Omphalomancy - Predicting the Future from the Umbilical Cord

Divination as practiced originally was not only the foretelling of future or also about finding answers to important questions or uncovering a truth that was hidden from common view. In this sense divination was employed for a wide variety of purposes, ranging from being strategically and politically prepared to answering questions about one’s personal life and family; a form of divination which falls into the latter category is Omphalomancy.

Omphalomancy was a form of divination that used the umbilical cord of a newborn to make predictions for the future. The term goes back to ancient Greek word for the navel, omphalos while manteia refers to making prophecies. The most common use for omphalomancy was to determine the number of children a woman would have by counting the knots in the umbilical cord of her first-born child.

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In some cases though, omphalomancy also referred to the practice of interpreting a personality as well as determining its fate through a study of the navel or the belly button. This form of divination has received some attention in modern times and was elaborated by Dr Gerhard Reibmann, a Berlin psychologist and author of the privately published book Centered: Understanding Yourself through your Nave. In the book Dr. Reibmann lists six major navel types and suggests that the shape of the navel could be important in determining the personality as well as destiny of an individual. According to him, the six main navel types are horizontal, vertical, the Outty, the concave, the off-center and the round. The horizontal navel is marked by an oblong in shape and spreads sideways across the tummy. People with this kind of navel are supposed to be complex and highly emotional which in the long run can negatively impact their health. The average life expectancy of people with horizontal navel is supposed to be 68 years.

The vertical navel is also oblong but runs from top- bottom axis across the tummy. It represents a personality that is self-confident, generous, and largely emotionally stable. A person with this type of navel can be expected to live around till 75 years of age.

As implied by the term Outty, this type of navel is marked by a belly-button which protrudes outwards. This is an indication of an extroverted personality and marks a person who approaches life with positivity and enthusiasm. According to Dr. Reibmann, this individual can be expected to be around till approximately 72 years of age.

The concave navel on the other hand is one that dips inwards and is rather shaped like a bowl. It marks a person who is likely to be gentle, loving but also cautious, sensitive and prone to worry. Since people with this kind of navels are delicate, their average life expectancy could be comparatively less at 65 years.

An off-center belly button appears to be less common and thus it marks people who are unconventional and original thinkers but can also be fun-loving and carefree. This kind of person can expect to live around for roughly seventy years.
The final type of navel in Dr. Reibmann’s list is the round one. This belly button is circular and evenly-shaped and thus indicates a quiet, retiring personality. A representative individual is likely to be modest and, even-tempered and his/her average life expectancy would be around eighty-one years.

Even though Dr. Reibmann’s classification of navels and their traits is modern, the practice of associating the navel with different types of personalities is found in other traditional cultures. In ancient Chinese folklore for instance a concave belly button was supposed to predict good fortune as opposed to a protruding one which was believed to bring ill-luck on the bearer. Then again it was believed that the deeper the belly button in a woman, the more children she will bear in her lifetime.

Divination practices and folklore based on the shape and properties of the navel is evidence of significance of the navel in many ancient practices and belief systems. According to Indian Tantric lore, the navel is the center of the being where energy is received and processed coming in from the universe; as such the appearance could be used to diagnose one’s health but on a deeper level, the belly button represents fertility and it is also a reminder of the connection between the generations; in other words the navel can be perceived as connecting the past and future of the individual which is the basic principle underlining all divination practices.