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Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Augur, Auguries, and Augurium

Augur, Auguries, and Augurium

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet.

I recently misspelled the name of the Delaware-Maryland Synod vice president, John Auger, in the July 18, 2016 proposed church council minutes for Grace Lutheran Church.

I misspelled Synod Vice President “Auger” as “Augur,” and after the mistake was called to my attention, I immediately knew why.

Not to auger myself into the ground over this, but if you will recall your Old Testament or ancient civilizations classes in college; during the days of the Roman Empire, an “augur” was a high priest who practiced the augury or the taking of the augury. According to numerous sources, an augur “observed natural signs, especially the behavior of birds, interpreting these as an indication of divine approval or disapproval of a proposed action.”

Another cite notes, “His main role was the practice of augury, interpreting the will of the gods by studying the flight of birds: whether they are flying in groups or alone, what noises they make as they fly, direction of flight and what kind of birds they are. This was known as "taking the auspices." The ceremony and function of the augur was central to any major undertaking in Roman society—public or private—including matters of war, commerce, and religion.” For more information, read: “Augur, Augurium,” by William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

Of course today, the term “augur” is also used in decentralized economic game theory. The etiology of the concept of mathematical modeling in conflict analysis between rational political actors dates back to Friedrich Hayek's “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” first published in September 1945 and later included in the compilation, “Individualism and Economic Order.” Although Hayek’s concepts are now well-accepted in the analytical world, they were highly controversial in the early 1970s when the acting church secretary was in the business of trying college professors who found it highly annoying to be challenged. I had always argued that tulipmania, which peaked in March 1637, was a great example of a randomized commodity economic bubble which resulted from government interference in economic markets. Read the 1641 book by British journalist Charles Mackay, “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.” 

When in a hole, stop digging. Stick a fork in me, I’m done.

** As for the image of The Augury between Romulus and Remus, according to Zach Jay on Pinterest, “This image is a cartoon that is depicting the Augury between Romulus and Remus, which would decide who is the rightful ruler of Rome. In the image, the Cartoonist is depicting Romulus spotting 12 birds and Remus spotting 6 birds, thus making Romulus the winner. This image is representing the story of Romulus winning the Augury, and thus believing that the Gods chose him as the rightful ruler of Rome.” Saved from

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