The International Consortium for Research in the Humanities (IKGF at the Friedrich-Alexander-University, Erlangen-Nuremberg) hosted an international workshop on the topic of Jewish Divination in March of 2015. Josefina Rodríguez-Arribas (visiting fellow at the IKGF during 2014–2015) was the convenor of this workshop and participants from Europe, the USA, and Israel came to present new research about Jewish divination and divinatory practices among Jews. Papers were presented by Alessia Bellusci, Charles Burnett, Helen R. Jacobus, Eliezer Papo, Anne Regourd, Shlomo Sela, Michael D. Swartz, Blanca Villuendas Sabaté, and Josefina Rodríguez-Arribas. This workshop was the cradle of this monograph. Most of the participants in the workshop submitted chapters for this book, and a few scholars joined the project a bit later (Dov Schwartz, Joseph Ziegler, and Shraga Bar-On). I thank all of them, both those whose research is reflected in this book, and those who took part in the workshop.
I especially thank Michael Lackner (Director of the IKGF), Klaus Herbers (Deputy Director), Petra Hahm (Administrative Coordinator), Rolf Scheuermann (Research Coordinator), and many other members of the IKGF staff and IKGF fellows of the academic year 2014–2015 for their support and feedback, and for making the workshop and this monograph possible. I have been a researcher of divination for more than fifteen years, and I have never found any other academic context in which the highly charged and imbricated subject of divination has been studied with such respect for this phenomenon and its intriguing persistence and spread throughout time and space. I feel very thankful for having benefitted from the human resources, the interdisciplinary expertises, and the intercultural approaches that are distinctive of the IKGF. Thank you all.
I thank Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum, who joined me as co-editor at the beginning of the long and tough, but exciting, process that is editing a book. Her assistance has been indispensable for a monograph written and edited in English whose authors and editors have, in many cases, a mother language that is not English, but not least for her experience and expertise in Greco-Roman divination and her open-mindeness and curiosity for the subject in general. Last but not least, Dorian and I thank the Brill editors, Albert Hoffstädt, for his wise advice and support in a difficult matter, and Patricia Radder, for her assistance with so many aspects of the editorial process.
To give readers an idea of how the book has been assayed to get the best result for authors, editors, and readers, each chapter has been blind peer-reviewed by at least two scholars with expertise in the corresponding field. Given the nature of some papers and their complexity, sometimes three reviewers were involved. Thus, a considerable number of anonymous reviewers read, corrected, and commented on the chapters in this monograph. The editors want to express their enormous appreciation for these reviewers, who read, at times, some very long papers without any kind of compensation, not even the humble reward of seeing their names here. Thank you all. This volume would have been not possible without your expertise and generosity.
When I was a fellow at the Consortium in 2014–2015, divination in Jewish culture seemed at that moment to be a neglected subject in the research program of the IKGF, while other cultures very close to Judaism, like Arabic, were being studied and, on several occasions, discussed from different methodological perspectives. With the organization of a workshop focused specifically in Jewish divination, I tried to show that divination was not only a practice as common among Jews as it was among the members of other cultures (even though it emerged some times as a controversial subject in historical sources), but I also wanted to explore how Jews who practiced divination developed specific ways of remaining Jewish and making their practices “Jewish.” This was apparent when they appropriated and adapted non-Jewish practices that frequently came from surrounding cultures, most of which dated back centuries.
Dorian and I hope this monograph shows a little of the territory that is the practice of divination among Jews (astrology, bibliomancy, physiognomy, dream requests, dream divination, astral magic, etc.) which, despite having been explored for several decades now, is still mapped fragmentarily, with some practices more popular (astrology and astral magic) and some remaining more or less in the shadows or completely unexplored (palmistry, geomancy, metoposcopy, onomancy, palmomancy, etc.). This monograph does not claim to make a full map of the territory; there are still many unexplored sources, and perhaps more work to be done on the differences between forms of popular and learned divination and their relationships with magic, mysticism, the so-called Hermetic sciences, and science in general. Nevertheless, the monograph now in your hands remains a good overview of some specific regions of this immense land.