One of the classic images people conjure, when you tell them you are a witch or Pagan, is that of a woman gazing into a crystal ball, ready to tell you your fortune. Whether or not you spend any time with a crystal ball, this form of divination is called scrying and is good for much more than fortune telling.
Scrying can be done in a number of different ways with a number of objects. The crystal ball is perhaps the most famous, it does after all, look very cool, but it is not the only tool that can be used for this excellent style of divination. Nor is predicting the future the only thing you can do with it — once you become comfortable with the technique.
What is scrying?
Scrying is a combination of divination and meditation that utilizes shiny surfaces, most commonly, in order to gain insight into the movements of the world beyond what we can see with just our two eyes. It has existed for thousands of years. Some people think that this may have been one of the earliest forms of divination known to humankind.1
The basics of all scrying are simple. All you need is a shiny surface or a space where light can play. This form of divination only requires that you be able to sit and stare for a period of time. This may be difficult or impossible due to physical limitations for some. This post will discuss some of the various types of scrying in the hopes that you can find one that works for you if you’re interested.
With all scrying, you must find a comfortable place to sit or stand. Most people prefer to sit because it is a practice that requires some time to complete a session. Depending on how quickly you fall into a trance state, your scrying session can last from a few minutes to over an hour.
Whatever surface you’re using to scry must be ready and placed before you. Allow yourself to fall into the meditative trance. Let your gaze blur and lose focus. Some people like a soft, meditative sound, others prefer complete silence (or as close as they can get).
You may ask questions beforehand that you are seeking answers to for yourself or others. Some people use it to generally view the energy that surrounds their life. You can even use it as a way to channel creativity or clear your mind. All of these uses are valid and useful reasons.
Once you get used to the practice, finding your way into the meditative state used for scrying will be quicker — quicker and with more relaxation. Don’t stress about having a hard time finding this state at first. It takes practice so don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t come at first.
What will you see?
What each person sees is different. Some readers see only colours and light from which they can divine meaning. Others see shapes or cloudy figures in their visions. Still, others get perfectly clear images they are able to remember. It is very personal and there is no one right answer.
More than what a person sees, how they interpret the images varies as well. Depending on what you are seeing, whether colours or full scenes, will inform what you take away from it. Some people use scrying to get a feeling for a situation while others are able to read symbols and explain the meaning behind them.
You don’t have to do either. Scrying can just be a meditative process for you. This form of divination can also just help you relax your mind and find your inner self.
Next, we will discuss the tools.
The famous: Crystal balls and mirrors
The most famous tools for scrying are crystal balls and mirrors. Crystal balls have the honour of holding the top spot in our pop culture landscape when it comes to this form of divination. It makes sense because they look stunning on a table, but for real crystal balls — those made out of solid clear quartz — they tend to be very expensive.
Clear quartz isn’t the only type of crystal ball however. You can find a number of different crystals fashioned into balls with a number of opacity levels (how see-through they are). You can often find other crystal varieties that can be used for scrying. Even ones that are not see-through at all can be used in conjunction with candles to read the lights and shadows.
Clear crystals can be used in any lighting and generally readers find meaning in the inclusions (the textures and ridges inside of the crystals) and rainbows and other tricks of the light. Opaque crystals, those you cannot see through, are used in conjunction with candles generally to cast lights and shadows on the stones that are read.2
Another very popular option is a scrying mirror. Many metaphysical shops sell these. Usually they are black mirrors, or reflective dark surfaces. Sometimes they have inscriptions around the side of different symbols associated with various forms of paganism but mostly they are just plain, dark mirrors.
Much like the opaque crystals, these are used in conjunction with candles so that the reflection of the light can be used to scry with.
Water: bowls, cups, and plates
Crystals and specialty mirrors can be expensive and provide a barrier for people who want to practice this. Good news for people who are cost conscience, water is also commonly used to scry! It is put in a container, usually a bowl or cup, but a shallow plate can also be used.
Tap water can be used or bottled. You can even use wine or juice if you want. Carbonated drinks (such as soda or mineral water) may seem like a good idea because of the play of the bubbles, but they eventually stop and may break your concentration (but flat soda is an option).
Sunlight, moonlight, or candles can be used to cast a reflection on the surface to pull you into the meditation. You can also follow the ripples in the water as air moves over it. This option for a tool is extremely accessible, after all, most people have bowls, plates and cups sitting right in their kitchen!
Odd and unusual: Fire, ice, nature and technology
When we think of scrying, we usually think of the tools we can buy or cobble together for the purpose, but many ways to scry already exist in nature with no additional help needed. For instance, ancient philosophers used moonlight to scry.3
Although you don’t want to look directly into the sun, you can certainly place yourself under some trees and use the patterns the light makes through the leaves on the ground. Use them the same way you would any other scrying surface, by letting yourself relax and letting your eyes lose focus.
A window, while the rain or snow is failing, can also work very well for scrying. But, unless it is meant to be a long shower (at least 20 minutes), there may not be enough time to reach a true trance state.
You can also use a normal fire, either a candle or something larger, to create a viewing area to scry with. On the other end of the spectrum, ice can be used but this is worked with much like crystal scrying in which you travel along the cracks in the ice to find your trance state or symbols.4
One very interesting technique discussed by Christopher Penczak in City Magick is using screens to scry. In his book, he talks about turning the TV onto a “snow” and using that as your scrying surface, however, many of us don’t have TVs that easily go to a snow channel. I found that by using Notepad++, available as a free download, to open photos, it creates a wall of random letters that work great as a scrying screen.5
Just right click on your picture and select Notepad++ on the drop-down menu. The photo will be converted to text. If you save it, remember to rename it as something else, but it’s not necessary, you can use any jpeg file for this.
Don’t feel constrained, as you can see, you can scry in a wide amount of surfaces. “Shiny” is a very loose term, as long as some light or contrast can play on it, you can scry on it.
The next steps
Now that you’ve gotten some idea of how to do this and on what surfaces it can be done, all that is left to do is try it. Don’t run out and spend money on a fancy crystal ball but give a plate or bowl of water a try. Take your time and let yourself fall into the trance state. Don’t worry if it doesn’t happen quickly or at all for the first couple of times.
Scrying isn’t something that everyone enjoys or is able to do, meditation is not something that everyone is comfortable with but it is paramount to this practice. Still, for those that wish to, scrying can become a enjoyable part of their practice.