2nd Annual “Experiment in Bibliomancy” – Song of Ice and Fire Edition!

Two years ago, inspired by my fellow blogger Nina at Multo(Ghost) and by reading a short story by M.R. James, I decided to give Bibliomancy a try. (What exactly is Bibliomancy? In the simplest terms, Google reveals that it is “foretelling the future by interpreting a randomly chosen passage from a book, especially the Bible.)

For my original post, please look here. Also see my prior post just yesterday to see how I made my selections this time. I received no “at large” questions from my vast readership, so all three questions are my own personal enquiries of the oracle…
QUESTION 1: should I continue my chess “comeback” (ha! that sounds pretentious), and should its continuation be contingent upon how well I do at next week’s 74th Indiana State Championship?

BACKGROUND: Starting In August of this year, I started playing in a few chess tournaments again (and even doing a little chess study when time allows). I say “again” because from – as a kid in the 70’s until 2005 – I was once very active in tournament chess, earning the “Expert” title (just below master) in the U.S. Chess Federation. I even was editor of the magazine “Chess in Indiana” for several years. I’ve had some success (and only one really bad game) in the three tournaments I’ve played so far in this “comeback.” My friends and I even won the state team championship about a month ago in Terre Haute. I don’t really have the time to spend on chess that the game demands (at least if you want to be good, which I do) so I don’t really know why I’ve started playing again. Probably as an escape from the mental drudgery of my job is as good a guess as any.

TEXT (From A Feast for Crows)

Arya squirted past Greenbeard so fast he never saw her. “You’re a Murderer!” she screamed. “You killed Mycah! Don’t say you never did! You murdered him!”

On first glance, there’s not much here to work with. One thing I might take from this is that “don’t say you never did” could be seen as an exhortation that I cannot deny I was once a pretty respectable tournament player (well, for the chess backwaters of Indiana anyway). The more I think of it, the more I’m talking myself into it. Chess is also certainly not a violent sport, but one does sometimes say things like “oh, I killed him in that Budapest Gambit variation” and so forth. Also, I can focus on the name Mycah here. One of my main local rivals since 1993 (actually a friend and frequent teammate too) is named Mike, and his last name starts with an H. Though he’s a higher-rated player than I, when I was in my peak playing days I had two very memorable wins against him, one clinching a tournament win for me and the other one of the most “artistic” and picturesque attacks I’ve ever pulled off against a worthy opponent. The Fire and Ice bibliomantic oracle is essentially saying to me, “Don’t deny your nature. You were once a strong player – stop denying this fact and play!” I don’t know if I received any guidance on whether my continuance should be based on my performance either, but the gist of the message seems to say that doesn’t matter.

Okay, on to question 2:

QUESTION 2: Any ideas on the proper use of my recent modest inheritance windfall?

BACKGROUND: I had an uncle pass away much earlier in the year, and it turns out I am a beneficiary in his will, inheriting 5% of his estate. The money isn’t a life-changing amount to me, but it is enough to “do something with” if I just had an idea what that something is…

TEXT: (from A Feast for Crows again)

Aggo helped Dany down from her litter. Strong Belwas Was seated on a massive piling, eating a great haunch of brown roasted meat. ’Dog,’ he said happily when he saw Dany. ‘Good dog in Astapor, Little Queen. Eat?’ He offered it with a greasy grin.”


Woo boy. This is gonna be tough. Okay, so after a few minutes of thought, though, I may have come up with something. Strong Belwas offers something to Daenerys, but it is something “she’s had before” and doesn’t feel like eating it now because it reminds her of her Unsullied and ‘their stupid puppies.’ The key for my question here, I think, is what is offered maybe shouldn’t be accepted for her personal use. I actually have thought of, rather than using it myself, making some kind of donation with at least some of my inheritance since I’ve done nothing to really “earn” the money. thats probably about as good as I’ll do with this one. On a personal, nearly coincidental note, however, this passage did cause me to look up the word “haunch” to confirm its meaning. The reason I did so was because my Uncle Howard was always so fond of “drumsticks” whenever we were anywhere that served chicken. I wondered if a drumstick could loosely be considered a haunch, but alas no, not exactly. A drumstick would be the lower leg while a “haunch” refers to an upper leg. A near miss, though. 🙂

And, finally…

QUESTION 3: Should I pursue further involvement in the “literary scene” creatively or philanthropically, or both?

