What is Bibliomancy? A Complete Guide
Last Updated: May 6, 2023
Bibiliomancy is a book divination method, that transcends religious boundaries and captures the imagination of both the spiritual and the secular. In this delightful method of divination, the pages of books become the gateway to profound insights, guidance, and inspiration. Just imagine the joy of finding solace, clarity, and perhaps even a touch of magick within the written words.
What is Bibliomancy?
Bibliomancy, derived from the Greek words “biblio” (meaning “book”) and “manteia” (meaning “divination”), is an ancient practice that has fascinated and captivated countless seekers throughout the ages. Its allure lies in its simplicity and accessibility, as it requires nothing more than a book, an open mind, and a sprinkle of curiosity. It essentially encompasses all divination methods relating to books, much like cartomancy encompasses all divination methods relating to cards (tarot, lenormand, oracle etc).
In this age-old tradition, the act of divination is intertwined with the written word, revealing its wisdom and secrets through chance encounters with passages and verses. Whether you are drawn to the sacred texts of your faith, timeless classics of literature, or even contemporary works of Margaret Atwood, the divinatory art of Bibliomancy welcomes you with open arms, free from any dogma or exclusivity.
What makes Bibliomancy truly remarkable is its versatility. Across diverse cultures and belief systems, from ancient civilizations to contemporary seekers, people have engaged in this practice, finding solace, inspiration, and a renewed sense of purpose within the pages of cherished texts. It invites us to explore the profound connections between literature, spirituality, and our own lives, unveiling hidden treasures and unveiling new perspectives.
So, lovely reader, whether you seek guidance, seek solace, or simply wish to engage in a whimsical adventure of the mind, Bibliomancy beckons you with its gentle embrace. Prepare to be captivated, for the ancient words contained within books eagerly await your touch, ready to reveal their timeless wisdom and inspire your journey.
Stichomancy or Libromancy
Whilst you may not have heard of the term Bibiliomancy before, you may have heard of its related practices. Stichomancy and Libromancy are two other forms of book divination which are sometimes used interchangeably with Bibliomancy. I’ve also talked about Rhapsodomancy before, which is an even older practice than Bibliomancy, using prose or poetry!
Stichomancy, derived from the Greek words “sticho” (meaning “verse”) and “manteia” (meaning “divination”), involves the selection of random lines or passages from a book, often through the use of chance methods such as flipping pages or closing one’s eyes and pointing. These chosen lines are then interpreted as messages or guidance for the seeker. Stichomancy allows for a more focused exploration of individual verses, offering a concise and specific insight that resonates with the seeker’s query or intention.
On the other hand, Libromancy, which derives from the Latin word “liber” (meaning “book”) and “mancy” (meaning “divination”), encompasses a broader approach. It involves the interpretation of entire books or substantial sections of texts, allowing the seeker to immerse themselves in a greater narrative or context. Through Libromancy, seekers can derive profound wisdom and guidance by exploring the themes, characters, and symbolic elements found within a chosen book.
Both Stichomancy and Libromancy, like Bibliomancy, share the fundamental belief in the magickal connection between written words and the human experience. They provide pathways for seekers to tap into the collective wisdom and universal insights found within literature. Whether one delves into the focused verses of Stichomancy or immerses themselves in the expansive realms of Libromancy, the seeker is invited to embrace the mystery and synchronicity that arises from the interplay between the chosen text and their own inner journey.
How Old Is Bibliomancy?
The earliest evidence of documented use of Bibliomancy is hard to exactly pinpoint. We know that it was officially coined as a term around the late 1600s. We know that Bibliomancy was prohibited by the Council of Vannes in 465CE. We know that people used “Sortes Virgilinae” to consult Virgil’s works as early as the 1st Century BCE. We know that the Ancient Egyptian Hekau’s consulted the Book of the Dead for spell inspiration when they were ill, sick or needing assistance. In a basic witch summary, it is likely that Bibliomancy has been practiced since written language was invented and humans have sought connection.
Why choose Bibliomancy?
