In 1700, John Hale– who was a Puritan reverend living in Beverly, Massachusetts– passed away. But, just before his death, John decided to write about his experiences during one of the darker periods in history: the Salem Witch Trials.
In his posthumously published book, A Modest Inquiry Into the Nature of Witchcraft, John revealed how he watched his first execution at the mere age of twelve. Then, once he reached adulthood, John became an instrumental part of the proceedings himself.
Between the years of 1692 and 1693, accusations of witchcraft skyrocketed to over two hundred allegations. And being that John was a reverend, he went on to listen to the confessions of the accused.
This made John Hale’s book one of the only written first-hand accounts of the Salem Witch Trials, one written by a condemner of witchcraft, no less.
“In the 1600s, the Puritan hierarchy was very opposed to magic of any form– particularly fortune-telling,” explained Peter Muise, the author of Witches and Warlocks of Massachusetts.
So, it makes sense why within his work, John also damned another lesser-known form of magic known as oomancy– or divination by eggs. In other words, using eggs to tell the future.
The word “oomancy” has deep roots in Ancient Greece and was coined by the Ancient Greeks after they combined “oon” (egg) and “manteia” (divination).
All the way back around 100 B.C., one Roman historian even claimed that Empress Livia Drusilla would keep a chicken egg in her cleavage because she believed it would tell her the gender of her unborn child.
The Ancient Greeks were not the only believers in egg magic, though. Cultures across the globe, spanning from Latin America to Southeast Asia, also turned to the hard-shelled masses to illuminate their futures.