BACKGROUND: Probably like many bloggers, I often wonder if I should try some more creative writing. My few attempts along these lines have usually sputtered out or produced something for which the quality is not acceptable to even my low standards. With the annual NaNoWriMo coming up (actually starting today I guess), last week I went back and read the about five-thousand-ish words I got down on my last attempt. While reading I found myself thinking, “You know, this actually isn’t that bad…” (Completely objectively, of course) so once again I start to wonder… Regarding philanthropy, I’ve made some modest but not insignificant donations the past year and a half to some worthy local projects. One of which is a new anthology of “Mythic Indy” stories that I’m excited about. (I’m sure I’ll have more on this when the book is published soon)

TEXT: (from A Clash of Kings)

“‘Daughter?’ Catelyn was horrified.


Ouch. Really tough. I groaned when I saw I had selected this ultra-brief passage, but I can’t change the rules mid-stream because I don’t like the answer, can I? (As I’m randomly selecting a page for these, before I open the page I ’randomly’ decide “I’ll take the second paragraph on the left hand side, or the first “full” paragraph on the right, etc. And this is what I get?! But hey, no one said this was going to be easy.) I think the only way I can go is to use what I know from the context of the series. This scene is where Catelyn first meets Brienne of Tarth, the Amazon-like woman who fights like a man. Those familiar with the series know that Catelyn shows empathy for Brienne and her situation as one not accepted for who she is, in short, a misfit. A loose interpretation I could make is that I should take the role of Catelyn and support, in whatever ways I might be able to, those less accepted (“indie?”) local authors. I’ve read and posted about several small-press projects and authors in the past so, per my interpretation of the bibliomantic oracle, will continue to do so.

Just as I did the last time I tried this, I found Bibliomancy to be a fun exercise which forced me to think about connections and maybe stretch my imagination a bit in order to build bridges to make the passages chosen “fit” somehow into my questions. I urge you to give it a try yourself and let me know how you do. Do I believe Bibliomancy is an effective way to gain advice and foretell possible futures? No, I don’t. This exercise was for entertainment purposes only. 🙂

What about you? Have you ever tried Bibliomancy? What levelof success did you have with this practice?

My 2nd “Annual” Experiment in Bibliomancy is…tomorrow!

A couple years ago, after re-reading one of my favorite M.R. James stories, “The Ash Tree,” I was reminded of the “lost art” of bibliomancy and wrote the blog post found here.  Re-reading it this week, I realized that I had threatened to make my “Experiment in Bibliomancy” an annual November 1st event and – promptly forgot about it. So, I’m bringing it back tomorrow!

What exactly is Bibliomancy? In the simplest terms, Google reveals that it is “foretelling the future by interpreting a randomly chosen passage from a book, especially the Bible.” The protagonist of M.R. James’s “The Ash Tree” uses the Bible, but for my purposes last time I just looked for “the biggest book I could find,” which happened to be a multi-thousand page ebook of the complete works of Jack London.

This year, it will be the “Song of Ice and Fire Edition,” as I will use the text of the first three books in that series as my source for “random access” quotations. I’ll first start each randomization in book 1 randomly picking a page and looking at the length of the first word on the page 1-letter word sends me to the first book, 2-letter word to the second, 3-letters to the third, 4-letters back to the 1st book, 5-letters to the second and so on. I’ll be asking three questions. And no, I haven’t decided what they will be yet. Mine probably will be personal, but maybe just one could be an at-large question someone suggests here in the comments, or a political question like who will the next president be, or some other one related to current events. Any ideas to help me out? Have YOU ever tried Bibliomancy? What book or books did you use? Last time, I mentioned I might use Bartlett’s Quotations the next time around, but I fear that makes things to easy for the “bibliomancer” to interpret…
Image below found here

Experiment in Bibliomancy


Are you familiar with the term “bibliomancy?” I was probably in my thirties when I first came across it. I was going through an M.R. James reading phase, and was devouring his various ghost stories, quite greedily too, if the truth must be known. In his famous story, “the Ash Tree,” the character Mr. Crome is seeking on guidance on how to deal with the supernatural goings-on at Castringham Hall, picks up a bible and attempts the “old and by many accounts superstitious practice of drawing the sorts.” By this, the character means randomly opening the book and pointing his finger at the text to gain answers to questions that have been posed. The results of this practice in “The Ash Tree” are spot-on (once we later finish with the whole story) but I suspect some “literary license” was invoked to make them so.

