Today’s post is inspired by seven unusual words . . .
- sciomancy – divination by consulting the shades of the dead (ghosts) and/or shadows
- estrapade – the attempt by a horse to throw its rider, or, a gymnastic move
- habile – able; apt; skilful; handy.
- enchiridion – a book to be carried in the hand; a manual; a handbook.
- bombilation – a rumbling sound (rare).
- anencephaly – congenital absence of part or all of the brain (medical);
brainless, empty-headed, to have a skull with an echo.
- intenerate – make tender or soft; soften.
. . . from fellow blogger/writer athling2001‘s blog. If you’d like to view my previous word-of-the-day stories, check out the links at the end of my post!
They Said It Could All Be Done With Science
I probably would never have heard of sciomancy if it hadn’t been for Aunt Evelyn. She consulted shadows of the dead in her practice of divination through sciomancy. So she told us. I always thought sciomancy sounded like using science to do magic. Like necromancy (magic with the dead), or geomancy (magic with the earth). That would be cool. The periodic table might be a catalog of hexes. Or, Newton’s three laws of mechanics could be the key to levitation. But no. Missed opportunity, I say.
At one of Aunt Evelyn’s seances – I was 11 or 12 – she was conversing with the spirit of a dead girl, a girl who had died after being thrown from a horse in an estrapade. The girl said she was hanging out in the afterlife with Cole Porter, who had lived in intense for three decades after a horse crushed his legs and he refused amputation. No pain now, though, the dead girl said. She didn’t understand why the horse had thrown her, because she had always been exceptionally habile with horses. Learned to ride before she could walk, she said.
Or, at least, that was the story from Aunt Evelyn. It wasn’t a surprise that Evelyn turned to fiction in her later years. She started her writing career with an enchiridion, a handbook, on the topic of sciomancy, naturally – more fiction than not, but that’s another story. Late in her life she turned away from divination altogether and focused on a series of mildly successful bodice-rippers.
I always thought I heard an unusual sound during Aunt Evelyn’s seances. She would hold them in the shed out back of her cottage at Soap Lake. I was only present a half-dozen times, partly because my mom didn’t want me to get involved with Evelyn’s supernatural claims, but mostly because we moved away to Spokane when I was in junior high. The sound I heard was a buzzing, droning sound. A bombilation. No one uses that word today, but the one time I asked Aunt Evelyn about the noise, she said, “It’s a bombilation.” Huh. I never did find out what the sound came from. My mom said, “Maybe the well pump – she needs to get a new one, that one’s ancient. Likely to go out on her, like everything else.” My mom used to say – always out of Evelyn’s hearing, of course – that Evelyn was a good example of anencephaly – no brain. “She’s got a skull with an echo,” Dad would say, shaking his head, whenever Mom mentioned it. Evelyn was his sister, so I suppose he had a right to say it, but when I was little I used to wonder how a person could function without a brain. But then I figured out it was all a figure of speech.
Still, my time in Aunt Evelyn’s company made an impression on me. It’s one of the reason’s I’m studying for my Ph.D. Laugh if you will, but her continual lectures on the art of sciomancy stuck with me. They intenerated me. Not the divination part – I don’t believe in that. Communing with spirits and the rest. I knew the story with the dead girl was purely from Evelyn’s imagination. But my imagination wanted science to perform magic.
That’s why I’m working on something very exciting for my doctoral study in electrical engineering. A teleporter.
And we’re getting close.
Going through some old blog posts, I came across my earlier “word of the day” stories. I really enjoy these. But I often forget about them until I review my earlier posts.
How about you? Do you get into a pattern of familiar topics on your blog, or do you have a more structured schedule of posts that you follow?
Previous word-of-the-day posts: