The Art of Divination

Divination is the art of obtaining information through the use of various tools, such as tarot cards, runes or scrying mirrors. The word Divination comes from the word Divine, meaning that the information we receive through these practices is imparted to us as we connect to the divine source within. There are many kinds of divination, and most people find they are more adept at some forms than others. Here is a list of just some of the forms of divination practiced by witches and druids.

Aeromancy: Divination by observing weather patterns.

Anemoscopy: Divination by observing the movement of tree branches as they sway in the wind.

Belomancy: Divination by the flight of arrows.

Bibliomancy: Consulting a passage or line in a book at random.

Catoptromancy: Divination through a lens or magic mirror.

Ceromancy: Divination by observing the shapes formed by melted candle wax.

Chiromancy: Palm-Reading.

Geloscopy: Divination by interpreting someone’s laughter.

Oenisticy: Divination by studying the flight of birds.

Physiognomy: Divination by studying human facial features.

Phrenology: Divination by studying the bumps and contours of the head.

Pyromancy: Divination by smoke and fire.

Tasseography: Tea-Leaf reading.

Xylomancy: Observation of the position of twigs on the ground.


The origin of tarot cards is somewhat mysterious, though they are believed to have began merely as playing cards, and then evolved into divinatory tools used for esoteric/occult purposes. A standard tarot deck contains seventy-eight cards, which is divided into two sections, the Major Arcana and Minor Arcana. (The word Arcana is the plural of Arcanum, which means “profound secret”). The twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana are the heart of the deck, as each one symbolizes some universal aspect of human experience. Each card in the Major Arcana has a name and number, along with associated imagery. Some names convey a card’s meaning directly, such as Strength and Justice. Other cards portray individuals who personify a particular approach to life, such as the Hierophant and the Empress. The names of these individuals vary depending on the deck you use. There are other cards with astrological names, such as the Star and the Moon. They represent the esoteric forces linked to these planetary bodies. The fifty-six cards of the Minor Arcana are divided into four suits: Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles. Each of these suits stands for a particular approach to life. Each tarot card is filled with symbolism and imagery that can help the reader awaken his/her intuition and decipher its meaning in relation to other cards in the reading. Readings from tarot decks can address any area of life, from health and relationships to career and romance. There are many tarot decks available on the market, the most popular being the Rider-Waite deck. New tarot decks are released every week, while older decks often go out of print, are more difficult to obtain and become more valuable. It is advisable to experiment with different decks until finding the right one for you. It takes time and practice to become proficient at tarot reading. Many people only use the tarot for personal growth, while others offer tarot readings to the public.


Oracle decks can contain any number of cards, and tend to focus on spiritual growth and personal development. They are not as difficult to learn as tarot, which is why some people prefer them. Each oracle deck usually has a specific theme that sets the overall tone of the deck. For example, The Nature-Speak Oracle from Ted Andrews contains sixty cards, and calls upon the wisdom from nature, specifically trees, flowers, landscapes and weather. Other popular oracle decks are The Hidden Path and The Well-Worn Path from Raven and Stephanie Grimassi. These contain imagery associated with Old World Witchcraft, however, both of these decks are now long out-of-print. Other oracle decks call on the energies of herbs, crystals, animals and similar metaphysical themes.

A Word about Tarot and Oracle Decks

The increasing popularity of tarot and oracle decks has made some of them quite valuable, particularly when they go out-of-print. There are many tarot “collectors”, those who do not actually use them for divination but appreciate the artwork and symbolism. It is important to purchase a tarot/oracle deck you like as soon as possible, because once it goes out-of-print it may be quite some time before it is availabe again, if at all. Some retired decks are being sold on eBay in the hundreds of dollars. Occasionally you may find privately produced decks that are not sold in stores to the general public, and these are typically more expensive than standard mass-produced decks. I obtained one such deck, The Harry Potter Tarot, which contains exquisite artwork. It is based on the Rider-Waite deck, but with imagery and symbolism found in the Harry Potter books and films.


The origin of the Runes is shrouded in mystery, although we do know they are powerfully connected to the ancient Norse people. According to Norse legend, the god Odin was a god of wisdom, cunning, sorcery and death. To impart to his children the gift of writing, he hung himself upside-down on the World Tree, sacrificing himself for his people on the giant ash Yggdrasil. After nine days of fasting, he fell from the tree and was granted with the knowledge of the secrets of the Runes. It is believed that they began as an alphabetic system, but have become much more than that. Each Rune symbol contains within it a specific energy that can be used in divination, spellcraft or other magical workings. While there are a few different types of Runes, such as the Witch’s Runes and Anglo-Saxon Runes, the most prominent (and most ancient) Runes are the Elder Futhark Runes. The Elder Futhark contains twenty-four different runes, and were originally carved into stone or wood. Today you can find runes that are carved into various crystals, wood, resin or bone. My preference is for runes carved on wood, as they seem to carry more power and primal energy in them. Many enchanted folk like to make their own, by cutting a tree branch into small pieces and using a wood-burning tool to carve in the symbols. Making them yourself is preferable, but is not a requirement for them to work. In the magical community, there are many Runecasters, (those who specialize in Rune Divination), and offer Rune readings to the public. Runes seem to have a more masculine energy, while the Tarot contains more feminine energies. Runes and Tarot are both equally powerful, and a person should not choose one over the other based on their inherent energies. Most Metaphysical/New Age/Wicca shops carry runes in many varieties. Keep your Runes together in a drawstring pouch made of a natural fiber, such as cotton, wool or silk. There are special rune pouches available online, and even rune cloths with special markings to assist in your readings, but these are not necessary.


Scrying is the art of obtaining information, wisdom or guidance by gazing into a crystal ball, a bowl of water, or a mirror. Many in the magical community own at least one scrying mirror or a crystal ball. Some may see actual images form on the surface of the object used for scrying, while others receive impressions within their consciousness. It is a difficult art to learn that relies heavily on stream of conciousness and intuitive ability. The best times to practice scrying seem to be during “between times”, such as a Full Moon, New Moon, a Lunar/Solar Eclipse, the Solstices and Equinoxes, Dawn/Dusk, or during Beltane (May 1st) or Samhain (October 31st). Regular practice will help to hone your scrying abilities. When scrying, it is recommended to use natural light only, such as candlelight, moonlight or sunlight. Place candles near the mirror or crystal ball where they will not be reflected in the glass, and place the mirror or ball at a slight angle so that you do not see your own reflection. It is also helpful to burn incense while scrying, as this helps you enter a ritual state of consciousness and will make you more open to receive psychic messages. Many times the shapes formed by incense smoke, or shadows from the candle flame will trigger images or impressions. You may see actual images in your mirror or crystal ball, but this is not always the case. Black mirrors are popular, and some people like to make their own. Traditional crystal balls are made from clear quartz or black obsidian, but they are also available in many other varieties of crystal and in many different colors. The larger the sphere, the more expensive it will be, so keep cost in mind when shopping for your own crystal ball. Some who use crystal balls recommend rolling the ball between your palms to bond with it’s energy between readings. When not using your scrying device, keep it covered in a natural fiber, such as cotton, wool or silk. To clean your scrying mirror or crystal ball, use an infusion of hyssop or pennyroyal and then pat it dry.

Take some time to explore different forms of divination. You may find that you are skilled at more than one.