A few cursory thoughts on the
art and science of divination
It’s a funny business, life. Sometimes we have all the wrong ideas about something and it turns out just fine, anyway. Sometimes those wrong ideas lead us to disaster.
Other times we did everything right and it still turned out badly, no fault of our own. Luckily, we can sometimes do everything right and have it actually turn out right, as well.
We use divination (tools like tarot, astrology, pendulum, dice, bones, geomancy, augury, dreams and runes) to sort out what a situation looks like in advance. We call it a reading. The problem is that too often, we take it as a royal decree.
These days, we have GPS and automated instruments that keep our vehicles (planes, trains and automobiles) on track. It used to be that if you needed to sail somewhere or move through open terrain, you used the stars, a sexton, a map, ruler, pencil and a bunch of math to take a “reading”. Then, you’d trudge forward and do your best to stay on course. Then, you’d take another reading, adjust course and go again.
That is all any divination should ever be. At least, any single divination, anyway. If you get consistently bad or good readings then maybe stop asking? Never mind, that’s just crazy talk. You’ve already asked 24 times… one more won’t hurt.
If you want to get accurate readings, here are a few points that may help you get more of what you want out of the tools you’re already using.
I submit them now, for your consideration.
* Surrender to the process – To get a clear reading, do whatever you do to empty your noggin’ first. Run around the block, meditate, pray, mantra, banish and invoke, drink tea, go to Fight Club if you need to. Pluck a single nose hair… that will wake you up.
Just do something to get all the excess ya-ya’s out. If you’re not going to get rid of the skeletons in your closet, at least dust them a little bit. If you cannot distance yourself, then get a trusted friend (or a professional, qulaity, experienced reader) to help you. That’s probably the best plan, anyway, for things that are highly, emotionally charged for you.
* Realize there are some things that cannot be known – There is (in my opinion) plenty of room in our great, big multiverse for random chance.
Even though I am a serious occultist, I do not believe that everything happens for a reason.
I believe that most things do… but not everything. Feel free to disagree.
I personally believe that many things are just above our pay grades and clearance levels, we don’t get to know.
* Realize there are some things that should not be known – If you have Deities, ancestors, Spirits or magickal dust bunnies working for you on the astral, they might just help you out (in their own, special way) by occasionally) giving you a false answer or three, just so you don’t royally fuck up a good thing for yourself or stumble blindly into that dark alley full of zombie ninjas.
* Don’t insult the oracle – Don’t be rude or obtuse to your oracle and/or your Spirits, Demons, Angels, Guides, Scooby Doo or whoever you ask for help by second-guessing too much.
Credulity is a disease in the occult community, we need to be aware of it and guard against it. Don’t believe everything, just because it came from an oracle or a Spirit. Conversely, don’t burn your bridges by being incapable of taking yes for an answer (or no, for that matter). Incredulity is the other side of that disease. Have a reasonable amount of faith. It’s not healthy to be incapable of accepting the answer.
Ever had the experience of a child asking you something so many times that you start making up ridiculous crap, just to see if they’ll believe it? I assume the invisible entities and your own unconscious might do something similar.
* Some things are spelled out perfectly, you just don’t get it –
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. – Hamlet
With some matters, you cannot possibly conceive of how it will actually play out, due to your limited worldview, experience, belief systems or other limits to your current thinking habits, structures, etc. You might be lacking imagination (not you, I’m sure… but other people!). Or maybe you just couldn’t possibly have foreseen that particular event, even though the oracle is doing its best to explain it to you in clear, simple terms.
Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!
You might think that you know all the intricacies of a given situation. You might be an expert in that area. You may have known that person for years and can predict their behavior, most of the time. You may just know in your heart that taking that job at the lemonade stand in Greenland is the right thing to do.
But if your ideas about yourself, other people or the world around you don’t line up with the reality of the shit that is actually about to go down, then you will literally not be able to comprehend it, no matter how perfectly someone explains it to you.
