percent chance of getting a
normal feature, and a 50 percent chance of getting an
anomaly. With the anomalous 50 percent, you stand a 50
percent chance of getting a less anomalous anomaly, and so
on with decreasing chances for greater anomalies. The
exception is the "Fortuitous Marks" (hereinafter called
"Marks") pack, where you stand a less than 11 percent
chance of getting a Mark on a certain Zone of the amutu;
with a well-shuffled deck you should therefore expect 1 to
2 Marks on each side of each Zone.
It is difficult to
say whether this principle reflects actuality, since I
know of no statistical studies that have been done on
these features of real sheep livers. It seems unlikely,
however, since liver pathologies are not really random.
Although the use of cards can never really approximate the
subtlety of interpreting a real liver, it can go a long
way towards teaching the principles of hepatoscopy, and is
a detailed source of divinatory information. I have
adapted as much of the traditional material to this format
as I could; even though some of the details may appear
arbitrary, they are in fact in strict accordance with the
available data. If you were to master this technique, you
would no doubt be competent to examine a real liver if on
ever came your way. For the ancient baru (diviner),
practice livers and living instructors would have been
abundant; the liver was there, they just had to interpret
it. Our difficulty is that we first have to create a
liver. Although it seems tedious, the process I have
developed below is simple to master and rewarding to
interpret. Once learned, an entire divination will take
about an hour.
1. Buy 4 packs of 100 blank filing cards (3 x 5) or
business card blanks.
2. Have a four-sided die or a six-sided die, and a
3. One group of cards will be for the size of the Zones of
32 cards leave blank, for "normal"
cards will have "larger" (than normal) on them
will have "smaller"
4 cards will have "very large"
cards will have "very small"
2 cards will have
1 card will have "absent"
1 card will have
Total: 60 cards
4. The next group
will be for the colors of the Zones and Marks:
cards blank, for "normal"
8 cards "darker" (than
8 cards "lighter"
4 cards "black"
4 cards "white"
4 cards "green"
Total: 65 cards
last group will be for the marks:
238 cards blank,
for "no Marks"
9 cards "1" (Mark)
8 cards "2"
3 cards "4"
2 cards "5"
1 card "6"
card "7+" (a cluster)
Total: 391 cards
To keep the cards separate, you could color their backs
as elemental colors - "Marks" red for Fire; "Colors" dark
blue for Water; "Zones" yellow or pale blue for Air; the
liver itself is Earth. Copy the Liver blank, and write the
information you get on the sections provided.
1. Do the operation at night; say the Prayer of the Divination Priest
or the "Prayer to the Gods of the Night" (Maqlu tablet
2. Make an offering by lighting incense (juniper or
frankincense) and pouring a libation of fresh water.
3. Ask your question and shuffle the Zones pack; draw a
card for the general size of the liver; write it above the
liver on the blank (if you get "absent" or "multiple"
cards, reshuffle and draw again; if you get either of them
again you should probably wait a day before attempting
4. Shuffle the Colors pack, and draw a card for the color
of the liver in general, and write it under the size (use
colored pens or pencils to make it easier);
you get a "red," "green," "black," or "white" card,
interpret it as "reddish," "greenish," etc.; remember
that, however many colors you get in Zones 1-12, the
general color of the liver is the most important guide
(any color but "normal" indicating some health
5. Shuffle the Zones pack again; draw a card for the size
of the left side of Zone 1; write it in the
If you get the "absent" card shuffle again,
and if you pull it a second time draw a big X over the
spot and consider it a very bad sign (and ignore it when
placing Marks); you may wish to abandon the divination
If you get the "multiple" card, draw a card
from the Marks pack for the number; a "normal" cancels a
multiple on the second draw;
note what you draw and
interpret them each separately (with added implications
below under "Interpretation"
you get a "double"
card for the left or right side, it applies to both sides;
the "double" cards apply to all Zones;
fact of a "double Zone" and interpret each Zone
separately, with the added implications below under
6. Shuffle the Colors pack for the color of the left side
of Zone 1, and write it down.
7. Shuffle te Zones pack and draw a card for the size of
the right side of Zone 1; write it on the
(remember to reshuffle between steps 5 and
If you pull "absent," "multiple," or "double,"
follow the instructions in note 5 above
8. Shuffle the Colors pack and draw a card for the right
side of Zone 1; and write it down.
