22 October 2007

Bibliomancy - divination by the book

The Occult Sciences; A Compendium of Transcendental Doctrine and Experiment (A.E. Waite.)

I found this in A.E. Waite's 'Occult Sciences' (1891) between Belomancy and Capnomancy (divination by smoke) - a method of detecting witches and sorcerers and also using a Bible for prediction etc., Belomancy, by the way, is divination by arrows...

"...Occasionally the forms of divination exceeded the bounds of superstition, and passed into the region of frantic madness. There was a short way the sorcerers which was probably the most potent discoverer of witchcraft which any ingenuity could devise. A large Bible was deposited on one side of a pair of weighing scales. The person suspected of magical practices was set on the opposite side. If he outweighed the Bible he was innocent; in the other case, he was held guilty. In the days of this mystical weighing and measuring, the scales may be truly said to have fallen from the eyes of a bewizarded generation, and to have revealed 'sorcery and enchantment everywhere.'

Bibliomancy, however, included a more harmless practice, and one of an exceedingly simple character. This was the opening of the Bible with a golden pin, and drawing an omen from the first passage which presented itself. Books like the Scriptures, the "Following of Christ," and similar works, abound in suggestive and pertinent passages which all men may apply to temporal affairs, but declares that he had recourse to it in all cases of spiritual difficulty. The appeal to chance is, however, essentially superstitious."
It has been said that the art movement known as Dada was started by someone (Tzara?) opening a Zurich town directory and blindly plonking his figure down against the name of a Swiss burgher called Dada - another dubious example of divination by book.

[I swear I have had some pretty heavy bibles in my time and still have a few in stock that weigh as much as 30 pounds but I have never seen one as heavy as a man.]

VALUE? If you have a clean copy of A.E. Waite's 'The Occult Sciences; A Compendium of Transcendental Doctrine and Experiment' (Kegan, Paul, London 1891) it is worth about £100 but not a great deal more. Waite is not Crowley and this is not one of his most sought after books. The big money with Waite is with his work on Freemasonry and such titles as ' The Book of Black Magic and of Pacts. Including the Rites and Mysteries of Goetic Theurgy, Sorcery and Infernal Necromancy' (Redway 1898). Waite was good on ritual and ceremonial magic but auction records reveal nothing over £100 whereas on ABE you can find some 'advanced' $1500+ prices from dealers patient enough to wait long nights and days for a sale.

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