Lon Milo Duquette has said (in regard to tarot, specifically) that we should imagine that there is an Angel and that Angel will answer any question and answer it faithfully and honestly. The problem is, the Angel can only talk through a set of 78 color illustrations in an old book. It takes the pages and throws a few at you and it’s up to you to interpret the truth that hides in that message. Perhaps easier said than done. Kids, don’t try this at home.
Here’s an example. My friend Shawn Shadow was reading for me about an outdoor event I was having. The reversed 2 of Swords showed up and he suggested that some unpleasant people might show up. It sounded like a reasonable interpretation to me. I hired some security.
I ended up not needing the security, because that’s not what happened. Instead, unusually high winds and lots of rain made us have to take down the tents and move everything inside. My tent was destroyed.
As I said, the weather was unusual for that time of year. So, neither of us could have really understood what that meant, except in hindsight.
You would have to ask specifically, will the weather be favorable? Then, the inverted 2 of Swords could answer you No. But we didn’t think of that because of the time of year. We didn’t know there would be a freakish storm that suddenly whipped up. We just didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition to show up and start throwing tents into the street. How could we?
But the card made total sense. 2 of Swords (Elemental Air), reversed (lack of peace, which is in the title of the card).
Reversed 2 of Swords = storm.
Makes sense. Whooda thunk it?
* The Universe shifts constantly – The winds change (sometimes violently) on a dime.
It’s called a reading for an excellent reason. The reading is how the situation looks, from this vantage point, at this particular time.
Meteorologists get paid big bucks to predict the weather and they are frequently wrong. We don’t fire them or hang them for being wrong; it’s not their fault that the wind shifted. I suppose that weather forecasting is as much art as it is science, too.
Divination is the same way. So, if you walk around saying things like “I just know because I saw it in my cards” (or your dreams, scrying mirror, your mood ring or your alphabet soup), then it’s time for an attitude adjustment.
And I say that with all the deepest love and respect that there is to offer. Seriously, no judgement but stop looking at it like that.
You might indeed know with a capital Gnosis. Yet don’t be surprised when it turns out backward once in a while. Nobody gets it right, all the time. Nobody.
* You might be having a bad day – Even the very best readers have off days, so have a little compassion. Doctors with the best training and intentions make misdiagnoses all the time. We don’t toss them on the street. We politely say “Take another look. Do another test. Pretty please”.
* Learn your fucking correspondences, already! –
This is me, scowling at you 🙁 for not studying.
When people read for me, I try to go with what that card means to that particular reader. If they say something like “Well, I just feel it out”, that can sometimes be a red flag.
Some people have very strong gifts and they can go a long way on that, alone. But you wouldn’t trust a doctor who just had a knack for picking the right medicines; I hope not, anyway. You want a doctor who has gone to medical school. Or, you at least want one who read a ton of medical books, attended trainings, shadowed someone in medicine for a long time, etc.
When you draw a rune or a tarot card or a geomantic glyph or you see an astrological transit, don’t wing it. Look it up. Make flash cards. Take a course. Read a book. If you are reaching for your mouse to google it, please smack yourself for me. The only exception is if you are trying to research what book to read or what teacher to get or something like that.
Pick something and dive in. Follow through to the end.
* Don’t shoot the messenger – For the love of Hades, don’t be mad at the person reading for you, they’re doing their best. If they are good people, they will tell you what they see, not what you want to hear.
Being mad about that is just foolish. You don’t have to like what they say. You don’t have to believe it. You certainly don’t have to act on it or follow it, slavishly. But don’t be an ass about it. Smile and say thank you… and mean it.
We could write three entire bookshelves of books about tarot or astrology or runes and never get to the end of this discussion. My little list here is literally, what I pulled off the top of my head… today. It is by no means a complete list.
Keep studying. Rock on.
My name is Magus (aka Kevin Trent Boswell) and I call myself a Conjure Coach. I help people get the ideas and skills they need to get to where they are trying to go. A also do a little bit of juju behind the scenes to give them an extra push.