The Manuscript Sinaiticus gr. 66 (Rahlfs 1831): A Witness to Greek Geomancy

Maria Tomadaki
January 14, 2022

While preparing a description of a thirteenth-century Psalter manuscript from Sinai, Codex Sinaiticus gr. 66 (Ra 1831), I encountered an unusual commentary on sixteen prognostic figures, formed by dots, in the initial folios of the codex.[i] These folios were probably added to the manuscript during the sixteenth century along with the prognostic figures, which are found on the verso of every folio in the Psalter. The function of these figures is to provide a kind of oracular knowledge to readers who may access it by selecting at random a specific folio of the Psalter.

The commentary and the figures are part of a mantic apparatus applied to the whole manuscript by a practitioner who must have been well acquainted with the medieval method of divination called geomancy. In geomancy, sixteen patterns of dots (called σχήματα in the Greek tradition) were inscribed on a surface such as sand, the ground, or the pages a book. These patterns were considered heavenly signs that offered predictions and advice to those who were seeking for an answer to a personal issue. Each of the figures has a special meaning, offering either a positive or a negative prediction for the life of the individual who consults them. For instance, a person who would like to know whether he is going to conquer his enemies could obtain a prediction for either victory or defeat, depending on the figure that is found on any particular folio of the Psalter. This method was especially popular in the Arabic world and was likely transmitted to the Greeks and to the West through the Arabs. It is therefore not accidental that the application of such a mantic method appears in a Sinaitic manuscript, since the Sinai monastery always had a close relationship with Arabs. The Arabic scribal notes that are often found in the margins of Sinaitic manuscripts attest this close relationship. An interesting question that still needs to be explored is why this method was found in a monastic context? Since the official church condemned the practice of magic, did the monks practice it secretly?[ii]

Also remarkable is that several of the questions and answers contained in the commentary are relevant to kings: for instance, questions about imperial power, the outcome of a war, or turmoil among the populace. The commentary thus provides an indication that this geomantic method was also practiced by emperors and other powerful people.[iii] The style of the commentary is similar to that of medieval horoscopes, and the geomantic symbols recall the zodiac signs. In a recent paper, Florin Filimon offers an edition of another version of this geomantic text, from the Codex Plut. 86.14 (15th c.), and a detailed commentary on it.[iv] All of the textual witnesses that Filimon records contain astrological or magical material and transmit the geomantic commentary independently, without the Psalms. 

To the best of my knowledge, Codex Sinait. gr. 66 is the only known Greek Psalter in which the geomantic method has been applied. But how is this method related to the Psalms, and what is the connection between each figure and specific verses from the Psalms to which it applies? The introduction of the text edited by Filimon explains the steps of this divination practice.[v] According to this version, a practitioner would gradually draw the figure (point by point) based on the mathematical information offered by the initials of the first four lines written on the verso of each folio. If the letter signifies a single number (περιττὸν ἀριθμόν), then the practitioner would add one point under this specific initial, but if there is a letter signifying a paired number (ζυγὸν ἀριθμόν), then the practitioner would add two points. Depending on the figure formed by the dots, each folio acquires a special secret meaning, and the potential reader of the Psalter could decode that meaning with the assistance of the geomantic commentary. It is very useful that the Codex Plut. 86.14 offers a list of the single and paired letters.[vi]

Single letters: αγεζθιλνορτφψ

Paired letters: βδηκμξπσυχω

Let us apply this method to Codex Sinait. gr. 66. If, for instance, we select f. 42v, we will find in the upper left margin the eleventh figure, called “white silver”, which predicts good health and general happiness. This figure is indeed formed by a combination of single and double dots, according to the value of the initial letters of the first four lines (κβλβ) on the folio. 



