Forms of Divination: Dowsing and Pendulums

Dowsing and pendulums are one of the many forms of divination arts.  According to my dictionary, dowsing is “a technique for searching for underground water, minerals, or anything invisible, by observing the motion of a pointer (traditionally a forked stick, now often paired bent wires) or the changes in direction of a pendulum, supposedly in response to unseen influences.” A more witchy definition is dowsing is the divination art of finding the answer to a question by channeling the divine and observing the movement of an object in the practitioner’s hands.  On the art of dowsing Robert Boyle, the Father of Chemistry, said in an essay published in 1633 that “those who have seen it may much more readily believe than those who have not.”

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Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/402016704210191136/

This technique can be performed with two types of objects: dowsing rods and pendulums. Dowsing rods are two sticks or metal polls used to local objects and things in the Earth such as water, veins of metal, cable wires, etc.  Pendulums (pictured above) are any object hanging on a string to answer basic questions. Continue reading

Tarot Basics

The exact origin of the Tarot is unknown, but from my understanding they started as a set of playing cards in Italy in the 1400’s.  Some people say they come from ancient Egypt or India, but in my opinion the archetypes are too Eurocentric.  For example, the Devil is an evil, Christianized version of the Horned God, not coming from Egyptian pantheons but rather Northern European ones.  The first accounts of their use for divination came in the eighteenth century.  There have been many changes over the years, including the perception of the Minor Arcana, but the symbology has stayed largely the same.  For a brief history of origins of the tarot and certain popular decks, here is a good article to read.  In the twentieth century, their popularity has exploded in conjunction with the Neo-Pagan and New Age movements.  Also while many states had laws on the books well into the ’80s making tarot reading illegal, persons such as Z Budapest have gone to trial to change these old regulations.

The Tarot have 78 cards and is divided into two categories:

The Major Arcana

  • The Major arcana are archetypes regarding the path of life or a journey.  They are in a numbered order in correspondence with a natural progression. We start with the Fool and end with the World…or back to the Fool depending on how the deck is numbered.
  • When these cards show up in a spread, they generally indicate a major point in the question.  For example if doing a spread for someone on a business venture and the Magician makes itself known in the Present place in the spread, then that card represents the quitrent’s progression on that path at that moment.  When multiple Major Arcana show up, then the person tends to be in a transition.
  • These cards are the easiest to learn, but sometimes make the asker panic.  While the Tower and Death are ominous cards, they don’t actually mean a literal death and literal destruction.  The Major Arcana is full of metaphors.

The Minor Arcana

  • Similar to playing cards, the Minor Arcana come in four suits: wands, cups, swords, and pentacles.  Also, they are numbered from 1 to 10 with court cards.
  • Numbered cards represent an attribute, whereas court cards stand for a person.
  • Associated with the element fire, Wands are the mental card.  Its aspects include creativity, inspiration, ambition, goal-setting, and dreams.
  • Cups deal with relationships and emotions and relate to the element water.
  • Swords come from the element air.  Action, intellect, power, conflict, and change rule this suit.
  • Pentacles deal with the material world, career, possessions, and material comfort.  The element earth relates to these cards.

For specific card meanings, there are plenty of comprehensive books on the subject.  My favorite is Tarot Plain and Simple by Anthony Louis.  However, never discount instincts and personal interpretations of the cards.  These can be more valuable to the reader than memorization.

Reversed Cards: This is a debated topic among tarot readers.  Some believe that each card has two meetings depending on the position of the card (i.e. right-side up or upside down).  I disagree and say the tarot was designed in balance and therefore there is no need for reversed card meanings.

© Ariadne Woods

Not in the Cards

Monday night, I decided to do a tarot reading to look into my love life.  Not to find someone new or to get back with my ex or anything like that.  I just wanted a little clarity about the energies in that aspect of my life.

