Writer Esther Friesner demonstrated the mystical art of Cheeblemancy at the World Fantasy Convention Saturday night, a benefit performance to raise donations for the Science Fiction Writers of America Emergency Medical Fund. Cheeblemancy is the practice of telling a person’s fortune by means of casting the hamsters, originated by Ms. Friesner some years ago. It is unknown whether she has taken on an apprentice to whom she will pass the ancient knowledge.
Cheeblemancy works thusly. With a larger stuffed hamster looking on—in this case, perched on top of an overturned water goblet—and with fortuneteller Friesner wearing the traditional hamster ears, the questioner clasps his or her hands gently around a miniature totem hamster that looks quite like a keychain, actually. While thinking upon the past, present, and future, the questioner flips the hamster once into the air and once again, then opens her hands over the fortunetelling board, upon which are inscribed the symbols of earth, air, fire and water. Depending upon the fall of the hamster, the fortune is told.
This questioner received a careful reading when her hamster landed almost perfectly upon the dividing line between earth and water. Each element is divided yet again into its benign and not-so-benign natures, and my hamster settled neatly upon the demarcation between a happy home life and a chaotic creative side. According to my fortune, I am well balanced between the two opposing forces.
The hamsters cannot reveal all, but I was well pleased.