This ancient form of divination was originally used to determine the guilt or innocence of people accused of sorcery. The suspect was placed in a large set of scales, with the great Bible from the local church placed on the other side. Any subject who weighed more than the great Bible was certainly guilty. Over time, bibliomancy became linked with any fortune telling technique using the Bible. It is also known as Stichomancy and Libromancy.
In another popular form of bibliomancy, the diviner would concentrate on the question. The Bible would be rested on its spine and allowed to fall open. The questioner, with closed eyes, would point to a random passage. It was believed that this passage would apply to the question, although interpretation was sometimes a challenge.
Over time, bibliomancy became associated with other books, not just the Bible. Almost any book would do, although practitioners favored grimoires, text books of Magic. However, bibliomancy has a long and colorful history. Ancient Jews consulted the Old Testament, while followers of Islam used the Koran. The ancient Greeks preferred Homer, while Romans put their faith in the works of Ovid and Virgil. Even the works of Shakespeare have been consulted!
The ancient Chinese also used a form of bibliomancy. Throughout time, readers have gone back to read favorite passages. As a result, books often open to certain pages. Chinese practitioners would use dice, coins, and even yarrow stocks to choose a page at random. They would consult the I Ching for clues to the future.
Virgil’s Aeneid, known as the “sortes Virgilianae”, was commonly used in medieval Europe.
Because of the importance of the Bible to medieval people, a number of legends arose around this book. A pregnant woman could assure a safe delivery by listening to readings from the Bible. A child unable to sleep could be lulled by laying a Bible on its head.