To give a little methodology, I decided to do a five-card spread (past, current situation, internal factors, external factors, possible near future) with a Waite deck.  I also designed a sixth and seventh card for exploring future partners, if I felt that would be necessary.  The first five were a good picture of my situation: Ten of Swords, Queen of Pentacles, Eight of Swords, Knight of Pentacles, and the Hanged-Man.  I have been recently betrayed and feel bound by it, so i have been looking inward to deal with myself and my pain to try and heal.  Alright, my thought-process about this part of my life is on the nose.  But it was that stupid Knight of Pentacles that had me thinking there may be more to this issue.  So I drew two clarity cards.

And then things got weird.  I got the Nine of Swords and the Five of Pentacles.  Not great cards to see as a recently dumped person looking into the future of my love life.

Bad readings happen.  Life is not always rainbows, so your runes and cards sometimes reflect that aspect.  This possibility should never turn away any aspiring readers or any patron.  It is the advice you need, so it is the advice you are going to get.  The best thing you can do is to acknowledge it, accept it, and apply the advice as you see fit.

© Ariadne Woods

Witch Tips: Samhain Activities

Samhain, Halloween, the Day of the Dead, oh my!  This season is marked by lots of holidays dedicated to the last harvest and the honoring of the dead.  For modern witches, Wiccans, and some Pagans, we embrace these days as more than just an excuse to get dressed up and eat a lot of candy (although that’s fun too).  Try to take time for deliberate spiritual practices before the Wheel of the Year comes to a close.

  • Movie Marathon: Practical MagicThe Craft, even a couple of early episodes of Charmed.  Check out some witchy role models in popular culture.  And then don’t forget to finish off the evening with It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!
  • Divination: The veil between the worlds is thinner at this point of the year.  It is a good time to break out the black scrying mirror and tarot cards.  If you have no experience in this area and have a little extra cash, consider findingr a reputable psychic and paying them a visit.
  • A Wishing Tree: As this is the witches’ new year, it is a good time to think about what you want to happen in the coming months.  Try to find a dozen or so candle lanterns that you can easily hang from a tree (or a bush or if need be place them around your home).  Before placing the candles in the holders, carve a symbol of a wish into it.  When you light it, the wish will be released.
  • A Feast (and a Dead Supper): Sometime in the next week I will post some food ideas.  But in the mean time, there is no harm in munching on a little Halloween candy as a snack!  Make sure to leave some for your ancestors.
  • Get Out in the Last Few Warm Days of the Year:  Enjoy these days because in a few weeks the leaves will be gathered and the Earth will be settled for a long winter.  Also, I am originally from a rural community where this time of year is all about corn mazes and pumpkin picking.  If these activities exist near your home, take full advantage. 
  • Pumpkin Carving: If you are sick of carving faces into your Jack-O-Lantern, there are plenty of great templates online. Consider Hecate, the Green Man, pentacles, triple moons, and ancestor spirits as inspiration.
  • Family Time:  As this is the time of remembering the ancestors, take some time to hang out with your loved ones just to relax and have fun.

© Ariadne Woods

Witch Tips: Tarot and Oracle Decks

Divination is a practice that shifts the focus of the mind to clarify a situation or question.  It is not for seeing into the future, but rather to clear up any lingering questions regarding an existing relationship, problem, or event.  One of the most worked-with forms is tarot or oracle decks.  Tarot decks are pictorial representation of common archetypes.  Oracle decks are very similar, but they usually have a phrase or piece of wisdom along with the image.  There are a couple of practices that assist to acquaint the reader with this form of divination.