Cod. Sinait. gr. 66, f. 42v–43r, © Library of the Congress


It is therefore evident that this kind of geomancy is associated with bibliomancy, namely, the use of the scriptural books for obtaining a prediction of “heavenly origin”. Prognostic sentences constitute another kind of bibliomancy. These sentences, which are occasionally found in the margins of Byzantine Psalters, offer advice or a prediction to the reader who opens the manuscript to that specific folio. For instance, if one selects f. 92v of the manuscript Par. gr. 164 (Ra 1140), the following sentence may be read:  θέλειςἐὰν ταχύνῃςγίνεται (“the thing that you desire, if you hurry, it will happen”).[vii]

Below I offer an edition of the geomantic text found in Sinait. gr. 66. Errors in orthography and accentuation have been silently corrected, and the punctuation has been adapted to modern standards. More substantial editorial interventions have been recorded in the endnotes. To conclude, this Psalter is a rare example of applying a mantic apparatus to a holy book, combining elements not only of geomancy, but also of bibliomancy and medieval magic.[viii] Thanks to the digitalization of the manuscript by the Library of the Congress, the modern reader can scroll through the manuscript and have a reading and magic experience similar to that of the medieval readers.

Edition and Translation

Tὸ α´σχῆμά ἐστιν οὕτως· καλεῖται δὲ  ὁδὸς  καὶ  δηλοῖ  μετάβασιν  καὶ  ὁδὸν  ἀπὸ  χώρας εἰς  χώραν, εἰς χαρὰν μετὰ ὠφελείας καὶ ἀλλαγὴν ἀγαθὴν μετὰ κέρδους. μοίως, εἰ δὲ ἐρώτησίς ἐστι[ix] περί τινος ἄλλου πράγματος, <συμφέρει>[x] κατάρξασθαι ὁ ἐρωτῶν ταύτην καὶ κατευοδοσθαι, διότι τὸ σχῆμα ἔστιν εὔοδον εἰς πᾶν πργμα.

The first figure is like this. It is called “road” and signifies a transition and path from one place to another, <a transition> to beneficial joy and to good and profitable change. Similarly, if there is a question about another matter, <it is worthwhile> for the inquirer to initiate <it> and proceed, because the figure is favorable to every circumstance.








Tὸ β´σχῆμα καλεῖται λαὸς καὶ συνάθροισις. Δηλοῖ δὲ λαοῦ συναγωγὴν πολλὴν καὶ ἐχθρῶν βασιλείας καὶ ἀποστατῶνΕἰ δὲ περί τινος ἄλλου πράγματος ἐρωτᾶς, δηλοῖ ὄχλησιν καὶ ταραχὴν καὶ λαοῦ σύναξιν δι τὸ αὐτὸ πργμα, τοῦ μὴ γενέσθαι· κα δικαστήρια καὶ φιλονεικίας καὶ μάχας καὶ λοιπὸν οὐ συμφέρει κατάρξασθαι αὐτό. Εἰ δὲ καὶ ἄρξασθαι καὶ γέννηται ταραχή, τέλος καλὸν οὐ ποιεῖ καὶ πάντα ἔχει βάσανα. Εἰ δὲ διὰ ξενιτευομένου ἢ ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ ὁδεύσαντος εἰς συγκοινωνίαν ἐμπορίας καὶ πραγματείας καὶ εἰς γάμου καὶ εἰς φίλων ἔσμιξιν καὶ εἰς δίκην καλήν.

The second figure is called “population” and “gathering”. It indicates a large assembly of people and of the kingdom’s enemies, as well as of rebels. If you are asking about another matter, it indicates disturbance and a meeting of people for this particular matter, so that it might not happen, as well as courts and disputes and battles, and therefore it is not for your benefit to initiate it. If it is initiated and there is turmoil, it will not come to a good end, and it will bring much suffering. If <for instance> it concerns expatriates or those who are travelling by sea due to commercial and business transport, as well as for marriage, a gathering of friends, and a good trial.  







Τὸ γ´ σχῆμα καλεῖται μεγάλη τύχη. Δηλοῖ δὲ βασιλιάδων ἐξουσίαν καὶ τιμὴν μεγάλη καὶ ἐπικράτησιν ἐχθρῶν καὶ νίκην ἐν πολέμοις. Εἰ δὲ ἐρωτᾶς περί τινος ἄλλου πράγματος, μελέτα καὶ ἔρχεται καὶ ἄρξου <τ…>. Εἰ δὲ διὰ ἀγοράσαντι, καλόν ἐστιν πάνυ κατάρξασθαι, διότι εἰς καλὸν καὶ εἰς τιμὴν ἔρχεται καὶ τέλος ἔχει καλόν. 

The third figure is called “major fortune”. It indicates the power of emperors and great honor and conquest of enemies and victory in wars. If you are asking about another matter, think of it and it will occur; initiate it. If it concerns a purchase, it is indeed good to start it, because it leads to good and to honor, and it has a good end.  









