Thursday, January 15, 2015
Elemental divination with the Odyssey
..So the man prayed
and the god stemmed the current, held his surge at once
and smoothing out the swells before Odysseus now,
drew him safe to shore at the river's mouth.
- Odyssey Book 5, lines 497-500 Fagles translation
This was the result of my morning stoicheomancy.
The term combines the Greek words Greek stoikheion, "element", and manteia, prophecy. Ancient Greeks used this term for a very special branch of bibliomancy or book-dipping: consultation of the works of Homer, considered "elemental" among literature. You open the Iliad or the Odyssey anywhere, and read aloud the first lines that you see. As I opened the Odyssey today, my left thumb fell on the lines I quoted.
I felt a warm shiver as I recognized the blessing. After all his misadventures, shipwrecked Odysseus has been washed up safe on the shore of Phaecia, the land of a people of dreams. Princess Nausicaa, alerted by a dream in which the goddess Athena speaks to her in the guise of a girlfriend, will meet the naked stranger and give him safe haven.
Art: "Ulysses and Nausicaa" by Louis Gauffier (1798)