  • Buy Your First Deck in Person: Buying cards off the internet is a little difficult because you don’t get to see and feel the deck. I know that sounds a little kooky, but trust me.  You have to be comfortable with what you are working with when it comes to divination.  If you’re not, you’ll never use it, and decks are an expensive investment to sit in your closet.
  • Tarot or Oracle?: Each has their own benefits.  Oracle decks are good for first-time readers or the quick session.  Tarot decks are better for complex readings and for the more independent reader (the messages on oracle decks sometimes irritate readers because the illustrator supposes the wisdom that goes with the image).  I have both, but prefer tarot.
  • Okay I’ve Picked a Type, Now What Deck?: There are thousands of tarot and oracle decks.  If you are buying an oracle deck, pick one attuned to your interests (fairies, Egyptian myths, animal totems, etc).  Tarot decks come in similar varieties, but also have some classic forms.  My favorite it Rider-Waite.
  • Cleansing and Programing: Cleanse as you would any magical object, although I recommend not using a water method.  Afterwords, sit down and look at every card in order. Study the images.  You don’t need to commit them to memory (that will come in time).  Grab a notebook and jot down some buzzwords that come to mind for each card.  Afterwords if you have a method of programing an object, use it for a week.  My personal favorite is to sleep with the deck under my pillow.
  • Housing: What will protect your deck the most? A box, a bag, or the original packaging?  You could even use a soap container for a deck you take on trips.  Also, do you want to keep a crystal or an herb in your deck box or bag?
  • Spreads: How you use the cards is largely intuitive.  There are models and spreads you can use as a jumping-off point (Past, Present, Future; Celtic Cross; etc.) if you are absolutely unfamiliar with how to create a spread.  I encourage you to come up with your own, whether they are elaborate or simple.
  • Ritual: Do you want to do a formal ritual for every reading?  Or do you want to just light a candle? Experiment a little.

© Ariadne Woods

Witch Tips: Choosing a New Deck, Set of Runes, or Other Divination Tool

There are many different forms of divination, or the art of discerning deeper into a particular situation based off of symbols and archetypes.  Contrary to popular belief, you aren’t trying to “see into the future,” but rather weed through the various forces surrounding a situation.  They can be turned to at points of personal conflict or as part of a daily practice.  If doing a reading for a friend, if possible do it ‘cold,’ or completely ignorant of the situation.  That way you won’t be reading the symbols in a way that is contrary to your friend’s understanding and perceptions.

The methods that require tools include:

  • Tarot or Oracle Decks: This method relies on common cultural symbols to divine the forces around a situation.  Tarot decks tend to be more old school and require a lot of study and practice, while oracle decks are more self explanatory.  This is by far my preferred method of divination.
  • Runes: I honestly do not know a lot about runes, however these can come in many different types (although the most commonly presented are Futhark).  I prefer the system Scott Cunningham shared in Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner,
    because the Futhark runes take more study than I currently can allow in my schedule.  However, learning to work with the Futhark runes is on my Pagan education back burner.
  • Pendulums: These are simultaneously the simplest method and the most complex.  You would think a weight at the end of a string would be easy to master, but the amount of concentration needed to master the pendulum is incredible.  If you are into gemstones, these come in gorgeous carvings.
  • Scrying: Ever laid in the grass and found pictures in the clouds?  That’s scrying!  You could use water, leaves, fire, clouds, or a black scrying mirror.
  • Dream Discerning: Again, not particularly knowledgeable about this topic, but there are a lot of books out there on interpreting dreams.

If you have never practiced any of these forms, don’t be nervous.  Work off of your instincts and balance reading up on it and practical work.

There are a couple of ideas to keep in mind while buying a new deck or set of runes.

  • If Possible, Do Not Buy Off the Internet: I own two decks: a traditional Waite deck I bought in a small shop in the Netherlands and a Goddess oracle deck I bought off Amazon.  I get stronger readings off the Waite because I handpicked it from ten others on a table rather than researching and purchasing a deck based off recommendations and reviews.  It’s also a matter of compatibility of energy.
  • Can You Make It?: While this method may be harder for decks (unless you are an artist, then go ahead!), but most divination tools can be made quite easily.  Paint runes on small stones, use an old necklace for a pendulum, and follow these instructions to make a black scrying mirror.
  • Think Practically: What will you really use?  Do you really need a pendulum even though you are a highly visual person and maybe tarot is more your thing? It isn’t the amount of divination tools you own, but rather your skill and personal practice with them.  This tip is especially important when it comes to buying books about a divination practice.

After receiving your divination tool, a lot of people (myself included) like to program the object.  I usually sleep with it under my pillow or carry it with me for a few days.  The key is to use the cards, runes, or pendulum as often as possible.

© Ariadne Woods