Osteomantie, or divination by bones. (‘A Table to the Chiefest Passages, in the Illustrations’)
John Selden, in his digressive way, gives an account of William Mangunel, a ‘Gentleman’ who lived during the reign of Henry the Second. Selden describes how Mangunel, who believed his wife was sleeping with his nephew, used a ram’s shoulder to confirm his suspicions. Supposedly, he
formally dresses the shoulder-bone of one of his owne Rammes; and sitting at dinner (pretending it to be taken out of his neighbours flocke) requests his wife (equalling him in these divinations) to give her judgement; she curiously observes, and at last with great laughter casts it from her: the Gentleman, importuning her reason of so vehement an affection, receives answere of her, that, his wife, out of whose flocke the Ram was taken, had by incestuous copulation with her husbands Nephew fraughted her selfe with a yong one.
(illustration to 5.265)
Selden describes this practice as ‘Osteomantie’. Apparently his own coinage, the word is defined above as ‘divination by bones’. Selden claims not to have enough skill in the discipline to explain how Mangunel was able to use the ram’s shoulder to provoke such a strong reaction, and leaves the peculiarity of this short, fable-like account for the reader’s consideration.