Τὸ δ´σχῆμα {καὶκαλεῖται μικρὰ τύχηΔηλοῖ τιμὴν καὶ ἐξουσίανπλὴν οὐ μεγάλην καὶ ὑψηλήνΔηλοῖ δὲ νίκην ἐχθρῶνΕἰ δὲ ἐρωτᾶς περὶ βασιλείαςοὐ γίνεται· ἑτέρας δὲ τιμῆς οὐκ ἔχεις σὺν τῇ βασιλείᾳΕἰ δὲ περὶ ἄλλου πράγματος ἐρωτᾶς, ποίησαι, συμφέρει κατάρξασθαι τούτου καὶ εἰς καλὸν ἀνέρχεται τέλος.

The fourth figure is called “minor fortune”. It indicates honor and power, but not a great and high one. It also indicates victory over enemies. If you are asking for royal power, it will not take place, and you will obtain neither another dignity nor the kingship. If you are asking about another matter, do it; it is worthwhile to start it, and it will come to a good end.




Τὸ ε´σχῆμα καλεῖται ἀποτυχία. Δηλοῖ δὲ στενοχωρίαν καὶ θλίψιν καὶ ἐμποδισμὸν τοῦ πράγματος τούτου τῆς ἐρωτήσεως. Εἰ δὲ περὶ νίκην ἐχθρῶν, ὑποταγήσεται ὁ ἐρωτῶν τοῖς ἐχθροῖς του καὶ θλιβήσεται καὶ βασανισθήσεται παρ᾽αὐτῶν. Εἰ δὲ ἐρώτησις περὶ νίκην πολέμου, καταλυθήσεται ὁ ἐρωτῶν καὶ αἰχμαλωτισθήσεται καὶ καθόλου ἐπὶ πᾶσι τοῖς πράγμασιν, ὅπου ἐρωτήσει, τὸ σχῆμα τοῦτο δηλοῖ ἀποτυχίαν καὶ θλίψιν καὶ στενοχωρίαν καὶ ἐὰν κατάρχει τι, οὐ ποιεῖ τέλος καλόν.

The fifth figure is called “failure”. It indicates distress and sorrow and prevention of this specific matter to which the question refers. If there is <a question> about victory over enemies, the inquirer will be subjugated by his enemies and will be oppressed and tortured by them. If <there is> a question about victory in war, the inquirer will be destroyed and captured, and in every matter about which he is asking, the figure indicates failure and sorrow and distress, and if he initiates anything, it will not make for a good end. 








Τὸ στ´σχῆμα καλεῖται ἐπιτυχία καὶ χαρμονή. Δηλοῖ δὲ χαρὰν μεγάλη καὶ θυμηδίαν καὶ εὐφροσύνη<ν>[xi] καὶ τιμὴν καὶ ὕψωσιν καὶ ἀνάβασιν καὶ πλοῦτον. Εἰ δὲ ἐρωτᾶς περὶ νίκης ἐχθρῶν, νικήσει ὁ ἐρωτῶν, εἰ δὲ περὶ πολέμου, νικήσει τοὺς ἐχθρούς, ἤγουν τὸν πόλεμον καὶ ὑποτάξει. Eἰ δὲ περὶ ἀρρωστίας, ὑγείαν δηλοῖ καὶ ἐλευθεροῦται τῆς νόσου. Εἰ δὲ περὶ ἄλλου τινὸς πράγματος ἢ τιμῆς, γενήσεται. Eἰ δὲ περὶ παιδοποιΐας, ποιήσεται καὶ ἔστιν ἄρσεν{ι} καὶ ἁπλῶς πάντα εἰς χαρὰν καὶ εὐφροσύνη<ν>[xii] ἵστανται καὶ τέλος καλόν.

The sixth figure is called “success” and “delight”. It indicates great joy and gladness and cheerfulness and honor and exaltation and ascent and wealth. If you are asking about victory over enemies, the inquirer will win; if <he is asking> about war, he will conquer his enemies, that is, <win> the war and subdue them. If <he is asking> about a disease, it signifies “health”, and he will be freed from the disease. If it is about another matter or dignity, it will be obtained. If it is about begetting, it will happen and the <child> will be a boy, and simply everything will result in joy and gladness and a good end.








