Divination is one of the most-practiced branches of magick. Even non-magickal folks will sometimes flip a coin to make a decision, or crack open a fortune cookie with more than idle curiosity. As a student of the magickal arts, it's likely that you dabbled in divination as one of your first forays into the Mysteries. Skillful divination puts you in touch with both your inner knowing and external wisdom that will help you along your path.
But many beginners ask the question, Where do I start? How do I navigate the maze of stones and bones and cards and tea leaves and other options confronting me? In this article, I'll discuss five common methods of divination: Pendulums, scrying, Runes, Tarot, and freestyle reading. I'll then put on my Professor Trelawney glasses and peer into your soul to recommend the best method for you. Each recommendation is based on your skills and proclivities--and just for fun, your star sign.
Keep in mind that no single method is necessarily better than another. (Also remember, it's okay to practice more than one method!) I don't buy into the myth that says that a reader who uses Tarot cards is somehow less talented than a reader who doesn't. The goal is to find the best expression for your natural psychic gifts. Starting with the right tool(s) will accelerate learning and cut down on frustration.
A pendulum is basically a weighted string that is held in one hand. The user (or dowser) observes the subtle movements of the pendulum to gain information about a question, object, or environment. Put another way, dowsing uses your physical body to express phenomena that are detected by the psychic senses. (For an easy introduction to pendulums, see this article.)
One of the advantages of pendulum dowsing is that it requires very little investment of time or money to get started. There's nothing to memorize. You don't need a book, chart, or specialized equipment. You can dowse with a necklace, a fishing bob, even a teabag! What you do need is unwavering concentration and a good dose of body-based intuition.
Swing into dowsing if you:
Favor a simple, "yes or no" answer to your questions
Can usually trust your gut feelings
Excel at grounding and centering your personal energy
Want a tool that's compact and convenient
Identify as a kinetic learner/thinker (more than verbal or visual)
Pendulum powerhouses: Virgo, Cancer, Aquarius, Taurus
The Runes are both an archaic Norse alphabet and a set of powerful magickal symbols. The 24 letters of the Elder Futhark are the most common form of runic divination. They are inscribed on tiles of bone, stone, or wood and shuffled by the Rune reader. They are traditionally a masculine tool associated with the deity Odin. Each Rune has at least three meanings: A phonetic sound, a literal meaning, and a figurative or abstract meaning. From narrowest to broadest interpretation, the Rune called Berkana could stand for the letter "B", the Birch tree, birth, creativity, or the feminine principle.
Despite this apparent complexity, the Runes are famous for giving it straight. They have their own personality, and are never hesitant to point out folly or disaster. Modern readers often try to moderate the voice of the Runes by employing multi-tile, Tarot-style readings. But the purest way to consult the Runes is by drawing just one Rune stone--a "take it or leave it" proposition that doesn't leave any room for waffling.
One more thing: The Runes are a special treasure of Odin--legend has it that He hung on the World Tree for nine days and nights to receive the secret alphabet. The Runes reward devoted study and shy away from dilettantes. To truly unlock their secrets, be prepared to make some sacrifice reminiscent of (though not necessarily equal to) the God's own.
Take up the Runes if you:
Feel a connection to the Norse pantheon (especially Odin)
Don't mind receiving answers that are harsh or blunt
Are willing to study or meditate on the symbols to receive their wisdom
Rune-meisters: Scorpio, Aries, Capricorn, Sagittarius
Scrying encompasses such time-honored practices as gazing into crystals, water, or fire. Along with dream interpretation, it is one of the oldest forms of divination. The term comes from the archaic word "descry," meaning "to make out dimly."
The scryer goes into a relaxed, meditative state and gazes into a bright or reflective object. (A popular choice is a bowl filled with water or a crystal ball illuminated by candlelight.) The resulting information is usually in the form of imagery, but some scryers may also hear sounds or feel sensations during a session. With any luck, the scryer's visions will shed some light on the question or situation at hand.
Successful scrying does require a certain amount of natural ability. Some beginners gaze for long hours and experience only frustration. But anyone who is able to have visions will find their skills developing with practice. Focus improves, images intensify, and interpreting the visions becomes easier for the practiced scryer.
Try scrying if you:
Are a visual thinker (artist, designer, daydreamer)
Have experienced psychic dreams or spontaneous visions
Are drawn to sparkly or reflective objects
Enjoy trance and meditative states
Have knowledge of dream lore and symbols
Super scryers: Pisces, Gemini, Scorpio, Cancer
It's no secret that I judge the Tarot to be (probably) the finest divination method ever created. It bridges the gap between intuition and knowledge. As a consummate narrative tool, Tarot dovetails with our human tendency to tell stories about ourselves. A few random cards can illustrate the past, present, and future of any drama, along with its stars and its supporting cast.
Still, Tarot's not for everyone. It's a complex method (or can be) and often throws hippie-dippy, purely-intuitive types a curveball with its 78 cards and nearly infinite permutations.
Here's a secret: Invest as much or as little study time as you want. Unstudied beginners can still get satisfactory-to-great results by responding to the imagery on the cards. People with a head for facts and correspondences are great at teasing out additional meaning from a spread. But readers who can integrate both their left- and right-brain functions are predisposed to become Tarot adepts.
Tend toward Tarot if you:
Are drawn to art, literature, history and mythology
Have a good memory and make connections easily
Are a natural storyteller
Welcome complex or ambiguous answers
Are both creative and analytical, and able to balance these traits
Tarot superstars: Gemini, Sagittarius, Libra, Virgo
Nothing at All
Some readers don't use any tools at all. Instead, they rely on some combination of gut instincts, energetic perception, and channeled messages to steer the reading in the right direction. They listen carefully for psychic signals from their body and
inner voice. Empty-handed readings can be done for yourself or others.
The potential pitfalls are obvious: If you come up blank, there's no real starting place for the reading. (Struggling readers often resort to cold reading tactics or self-help cliches rather than real information.) Then there's the problem of bias: Without external tools guiding you, you're more likely to let your personal opinions and preconceptions color the reading. Good communication skills are essential to this type of reading. Many talented readers fall flat because they can't articulate what they're seeing or feeling.
Kick it freestyle if you:
Are very sensitive to energy (and good at putting your feelings into words)
Can easily put aside your biases during a session
Have a working relationship with deities, spirit guides, or ancestors who assist you in reading
Find divination tools distracting
Are a natural healer who holds others' best interests at heart
Have the confidence to deliver a reading without tools for backup
Unencumbered wonders: Aquarius, Aries, Pisces, Taurus
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