I received few days ago a new book from a friend in Athens, Greece, who wished to review and let him know of my opinion about the accuracy and 'truthfulness' of the book entitled 'Mantic Practice and Astragals; the 56 authentic oracles of the ancient divinations' by Kostas Derbenes, Esoptron Editions, 2004 (ISBN 960-8317-38-Χ; pp. 185, €13.2). The book includes a Publisher's Note and an Introduction by Dr. Anastasia Bakaloudi entitled 'The Divination Practices and their Historical Development from the Primitive Era until the Ancient World'.

The book is, thereafter, structured as follows: under the main title Prologue (?) the author presents the following sections: How the ancient Greeks understood Fate, The History of Astragali, The Origins of the Book's Oracles, How to Use this Book. The chapter one, I suppose, presents The Oracles of the Astragali Divination, the Epilogue finalizes the book.

Initially I was very happy to accept the book for a brief review, as I thought, that the title is indeed very interesting regardless the fact that I have no knowledge about the author. In addition I had a good faith about the material as I am quite familiar with Dr. Bakaloudi's published title on Mysticism, Miracle-Working and Medicine of Theurgy by Kardamitsas Editions (2000). However, still I had my suspicion that the book is not an academic based research but rather a material which seek to draw attention and used by the public. Unfortunately that is the case.

From the very first page, the Publisher's Note, which is unsigned, the reader can understand straightforwardly the reason of the book's creation: it is to present the Greek astragali divination in Greece and to contest its position next to I-Tsing (I Ching) and the Western Tarot. Therefore, it was clear for me that the Publisher intents to get the material as replacement of the contemporary popular fortune-telling and divination. By starting reading the Introduction by Dr. Bakaloudi, the reader can further understand that the book was written with rash and careless procedures.

Throughout the book, the material does not includes sufficient citations and references. In many occasions the material lacks completely explanations whatsoever. I am truly disappointed with Dr. Bakaloudi's introductory note, which I hoped would be of her previous materials' standards. Her note is indeed a brief concise presentation of the divination practices' terms available in literature and also, at the second part, the attitudes towards mantic practices throughout the ancient World. The information is extremely short and basic with no existence of references and citations and a very small bibliographical list (only seven sources written by the author from which five are books and one article).

The rest of the book I must confess is more than disappointing. The author, Mr. Derbenes, seems to have a limited knowledge of compiling a historical, or maybe, a anthropological research upon the ancient Greek religiosity. The nine paragraphs of the Prologue's first sub-section, How the ancient Greeks understood Fate, is completely inadequate as an answer of the proposed question. The second section, The History of Astragali, gives a extremely basic presentation of the origins of astragali and little bout their use (for mantic purposes) without any references and citations. In the end of this section, the author, unsuccessfully seeks to link the I-Ching and the astragali game. The section number three, The Origins of the Book's Oracles, clarifies from where the author took the idea of this book: from a German doctoral monograph written in 1912, by F. Heinevetter, entitled Wurfel und Buchstabenorakel Griechenland und Kleinsien which researches the inscriptions found at Kosagatch, Tefeny, Yarishli, Enerve, Attalia etc. meaning inscriptions from Psidia, Pamphilia, Lykia and Phrygia. Still I couldn't understand why this section was included in the book. Probably to justify the term 'original' available in the sub-title of the book. The four sub-section, How to Use this Book, can be the interesting bit of the book, and obviously this section should have been moved to the front of the book. The book can only be used as a guide of actually practicing divination with the use of astragali.

What follows is a 112 page presentation of the 'original' oracles (inscripted oracles), in total 58 oracles which explains the results of the two astragals when you throw them two times. The 'oracles' were taken, by a number of sources such as the Bulleting de Correspodance Helleneque, especially from the article by George Cousin,Inscription d'Ormellé de Phrygie (1884, vol.8 no.8 pp.496-508) and the Epigrammata Graeca ex lapidibus conlecta (1878). Each of the oracles includes the original text and a translation as well as the numeric equivalent of the astragali sides' sum - each of the four sides of the astragali was allocated a number (one to four) - every time you throw the astragals you note the given sides. After a number of throws you sum the numbers and seek to find the oracle that corresponds to this number. It is so easy and straightforward that looks nothing like a divination practice.

Conclusively, the book is of a very low research interest. The material is doubtful and in numerous occasions unclear. The title and the name of Dr. Bakaloudi are suggesting an academic based publication which could presented an original research and comment on the available inscriptions from Phrygia. On the contrary the book is nothing like that. It is a scarce and short material without meaning and originality that only focus on mass consumption like the Tarot guides.