Τὸ ζ´σχῆμα καλεῖται τάφος καὶ φυλακή. Δηλοῖ δὲ ἀποτυχίαν τῆς ἐρωτήσεως. Εἰ δὲ περὶ πολέμου, κυριευθήσεται ὁ ἐρωτῶν καὶ ὑποταγήσεται[xiii] ὑπὸ τῶν ἐχθρῶν αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς φυλακὴν καὶ δεσμὸν πειρασθήσεται. Εἰ δὲ περὶ ἀρρωστίας, μακρονοσεῖ ὁ ἀρρωστῶν καὶ ὕστερον τελευτήσει. Καὶ ἁπλῶς πᾶσα ἡ ἐρώτησις εἰς λύπην καὶ ἀποτυχίαν καθίσταται τούτου τὸ τέλος.

The seventh figure is called “tomb” and “prison”. It signifies failure of the question. If it is about war, the inquirer will be captured and subjugated by his enemies, and he will be placed in prison and in chains. If it is about sickness, the ill person will have a long-lasting disease and afterwards will die. And simply every question, as well as its outcome, leads to sadness and failure.









Tὸ η´σχῆμα καλεῖται πλοῦτος καὶ εὕρεσις. Δηλοῖ δὲ χρημάτων καὶ πλοῦτου εὕρεσιν καὶ ὕψωσιν καὶ ἀνάβασιν. Εἰ δὲ περὶ νίκης ἐχθρῶν ἐρωτᾶς, νικήσει ὁ ἐρωτῶν καὶ ὑποτάξει τούτους. Εἰ δὲ περὶ πολέμου ἐν εἰρήνῃ, ὑποταγήσονται οἱ ἐχθροὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ προσελεύσονται αὐτῷ. Εἰ δὲ περὶ ἀρρωστίας, ὑγιαίνει ὁ νοσῶν. Εἰ δὲ περὶ τεκνοποιΐας, γενήσεται. Εἰ δὲ περὶ τοῦ ἐὰν ποιήσει πολλὰ χρήματα, κτήσεται πολλὰ καὶ πλουτήσει καὶ ἁπλῶς οἷα ἂν εἴη ἡ ἐρώτησις εἰς καλὸν καταντᾷ τέλος. Εἰσοδικὸν ἐστὶ καὶ εἰς εὐοδίας[xiv] καὶ εἰς συγκοινωνίαν καλὸν καὶ διὰ ξενιτεύσαντος καλὸν ἔχει <τέλος>.

The eighth figure is called “wealth” and “finding”. It signifies finding wealth and money and exaltation and ascent. If you are asking about victory over enemies, the inquirer will subdue them. If it is about war in times of peace, his enemies will be subjugated, and they will surrender to him. If it is about a disease, the sick person will recover. If it is about begetting, it will happen. If it is about the acquisition of a lot of property, he will gain much and will become rich, and, simply speaking, every question comes to a good end. <This figure> provides entry and is good for journeys and for transport, and it has a good end for an expatriate.  




Τὸ θ´ σχῆμα καλεῖται ἀγαθὸς πόλεμος καὶ νίκη πολέμου. Δηλοῖ δὲ ἐπιτυχίαν τοῦ πράγματος ἐν ὧ ἐρωτᾶς. Εἰ δὲ περὶ ἐχθρῶν, νικήσεις αὐτοὺς καὶ ὑποτάξεις. Εἰ δὲ περὶ ἀρρωστίας, ὑγιαίνει<ς>.[xv] Εἰ δὲ περὶ τεκνοποιΐας, γενήσεται· εἰ δὲ περὶ συναλλάγματος, γενήσεται. Δηλοῖ δὲ καὶ περὶ ἐρωτικῆς ἐπιθυμίας, ἥτις καὶ γίνεται καὶ ἐπιτύχει καὶ πᾶσα[xvi] ἐρώτησις εἰς ἀγαθὸν ἔρχεται τέλος. 

The ninth figure is called “good war” and “victory in war”. It signifies success of the matter in regard to which you are asking. If it is about enemies, you will defeat and subdue them. If it is about a sickness, you will recover. If it concerns begetting, it will happen, and if it concerns a marriage, it will take place. It also indicates erotic desire, which will occur and will be successful, and every question comes to a good end.









