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Oracle of Sieve and Shears

(The). This method of divination is mentioned by Theocritos. The modus operandi was as follows:- The points of the shears were stuck in the rim of a sieve, and two persons supported them with their finger-tips. Then a verse of the Bible was read aloud, and St. Peter and St. Paul were asked if it was A, B, or C (naming the persons suspected). When the right person was named, the sieve would suddenly turn round.

“Searching for things lost with a sieve and shears.” —Ben Johnson: Alchemist, i.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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