Winter road, photo by Pavel P.The nights are long and the days are cold; winter is here. Although the weather is pretty bleak, most of us have spent a lot of time celebrating with family and friends over the last few weeks and now that those celebrations have come to an end for the year, many of us are looking towards what’s to come.

Many people who practice magick have at least dabbled in divination of some kind, and everyone is familiar (at least in passing) with things like tarot cards, crystal balls, or pendulums, even if they don’t use these tools themselves. Still, with the new year beginning, picking up some form of divination, even if it’s just to use once, is an easy and fun way to see what’s in store for the year ahead. What else is a witch to do in the dead of winter?

The practices in this piece are meant to be approachable for people who don’t typically use divination as part of their practice. To that end, all of them can be done with household items but if you would like to purchase special tools, feel free. If you are familiar with some forms of divination, you may find some new techniques here to expand your own practice.

Ice, photo by Cindy Zackowitz

Baby, it’s cold outside: try some ice scrying

Scrying is a fairly common technique, usually done with a bowl of water or mirror but this method’s use of ice is both seasonal and a bit more approachable to be people who are not used to falling into the meditative states that traditional scrying calls for. There are two ways to perform ice scrying, one is indoors and the other is outdoors but both use the same basic principles.

If you are a more nature-based practitioner, you can go to a local body of water and, provided that it has gotten cold enough outside for water to freeze, you can use that for your scrying purposes. Bundle up first, because you’ll be outside for a good amount of time, and you won’t have much luck if you’re concentrating on how cold you are the whole time.

Get close enough to your body of water so that you can clearly see the ice. It’s ok if it’s cracking or even broken into bits, that makes it better. Gaze at the ice while you focus on the coming year. From here you can either fall into a meditative state and scry as normal or, if you are not practiced in this, look for shapes in the ice. The shapes can be found in shadows, the patterns of leaves and debris trapped under the ice, lines formed by breaks and the water. You must be open to see these connections. These shapes and images will be used to reveal your coming year, so take note.

The indoor option calls for a bowl of room temperature water and a small block of ice. Make sure your bowl is on top of a cookie tray or dish to catch drips. Place the ice inside of the water, it will crack and you can look for symbols in these lines. As it melts, it will crack more. This is a great option for younger readers as they can learn to open their perception to see more things without a great deal of heavy mediation (which can be hard for children).

Once you have your symbols recorded you can use any number of resources to uncover the meanings behind the symbols you saw, if they are not immediately clear to you. Divination by Tea Leaves1, for example is a website that has a variety of different symbols and their meanings for your review. Books like Nigel Pennick’s The Book of Primal Signs ((See Donyae Coles’ review of The Book of Primal Signs.)) or Signs, Symbols and Omens by Raymond Buckland2 might also be a good place to start.

Crystal pendulum, photo by Marcelo deOliveira

Use a pendulum

Pendulums are a common divination tool. You can find them in most metaphysical or occult shops inexpensively or even make one yourself. This divination tool is great for receiving guidance quickly.

You don’t necessarily have to venture out of your house in the dead of winter to find yourself pendulum, either. You can make your own from a variety of objects. A key, a ring, a needle; pretty much any object that can be balanced and tied to the end of a string can be made into a pendulum. You do not need a fancy crystal pendulum or a gold chain. But if you happen to have a gold chain, combine it with your house key and you’ve got a divination tool! You just need to make sure that the chain or thread is long enough for you to have 18-19 cm (4.5-5 in) of chain hanging with maybe 2-3 cm (an inch or so) hanging from the back.

You can use whatever hand is comfortable for you to use. You hold your pendulum by the chain between your thumb and pointer finger with most of it leading to the pendulum and a tiny bit from the back. The space between the two fingers should be in an eye shape. Your other three fingers should be held up and gently cupped, but not closed.

You read a pendulum by its movements. It will sway either to the left or right depending on the answer. This is different for everyone so your first two questions should be one that is a definite yes and one that is a definite no. This will let you know which way your pendulum swings for each. Use this technique to “calibrate” your pendulum.

Once you’ve discovered that, you can ask it your pendulum any questions that you want, whether they be immediate, or about what’s in store in the year ahead. The answers of yes and no may not seem like they will tell you much, but as you use your pendulum, you may find that you are more apt to dig deeper and uncover more.

Alternatively, you can draw a circle, divide it into three equal parts, and label them “yes,” “no,” and “maybe.” When you ask your questions, hold your pendulum above your chart and whichever direction it swings towards is your answer.

Regardless of which method you use, you will need to “clear” your pendulum between each question. You do this by simply by lowering the tip into your opposite hand to stop the movement. If you find you enjoy this tool, How to Use a Pendulum for Dowsing and Divination by Ronald Bonewitz and Lilian Verner-Bonds is a great resource for learning more.3 If you’d like to dig deeper into using a pendulum for spell work, then check out Susan Starr’s Crystal Grid Fundamentals Course.

Book, photo by Erich Ferdinand

Bibliomancy, more than just the Bible

Don’t be turned off by the name, bibliomancy is a form of divination that uses books to find answers. It’s a very simple form of divination and is so titled because the Bible happens to the perfect type of book to use for this, but you can really use any book you want.

Books that have numbered passages, like the Bible, Book of Buddha, or Egyptian Book of the Dead work really well for this. You can also use books of epic poems like the Iliad, or even something like Aleister Crowley’s Book of Lies. A book of comic strips or just a normal, run of the mill novel can also be used.

The first step is to open the book randomly. This can be done by dropping the book on the floor, holding it by its spine and dropping it, or just fanning the pages with your eyes closed.

Once the book is open to its random page, with closed eyes, point to a spot with your pointer finger. The sentence or passage that it lands on is your divination. This is a really simple form of divination that is meant to give guidance. The guidance may not seem clear right away, but keeping it in the back of your mind may lead to further understanding as the year progresses.

Tarot, photo by Kristin Andrus

Pick up a deck of playing cards, it’s cartomancy time

This time of year many people are getting their tarot cards read to give them some insight into the year. Did you know you can read playing cards sort of like you read tarot cards? This is an approachable alternative for two reasons, for one, there are only 52 cards in the deck, and two, it’s pretty easy and low cost to acquire a deck of playing cards.

Much like tarot, each card has its own distinct meaning. Destiny Witch4 has a nice easy to read guide to the cards and their meanings. After a good shuffle, lay out 12 cards in a circle. Starting at the one o’clock position, each card represents a month, beginning with the one you’re in.

Simply follow the circle around to get an idea of what each month of the year will bring.

This spread is adaptable for any type of cards. You can use tarot or oracle decks for this as well. There are 12 cards involved but the spread is very simple as each placement stands alone instead of building on each other. If you are using other types of cards (or if you’re comfortable with the cartomancy technique) you can treat each month as a sort of mini reading and add one or two more cards to each spoke of the wheel for a deeper reading.

Relax, have fun

Divination is real but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun while you are trying out these new techniques. If you’re not used to working with these sorts of practices, it’s perfectly okay to feel a little silly but even so, give it a try.

Even if you do not intend to build divination into your practice, self-divination helps us be more introspective about our own lives, goals, hopes, and fears. The goal is to see a bit into the future, of course, but divination is also about looking into the self. Taking some time to use any of these techniques may lead you to new understandings about yourself for the coming year.

  1. A Dictionary of Symbols,” Divination by Tea Leaves.” []
  2. See Mike Gleason’s review of Signs, Symbols, and Omens. []
  3. See Donyae Coles’ review of How to Use a Pendulum for Dowsing and Divination. []
  4. Destiny Witch, “Cartomancy Card Meanings.” []