Some Common Tools of Divination
Below you will find a listing of the most commonly used tools for oracular work. Take some time to explore the various options and go with what feels right to you. Be aware that sometimes what you feel is absolutely the right option may lead you to something you have more interest and ultimately more engagement in and are better at using. I started with runes, moved to a brief stint with the Oghams and finally settled on the Tarot as my primary tool.
The irony is that at the very beginning of my search into the options, the Tarot was something I had the least interest in and just did not feel anything calling me to its use. With that being said, the experience of trial and error has however, offered opportunities to incorporate some of those tools in ritual or when the Tarot is just not the right source, I have other options I am familiar with that give the information I need in the form I need it. As with everything on this Path, you change, your spiritual nature changes and evolves and so do the tools, interests and those things that enhance and enrich your experience.
I’ve included links to more information on the internet that might prompt a closer look. Enjoy..
” Tarot came to me in early 1970, when a fellow English teacher in the State University of New York offered to read my cards if I would give her a ride home. I remember nothing about the reading except the effect the cards had on me. The pictures, and the stories hinted at in them, and the book of symbolism that went with them totally fascinated me. I found a deck and began to read for my friends, and explore what lay behind the pictures. That exploration continues more than ever”... Rachel Pollack, Author and Tarot Grand Master
Tarot cards are one of the primary tools of Divination used by witches. The visual imagery, the ease of handling and the general interest and curiosity, even among those who would be skeptical of other forms of divinatory practice makes them all the more engaging.
Tarot cards, which were an early form of today’s playing cards, entered Europe in the 14th century. Feliciano Busi described the tarot cards as being “from Saracinia” or Arabia. Then, they were used to play a game called tarocchi. Some theories suggest that tarot cards were created around 1410 to 1430 in Milan, Ferrara or Bologna in northern Italy and that some additional trump cards were later added to the suit. These new cards were known as the triumph cards. They began to be used to play a card game similar to bridge. The game of triumphs gained popularity in the northern regions of Italy and eastern France. The cards underwent certain changes in pictures and symbols depicted on them. Tarot cards soon became popular in Sicily, Austria and Germany. This type of tarot cards exists in the form of fifteen fragmented decks painted in the 15th century for the rulers of Milan … The Tarot: History and Symbolism by R. Place
For More information about the History of Tarot from 1750 to 1980 collected by Mary K. Greer check out:
A good basic deck to start with is the Rider-Waite. Its symbology was created by members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and contains a wealth of esoteric and mystical keys within the visual depictions. Learning the basics of interpretation and symbology using the Rider-Waite deck. Undertaking study of the Tarot and ultimately gaining proficiency in it is a long and methodical process.
In a reading, various spreads (or ways to lay the cards out in a specifically chosen pattern that will assist in obtaining answers to the query) are used depending on the nature of the question. A simple three card spread representing past, present and future can be used for most queries. The more elaborate multi-card spread of the Celtic Cross will give more information that can be gathered together as pieces of a puzzle that will answer the various aspects of what is being questioned.
More about Tarot Spread and suggestions later…
Scrying makes use of the medium of reflection. The intent and focus is directed while gazing into or on a surface that is smooth and often glass like. As you gaze into the surface, shapes and images may form that give answer to the query of intent. Common scrying tools include:
- Crystal Gazing
This is the stereotypical crystal ball that is commonly associated with Witches and Gypsies. Most crystal balls are clear and made of lead crystal, glass, or natural quartz. They are best used for scrying in lighting that is not glaring or at full level. You may also see crystal balls made of obsidian, amethyst or selenite. Just as crystals have specific energies, so will the spheres of these crystals have differing ways of connection to them.
Generally the ball should be 4-5″ in diameter so the surface area is large enough to comfortably maintain focus within. Try not to place your crystal ball where reflections of a lamp will create pockets of unnatural light within it. Holding the sphere in your hands creates a kinetic connection to the crystal and adequate shading for visualization.
