Making predictions by reading sortes virgilianae; Huh?

It started with Thomas Chatterton, a poet and forger, who committed suicide in 1770 at the age of 17. It was a short, but interesting life.

In Peter Ackroyd’s novel Chatterton, in which some intrepid souls belive they have discovered evidence suggesting Chatterton never committed suicide, but lived long and forged poems attributed to other famous poets, such as William Blake, I came across this phrase ‘sortes virgilianae.’ I am at once, both impressed by writers who use phrases and words that force me reach for my dictionary to discover the meaning, thus furthering my knowledge, and irritated by the writers flaunting their intellect by using words and phrases that impress critics and intelligentsia and make me fell stupid in the process. I can feel stupid on my own, thank you very much.

If you did not tap or click sortes virgilianae I quote from Wiki, ” The Sortes Vergilianae (Virgilian Lots) is a form of divination by bibliomancy in which advice or predictions of the future are sought by interpreting passages from the works of the Roman poet Virgil. The use of Virgil for divination may date as early as the second century AD, and is part of a wider tradition that associated the poet with magic.[1] The system seems to have been modeled on the ancient Roman sortes as seen in the Sortes Homericae, and later the Sortes Sanctorum.”

Romans consider poets as diviners and prophets. It was believed that by opening Virgil’s The Aeneid, written between 29-19 B.C. at random and running your finger down the page, then stopping at your pleasure, that reading the next sentence or few would tell your fortune. The emperor Hadrian used it among other Roman emperors.

Sounds better than reading tea leaves.

And in the Middle Ages, it was still though to be a prophetic book and that Virgil was a pagan prophet. And we thought Virgil was merely telling  a story of a Trojan named Aeneas who traveled to Italy and became, in essence, the ancestor of all Romans.

So I thought I would try it. This is the passage that my prophetic finger stopped at:

“Ere now the stout ship of Ilioneus, ere now of brave Achates, and she wherein [121-152]Abas rode, and she wherein aged Aletes, have yielded to the storm; through the shaken fastenings of their sides they all draw in the deadly water, and their opening seams give way.

Well that is an eye opener. Does it mean I should yield to the storm? Sounds like the ship might be sinking. So much, if true, for my writing career.

This is where reading leads you with a dictionary at hand. But what choice does one have?

“I don’t think writers should write about answers. I think writers should write about questions.”
Paul Haggis

Virgil would agree.

I don’t think you will need a dictionary for any of my e-novels and short stories; there is a built in dictionary with e-books.

Thanks for reading.
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