Τὸ ι´ σχῆμα καλεῖται ἐρυθρός. Δηλοῖ δὲ κοπὴν σώματος καὶ χύσιν αἵματος.[xvii] Δηλοῖ δὲ ἀποτυχίαν τῆς ἐρωτήσεως καὶ παρακαθισμοὺς καὶ ἐπιβουλὰς καὶ τοῦ μὲν σώματος διὰ σιδήρου καὶ χύσιν αἵματος ἔχει τὴν βλάβην. Καὶ εἰ περὶ ἐχθρῶν ἡ ἐρώτησις, νικηθήσεται ὁ ἐρωτῶν καὶ βλαβήσεται καὶ ὑποταγήσεται τοῖς ἐχθροῖς αὐτοῦ. Εἰ δὲ περὶ πολέμου, νικηθήσεται καὶ σουβλισθήσεται τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ, ἀπὸ σπαθίου καὶ κονταρίου ἀποκεφαλισθήσεται.[xviii] Εἰ δὲ περὶ ἀρρωστίας, ἀποθανεῖται ὁ νοσῶν. Εἰ δὲ περὶ κάστρου,[ixx] ἐκβαθύσεται. Εἰ δὲ περὶ πολέμου, ἀναλωθήσεται καὶ πολλὴ χύσις αἵματος γενήσεται.

The tenth figure is called “red”. It indicates cutting of the body and bloodshed. It also indicates failure of the question and sieges and plots and harm done to the body by iron and shedding of blood. And if the question is about enemies, the inquirer will be defeated and harmed and subjugated by his enemies. If it concerns war, he will be defeated, and his body will be pierced, and he will be beheaded by sword and spear. If it is about a disease, the sick person will die. If it is about a castle, it will collapse. If it is about a war, <the inquirer> will be destroyed, and there will be a lot of bloodshed.








Τὸ ια´ σχῆμα καλεῖται ὁ λευκὸς καὶ ὁ ἄργυρος. Δηλοῖ δὲ τελείωσιν τῆς ἐρωτήσεως εἰς χαρὰν γίαν καὶ εὐφροσύνη<ν>,[xx] καὶ εἰ περὶ γάμου συναλλάγματος, γενήσεται ἐν εὐκολί. Eἰ δὲ περὶ πολέμου, συμβίβασιν καὶ καταλλαγὴν δηλοῖ καὶ τέλος εἰρήνης. Εἰ δὲ περὶ ἀρρωστίας τινoς, ὑγιαίνει ὁ ἀρρωστῶν. Εἰ δὲ περὶ τεκνοποιΐας, γενήσεται καὶ ἁπλῶς οἵα ἐστὶν ἡ ἐρώτησις, καλὸν δηλοῖ τέλος περὶ τούτο.

The eleventh figure is called “white silver”. It indicates the fulfillment of the question with pure joy and gladness, and if it is about a marriage agreement, it will be easily made. If it is about war, it means reconciliation and a peaceful end. If it is about a disease, the sick person will recover. If it is about begetting, it will happen, and the figure simply indicates a good end for every question.








Τὸ ιβ´ σχῆμα καλεῖται μικρὸς πόλεμος. Δηλοῖ δὲ ἀποτυχίαν τῆς ἐρωτήσεως καὶ εἰ περὶ ἐχθρῶν, νικήσουσιν οἱ ἐχθροί σου· εἰ δὲ περὶ πολέμου, νικηθήσεται ὁ ἐρωτῶν. Εἰ δὲ περὶ ἀρρωστίας, δηλοῖ παρακοπὴν τοῦ ἐγκεφάλου καὶ θερμασίαν. Καὶ ἁπλῶς εἰπεῖν, εἰς πᾶσαν ἐρώτησιν ἐξάγει εἰς ἐνάντιον τὸ τέλος.

The twelfth figure is called “small war”. It means failure of the question, and if it is about enemies, your enemies will win; if it is about war, the inquirer will be defeated. If it is about a disease, it indicates insanity of the brain and heat. Simply speaking, in every question <the figure> leads to the opposite result. 