(Below: MR James – A Titan of the Ghost Story genre)


Roughly defined, bibliomancy is “the use of books in divination,” and it seems that “sacred books” are preferred, though not required. I was reminded of this practice a few days ago, by a post by Nina at her Multo(Ghost) blog. She used a non-sacred text (as I did in the experiment I attempted on 11/1) and shared some of the results. I was surprised out how relevant the answers she got could be interpreted, and when I inquired if they were all the result of her “first cast” she elaborated that she had asked several other questions in addition to the three she wrote about and only shared the most reasonable. I decided to be harsher in my approach, giving only three chances. I chose for a text, my electronic copy of Jack London’s complete works. Checking in at just over 8,000 pages, it allowed me to pick random pages by dragging the progress bar back and forth a bit and then alighting wherever it landed. Here are my results:

Question 1: Should I try again to do this NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) thing, which I have failed at twice already?

“Every feature of the man told the same story, from the clear blue eyes to the full head of hair, light brown, touched with grey, and smooth parted and drawn straight across above the domed forehead.” (From the story “By The Turtles of Tasman”)

Analysis: Not that good of a “hit” unless I focus only onthe first few words “every feature of the man told the same story.” I could interpret this as either meaning 1) if I try again, it’ll be just the same old story of failure to stick with it or 2) My imagination is not robust enough to produce a high volume of creative output – all my stories are the same. Interesting…

Question 2: what should I do about my long standing Colts season tickets agreement?

“He was splendidly muscled and hard as steel, and there were innumerable stories in circulation among the fisher-folk regarding his prodigious strength. He was as bold and dominant of spirit as he was strong of body, and because of this he was widely known as ‘The King of the Greeks.'” (From the story “The King of the Greeks“)

Analysis: (background) I have shared 4-6 Colts tickets with a friend for many years. They are in her name so it has always been a handshake agreement. Frankly, I’m getting burned out and also more sensitive to the outrageous cost and financial impact. I’m thinking about making this my last year. Again not a very specific hit, but I found it interesting that the passage could be said to describe a promising athlete (Andrew Luck?) but he is described in the past tense (Peyton Manning?). Unfortunately, I don’t think it provides much in the way of advice on what to do – unless it is meant to remind me that the new “Luck Era” we are entering into is not something to be missed? Hmm…

Question 3: Any advice for the focus of my blog in 2014?

“Gradual as was my development as a heavy drinker among the oyster pirates, the real heavy drinking came suddenly, and was the result, not of desire for alcohol, but of intellectual conviction” (from the novel “John Barleycorn”)

Analysis: Now this one was interesting. I have gotten more and more involved in the book blogging community (clearly, these are the “oyster pirates?”) the past few years, and my progress has been quite gradual. I have often had the sense that I am in effect building toward something of a critical mass where the blogging will lead to something else. This may come suddenly (as the heavy drinking does in the text), I don’t know. It’s hard to spend too much time on blogging, but it IS true that it is somewhat hard to define “intellectual conviction” that drives me to continue.

So, all in all, a fun experiment that perhaps I shall repeat some day (maybe I’ll make it a November 1st tradition?). I think the benefit of the practice lies in how it nudges you to think a little abstractly about your questions in order to bring them into range of the text randomly chosen. The forging – or attempt at forging – those links was a pleasant mental exercise.

What about you? Have you ever heard of – or attempted – bibliomancy? Why don’t you give it a try and share your results on your blog. Leave a link in the comments if you do…

<Below: an ancient bibliomancer? (From an interesting blog post at New World Witchery  )>