In September, I was one of five diviners at the Rhapsodomancy event as part of the #90for90 series of events of ninety events in ninety days run by Writ Large Press and DTLab. Rhapsodomancy means divination by poetry; in our version, people from the audience wrote questions on two sheets of paper which they then folded up and put into a hat. There were also five poetry readers for the night and the divination took place between each reading. Once the reader finished, the diviners were called to the stage and questions were drawn from the hat. We then opened up our books at random and read answers from the pages (left and right) that we opened to.
There were a few things that I found interesting about this experience. I had actually brought a Yeats reader that contained more than just poetry, so I also ended up with dramatic selections, as well as some prose, including fiction, autobiographical, and critical writing. Something that surprised me was that although this was a thick book, on multiple occasions I opened to the same page. I know that some might say that could have been the result of previous wear but as far as I know, this was a new book, bought by a friend for her husband and then passed on to me after she discovered he already owned it. I had only recently received it, stuck it on my shelf, and not used it until the night I brought it to divine from.
Another thing that interested me is that I have tried doing bibliomancy before (divination more broadly from a book) and not really had much success with it as applied to my own questions, but the experience of doing it in reference to other people’s questions felt very different, much more powerful and “legitimate” inasmuch as something like this can feel legitimate to a person like myself. I didn’t employ a strict constructionist form of the method, restricting myself to the first passage my eyes alighted on; instead, I opened the book and skimmed the page until I found something that felt like an answer to the person’s question. What surprised me was how much luck I did have at finding something fitting on most occasions, given how many questions were asked.
It also interested me how the different answers from the four or five people answering (there were four regulars and also an additional different person from the audience between each reader) fit together, some serious, some humorous – they seemed to balance each other through no particular effort of our own. It felt generous and consistent with the tone of the series of events, which was about building community among LA writers. I am generally a somewhat skeptical person; I like having fun with this type of stuff without really believing in it, but I think the experience of working with the other diviners did make it feel like whether we were in touch with some source driving/guiding our answers or not, we were at the very least in touch with each other, in a whole being more of the sum of its parts sort of way, and that made it a really special experience for me and I hope for the audience.