Thumb-a-vision

Tibetan Buddhist monks of the 9th or 10th centuries used spells to learn prophecies, to wrest power from demons, find treasure, cure illness, tame wild beasts, cause springs to gurgle from the ground, and other such everyday needs.

One such spell, recorded in a monk’s ritual manual*, describes a kind of divination that invokes a deity to answer questions put to it. The ritual refers to the deity as “the sky-soarer,” and this sky-soarer communicates through a “pure” (aka, pre-pubescent) child. Sometimes the child sees visions in a mirror. Sometimes, the visions appear on the flat of the pure child’s thumb. 

 *found in the Mogao Caves of Dunhuang, China, and now archived in the British Library as part of the International Dunhuang Project

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