Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bad Omen?

Last week the Sackler Gallery proudly announced the opening of "Falnama: The Book of Omens," a book of divination widely used in the Islamic world.  Unfortunately, "error message gibberish" has already ruined the display on this electronic information kiosk. Sign of things to come?


  1. Sorry. I'm a muslim and I don't recall we use such a book, specially that the art of divination (prediction) is not something included in the teachings. However, some people got their culture and seems from the name it is something Persian or from that side of the world, but I would't say "islamic" specifically.
    The -nama ending here usually denotes something sort of "history" or "epic" or "story," like the famous Persian poem telling the history of Persia, Shahnama.
    Falnama, as I understand from the name here, is composed of two words "Fal" and "Nama." "Fal" apparently is derived from "Fa'l" in Arabic which means "omen" as well. However, in Farsi and other languages on the east, they usually omit this glottal stop in the middle and the word becomes "Fal" or "Faal" (with long A sound).

    It is first time for me to head of such a book.

  2. Thanks for your comments, TJ - I appreciate this clarification. I should have been more specific here. According to the Sackler website, this *was* a particular book of divination used in parts of Iran (Persia) and the Ottoman Empire during the 16th-17th centuries.

    Very interesting point about the glottal stop!