9. Do steps 3-8 for all 12 Zones (and their subzones, if
you wish, all numbered consecutively on the
Zone 3 may or may not be present;
shuffle and draw a card for each of them from the Zones
pack; if it is a blank card, it is not present; anything
else is extremely lucky
Zone 6 may or may not be
present; do the same as for Zone 3; its presence is
Check to see how it lies by
rolling the die:
1 is horizontal - the Gods will
prevent any harm
2 is vertical to the right
vertical to the left
4 is vertical and straight in the
(if using a six sided die, roll until a number
from 1 to 4 comes up)
10. Shuffle the Marks pack for each of the 14 Marks in
order, first the left side, then the right; write name and
number of Marks down (unless blank)
To shuffle the
large deck, I advise the following method: Cut it in
two and shuffle like normal, then cut each half again, and
riffle together until thoroughly shuffled; then cut the
halves and exchange with other halves, until all the cards
are thoroughly shuffled
you may choose to shuffle
thoroughly until it feels right, and then count off 14 to
28 cards (if they have been properly shuffled the odds
would be the same as reshuffling between each - this
'straight through' method is faster and more divinatorily
pleasing as well)
11. Shuffle the Zones pack for the size of the Marks that
you have, in order;
"double" cards do not apply here (because you already have
a number); if you get one of these cards, draw again until
you get a size card.
12. Shuffle the Colors pack for the color of Marks 6, 10,
11, 12, and 13 (the others are always "normal"), in order,
and write them down;
if you get one or more 12's,
shuffle and draw cards until you get a color other than
"normal" (Mark 12 is a patch of a certain color distinct
from the rest of the liver)
13. Begin interpreting the Zones one by one, as each is
completed. Add the following steps for certain
For the Zones, roll the die for the
head, middle, base and "all over;" 1 is head, 2 is middle,
3 is base, and 4 is "all over"
If you have one or more
Mark 1 on any place, roll the die to see in which
direction each one points: 1 is straight up, 2 is to the
left, 3 is to the right, and 4 is lying down
have a Mark 10, flip the coin to see if it is soft or
hard; heads is hard, tails is soft (or vice versa if you
If you have a Mark 13, flip the coin to see if
they are "binding" or "barring" anything; first flip tells
you yes or no - heads yes, tails no; if "yes," flip
again - heads "bars" another Mark, tails "binds" two
14. Interpret the liver according to the general
instructions on the significance of the Zones, Colors and
Marks, and whether they are on the left or right hand
15. Close with a prayer of Thanksgiving.
There are six basic principles to follow when
interpreting the amutu, the usuratu
kayyanatu (the "Normal Drawings"), the siru
(the "Flesh"), and the Marks:
Right is "my side" (Myself, my house, my
family and friends, my city, country, etc.)
Left is the
"Enemy's side" (anyone whose advantage works to my
Right and left can also be interpreted
as parts of one person, such as when you can't decide
between two alternatives - in this case decide beforehand
which side will represent which alternative, the two sides
can represent any duality you wish to explore
1 is normal for the usuratu
kayyanatu and siru;
0 is normal for the
Numbers generally follow the pattern
1 should be interpreted in isolation
myself and my opposer; 2 of any feature can often be
better than only 1
3 is overcoming opposition
my opposition and I being equal
5 is my opposer being
6 is us being equal after 2 encounters
is my opposition winning
The details of all of
these numbers depend on the other criteria
Depends entirely on which side and part is
being considered. Generally, my side larger is good for
me, my side smaller is bad; my enemy's side larger is bad
for me, smaller is good
than "normal" is an extraordinary
Red indicates a great deal of
energy and power for the side it is on;
indicates health for the side it is on, or that it is time
Black is a very serious message, death,
or an indication to stay put;
White is an
indication of famine or disease; it is never good
Head, Middle and Base:
respectively "near,""less near," and "distant"
Particular instructions for the features (see note 13 above).
Interpreting the usuratu kayyanatu and
siru (collectively called the "Zones"):
manzazum / naplastum / naplasum - the "Presence" /
"View;" symbolizes the God and Goddess, and sometimes the
client. This is the situation at the outset: its
circumstances, demands, the background and other factors
that occasioned the question.
Normal means that the
Gods have accepted the sacrifice and the divination can go
Doubling of this feature is a good sign, meaning
that the messages of the reading also concern the diviner
in some way.
Padanum / harranum / kibum
neptu - the "Path," / "Campaign" / "Course" /
"Breach," symbolizes the military campaign, the journey,
or any course about to be or just
Doubling is good, meaning the
successful completion of the course.
Tripling is bad,
meaning the work will be
- "(the Hollow of) the Crucible"
pusqum / subtum
- "The Narrowing", symbolizes the encampment, the
materials and efforts of the path
Ruqqi pitir sarim / pu tabu the "Hollow of the
Windcleft" / "Pleasing Word" - if present, it indicates
complete success for what is undertaken, modified by other
features; it is not always present.
very good; it means that "God has heard the man's
Dananum / puzrum, the "Strength" / "Secret" -
symbolizes a secret desire or result, or an ulterior
motive behind the question.
Doubling is good,
meaning everything is going well with what concerns the
Any damage or discoloration means that a
secret has been leaked, trust has been lost, some sort of
security has been breached.
