Bibliomancy with Shakespeare at The Free Library - Atlas Obscura

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Bibliomancy with Shakespeare at The Free Library

We'll employ a magician's wisdom to explore a unique collection of rare Shakespearean texts.

It's neither empty praise nor hyperbole to suggest the plays of William Shakespeare have a magic to them. Many scholars of Renaissance and early modern occult philosophy, folklore, and magical practices have explored the Bard's apparent intimate familiarity with astrology, alchemy, humoural theory, and the sorcerous virtues of stones, plants, and animals.

In this talk, professional diviner, historian of magic, and consultant sorcerer, Dr. Alexander Cummins will take us through threads of magic presented in Shakespeare's plays. Dr. Cummins will lead the audience in a divinatory experiment; to use said Complete Works to perform bibliomancy, a practice typically understood as using sacred texts for answers to questions. On the anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, we'll use this form of textual sortilege to seek advice and guidance from the shade of the Bard and the spirits of his writings.

Prospero remarks in The Tempest, "My library was dukedom large enough." We hope to show the specters of Shakespeare's body of work resurrected to illuminate our own concerns, dreams, anxieties, and plans. 

This workshop will explore some of these ways in which various divination tools can be used in operative astrological magic.  Dr. Alexander Cummins, a historian of magic and a practicing geomancer, will teach this form of divination. We'll learn about the history, practice, and magic of this art. Whether you're a professional astrologer, a seasoned card-reader, or a newcomer to divination tools and techniques, this talk will offer you further useful skills and resources for your own practice and understanding. 

The Free Library of Philadelphia's Rare Book Department is among the largest in American public libraries, and exists to serve the people of Philadelphia, as well as the students, scholars, and researchers who use its collections. We will convene in the Elkins Room, a 62-foot-long paneled Georgian room in the third floor dating back to 1949.  The Rare Book Department will also provide you the opportunity to view rare Shakespearean works to supplement your interactive bibliomancy experience with Dr. Cummins!


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