- Candle or Fire gazing
In this form of scrying you would look into the central flame of the candle. Observe the shapes that it may take; the colors and the impressions that may run through your mind as you are seeking answer to the query that has been posed. If you able to be at a camp fire or bonfire, often the larger density and area of flame offers a wonderful screen to look into. Again, make note of any shapes, forms, colors or impressions that are received as you gaze into the flames. A small firepit in the backyard is a great tool to develop this skill.
- Water Scrying
Water scrying – also known as hydromancy is an ancient form of divination that has much in common with mirror and crystal ball divination.
Water scrying was a common feature of pagan and shamanistic cultures because of its connections with nature. The water concerned was often the surface of a smooth lake and it was common to scry by the light of the moon. Indoor water scrying can be performed by using any bowl that is large enough and can be dedicated and consecrated for scrying.
Once technology evolved to allow the production of scrying mirrors, these provided a more convenient alternative to water divination. Many modern pagans still prefer the natural connection to water and the feeling of oneness that it gives.
- Mirror Gazing
Mirror scrying is an evolved form of water scrying. When it became possible to build mirrors they were regarded as being like water that was fixed into one place. The early mirrors were made of polished copper, brass, marcasite, tin foil or mercury behind glass, polished silver and obsidian. All types of mirrors may be used for scrying and the size is not important, although many prefer to use a black mirror. The use of black mirrors may be traced back over the centuries. John Dee used a black mirror of obsidian. When using a mirror for scrying you do not want to see your reflection, so you would generally place or leave the mirror on a table and look at it from an angle.
I was given a black onyx scrying mirror pendant for my Third Degree initiation. The back side is a simple circle of onyx; the perfect black mini scrying mirror! This has proved useful at times when a larger mirror or other surface was not available or I wanted a more discreet method of retrieving information.
- PENDULUM Scrying
Excerpted from a Witchvox Article by Salix Alba
“The Ancient Romans first originated ‘scrying’. The first pendulums ever used were merely inscribed rings, hung on thread. Now-a-days, modern scryers prefer to use small pendulums of natural stones and crystals. (At times metal or wooden pendulums may also be used.) When I speak here of modern, I mean modern 1930’s, which was when the very first crystal pendulum was used for contact with the paranormal by a famous psychic investigator, and Ghost Hunter by the name of Harry Price. Price thought up the idea of using a pendulum in the paranormal after observing a French water douser by the name of Abbe Gabrie successfully locate water with the pendulum in his presence.
The swinging pendulum method is generally used to ask “YES” or “NO” questions to entities or spirits who are talkative, and active around the area of the investigation, or personal altar area. Sometimes a pendulum board may be used for further communication by spelling out answers with letters, or by giving out coordinates with the numbers etched upon it. This method is quite similar to the “ouija board” (or spirit board) method. However instead of the use of the Ouija planchette, the pendulum is used.”
excerpted from The History of Palmistry
Judging by the number of hands painted in prehistoric caves it would seem that palmistry held a interest for humans since the stone age. Archaeological discoveries have discovered hands made of stone, wood and ivory by ancient civilizations. The emperor of china used his thumbprint when sealing documents in 3000 bc. Information on the laws and practice of hand reading has been found in Vedic scripts, the bible and early Semitic writings. Aristotle (384-322 bc) discovered a treatise on palmistry on an altar to the god Hermes. The greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen (ad 130-200) were both knowledgeable about the use of palmistry as a clinical aid. Julius Caesar (102-44bc) judged his men by palmistry. Notable people such as Paracelsus (1493-1541) and Fludd (1574-1637) brought respectability to palmistry through their writings. Later Dr Carl Carus, physician to the king of saxony in the 19th century matched palms to personality. Advances in genetics, psychology and forensics have propelled palmistry into the modern age. In 1901 Scotland Yard adopted the technique of fingerprinting in criminal investigation and identification.
Medical researchers studying skin patterns (dermatoglyphics), have discovered a correspondences between genetic abnormalities and unusual markings in the hand. Research has confirmed a link between specific fingerprint patterns and heart disease. These days palmistry is well accepted throughout the world. Professional palmists can be found reading palms in every country in the world. Pick up almost any copy of a women’s magazine and there is some information on palmistry. There are thousands of books written on the subject and there are palmistry clubs the world across.
