It’s in the books

There are times when I think that we need more superstition in our lives. That we need more bibliomancy.

Divination is an old art. The future is an old unknown.

The practice of gaining insight into the future or a question of public or private significance by means of reading a book passage at random is at least as old as Socrates. Lying in prison and waiting to be executed, the Greek philosopher is said to have dreamt a hexameter line from book 9 of Homer’s Iliad (the story is reported in Plato’s Crito) which assured him that his execution would take place in three days’ time. Several Roman emperors hoped to divine future events by interpreting passages from Virgil’s Aeneid chosen at random. Bibliomancy (also known as stychomancy) continued in the Middle Ages both in the Christian and the Arab worlds.

What’s the point of a canonical author if their works can’t help predict the future? If the writing is good, it should be good for soothsaying.

So many books have been written that almost any future course of action has been explored in at least one work of fiction. You will find a script for any unscripted course of action to be taken. The question is finding the right oracle to match the future to the relevant script.

So when bookshops and libraries reopen, grab the lituus (the staff of the Roman augur) and start guessing.

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