As an accessible method of divination, and one where you can choose any type of book that holds meaning for you, Bibliomancy is a powerful tool for self-reflection and insight. With its roots in ancient cultures, the practice of Bibliomancy invites us to tap into collective wisdom that spans centuries and provides us with an invaluable insight into our own personal journey.
It offers a unique approach to uncovering hidden truths, it aids in critical thinking, and it can provide clarification on complex and uncertain situations when you don’t feel comfortable sharing the query with a friend or loved one. The practice of Bibliomancy is an invitation to travel through time, explore the written word in a completely renewing way, and connect with your personal inner guidance and intuition.
From a practical standpoint, it doesn’t require any special tools or knowledge; all you need is a book that speaks to you. It can literally be your favourite book from childhood, to the Torah or other sacred text.
5 Quick takeaways about this divination method
- Bibliomancy is an ancient form of divination that has been practiced since written language was invented.
- It involves using a book, usually one that holds special meaning for the practitioner, to answer questions or provide guidance.
- There are many types of Bibliomancy – Stichomancy which involves choosing random lines from a book, Rhapsadomancy which involves prose, poetry and lyrics, and Libromancy which involves interpreting entire books or sections of texts.
- All someone needs to practice Bibliomancy is a book that speaks to them. It can be any book from a childhood favourite to a sacred text.
- By exploring the themes, characters, emotions, and symbolic elements found within a chosen book one can divine profound wisdom and guidance.
Random Bible Chapter
When it comes to Bibliomancy, most English-speaking folks come across it from using the Christian bible. When using Bibliomancy, a person can choose any type of book that holds meaning for them you see, and in recorded in medieval Britain especially, they called it Sortes Biblicae. This method would lead to St Augustine converting to Catholic Christianity in the late 4th Century CE by randomly choosing from Romans 13:13–14.
There was also Sortes Sanctorum, which allowed for the same sort of practice with a Christian text in Greek times (around 4th Century BCE) and is referenced in Colossians 1:12. This specific method however was condemned by the Church, thought to have Pagan origins, and therefore due to a misunderstanding by Edward Gibbon in his 1781CE “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” led to additional shunning of this amazing divinatory practice, and a way for people to connect with not only themselves but their faith and community too.
In terms of using the bible, a random bible chapter could be any chapter of your choosing! You can just open it to any page, and find where your eyes fall onto the page (and passage) that is there to provide you advice. Whether you take it or not, is within your own control.
When it comes to finding passages in scripture for divination, some say that Sacred Lottery of the Vilna Gaon was the first method of “random scripture.” It was practiced by the Jewish people for centuries from the Babylonian Talmud onwards, and it involved picking random passages for comfort and insight.
Whilst I am not jewish at all, and can’t really comment further, whilst they have a specific way to utilise Bibliomancy in their own faith, they didn’t create Bibliomancy as a whole as they have taken credit for, since we have proof of this via cuneiform tablets dating back thousands of years before their own documentation. If it had been credited to pre-Talmudic period, there isn’t any current known evidence of this. (If this is all incorrect, please contact me directly with sources.)
Sacred texts often contain ancient wisdom that has been passed down through generations. They provide a window into the beliefs, practices, and values of different cultures and can offer insights into the human experience that are timeless and universal. People can feel a deeper connection to their cultural and spiritual heritage and find meaning in engaging with the texts and practices of their ancestors. By using Sacred texts in Bibliomancy, you can connect with your cultural and spiritual heritage and honour the traditions that have shaped your identity and worldview.
A lot of Sacred Texts provide wisdom and guidance for living a life with more purpose; you can gain insight into your own purpose and the direction of your life therefore by using Bibliomancy. This can be particularly helpful if you are feeling lost or unsure about your path and are seeking guidance from a higher power or the universe.
For many people, Sacred Texts are revered as the word of God or as a conduit for divine inspiration. By using these texts in bibliomancy, you can open yourself up to a direct connection with the divine and receive guidance that is informed by a higher power. This can be a deeply meaningful and transformative experience that allows you to feel connected to something greater than yourself. For a sense of spiritual community too, engaging with sacred texts is a communal experience that connects you to a larger community of believers. By using these texts in your bibliomancy practice, you can tap into the shared experiences and beliefs of others and feel a sense of belonging to a larger spiritual community. It may even be worth trying this at your faith group in person, if that’s ok with the spiritual leader.
