Divination for a day of birth

This is my 100th blogpost on For the Wynn! In celebration of this, I am going to share a full version of a fascinating little text which I mentioned briefly in this blogpost for the British Library’s Medieval Manuscripts blog: a divinatory text by which you can discover a person’s fortune based on the position of their day of birth in the lunar calendar.

It can be found amongst the other prognostic texts in Ælfwine’s Prayerbook, on ff. 7v-8r of London, British Library Cotton MS Titus D XXVI.

Dates of birth can be looked up on this calendar: https://www.calendar-12.com/moon_phases/2019 – change 2019 to the desired birth year.

If the birthday is listed in the column on the left, the person was born on the first day of the lunar month.  If it is the day after a day listed in the left-hand column, the person was born on the 2nd day of the lunar month, and so on.  So 6th January 2019 is day 1, 7th January is day 2, 8th January is day 3.

The text is as follows, quoted from and with emendations by Beate Günzel, who has edited the entire manuscript.  Note that not all the fortunes are especially positive!

Incipit lunares sancti Danielis de natiuitate

Luna .i. Qui natus fuerit, uitalis erit.
Luna . ii. Mediocris erit.
Luna .iii. Infirmus erit.
Luna .iiii. Tractator regnum erit.
Luna .v. Iuuenis tolletur.
Luna vi. Vitalis erit.
Luna .vii. Vitalis et utilis erit.
Luna .viii. Iuuenis decidet.
Luna .ix. Omnium adquisitor erit.
Luna .x. Circuibit multas regiones.
Luna .xi. Omnium adquisitor erit.
Luna .xii. Religiosus erit.
Luna .xiii. Aduersus impeditor erit.
Luna .xiiii. Omnium tractator erit.
Luna .xv. Iuuenis morietur.
Luna .xvi. Vitalis et pauper erit.
Luna .xvii. Infelix erit.
Luna .xviii. Non diu uiuet.
Luna .xix. In honore erit.
Luna .xx. Bellator erit.
Luna .xxi. Latro ingeniosus erit.
Luna .xxii. Laboriosus erit.
Luna .xxiii. Vulgarus erit.
Luna .xxiiii. Copiosus erit.
Luna .xxv. Pericula multa patietur.
Luna .xxvi. Nec diues nec pauper erit.
Luna .xxvii. Amic[u]s erit.
Luna .xxviii. Neglegens erit.
Luna .xxviiii. Bonus et proui[sor] erit.
Luna .xxx. Negotia multa tractabat.

This translation is my own: some of the Latin is a little obscure to me, so I am happy to receive suggestions for alternative translations: this is absolutely not definitive.

Moon 1: he who is born [on this day of the moon’s age] will thrive.
Moon 2: he will be average.
Moon 3: he will be sick.
Moon 4: he will be a washer of kings.
Moon 5: he will be taken young.
Moon 6: he will thrive.
Moon 7: he will thrive and be useful.
Moon 8: he will come to ruin young.
Moon 9: he will be a winner of all things.
Moon 10: he will travel around many lands.
Moon 11: he will be a winner of all things.
Moon 12: he will be devout.
Moon 13: he will be a hostile obstructor.
Moon 14: he will be a washer of all.
Moon 15: he will die young.
Moon 16: he will thrive and be poor.
Moon 17: he will be unlucky.
Moon 18: he will not live long.
Moon 19: he will be in honour.
Moon 20: he will be a soldier.
Moon 21: he will be a clever thief.
Moon 22: he will be painstaking.
Moon 23: he will be commonplace.
Moon 24: he will be wealthy.
Moon 25: he will suffer many dangers.
Moon 26: he will be neither a rich man nor a poor man.
Moon 27: he will be a friend.
Moon 28: he will be careless.
Moon 29: he will be good and prudent.
Moon 30: he dealt with many troubles.


Moon 1: I am taking “vitalis” to mean that one who is born on this day will survive, compared to all those who have unhappier fates, e.g. Moon 18.
Moon 4: “tractator” was a difficult one to interpret, but it seems to mean someone who cleaned others in Roman baths.  When I was testing this out on some colleagues, one preferred the translation “shampooer”.
Moon 24: another translation would be “eloquent”, but the text seems more preoccupied with wealth and poverty.
Moon 29: someone who provides or oversees.
Moon 30: or business affairs.


Works used:

Beate Günzel, ed., Ælfwine’s Prayerbook (London, British Library, Cotton Titus D. xxvi + xxvii), Henry Bradshaw Society 108 (London: Boydell Press, 1993).

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Another great post! Thank you for your work!


  2. deorreader says:

    I think some of your translations might be a bit wonky. I’ve had a look at Lewis and Short and Bennett’s Grammar and tried to apply some logic and medieval context. If I may presume, I offer some translation suggestions to run by your expert advisors. Some of what I say is obvious and included only for completeness. I definitely recommend you don’t rely on my suggestions without checking with someone with academic quals who reads a fair bit of medieval Latin, though.

    Moon 4: he will be a wielder of kingdoms.

    I appreciate that the washer thing is a real classical word. I believe that most of these specialist usages didn’t make it into medieval latin. But tractator is also the agentive of tracto handle, manage, treat. I’m pretty sure that is the usage here.

    The regular gen pl of regnum (=kingdom) is regnorum, but gen pl of some 2nd declension nouns can be -um (http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/bennett.html#sect23). Whether this irregular gen pl. was used in medieval latin or not I don’t know know. “Of kings” is regum, not regnum, and this could just be a scribal error.

    Moon 8: he will fall young.

    I think decido here means fall (i.e. die). The usage fall into ruin is appropriate to buildings only.

    Moon 9: he will amass riches of all things.

    See Lewis & Short under ac-quiro IIB – post-classical amass riches

    Moon 11: he will amass riches of all things.

    See above

    Moon 14: he will be a wielder of all things.

    As per 4

    Moon 30: he will deal with much business. (Probably error for “tractabit”, future tense)

    See 4 for tracto. -abat is imperfect, -abit future. Easy transposition to make and all the other entries are future, which is required by the context.

    Keep up the good work.

    Andy Wright


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