Τὸ ιγ´ σχῆμα καλεῖται χάωσις καὶ ἀπώλεια. Δηλοῖ δὲ πλούτου καὶ χρημάτων ἀπώλειαν. Καὶ εἰ περὶ ἐχθρῶν ἐρωτᾶς, ἡττηθήσεται ὁ ἐρωτῶν καὶ ἀπωλεῖται. Εἰ δὲ περὶ πολέμου, αἰχμαλωτισθήσεται καὶ δουλωθήσεται. Εἰ δὲ περὶ ἀρρώστου, τελευτήσει. Εἰ δὲ περὶ ἐγκύου γυναικός, ἐκτρωθήσεται καὶ δουλωθήσεται. Καὶ ἁπλῶς πᾶσα ἡ ἐρώτησις εἰς ἐνάντιον φέρει.

The thirteenth figure is called “chaosis” and “loss”. It indicates loss of wealth and money. And if you are asking about enemies, the inquirer will be defeated and lost. If it is about a war, he will be captured and enslaved. If <the matter> concerns a sick person, he will die. If it is about a pregnant woman, she will miscarry and be enslaved. And simply every question will bring the opposite result.









Τὸ ιδ´ σχῆμα καλεῖται σύνδεσμος. Δηλοῖ δὲ μεσότητα τῆς ἐρωτήσεως καὶ εἰ περὶ ἐχθρῶν ἡ ἐρώτησις, ἡττηθήσεται ὁ ἐρωτῶν, οὐ μὴν δὲ κατακυριευθήσεται ὑπὸ τῶν ἐχθρῶν αὐτοῦ. Εἰ δὲ περὶ πολέμου, ἡττηθήσεται καὶ οὐκ ἀπωλεῖται. Εἰ δὲ περὶ ἀρρώστου, μεγάλως ἀρρωστήσει καὶ ὑγιαίνει. Καὶ ἁπλῶς εἰπεῖν εἰς πάσαν ἐρώτησιν ἐνταῦθα, μεσότητα δηλοῖ τοῦ πράγματος.

The fourteenth figure is called “bond”. It indicates an intermediate state of the question, and if the question is about enemies, the inquirer will be defeated, but he will not be completely dominated by his enemies. If it is about a war, he will be defeated, but he will not be lost. If it is about a sick person, he will be seriously sick and he will recover. And simply speaking, in every question here, it indicates a middle state of the matter.









Τὸ ιε´ σχῆμα καλεῖται κεφαλὴ καὶ δηλοῖ δὲ χαρὰν καὶ εὐθυμίαν καὶ ἐξουσίαν καὶ πρόσθεσιν τιμῆς καὶ προκοπή<ν>.[xxi]Καὶ εἰ περὶ ἐχθρῶν ἐρωτῶσιν, νικήσει ὁ ἐρωτῶν. Εἰ δὲ περὶ ἀρρώστου, ὑγιαίνει. Εἰ δὲ περὶ τεκνοποιΐας, γεννήσεται ἄρσεν. Eἰ δὲ περὶ πολέμου, οὐ παραλαμβάνεται παρὰ τοῖς ἐχθροῖς. Καὶ ἁπλῶς λέγω, πᾶσα ἡ ἐρώτησις εἰς καλὸν τέλος ἐπανέρχεται. Καὶ εἰ συνοικέσιον, ὁ ξενιτευμένος ἔρχεται. Καὶ ὃ ἐλπίζεις, εἰς τόπον τινὰ ἀνέλπιστον,[xxii] γενήσεται καὶ χαρήσεται.

The fifteenth figure is called “head” and signifies gladness and cheerfulness and power, an extra dignity and advancement. And if they are asking about enemies, the inquirer will win. If it is about a sick person, he will recover. If it is about begetting, a boy will be born. If it is about war, he will not be seized by his enemies. And simply speaking, every question turns to a good end. If it is about a cohabitation, the expatriate comes. And everything that you desire, it becomes true and it will be given at an unexpected place.










Τὸ στ´ σχῆμα καλεῖται οὐρά. Δηλοῖ δὲ περικοπὴν τῆς ἐρωτήσεως καὶ διαβολὰς καὶ συκοφαντίας. Καὶ εἰ περὶ πολέμου ἡ ἐρώτησις, νικηθήσεται ὁ ἐρωτῶν καὶ καταισχυνθήσεται. Εἰ δὲ περὶ ἀρρώστου, τελευτήσει. Εἰ δὲ περὶ πολέμου, παραληφθήσεται καὶ ἁπλῶς πᾶσα ἐρώτησις ἐνταῦθα, ἐνάντιον φέρει.