Here’s a select few Sacred Texts that you could add to your divination library specific for this purpose. I’d whack a selenite crystal on top, and light some nice room-cleansing incense whilst diving deep getting stuck in reflection.
- I Ching
- Bhagavad Gita
- Book of the Dead
- Pāli Canon
Bibliomancy vs Rhapsadomancy
So this is a bit of personal reflection, versus actual instruction.
As with the Sortes collections below, we know that divination through poetry more or less came before divination through specific sacred text. We know this by the Shu Ching and the I Ching, dating to 11th Century BCE. Cicero claimed that some of the Sibylline books were written with Hieroglyphics, and that they were written in prose.
We know that a first-documented use of the term “Bibliomancy” comes from 1693CE, but to read as divination would have been around as long as books were written. Not everyone who practices divination would share their insights in their local community, especially if it wasn’t revered in their culture or they feared persecution or exile.
We know that Bibliomancy is big for religion, whereas poetry is a language across all languages – it’s emotion, and art, and down to perception, a lot like divination in general.
And in this modern age, I would rather take my wisdom from Maya Angelou, Jake Skeets and Carol Ann Duffy than from Mathew, Mark, Luke and John.
Bibliomancy in Fiction
This is a great part of divination for secular witches. Fiction holds a unique power to transport us to different worlds, cultures, and time periods, allowing us to explore the depths of human imagination and emotion. By engaging in bibliomancy with fiction, you can tap into the rich tapestry of stories, characters, and themes that span across cultures, faiths, and history.
Whether it’s a beloved classic, a contemporary novel, or a fantastical tale, fiction offers a wealth of wisdom, inspiration, and thought-provoking ideas that can guide and empower you on your personal journey. Through the pages of fiction, you can discover hidden truths, uncover new perspectives, and find solace and strength in the narratives that resonate with your soul. Embrace the limitless possibilities that fiction holds as secular and agnostic witches, and let the power of storytelling illuminate your path with warmth. I always want you to find your seat at the witchcraft table.
Bibliomancy in History
Also known as Homeromanteion, refers to a form of divination that involved seeking guidance from the works of the ancient Greek poet Homer. This is technically now a form of Rhapsadomancy. It was believed that answers to specific questions or situations could be found by randomly selecting and interpreting lines from Homer’s epic poems, such as the Iliad and the Odyssey. This practice was prominent in ancient Greece and was considered a way to connect with the wisdom and insights of the legendary poet himself. A famous user of Sortes Homericae was Brutus himself, Caesar’s assassin.
AKA Virgilian divination, was a similar practice to Sortes Homerica but involved using the works of the Roman poet Virgil instead. By opening Virgil’s writings, particularly his famous work, the Aeneid, at random and selecting lines or passages, individuals sought guidance and answers to their questions. This divination method gained popularity during the medieval and Renaissance periods in Europe, where Virgil’s writings were highly revered and considered a source of prophetic wisdom. Famous users include Hadrian and Claudius II (Gothicus).
You know I love an oracle. The Sibylline Books were a collection of prophecies and oracular sayings attributed to the ancient Sibyls, who were regarded as prophetesses in various cultures, including ancient Greece and Rome. These books were believed to contain divine revelations and were consulted during times of crisis or important decision-making. The Sibylline Books held great significance in Roman religion and were safeguarded by priests called Quindecimviri, who interpreted the prophecies contained within them.
Unfortunately, much of the original collection was destroyed over time, with the remaining fragments being highly valued and preserved. Among the surviving Sibylline oracles, the oldest known books are believed to be books 3-5. These particular books have an intriguing origin, as they were likely composed by a combination of Jewish writers in the city of Alexandria.
