Seeing the Signs

April, 2015

Bibliomancy: divination with books

As a writer, I have often gone through periods of writer’s block. Some periods have been worse than other periods. Sometimes I all am able to do is a few lines – maybe an entire paragraph – in my daily journal. Sometimes it’s just jottings in the little notebook I carry with me everywhere I go. But sometimes I cannot produce anything at all. No poetry, no prose, no song, no dance. The merest email is like pulling teeth.

Last month, I wrote about the I-Ching and the only reason I wrote about this subject was because, unable to come up with any ideas at all, I opened up Sasha Fenton’s The Fortune-Teller’s Workbook at random and it just happened to open at page 81 – “The I Ching”. Once again I am at my wit’s end trying to write and so I will write about bibliomancy – the art of finding an answer by opening a book by random.

The first time I had ever heard of this as a divinatory process was when I saw the movie “Running with Scissors”. The characters use the Bible to figure out what to do next in a house where absolutely nothing makes sense (the patriarch of the house looks at his own turds for divinatory guidance). According to Wikipedia, which of course is always taken with a hefty grain of salt, the Bible and the Qu’ran are the most “commonly used”, although of course the Bible forbids divination in general. refers to Bibliomancy as Stitchomancy or Libromancy, both meaning “divination from lines”. also says that the book used must be a “Holy Book” but who gets to decide what’s “holy” and what is not? I have always had problems with these kind of terms

The book I like to use the most is The Norton Shakespeare, based on the Oxford edition, with the complete works of Shakespeare, all the plays, sonnets, commentary, biography and notes. If you can’t find it in here, you’re not going to find it. So here I am, asking the question: Why is writing like pulling teeth lately:
(Closing my eyes and opening the book at random and using my right index finger to find the passage)
The Answer:

“For I must tell you friendly in your ear,
“Sell when you can. You are not for all markets.”
That was Rosalind to Phoebe in “As You Like It”. Act 3, Scene 5 (page 1637)

So maybe what I’m being told is I’m trying too hard. I’m trying to write too much, too many projects at once, too many irons in the fire. I’m not focused enough. And maybe just write and stop trying to be so perfect. Submit my work and stop being so obsessed with it.

Of course in this digital age, there’s a place you can go online if you want the computer to generate a reading for you. Go to and give it a try. There’s only four religions to choose from but it’s still fun. Personally, I think they should add readings from Shakespeare but I’m just a lover of the Bard.


Greenblatt, Stephen, General Editor. The Norton Shakespeare: Based on the Oxford Edition. Londond: W.W. Norton Company, 1997