The most common definition of the term scrying is to tell someone’s future with a crystal ball. In reality, crystal balls and fortune-telling are a small part of a much wider set of beliefs. Scrying, in one form or another, is popular in modern cultures that embrace witchcraft and divination. Yet, there are also links to ancient cultures and some religions. It all depends on what we want to know and how we go about obtaining that information.
What is scrying?
Scrying is the practice of using an item with a reflective surface to gain answers that aren’t available in our physical realm. Fortune telling is a part of this as seers seek prophecy and enlightenment on what is to come. Yet, it can also be used to seek answers in times of trouble or to find inspiration. It is all about looking at the surface and interpreting the images that appear. Many people spend years practising this form of divination to become more in tune with the messages.
Seers can practice scrying with a range of reflective surfaces.
Reflective surfaces are the most common tool, from a scrying mirror to a scrying ball. The ball is the one that we think of most because of stereotypical depictions of gipsies and fortune-tellers in popular culture. But, mirrors are common because they are so accessible. We forget that when kids say Bloody Mary three times in front of a mirror, this originates from scrying. Then there is that classic line from Snow White: “Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all”.
Others like to use water. Water can offer a more elemental connection to the world and a great surface to work with. Seers can fill a bowl full of water and look at the calm surface until images begin to appear. Others may try this with the reflective surface of a lake to get back to nature. This is where seers can use their own preferred techniques to get the response they need. Dropping pebbles into still water creates ripples, which in turn have a pattern to interpret. Molten wax solidifies on the calm surface and creates shapes. These shapes may be physical symbols that bring seers closer to their answer.
The simple principle of scrying means that seers can use any item or form that works for them.
Most modern practitioners tend to focus on reflective items as scrying tools and may choose a favourite type of polished gemstone. Some will wear scrying pendulum pendants around their neck. These items have deep emotional significance but also a secondary purpose linked to dowsing.
As long as seers have the patience to work on their abilities they can proceed with any reflective item that they have a connection with. Those that deliberately try to tell the fortunes of others have also been known to look directly into their eyes. The idea here is that images should appear on the reflective surface of the lens. Supporters might suggest that this would suggest a stronger connection between the message and the person.
There is a strong link between scrying and witchcraft because this is a form of divination.
Seers use their gifts to connect to a higher power or another realm and gain answers unobtainable in this world. Modern Wiccan practices use all kinds of reflective surfaces and objects to answer questions. Polished stones are a popular choice, as are bowls of water. Those that are familiar with the Harry Potter series will also be aware of the impact of scrying in this world. The pensive that contains Dumbledore’s memories is a large bowl with a reflective liquid. They gaze upon it and disappear into the memories to learn more about their quest.
Scrying and religious practice.
You might expect there to be a strong divide between religion and scrying. If there are such deep-rooted ties to witchcraft and pagan culture, surely most major religions would be against the practice? Generally speaking, many devout Christians have spoken out against divination – to the point of banning those Harry Potter books.
Yet, there are instances in the bible where people gained messages and wisdom through inanimate objects. This was the word of God, not fortune telling, but the similarities are there. Elsewhere, scrying is a part of the spiritual practice of Celtic Druids and Native Americans. Native Americans often use fire rather than water. They see patterns in the flames and the smoke. This link to the druids explains the prevalence of scrying in modern pagan and Wiccan rituals.
Scrying within science and psychoanalysis.
Despite all these links to witchcraft and religious practice, some would argue that there is scientific value to scrying. It all depends upon whether we look at the method as a form of fortune-telling or as a way of uncovering hidden truths.
The latter has some psychological connotations. The images we see in these reflective surfaces may tell us more about our emotions and unconscious desires than they do about hidden messages. Relaxing the mind and focusing on the surface isn’t too different from a meditative practice. We could, theoretically, use this to confront issues troubling us and seek answers from within ourselves.
However, most critics continue to label scrying as a pseudoscience. There is no hard scientific evidence for any of the images seen by the seer or proof that they saw anything at all. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t see something. What it means is that these shadows and shapes could be down to environmental factors, tricks on the mind or an active imagination.
Scrying is a fun practice with deep roots that will continue in many cultures.
Nostradamus is said to have used water scrying to determine his infamous predictions so we can’t blame people for trying it themselves. The practice can only develop over time. Some with stay traditional with the water and pendulum scrying while others will try new things. How many will start using the “black mirror” of our mobile devices as scrying tool in the future? Whether you can see scientific merit or not, there is no doubt that the basic principles of scrying have cultural merit and deep personal significance.