Canto 20 Inferno: diviners

Dante is still in the circles of the fraudulent, the liars. Here in canto 20 he sees the soothsayers, diviners, fortune-tellers. The heads are wrenched backward. They cannot see in front of them at all. They also cannot speak.

They made their living swindling people into either telling lies about their future or if they did have the gift of foresight, they were still swindlers for telling the divine will should not be done to make a person rich. But mostly if not all fortune-tellers are swindlers.

Usually one who seeks direction from a fortune-teller or diviner or soothsayer is one who has lost faith in God. A continual searcher for something that they will never find. An unconventional guide has an allure to it. What if this person really has a gift and can tell me what I want to hear? What if they can tell me everything about myself?

Soothsayers and diviners claim to speak to spirits and spirits of the dead. As we have seen in the Inferno, many souls in Hell have foresight, speaking of Dante’s exile. But why seek guidance from one who is condemned or a questionable spirit?

Why won’t we listen to God’s word? Truth himself? Christ came and told many people who they were and would become. He knew them. He told the Samaritan woman who she was and everything she had done. Not to condemn, but to transform her whole being. To become a follower of Christ, of Truth himself.

I think as human beings we want unusual ways to make sense of our world. Tarot cards are more like a game that we can manipulate and make sense of our world and what may come about. Reading signs in the stars, tea leaves, other objects. It becomes a way we can interpret our world to our best slant or spin we can put on it. What if this is a spirit, a good spirit telling me what is to come? We want so badly to know what the future holds.

Christ came in the flesh. He came into this matter, this concrete world to transform it. Not to eschew the importance of matter or flesh. Soothsaying is a gnosticism of sorts. Seeking guidance from the immaterial. As thought the immaterial is more wise than the flesh and blood. Yet, Truth himself came in the flesh. The only perfect man who is also God. Shouldn’t we seek our wisdom and guidance from Christ? And who represents Christ in this material world? The church.

I know, how unconventional and boring. The only spirit guiding is the Holy Spirit. When life is so full of hurt and uncertainty, we want answers. We seek who can give us those answers. Something that is alluring and seductive in soothsaying, fortune-telling. I also wonder if the soothsayers, diviners, fortune-tellers are in Hell because they purport determinism. As though what they tell another person is set in stone which actually manipulates the listener. Sometimes making what was said a self-fulfilled prophecy. They are the liars who justify determinism as though a person has no free will. For this, they are silenced with their heads turned backward.


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