Runes – Norse
Runes are an ancient Germanic alphabet, used for writing, divination and magick. They were used throughout northern Europe, Scandinavia, the British Isles, and Iceland from about 100 B.C.E. to 1600 C.E. Runic inscriptions of great age have even been found in North America, supporting stories that the Vikings arrived in the Americas long before Columbus.
For more information check out: Alphabet of Mystery
Oghams – Celtic
The Ogham (or Ogam) form an ancient Celtic alphabet, based on species of trees and used both for inscriptions on monuments and for the organization of knowledge. There are 20 original Ogham, with a later addition of 5 more; this version uses the original 20. The Ogham are in some ways similar to the Norse runes or Futhark, both as an alphabet for inscriptions and as a system for divination; however, the Ogham’s use as an index to a comprehensive system of knowledge is distinctive.
For more information check out: Druid Tree Lore and the Ogham
I Ching – Chinese
Excerpted from The I Ching: Sacred Books of the East Vol. 16 by James Legge
The I Ching, or Book of Changes, is the most widely read of the five Chinese Classics. The book was traditionally written by the legendary Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi (2953-2838 B.C.). It is possible that the the I Ching originated from a prehistoric divination technique which dates back as far as 5000 B.C. Thus it may be the oldest text at this site. Futher commentaries were added by King Wen and the Duke of Chou in the eleventh century B.C.
An I Ching interpretation is performed by making six binary decisions (a hexagram). This is called ‘casting the I Ching’. These are written down as a stack of six solid or broken lines. This was traditionally done either by tossing yarrow stalks or coins, although there is no reason why the hexagrams can’t be generated by some other means (such as a computer program).
There are actually four possible values for each of the lines; the two on/off values, and a line which changes from on to off or vice versa. Thus one cast of the I Ching can generate two different hexagrams, which adds depth to the interpretation. The sophistication of this method has not escaped modern interpretation, and the four-valued logic has been compared to the biochemistry of DNA amino acids. How a Neolithic shamans’ divination technique presaged the basic logic of the human genome is one of the ageless mysteries.
The Care and Keeping of Your Divination Tools
Your tools of Divination will become densely charged with energy as you regularly use them. If you do readings for others, they will also draw in the energies of those people. It is therefore, very important that you keep them clean, covered from daily energies and limit the amount of handling they have from someone other than yourself. They should be treated with respect and care as these are the vehicles that help to stimulate and carry the energies that provide the information needed. With continued use they become an extension of your own energy.
Once you have settled on a particular tool, it should be consecrated and dedicated to its specific use just as was done with your magickal tools. Refer back to the Consecration Ritual you used to consecrate your athame, wand or other.
If you use Tarot cards, they should be kept covered when not in use. A beautiful cloth or decorated box is a good choice. I keep a crystal in with the deck to absorb any residual energies and then regularly cleanse the crystal. Tarot cards should be cleansed after any reading that is done for another. Handling your cards as the querent pours the intent of their query into the cards also means transference of their individual energy. Purifying them with incense and wrapping them in black fabric with a quartz or hematite crystal will continue the cleansing process. Left overnight, the stone can then be removed to be cleansed of what has been absorbed and the cards placed back into their box or cloth they are normally kept in.
If you use a crystal pendulum, there are several ways it may be cleansed. The easiest is to place it in a small bowl and cover it with sea salt. This can be left for several days. Usually the weight of the crystal is a give away as to its needing to be cleaned. As the crystal absorbs energy it will become slightly to overtly heavier when held. Depending on the stone this can be easily felt as in the case of hematite. There is often a significance difference in the weightiness of the stone if left out to gather peripheral energies. It is also for this reason that pendulums should be kept in a bag so as not to gather energy continually. Most will come in pouches. Just be sure to select or make a pouch from a fabric that is thick and opaque. Velvet works nicely, as does suede cloth.
Mirrors and Bowls
Mirrors, bowls or any reflective surface should be kept clean and dry (if water in placed into). Be sure to dry thoroughly after each use. Wrap it in a soft, dark cloth and store somewhere that it will not be broken. Routinely smudging with incense or sage before and after use is a good practice.
The Basics of Spell Casting