The influence of Jewish authors in the creation of these Sibylline texts adds an interesting layer of cultural and religious interplay within the ancient world. It reflects the cross-pollination of ideas and the blending of different traditions that occurred during that time. These books offer valuable insights into the beliefs and perspectives of the Jewish community in Alexandria, contributing to the broader tapestry of the Sibylline oracles and their historical significance.
This is a lesser-known form of Bibliomancy that originated in the Byzantine period. It involved using a specific book known as the “Astrampsychus,” which claimed to reveal hidden knowledge about one’s fate and fortune. Practitioners would randomly select passages from this book and interpret them as a means of gaining insight into their lives.
While the origins and authorship of the Astrampsychus are uncertain (suggestions are magus from Persia and Egyptian sages serving the kings & Pharoahs), the practice of Sortes Astrampsychi gained popularity during the Byzantine Empire, offering individuals a way to seek guidance and understanding of their destinies. An English translation was created in 1998 for “Anthology of Ancient Greek Popular Literature” by William Hansen which I’ve linked here in case you wish to purchase for yourself.
Bibliomancy Techniques, Methods and Practice
I wanted to provide a few different ways to give this a try. I’d 100% recommend keeping a book specifically for this practice, so find one filled with motivational quotes or specific-to-your-query solutions inside, and keep it close. Alternatively, just give it a go the next time you stumble upon a library and have some time. I’d love to hear your experience with this, so don’t hesitate to drop a comment below about it!
Choosing the Right Book
The first step in Bibliomancy is selecting a book that resonates with you. It could be a cherished favorite, a spiritual text, or any book that holds significance for you. You could even use one of the books from the Sacred Texts list above. Trust your intuition and choose a book that feels like it holds the answers you seek.
Using Dice, a Number Generator, or Tarot
To determine which page, line, or paragraph to read from, you have a few options. One method is using dice or a number generator to generate random numbers. Assign a range of numbers to pages, lines, or paragraphs in your chosen book, and let chance guide you. Alternatively, you can use tarot cards to determine the page, line, or paragraph to read from, allowing the cards to guide your selection. A Major Arcana card could be a chapter, for example, and the Minor Arcana card could be how many pages from that first page.
Single Book Method
In the single book method, you open your chosen book to a random page and let your finger land on a line or paragraph. Trust your intuition to guide you towards the most relevant passage. This approach is great for quick, spontaneous answers to specific questions or situations.
Book Shelf Method
If you have a collection of books available, the bookshelf method can provide broader guidance. Stand in front of your bookshelf and focus your intention on the question or situation at hand. Allow your intuition to draw you towards a particular book. Take that book, open it to a random page, and choose a line or paragraph. This method can provide a more expansive perspective.
Blind Pick A Line
With this method, you open your chosen book to a random page and select a single line that catches your bodies attention or your hand. Trust your intuition as you find the part your need with your hand, then read the line and reflect on its meaning. Sometimes, a single line can hold profound wisdom and serve as a powerful point of reflection.
Pick A Paragraph
Similar to the previous method, open your book to a random page, but this time, select an entire paragraph that resonates with you. Allow the words to speak to you, and reflect on their deeper significance in relation to your question or situation. Paragraphs can offer more detailed insights and guidance, and it’s a great way to get specific.
Sentences That Stand Out Intuitively
In this approach, you open your book to a random page and read through the text until a sentence catches your attention intuitively. It could be a sentence that stands out due to its relevance, symbolism, or emotional impact. Trust your intuition to guide you towards the sentence that carries the message you need to receive.
The key to a successful Bibliomancy reading lies in trust and openness. Approach this practice with a receptive mind and heart, allowing the words and symbols to inspire your intuition and provide meaningful guidance. Embrace the serendipity and synchronicity that arises from the pages of your chosen books.
May this journey into Bibliomancy be filled with discovery, wisdom, and a deep connection to the knowledge and insights that await you. Happy divining, babe! Until next time xox
- I’ve created a fun bibliomancy worksheet for you that you can use in your practice – download here
- Bible, Quran, I Ching, Talmud, Bhagavad Gita, Torah, Book of the Dead, Pāli Canon, Avesta all available at local libraries. Use them, as they are an amazing source of support.
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