Thursday, January 17, 2013


Meaning: divination by a randomly selecting a line from a text. The OED says:
Divination by lines of verse in books taken at hazard.
Hazard is of course being used to mean chance, although I like the idea that you have to consult a text while in danger.  Methods range from opening a book to a random page, balancing it on its spine and allowing it to fall open, and waiting for a book to fall onto the floor and seeing where it opens when you pick it up.

Usefulness: 1 (I've mentioned the sortes virgilianae before, and it would appear that where there is an important text of some kind, people will use it in this way. I've just tried it with Shakespeare's Complete Works* and got Richard II: "The wind sits fair for news to go to Ireland. But none returns." Make of that what you will.)

Logofascination: 1 (Sticho- is from the Greek stikhos which meant row, line or verse, and turns up in acrostic** and my new favourite word, stichology, the science or theory of metre in poetry.)

In the wild: There are a number of websites which provide stichomancy, but I quite like this one, which uses literature and poetry rather than sacred texts.

Degrees: 1

Connections: n/a

Which is used in: The -mancy chapter, G&P Book the Third, XXV: In which Panurge consulteth Herr Trippa.
By a sibylline stichomancy.
It's interesting that Rabelais doesn't mention a text, but rather the Sibyl. Cotgrave defines sticonomantie (even though Rabelais has stichomantie) as divination by words written on tree-bark.  There is perhaps an allusion here to the sycomancy episode which occurred earlier in Panurge's quest.

*I should have used Rabelais!
**The other half of which was discussed here.

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