Bab ekallim / abullum - "The Palace Gate" / "City
Gate;" symbolizes the Palace, the Business or Career, as
well as its income and personnel, and the security of
Doubling or extra width can be good or bad,
depending on the question. If it is about rivalry or
treason, it could be that there will be open rebellion or
takeover; if it is about assests, growth, or the future in
general, it could be that the "gates will be widened,"
there will be greater growth than
sippi imittim -
"The Right Doorjamb," symbolizes helpers and friends in
sippi umelim - "The Left
Doorjamb," symbolizes detractors and those against your
ulmum / padan imitti martim - "The
Well-being" / "The Path to the Right of the Gall-bladder;"
symbolizes safety and prosperity for the journey or
campaign; this Zone is not always present; if it is it is
unmitigatedly positive, showing help from the Gods - roll
the die to see where that help will arrive.
Martum / re'um - "The Gall-bladder" / "The
Shepherd;" symbolizes King and Throne, the clients
themselves in their public capacities; roll the die to see
how the Martum lies:
The Gall bladder is stuck to
the left - the enemy's army is strong;
The Gall bladder
is completely unstuck - the client is directionless and
(and 4) The Gall bladder lies normally -
things are well for the client (if a six sided die is
used, 5 and 6 indicate normalcy as well).
the Martum is absent - the client should not proceed with
anything new, but concentrate on getting things in
qutnum - "The Neck;"
the thin end of the Gall-bladder, symbolizing the client's
relationships with advisors and public relations
masrahum - (the cystic duct), symbolizes
the secret aspects of the former.
Padan umel martim / mihi pan umman
nakrim - "The Path to the Left of the Gall-bladder" /
"The Defeat of the Enemy's Army;" symbolizes the enemy's
campaign, the actions of rivals and detractors, their
Nidi kussem - "The Throne Base;" symbolizes private
life of the client, strength and discipline, and the
hidden aspects of life such as scandals, intrigues, love
Ubanum - "The Finger;" symbolizes the foreign,
hostile, sinister and secluded; secret forces working
deeply hidden; (the middle plain is counted left in
Doubling is very bad, indicating
qablum / er biritim - "The Middle Plain of the
Finger" / "The Intermediate Plain;" symbolizes gossip, the
reflection of the household;
ekallum - "The Width" / "The Palace;" the Right and
Left plains of the Finger, symbolizing the enemy's
intelligence, access to private affairs, secret things
going on inside the household.
Nirum - "The Yoke;" symbolizes the City, State, and
Countr, larger concerns.
ibtum - "The Increase;" symbolizes the
economy and finances in general;
generally good - roll die for how the double
1-5 very good, the "Increase" is sequential;
means great increase in wealth, abundance;
6 bad, the
two "Increases" are side by side; your wealth will be
stolen or squandered;
(on a four sided die
Three "Increases" means: "Your estate will be
taken and given to another."
Kakkum - "The Weapon;" symbolizes
an army, an effort or a group of people acting for or
against the client (depending on side and where it is
Kakum - (a mushroom-shaped
weapon), symbolizes a blunt weapon, and therefore defeat
on whichever side it occurs.
Sepum - "The Foot;"
symbolizes coming, invasion, conveyance.
/ pilum - "The Hole" / "The Perforation;"
symbolizes a death, blindness or great loss; an eclipse or
complete reversal of fortune.
Pitrum - "The
Split;" symbolizes detachment, separation, a diversion of
people or funds.
Eritum - "The Request;"
symbolizes a demand made by God or the enemy which must be
Pillurtum - "The Cross;" symbolizes anarchy
and chaos, insurrection or unavoidable confrontation.
Nekemtum - "The Hidden Part" or "The Recess;"
symbolizes something taken away, like booty in
Niphum - a type of configuration of
Marks which cannot be interpreted favorably or
unfavorably; the element of chance beyond the power of the
diviner (it's like the joker in a deck of cards); if
It should be interpreted in light of the
general tenor of the reading as a whole and the Zone in
Look especially for extremely numerous
Marks or another unusual feature like a color; it is in
the quality of the anomaly that the character of the
niphi's uncertainty will be found;
anomalies are present except the niphum itself, it
means that something completely hidden and unexpected will
affect the issue of the question
Sihhum - a grape-like pustule which is a
symptom of the hydatid disease, which symbolizes rains,
floods, and diseases (can be good or bad).
Ziqtum - "The Sting (of a Scorpion);" symbolizes
heroism, rebellion, and thirst; a sudden and unpredictable
Pusum - "The White Patch;" a patch (of
any color - see instruction 13), symbolizing famine or
drying up of resources.
Qum - "The Filament;"
symbolizes restraint or obstruction, or some kind of
hurdle to cross.
Larum - "The Branch;"
symbolizes expansion, achievement, growth.