The Sortes Empedocleae

He has the power to speak but not to understand, as a drunken man repeating verses of Empedokles. (Aristotle, Ethics 7.5)

Now they are drawn together by Love, now each is borne apart by the hatred engendered of Strife, and again at another time they are brought together in Unity; these elements never stop changing place and are continuously in motion so it is as if they exist perpetually within an immovable circle. (Fragments of Empedokles)

The following verses should be inscribed on cards or strips of paper. When Empedokles’ guidance is required shuffle the stichoi and then draw an appropriate number (one or three) to receive your answer about the matter. Another method is as follows:

Thoroughly shuffle the deck. Divide the cards into three sections.

These represent:

1. What you desire. (Eros)
2. Conflicts and impediments. (Eris)
3. What needs to be done to obtain your ends. (Harmonia)

Draw three cards from each stack and then interpret.

Shining Zeus.

Desirous of reaching its like.

Sinfully polluted his hands with blood.

The gentle flame has but a scanty portion of earth.

To the lowest depth of the vortex.

Hardly can these things be seen by the eyes or heard by the ears of men.

Water fits better into wine, but it will not mingle with oil.

For the wisdom of men grows according to what is before them.

Do not withhold thy confidence in any of thy other bodily parts.

They wander each alone by the breakers of life’s sea.

But now I shall retrace my steps over the paths I have traveled before.

Some of it still remained within.

A foolish saying which has been vainly dropped from the lips of many mortals.

It is learning that increaseth wisdom.

And do thou give ear, Pausanias, son of Anchitus the wise!

The spine was broken.

Having followed strife and forsworn himself, he must wander.

Eternal and sealed fast by broad oaths.

Each is convinced of that alone which he had chanced upon.

And Iris bringeth wind or mighty rain from the sea.

Copper mixed with tin.

Changing one toilsome path of life for another.

So sweet lays hold of sweet, and bitter rushes to bitter.

Do thou attend to the undeceitful ordering.

One vision is produced by both the eyes.

Solidified by the impact.

Different thoughts ever present themselves to their minds.

It is she that makes them have thoughts of love.

Whence could it come?

All reject him.

Ten thousand sorry matters blunt their careful thoughts.

The same is seen in hollow caves.

And these things never cease continually changing places.

There is an oracle of Necessity.

Wine is the water from the bark, putrefied in the wood.

Know that effluences flow from all things that have come into being.

To keep within thy dumb heart.

Earth increases its own mass, and Air swells the bulk of Air.

Movement and immobility.

And doomed to swift death.

Gave it to swift fire to harden it.

I wept and I wailed when I saw the unfamiliar land.

For it will always be.

Free from human woes, safe from destiny.

The bloom of scarlet dye mingles with the grey linen.

Rejoicing in his circular solitude.

An ancient ordinance of the gods.

But it is hard for men.

They are angered by the assault on their beliefs.

Soon will these things desert thee.

In the fulness of the time set for them by the mighty oath.

This is manifest in the mass of mortal limbs.

See ye not that ye are devouring one another in the thoughtlessness of your hearts?

Thou wilt contemplate these things with good intent and faultless care.

And the black color at the bottom of a river arises from the shadow.

The coming together of all things brings one generation into being and destroys it.

How, too, could it perish, since no place is empty of these things?

Birth and decay.

And many fires burn beneath the earth.

A life that is no life.

Let not the error prevail over thy mind.

Not all at once, but coming together at their will.

What is the way to gain?

As if it were any great matter that I should surpass mortal, perishable men.

And thou shalt learn all the drugs that are a defense against ills and old age.

Speaking in thy pride beyond that which is lawful and right.

Fast from wickedness!

But the hair of hedgehogs is sharp-pointed and bristles on their backs.

There is an opening for understanding.

He does not make clear any cause of necessity.

Clinging Love.

From what honor, from what a height of bliss have I fallen.

Wretched he who has a dim opinion of the gods in his heart.

But the law for all extends everywhere.

In the fashion of a man.

My words have been divided in thy heart.

Casting on the ground libations of brown honey.

And thee, much-wooed.

Aidoneus and Nestis whose tear-drops are a well-spring to mortals.

Yet each has a different prerogative and its own peculiar nature.

When thou so desirest, thou shalt bring back their blasts in turn.

Substance is but a name given to these things by men.

Pierced by the grievous pangs of all manner of sickness.

Come now, look at the things that bear witness.

Crowned with fillets and flowery garlands.

Work the works of peace.

Such are the strifes and groanings from which ye have been born!

What is right may well be said even twice.

Many are the woes that burst in on them and blunt the edge of their careful thoughts!

It divided up to be many instead of one.

Which is the broadest way of persuasion that leads into the heart of man?

They go after me in countless throngs.

There is no discord and no unseemly strife in him.

Severed by cruel Strife.

When the time comes round.

Perishable creatures that appear in countless numbers.

Thou shalt bring back from Hades the life of a dead man.

Honored among all as is meet.

And friendly feelings were kindled everywhere.

But why do I harp on these things?

For out of these have sprung all things that were and are and shall be.

Whence, then, could aught come to increase it?

Behold the rain, everywhere dark and cold.

Her did they propitiate with holy gifts.

When these things have been separated once more.

Thou shalt arrest the violence.

Know this for sure, for thou hast heard the tale from a goddess.

I follow the custom and call it so myself.

Utter a pure discourse concerning the blessed gods.

To the end.

Fools! For they have no far-reaching thoughts.

Stepping from summit to summit.

The contest of Love and Strife

The four roots of all things.

Yea, and the gods that live long lives and are exalted in honor.

For even as they were aforetime, so too shall they be.

In the fashion of the race of wild beasts.

At one time it grew to be one out of many.

Since for thee alone will I accomplish all this.

Lifebringing Hera.

The other grows up and is scattered as things become divided.

Of equal weight to each.

Behold the sun, everywhere.

This was held in the greatest abomination.

Not to travel one path only.

Sleep and waking.


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