Divination is one of the more misunderstood aspects of witchcraft. Many have the image of divination as some woman dressed in veils and a ridiculous amount of jewelry looking into a crystal ball, or as some phone psychic fraud. In reality, divination is something that anyone can practice and learn from.
Another misconception about divination is that it foretells the future. A lot of people say “Well, divination can’t be real because otherwise people would be told lottery numbers and get rich.” Divination doesn’t work that way. It is much more nuanced than that.
Divination is more like GPS. It tells you where you’re going with your current path. You can decide then if you want to keep going in that direction, or if you want to turn around at the next exit. It offers glimpses into the future, but the future is not set in stone. It helps reveal things that otherwise might remain hidden.
Most importantly, divination is a way to communicate with the God and the Goddess. Divination done correctly is allowing the God and the Goddess to speak to you through the medium of the divination method. The tool of whatever method you choose is meant to make it easier for you to understand. The Divine that created the Universe is certainly capable of communicating with you through the symbols and outcomes of the divination method.
“If the Divine is the creative force behind the Universe, it can certainly be the force animating the movement of symbols for sacred messages. It could be that, as we know, your mind has the power to affect events at the quantum level—and so, perhaps, your mind is directing the movement of matter to provide you with an answer.” (Phyllis Curott, Witch Crafting).
There are many different divination methods, and they all have their own strengths. Here are a few of the most common ones.
Astrology is the study of movements and actions of celestial objects and how they affect us on earth. It is the belief that what happens in the universe can affect us as individuals. Given that the Universe is made of energy, and different energies happen with different events, this isn’t at all far-fetched.
Astrology is not the same as fate. You aren’t “doomed” to be a certain kind of person because you were born under a certain sun sign. Astrology is more like a landscape. It gives you a general, wide view of your tendencies, personality, and how the different energies of what is going on in a more massive scale affect you. Astrology is particularly good for self-knowledge and for linking with natural energies. It is not so much for the finer details.
This is one of the most famous forms of divination. Tarot cards are a deck of seventy-eight cards, consisting of 22 Major Arcana (cards without suits) and 56 Minor Arcana (cards with suits). The 22 Major Arcana cards are meant to represent the spiritual lessons found in what is often called “The Fool’s Journey” or “The Hero’s Quest”. This archtypical journey or quest is our spiritual journey, and the symbology of the cards relate to different stages along that journey. I would encourage you to read a couple of good books on Tarot to understand this further. I’ve heard nothing but good about Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, but I have yet to read it. If you get a deck with a larger guidebook, it usually will cover this in some fashion.
The Minor Arcana cards have four suits: Swords, Cups, Pentacles (sometimes called Coins), and Wands. Each of these suits corresponds with a different element (Air, Water, Earth, and Fire), and they are meant to cover more of what happens on a daily basis, or our trials that we undergo on a more micro scale while we are undergoing our own spiritual quest. This is not to say they are less important- just different in focus.
Each card has rich symbology. What is used for that symbology will differ from deck to deck, but they will still usually correspond with either the Rider-Waite-Smith (the most common), the Marseilles, and the Thoth decks. However, you can get Tarot cards using anything for symbology from cats to manga to steampunk style. Many people who get into Tarot have multiple decks, in part for this reason.
How Tarot works is the cards are drawn to correspond with a question or an area that you would like guidance in. This can be as simple as one card or as complicated as the ten-card spread (a way of laying out the cards) of the Celtic Cross which is meant to give in-depth information into a person’s life and their strengths and struggles. The symbology of the cards is used to apply the information that card contains to the question or area you are asking about. Tarot gives a wide view, but can also give a very immediate view (like when someone draws a daily Tarot card to get guidance on the day’s challenges). It is not as far-reaching as astrology, dealing as it is with the individual.
The runes are a runic alphabet developed by Germanic and Norse people. In Norse mythology, it is said that the god Odin speared himself to the World Tree for nine days, hanging upside down (symbology used in the Tarot Card of The Hanged Man) to gain the wisdom of the runes. He learned their mysteries and passed them on to his people.
The alphabet used in runes that are used for divination is the Anglo-Saxon Elder Futhorc, containing 24 runes. Each rune has symbolic and mystical meaning beyond just its letter. They were used for divination and for magic.
The runes can be read very similarly to Tarot, and for similar purposes. You can draw one rune, or you can do a spread.
I have little experience in runes, so I can’t really recommend many books. Lisa Chamberlain is usually fairly accurate, and she has written a book on the runes that is free if you have Kindle Unlimited.
Ogham is very similar to runes. It is based on the early Irish language, called Beith-Luis-Nin. The letters are written on sticks of wood. Each letter represents a tree, which has a particular meaning and message behind it. You can throw the ogham randomly and read one, or you can do spreads as well. This website has a list of the ogham and their meanings.
Scrying is a form of divination where you look into a crystal ball (yes, there is some truth to the “crystal ball gazing”), a dark mirror, or a pool of water, usually in a dark bottomed container. A candle flame is also used. The idea is that you look long enough for your physical eyes to relax and for you to begin to see with your spiritual eyes. Symbols or pictures appear, which it is up to you to learn from and interpret. This method has less guidance than runes or Tarot, which have preset meanings for the various symbols. It can take a while to get the hang of it, so if you decide to try scrying, don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work the first time.
A pendulum is an object, usually a crystal or some other stone hanging from a chain or a string, and the way the pendulum moves answers the question. The pendulum is almost exclusively used for “yes/no” questions, but by asking the right questions, you can get quite a bit of information that way. It is not as useful for long-term information.
This is the technique of choosing a book and letting it fall open on its own to a page, and then reading the first passage your eyes fall upon, and finding your answer/message there. Some books are obviously much better suited for bibliomancy than others; you aren’t going to get a lot from a cookbook, for example. Books of poetry, religious texts, encyclopedias, collections of quotes- these are just some examples of good books for bibliomancy.
These are similar to Tarot cards in that they have symbology on the card that has a specific meaning, but where they differ is that they are not according to a universal symbology. Each oracle card deck has its own imagery, purpose, and meanings that the designer of the deck came up with. They come with a guide to help you interpret the cards.
There are many more types of divination I could cover; tea leaf reading, numerology, automatic writing, and others. Each technique has its own strengths and weaknesses, and each technique is going to appeal differently to different people. I encourage you to try one or more of these methods and see what you connect with.
Divination is an excellent way to strengthen your connection with The Divine and also strengthen your psychic abilities. Psychic abilities are like muscles; they need use to get stronger. It is a great tool in the witch’s toolbelt, and it is a traditional part of witchcraft that goes back pretty much as far as history goes back, from methods ancient societies used like the Oracle of Delphi all the way to modern Tarot-readers. Try it out, learn something, and have some fun!