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Bibliomancy

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Bibliomancy is the use of books in divination. The method of employing sacred books
(especially specific words and verses) for 'magical medicine', for removing negative
entities, or for divination is widespread in many religions of the world.

Contents
[hide]

1 Terminology

2 History

3 Method

4 Bibliomancy in fiction

5 See also

6 References

7 External links

Terminology[edit]
According to the Oxford English Dictionary,[1] the word bibliomancy (etymologically
from biblio- "books" and -mancy "divination by means of") "divination by books, or by
verses of the Bible" was first recorded in 1753 (Chambers' Cyclopdia). Sometimes
this term is used synonymously with stichomancy (from sticho- "row, line, verse")
"divination by lines of verse in books taken at hazard", which was first recorded ca.
1693 (Urquhart's Rabelais).
Bibliomancy compares with rhapsodomancy (from rhapsode "poem, song, ode")
"divination by reading a random passage from a poem". A historical precedent was the
ancient Roman practice of sortes ("sortilege, divination by drawing lots") which
specialized into sortes Homericae, sortes Virgilianae, and sortes Sanctorum, using the
texts of Homer, Virgil, and the Bible.

History[edit]
Although some Christian and Jewish groups believe that the Bible forbids divination in
general, Deuteronomy strictly forbids specifically nahash and me'onen.[2] The literal

meaning of nahash is hissing, though it can be extended to whispering, and it has


historically been understood to refer to enchantment; me'onen is derived from the word
"onah" meaning time/period/season, therefore "me'onen" is one who prescribes certain
times as being good or bad for certain activities.
According to the Shulchan Aruch (Rema, Yoreh Deah, 179), it is not the sin of
necromancy to divine an answer using the "goral",the practice of opening the Chumash
to see an answer to a question, or asking a child for the first piece of scripture that
comes to his mind.

Method[edit]
1. A book is picked that is believed to hold truth.
2. It is balanced on its spine and allowed to fall open.
3. A passage is picked, with the eyes closed.
Among Christians, the Bible is most commonly used (in the Sortes Sanctorum), and in
Islamic cultures the Qur'an. In the Middle Ages the use of Virgil's Aeneid was common
in Europe and known as the sortes Virgilianae. In the classical world the sortes
Virgilianae and sortes Homericae (using the Iliad and Odyssey) were used.
In Iran, Bibliomancy using the dvn of Hafiz is the most popular for this kind of
divination, but by no means the only kind. The Qur'an, as well as the Masnaw of Rumi
may also be used. Fl-e Hafez may be used for one or more persons. In group
bibliomancy, the dvn will be opened at random, and beginning with the ode of the
page that one chances upon, each ode will be read in the name of one of the individuals
in the group. The ode is the individuals fl. Assigning of the odes to individuals
depends on the order in which the individuals are seated and is never random. One or
three verses from the ode following each persons fl is called the hed, which is read
after the recitation of the fl. According to another tradition the hed is the first or the
seventh verse from the ode following the fl . An ode which had already been used for
one individual in the group is disqualified from serving as the fl for a second time.[3]
Because book owners frequently have favorite passages that the books open themselves
to, some practitioners use dice or another randomiser to choose the page to be opened.
This practice was formalized by the use of coins or yarrow stalks in consulting the I
Ching. Tarot divination can also be considered a form of bibliomancy, with the main
difference that the cards (pages) are unbound.
There is a prevalent practice among certain, particularly messianic, members of
Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidic movement to use the Igrot Kodesh, a thirty-volume
collection of letters written by their leader Menachem Mendel Schneerson for guidance.
[4][5]

Another variant requires the selection of a random book from a library before selecting
the random passage from that book. This also holds if a book has fallen down from a
shelf on its own. English poet Robert Browning used this method to ask about the fate
of his enchantment to Elizabeth Barrett (later known as Elizabeth Barrett Browning). He

was at first disappointed to choose the book Cerutti's Italian Grammar, but on randomly
opening it his eyes fell on the following sentence: if we love in the other world as we
do in this, I shall love thee to eternity' (which was a translation exercise).[6]

Bibliomancy in fiction[edit]

In Michael Strogoff (1876) by Jules Verne, Feofar Khan judged Michael Strogoff
to blindness after pointing randomly in the Koran at the phrase: "And he will no
more see the things of this earth.".

In The Book of Webster's (1993) by J. N. Williamson, the sociopathic protagonist


Dell uses the dictionary to guide his actions.

In 'The Ash Tree' by M. R. James, bibliomancy is used to produce a warning


message from the bible.

The novel The First Verse by Barry McCrea tells the story of Niall Lenihan, a
student who falls in with a 'cult' whose members use sortes to guide them.

In the novel The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, every major
character uses bibliomancy, mainly by casting yarrow stalks in conjunction with
the I Ching. Dick himself reportedly used this process for deciding key points in
the story, even going so far as to blaming the I Ching for plot developments that
he himself did not particularly care for.

In Wilkie Collins' 1868 novel The Moonstone, the narrator Gabriel Betteredge
routinely practices bibliomancy using the pages of Daniel Defoe's Robinson
Crusoe. This is a good example of intertextuality, since Crusoe himself uses
bibliomancy in his journey toward redemption.

In Lirael, by Garth Nix, The Black Book of Bibliomancy, a fake book, is


mentioned.

In Augusten Burroughs' Running with Scissors, bilbiomancy (referred to as


"Bible-dipping") is used by one of the main characters.

See also[edit]

The Bible Code

Rhapsodomancy

References[edit]
1.

Jump up ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1989.

2.

Jump up ^ Deuteronomy 18:10

3.

Jump up ^ OMIDSALAR, MAHMOUD. "DIVINATION". Encyclopedia


Iranica. Retrieved 2009-04-05.

4.

Jump up ^ http://www.ravaviner.com/2009/05/igrot-kodesh-holy-lettersof.html

5.

Jump up ^ http://www.chabad.net/index.php?
main_page=product_info&cPath=95&products_id=199

6.

Jump up ^ The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett, Vol, 1, p.


470

External links[edit]
Look up bibliomancy in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Bibliomancy from the Jewish Encyclopedia

Bibliomancy Oracle

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