This blog turned 3 years old on August 6. Tradition dictates that I mark the occasion by consulting the Virgilian lottery, a form of soothsaying where you open Virgil’s works at random and whatever passage you land on tells your fortune.
Frankly, I feel kind of trapped by the custom. I don’t own a copy of Virgil’s complete works, so I have to use Robert Fagles’s English translation of The Aeneid every year. And I mean, I like The Aeneid and all, but enough to feature it four times now? When Barbra Streisand has only had a post dedicated to her once?
Plus, I always feel compelled to describe where the year’s chosen Aeneid passage comes in the epic tale so that you’re not completely lost, but I didn’t start this blog about my belongings in order to engage in textual exegesis. This is supposed to be about using, like, a fork as a writing prompt so that I can yammer on about my childhood.
On the other hand, I am loath to abandon an established ritual even if it’s unenjoyable and probably pointless (I am a practicing Christian, after all), so let’s just get this over with, okay?
Our Aeneid passage for 2022—chosen by closing my eyes, flipping open the volume, and pointing—comes from Book Six, in which the poem’s hero, Aeneas, journeys to the kingdom of the dead. Since we’re seeking news about my future here, I don’t like the sound of that already.
Worse, the stanza fate selected for me contains a description of Rhadamanthus, who’s charged with devising punishments for the wicked in the Underworld, and the avenging Furies, who carry out those punishments. So that can’t be good.
As Aeneas’s Underworld guide, the Sibyl, explains in the passage in question:
Here Cretan Rhadamanthus rules with an iron hand, censuring men, exposing fraud, forcing confessions when anyone up above, reveling in his hidden crimes, puts off his day of atonement till he dies, the fool, too late. That very moment, vengeful Tisiphone, armed with lashes, springs on the guilty, whips them till they quail, with her left hand shaking all her twisting serpents, summoning up her savage sisters, bands of Furies.
If this is a vision of my future, it’s hard not to interpret the forecast as stormy with a chance of serpents, no?
Fortunately, the Virgilian lottery’s record of accurately predicting what will happen to me has so far been middling at best.
The first passage I randomly selected, in 2019, promised me a chariot and fire-breathing horses. The scrap of verse for 2020 had to do with grief-stricken “shrilling wails” piercing the night (which, okay, does sound kind of 2020-esque, I’ll grant you). And last year’s fortune gave the impression that I’d be taking a trip to Italy in the near future.
With two of the three predictions (regarding Italy and the fame-belching ponies) being way off, that gives the lottery an accuracy rate of 33%.
Now that I think of it, that does seem alarmingly high, given that we’re talking about the chances of Rhadamanthus meting out my comeuppance by this time next year.
But as with all prophecies, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.