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Posted Under Magic & Ritual

A Sorcerer in the Library: An Introduction to Integer Bibliomancy

Old Books and Candle

Divination is the manifestation of the human yearning to discern the seemingly indiscernible. The diviner attempts to forge a connection between themselves and the totality of the conscious multiverse of which they are a facet, using this connection to glimpse a wisdom beyond the current of conscious thought. This can be done using any number of the myriad tools designed across the ages for this purpose. Divinatory tools are catalysts, sparks to light the flame of intuition that represents a connection to the underlying thought pulse of divinity that comprises the interconnected network of being. Many divinatory tools have been devised throughout history, from throwing bones, to runes, to elaborate tarot and oracle decks. In this article I will introduce you to another, one of my personal favorites, integer bibliomancy.

Bibliomancy is the art of divining through seeking passages in books. At its most simple form, this can be done by simply approaching a bookshelf and picking up whatever book calls to you, then opening to a page and reading the first sentence that your eyes land upon. This sentence is then interpreted in the context of your life, or the specific question you may have had in mind. Like most divination, bibliomancy is predicated upon an acknowledgement of the tenuous interplay of chaos and consciousness. This is to say that what some might interpret as a sheerly random event is, through the lens the diviner, viewed as directed by an unseen consciousness or current of causality. Whether the diviner defines this as a force of fate, the will of a god or gods, or another power entirely, is up to their interpretation.

Integer bibliomancy differs from the simple bibliomancy described above insofar as it incorporates another method, namely the generation of random numbers, to allow for more complex messages to be received. There are two ways in which these numbers can be generated: analog or digital. In an analog format, one uses a ten-sided die marked with numbers 0-9. Such dice can be found in most game stores, or online. In a digital format, one uses a random number generator such as the one freely available through Google, usually through a browser on their phone. Using one of these methods, the diviner will generate random numbers to locate a book, a page, a sentence, and even down to a word if desired.

Integer bibliomancy is best done with a whole shelf of books, and as such the bookshelf is the unit of organization for a bibliomancer. While it can be beneficial and rewarding to keep a curated shelf of books for this purpose, it is also an excellent idea to practice this art at your local library. In a library you can enjoy a silent meditation followed by a walk around the stacks until a particular shelf calls to you. Once you have a shelf in front of you, you can begin. It is best to keep a piece of paper and pen or pencil with you to log the steps of your divination.

The first step of integer bibliomancy is to count the shelves in front of you that you can easily reach. In your mind, number these shelves from top to bottom beginning with the number one. Now, you must ask yourself whether you are looking to do a coarse divination or a fine divination. In a coarse divination, you are looking for one sentence in a book. In a fine divination, you are looking for individual words to compose a unique sentence.

If you are enacting a fine divination, you will need to determine how may words will be in your sentence. This is done by rolling your ten-sided dice twice and adding the numbers, or by using your random number generator to generate a number between one and twenty. Note this number on your sheet of paper.

The next step is to generate a number to select the shelf of your book. Let's say you have four shelves, as I do in the living room bookshelf that I use for this purpose. You will either roll your ten-sided die, re-rolling if you roll an invalid number, or use your random number generator to generate a number between one and four. Once you have the shelf number, you will count the number of books on that shelf and make mental note of their number from left to right.

You will now use your ten-sided die in a different manner, rolling once for the tens place and once for the ones place. For instance, if you have seventeen books on your shelf, you will roll once on your ten-sided dice for the ones place and once for the tens place. Since the one place has valid options between zero and seven, you will roll it once and reroll on an invalid number. Since the tens place only has two options, zero and one, you may wish to divide the die in half and say a roll of zero through four equals zero and a roll of five through nine equals one. This will generate a two-digit number. You will then select the book of the corresponding number. Alternatively, you can generate a random number on your phone between one and the total number of books on the shelf.

Upon selecting your book from the shelf, make note of the number of pages. Much in the same way that you generated the number to select your book, you will generate a number to select the page. You will roll a ten-sided die once for each number place, since there is a zero on the ten-sided die it is possible to get any number combination from 000 to 999. On an invalid page number, you will reroll. Again, you can also use your random number generator to generate a number between 1 and the total number of pages. This will have generated your page number.

Next, you will select the sentence. This next step is the final step if you are engaging in the coarse method. Count the sentences on your page. You will now generate a number using the same method in which you generated the page number, by either rolling a ten-sided die for each place in the total possible number or using a random number generator. This is the sentence that comprises the message you are seeking in the coarse method.

In the fine method, you will roll once more, for the word within the found sentence. You will count the words in the sentence you located and roll or generate the number of the word. Write the word down, as you will now need to start from step one again and repeat each step for as many words as your originally generated word count indicates. This will produce your message. You will likely need to parse this sentence, adding punctuation here and there or eliminating redundant words such as repeating articles for readability.

This method has produced many interesting and compelling messages for me. Of course, it is colored by the vocabulary of the books I use. My own bibliomancy shelf has four shelves. The top shelf is split between books on philosophy and books on physics, the second shelf is entirely books of an esoteric or occult nature, the third shelf is solely poetry, and the fourth shelf contains religious texts. The vocabulary between these books gives a certain character to the messages I receive. For instance, I will likely never receive a message that contains words typically found in cookbooks. I have yet to receive a divinatory revelation about flambé. In this way we exert a small amount of control over the way in which our messages manifest, as when picking a particular design of tarot or oracle deck.

Let us speak for a moment about books. More importantly, perhaps, let us speak about words. Words are the vehicle through which we evoke wonder and meaning in both ourselves and in others. Words are intention, they are nothing less than the spells with which we weave portraits of our existence. If I tell you that I ate an apple yesterday I have transmitted to you the vision of a human being eating a piece of fruit. If I tell you that I ate a crisp, cold apple, its ruddy skin a dappled tapestry of the pinks, reds and golds of sunrise, and it tasted of cold autumn mornings and sweet, lazy Sundays, then I have transmitted a host of sensory information. Books are troves of this information. They contain within them worlds of visions waiting to be sampled, combined, and deciphered. It is for this reason that I believe them to be exemplary vehicles for divinatory insight.

I prefer to use a random number generator for my integer bibliomancy. While I love the tactile sensation of rolling dice, it's simply not as convenient as setting an exact number range on my phone and generating a number. It's also much less conspicuous or distracting when engaging in this practice in a library, a veritable temple of information. While a cellular phone might not seem like a very mystical implement, all things are suffused with the will of existence and electronics are not exempt from this. The invisible current of divinity moves phones as effectively as it does dice.

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About J. R. Mascaro

J. R. Mascaro is a sorcerer and mindfulness advocate who has been working with energy and eidolons since childhood. He has used his ritual work to navigate through life, and it is his desire to share with others the ...

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