Hepatomancy In Ceremonial Beginnings: Finding An Auspicious Site

On Carrington Moss, shows individuals gathering material for besoms by David Cox (1851) (Public Domain)

Hepatomancy In Ceremonial Beginnings: Finding An Auspicious Site

Beginning with a proper state of mind, augmented by proper rites and ceremonies, is essential for any enterprise. The most developed ceremonies of beginning are in European building traditions. One of the best explanations of this is by the Italian Renaissance architect, Leon Battista Alberti, in his influential book, De re aedificatoria (On the Art of Building; 1452). Alberti wrote: “It is undoubtedly proper . . . to set about our work with a holy and religious preparation. . . We ought therefore to begin our undertaking with a clean heart, and with devout oblations, and with prayers to almighty God to implore his assistance and blessing upon the beginnings of our labour, that it may have a happy and prosperous ending, with strength and happiness to it and its inhabitants, with content of mind, increase of fortune, success of industry, acquisition of glory, and a succession and continuance of all good things.”

Romulus and Remus argued over the site of the foundation of Rome and brought in augurs. A vulture from the contest of augury and Palatine hill are to the left. (From Ostia, now at the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme) (Public Domain)

Every beginning must be marked in some way that distinguishes the time after from the time before. The fundamental recognition of time and process, and one’s own place in that continuity, takes place when one conducts a beginning consciously. As with other beginnings, in founding a building, there are a number of points that can be taken as the beginning—choosing the site, clearing the place, digging the first hole, and laying the first stone.

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Ancient Origins Quotations