To raise thy fortune, twill be Sheep

Title page to The Dutch Fortune Teller (1600)

This afternoon I’ve been reading a Do IT Yourself book of fortune telling printed in 1600. The books comprises some questions a reader might like the answers to, followed by some sagacious words of wisdom, which apply to the question depending on a complicated set of instructions in the book’s introduction. From what I can understand, a person asks a question (from the list provided), then makes a note of the number and letters next to that particular question. Then a sort of wheel is required, fortunately printed in the back of the book. The letters and numbers next to the question are then located on the wheel, and two dice are thrown. Whatever number the dice reveal is then located on the wheel, which gives the questioner a number. They then look up that number in the list of answers in the book, and thus have the answer to their question. Not at all complicated.

The book gives this rather baffling example of how to use it.

If you throw 12 upon both Dice, look then for the Number 12 in the same Wheel, whereby you shall find written Worms; this signifieth so much unto you, that you shall go from this Wheel to the lesser Globes, and there to look for the Worm-Globe, which is in the Number 70, within is written JASON, under it this Number 92; which sheweth you further, where you, under the title of JASON, and Number 92, shall find your cast, which was 12, and the Resolution upon your Question.

So, clear as mud. A page from the book showing some of the mysterious wheels:

Here are some of the questions listed in the book. Lovely evidence that in 1600, both men and women were as preoccupied with money, sex, and death, as we are today.

Of all the Questions in general

Whether the sick body shall recover Health?
Whether what is said be Truth or not?
Whether the Person who giveth you fair and good words remains constant to you?
What your dreams may signify to you?
What adventures you shall have this Present day?
Whether the Person who is gone to travel shall come in good Health back again.
In what Trade or Traffic you may have best fortune to adventure your estate or money in?

Merry QUESTIONS for Men and Bachelors only

How many wives a man shall be like to have?
What manner of wife he shall get?
Whether that which you now think upon will come to pass?
To know whether you shall live long, increase in Riches, and be fortunate in your age, yea or no?
To know what fortune may happen to a a child newly born, either boy or girl?
Whether she whom you love so dearly and would fain have doth likewise love you?

For Women and Maidens

Amongst what people one may be accepted of?
To know whether you shall have any Children, yea or no, and how many?
If it were good and convenient to marry him you so constantly bear in your mind?
What Husband may be allotted for you?
Whether you shall get him whom you do love?

Now here come some of the answers, in the shape of individual four-line rhymes (no, it’s not one long weird poem). If you want to read your own fortune 17th Century style, ask one of the questions above (don’t bother with the wheel business), close your eyes, scroll down, point at your screen, and open your eyes. Voila! Your future.

Of any Thing which thou canst keep,
To raise thy Fortune, twill be Sheep:
Thou canst not have a better Thing,
Which will to thee more Profit bring.

So many Suitors you have now,
That very well you do not know
Which amongst them for to take,
Nor who you should your Husband make [helpful]

His love is greater unto thee,
Than ever thine to him will be:
And if his Love should now decline,
The Fault is none of his, tis thine.

Friend, to be short, and end the Strife,
Thou must and shall have but one Wife:
Make much and cherish her therefore,
For when she’s dead, thou get’st no more [nice]

A Pigeon-Merchant right you are,
Your Wealth comes flying in from far:
Be sure that once a Month, or least,
Your goods are like to be increased.

The Journey dangerous will be,
And most unhappy unto thee;
If in the same thou dost proceed,
Its good for thee to take great Heed [buy travel insurance]

Breeding of Hogs is such a Thing,
As special Luck will to you bring,
Wash, Bran, or Grains, they feed on all,
Or that which from your Wife’s backside doth fall.

It is not good to trust this Man
With any Thing, for if he can
In private do thee any ill
‘Tis very like that so he will

And my two personal favourites:

Your Husband will be very old,
Of Features grim, and Nature cold;
With rotten Teeth, and stinking Breath,
And you each Day will wish his Death.

Think on no second Marriage-Bed,
Your husband is already dead;
Prepare yourself, for you, his Wife,
Shall quickly after leave this Life [charming]

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved


  • February 10, 2012 - 6:29 am | Permalink

    This was interesting, because I blogged ages ago about a similar book published in Finland. Third print in 1827. Since I only had a transcript of the text the method of getting from the question to the answer remained a mystery.

  • February 9, 2012 - 11:04 pm | Permalink

    Breeding of Hogs was a beautiful piece. Great post, was worth waiting for. Thanks for sharing!

  • February 9, 2012 - 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Good grief! I am utterly stunned. Just as well I have no wish to know what my future holds.

  • February 9, 2012 - 5:12 pm | Permalink

    What a lovely little ditty, especially the last verse!

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