"historacle" just feels silly to me
July 16, 2013 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Is there a term for a seer/diviner/oracle that is only able to see into the past? I'm willing to grab one from a non-English language if there is a word that means specifically "a seer who can only see the past", but English is prefered. Antiquated terms are OK. Bonus points for interesting etymological details (or links to interesting etymological details).

The only thing I can think of is "remembrancer", but I'm pretty sure that's just a word that Garth Nix sort of made up/changed the official meaning of for his Old Kingdom books.
posted by NoraReed to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
posted by 256 at 11:45 AM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Psychometry is seeing into the past through objects that were there.
posted by Garm at 11:52 AM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Toni Morrison uses rememory in Beloved.
posted by spunweb at 12:13 PM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Cryptomnesia is when someone remembers something but thinks it's new, sort of the opposite of deja vu.

Reminiscence is the act of recalling ones's own past events or history, but the Theosophists taught that one could recall the collective memories of the soul through reminiscence.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:32 PM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

The opposite of foresight is backsight, in a lot of novels.
posted by ethidda at 12:54 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Anamnesis can be defined as ‘the idea that humans possess knowledge from past incarnations and that learning consists of rediscovering that knowledge within us.’

Mnemotechnics is a term sometimes used synonymously with The Art of Memory.

Anamnesiac or Mnemotechnican might work as terms derived from the above, although neither term would carry any specific connotations of divination.
posted by misteraitch at 12:56 PM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do you specifically need a fancy, mystical sounding word? If not, I feel like "medium" captures the concept pretty well, and has an interesting, if straightforward, etymology.
posted by Gable Oak at 1:30 PM on July 16, 2013

posted by The World Famous at 3:26 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I saw a funny little skit once (I think on SNL?) where a person who could do this was called a "post-cog". It was a play on the idea of those "pre-cogs" in Minority Report.
posted by losvedir at 7:55 PM on July 16, 2013

Is there a term for a seer/diviner/oracle that is only able to see into the past?

Not in English, as far as I know. One of the roles played by prophets/shamans/seers is to "see" the past, but that's because occult knowledge generally is part of their expertise. They're not restricted to the past. You can create nonce words to describe anything, but I suggest that these coinings may distract the reader. It might be better to use a word like "seer" or "savant" and make it clear that the the things they "see" or "know" are things from the past.

Incidentally, Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun series is set so far in the future that nobody even imagines that it is possible to know or understand the countless millennia of ages past. A historian, in those stories, is a mythical profession belonging to a time so ancient as to be the matter of legend. You might call your past-see-ers historians!
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:35 AM on July 17, 2013

You can alway cobble one up out of Greek or Latin: Archaeomancer, Palaeoscopos, Praeterispector...

I suppose you could go further and fake- English them up a bit if you wanted, eg on the model of 'Bishop' from 'Episkopos' a Palaeoscopos might have become a Pleshop.

The Queen's Remembrancer is a senior English lawyer - an ancient office, but he is not a seer.
posted by Segundus at 6:00 AM on July 17, 2013

These are great, thanks! I'm not sure which ones I'm going to use, but I'm probably gonna go with Segundus' suggestion of cobbling something together. The character I'm thinking of has visions in dreams, so I might play with soma-, narco-, mnemo- and maybe some others.
posted by NoraReed at 6:57 PM on July 17, 2013

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