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Scapulimancy is a decision procedure used by the Naskapi Indians whereby the shoulder of a caribou is held over hot coals causing cracks in the bone which are then used to direct a hunting party.

What is interesting about such decision procedures as this and reading crystal balls, entrails, livers, palms, Ouija boards, biorhythms or astrological charts, polygraphs, "scientific jury selection," the "blue sense", "etc., is that they "work!" A decision is always made after using them. It may not be the right decision or the best decision, but it is a decision nonetheless.

The fact that a decision is made is a relief, a comfort; it is satisfying to remove uncertainty and indecision. Occult and questionable decision procedures are likely to be especially attractive in situations where logic and rational thinking appear useless, such as in deciding whether to marry someone or where to go hunting when it doesn't seem that there is any game anywhere or where to invest in the stock market.

Irrational decision procedures can seem quite rational to their users not only because they "work" in the sense of arriving at a decision but they "work" in the sense of arriving at an acceptable or demonstrably satisfactory outcome, i.e., you're happy with your wife (or glad you didn't get married); the hunters find some game; your stock portfolio isn't much worse than anyone else's, maybe even a little better, etc.

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further reading

Lyons, Arthur and Marcello Truzzi, The Blue Sense: Psychic Detectives and Crime (New York: The Mysterious Press, 1991).

Nickell, Joe, Psychic Sleuths (Buffalo,N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1994).

Last updated 12/09/10

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