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  Jeffrey Vallance 
  Chapelle de Poulet


     AN ESSAY IN XIII PIECES


#5


Sacred chickens of RomePoultry divinationChicken feed omensChickens stamping their feetAncient Roman chicken fragment






Chickens were considered sacred in Ancient Rome. The Roman priesthood practiced a form of divination by watching chickens eat. In Rome, an augur was a religious official who observed natural signs, especially the behavior of birds, interpreting these as an indication of divine approval or disapproval of a proposed action. Nothing significant was undertaken in Rome without omens first being secured from the sacred chickens. An augur priest in charge of the auspice chickens would fling open the doors to their coop and throw grain in front of them. This would de done, for example, if a military commander was looking for an omen concerning an upcoming battle. The omen was detected in the way the chickens responded to their food. If they wouldn’t eat, that was BAD. If they only nitpicked at their food, that was considered somewhat bad. Only when the chickens were ravenous and ate so greedily of the food while stamping their feet, was it considered a highly favorable omen. When there was a need to render a favorable divination, the priests in charge would leave the chickens in a cage for a certain amount of time without feeding them. Recently, at an ancient Roman excavation site, a fragment of a chicken head cast in lead was unearthed, attesting to the significance chickens held in Rome.
Roman Chicken Head Fragment
5th century, Roman Empire
Cast lead, patina
Mounted in a 19th-century wooden case

 


2019

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Hotel is a magazine for new approaches to fiction, non fiction & poetry & features work from established & emerging talent. Hotel provides the space for experimental reflection on literature’s status as art & cultural mediator. The magazine is bi-annual, the online archive is updated periodically.

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2019
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