The sixteenth figure is called “tail”. It indicates mutilation of the question and false accusations and slander. And if the question is about war, the inquirer will be defeated and ashamed. If it is about a sick person, he will die. If it is about war, <the inquirer> will be captured, and simply every question here brings the opposite result. 










[i] I would like to thank Richard W. Bishop, Efstathios Kessareas and Athanasios Markopoulos, who carefully read my text and helped me to improve it.
[ii] On the relationship between divination and the Byzantine church, see P. Magdalino, “Prophecy, Divination and the Church in Byzantium”, in P. Magdalino-A. Timotin (eds.), Savoirs prédictifs et techniques divinatoires de l’ Antiquité tardive à Byzance, Seyssel 2019, pp. 185-202. Magdalino also incorporates some examples of Byzantine monks and clergymen who told the future by practicing divinatory techniques of popular prophecy, such as lecanomancy and prophetic vision.
[iii] Cf. Manuel Komnenos’ special interests in astrology.
[iv] The commentary from Cod. Sinait. gr. 66 is composed in a more vernacular language, and its content is often enriched with additional predictive sentences. For Filimon’s edition, see Fl. Filimon, “The Prediction Method by Means of the Holy Gospel and the Psalter: A Late Byzantine Case of a Reassigned Geomantic Text”, in P. Magdalino – A. Timotin, Savoirs prédictifs et techniques divinatoires de l’Antiquité tardive à Byzance, Seyssel 2019, pp. 286-301. This variation from cod. Plut. 86.14 is attributed to the Byzantine emperor, Leo the Wise.
[v] It is possible that a kind of introduction also existed in our manuscript, but if so that specific folio has been lost through time.
[vi] See Filimon (2019: 286).
[vii] For other Byzantine manuscripts that contain prognostic sentences, see the descriptions of Ra 1089, Ra 1171, Ra 7047. For an edition of the prognostic sentences, see G. Parpulov, Toward a History of Byzantine Psalters, ca. 850-1350 AD, Plovdiv 2014, pp. 310-315.
[viii] On prognostication in Byzantium, see M. Grünbart, “Prognostication in the Medieval Eastern Christian World”, in M. Heiduk, K. Herbers and H. Ch. Lehner (eds.), Prognostication in the Medieval World, Berlin-Boston 2021, pp. 153-173. Especially on bibliomancy and geomancy, see M. Grünbart, “Traditions and Practices in the Medieval Eastern Christian World” in M. Heiduk, K. Herbers and H. Ch. Lehner (eds.), Prognostication in the Medieval World, Berlin-Boston 2021, pp. 447-448. I am grateful to Michael Grünbart for sending me his publications. For some other examples of the use of the Psalms for ritual and divinatory practices from Byzantine and Post-Byzantine manuscripts, see M. Zellmann-Rohrer, “‘Psalms Useful for Everything’ Byzantine and Byzantine Manuals for the Amuletic Use of the Psalter”, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 72 (2018), pp. 113-168. I owe this reference to Georgi Parpulov. On Byzantine magic in general, see H. Maguire, Byzantine Magic, Washington D.C. 1995. Relevant to the magical use of the Psalms is also the Sefer Shimmush Tehillim, a Jewish medieval manual, in which each Psalm is associated with a specific magical act and purpose. For its edition see B. Rebiger, Sefer Shimmush Tehillim – Buch vom magischen Gebrauch der Psalmen. Edition, Übersetzung und Kommentar, Tübingen 2010. I owe this information on the Jewish magical manual to Felix Albrecht.
[ix] Post περὶ cod.
[x] This reading derives from Codex Plut. 86.14.
[xi] εὐφροσύνη cod.
[xii] εὐφροσύνη cod.
[xiii] ὑπαγήσεται cod.
[xiv] εὐοδίαις cod.
[xv] ὑγιαίνει cod.
[xvi] πᾶσαν cod.
[xvii] κοπὴ σώματος καὶ χύσις αἵματος cod.
[xviii] ἀποκεφαλισθήσεται in marg.
[ixx] The word is illegible in the manuscript. For this reading cf. the text in Codex Plut. 86.14.
[xx] εὐφροσύνη cod.
[xxi] προκοπὴ cod.
[xxii] ἀνόλπιστον cod.