Divination, what a lovely word. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the definition is: “the art or practice that seeks to foresee or foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge usually by the interpretation of omens or by the aid of supernatural powers, unusual insight or intuitive perception”. Sounds pretty complicated, and also a bit intimidating. I would be honored if you would join me in a journey down the winding path to explore the beginnings, history and many forms and tools of divination. I tend to have a special place in my heart for the tarot, it was my introduction to my Pagan lifestyle and opened up an entire new world for me. I spent many a night lying on my bed studying and reading on the meanings of my first deck. The gift that my cards have given me have been numerous and have helped shed a new light on so many aspects of my life. Sometimes we don’t get the messages we were hoping for and that helps us to understand the bigger picture that is developing in our lives. But, the tarot is just the tip of the divination iceberg.
Methods of divining have their roots deeply embedded in history. The ancient Greeks believed that the earth was a magickal place and this led them to use the most basic of elements in their divination practices. Nature was considered to be the work of the Gods and so the signs that were given to them would often be seen as messages. Water was thought to have divine power and healing properties. The Greeks believed that flowing water would bring dreams from the underworld and the dead and deliver them to the oracles who could interpret the messages. Another commonly used water divining method was the use of healing wells. It was believed that the position in which a coin would land in the well would predict the future of the sick and give advice on remedies. Perhaps this is one of the earliest forms of today’s coin toss. Bowls or copper vessels of water were often used to summon deities. To evoke a God of the heavens you would use rainwater, if the God was earthly they would use sea water or river water and if they were contacting the dead they would use spring water. Another ancient form of divination is aeromancy, the art of interpreting weather conditions and sky happenings as messages from the Gods. This form of divination is still recognized today. Christians attribute the star over Bethlehem as being a sign of the birth of Jesus, children delight in making a wish upon a falling star, and to this day many of us still recite the rhyme when we see the first star in the evening sky, “star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight”. I find that to be one of the most interesting aspects of ancient divination, the way they have carried through the ages and are applied to our current lives. Although some of the tools have changed, the basic concept still carries through. Oracles in ancient Greco-Rome would often use cleromancy, also known as the casting of lots. Through the ages the articles used were often bones and other primitive materials, today they are available in pretty much any form that the seeker chooses. I hope you will join me next month when we will dig deeper into the meanings and types of runes and stones used in past and modern times.