The Seer's Guide To Seeing
A beginner's guide to the many-faceted field of divination.
What does the future hold? Humans have been asking this question since the beginning of time, and knowledge of future events is one of the most valuable and highly sought-after goals of magic users and Muggles alike the world over. But, there is a way. Just as events in the past leave behind evidence, there are signs of events already set in motion, and it falls upon the diviner to find them. The fog of the future hangs over all living things, but time is nothing more than an illusion, a construct of the mortal mind, driven inevitably forward by forces beyond our knowledge or understanding.
Ever since the first magic users dowsed for water with their wands and saw shapes in the fire they gathered around, Divination has been practiced, and it's only expanded since then. The future can be told by anything and everything, and so many have been turned off of Divination by how nonsensical, alien, and bizarre its methodology can appear, while others hear about divination through Arithmancy and assume it is too complex for them to handle. Others only hear about Divination through doubters, or are doubters themselves. Indeed, for most, the word Divination alone conjures images not of revered wizards and witches who can see the future, but of the stereotypical divining beggar who will offer to read one’s fortune for a sickle or a drink. There are tales of wizards and witches who took up Divination as a hobby that quickly turned into an obsession, and slowly lost their belongings, their reputations, and their lives in the process, and these have been used by the academic community as a cautionary tale not against improper use of Divination, but of Divination as a whole. There was a time when diviners were looked up to, when all magic users turned to diviners, and to the future, for advice, even kings and rulers. But, even in these ancient times, there have always been doubters. For years, now, doubters have been conducting so-called “experiments” with the intention of disproving Divination once and for all, and for the most part, they have done a successful job at turning public opinion against the Art. But, practitioners know better, and we can all take pleasure in the sting the doubters feel as they walk by the prophecy wing in the Ministry of Magic. It is a sting they are not used to feeling and fear more than any other; that of being wrong. So, the forces compelling you to resist the call of one’s inner eye are much greater in number than those encouraging it. Once one has gotten through the doubters, there is always doubt from within. How does one know if they are capable of performing the Art?
Divination is both the easiest and the most complex field of study there is, and its use is not limited to those with The Gift of prophecy. One is told that the body has five senses, but what about the sense of time? The sense of humor? The sense of style? Within each magic user is a sixth sense that resides in the mind and guides them through life. Imagine there is an eye, an Inner Eye, inside of your mind. This eye is usually glazed over, clouded with thoughts, mortal troubles, and worries, but occasionally, the inner eye will be free from thought, open wider than usual, and it will see. What exactly does it see? The instinct that wizards and witches usually attribute to coming from their guts actually derives from the Eye. Even if one has not discovered their eye, and even if one does not understand, the Eye sees, and one knows to trust it with the same certainty as any of one's other senses. This is the key to divination. There is not much for one to learn, but much to let go. Let go of judgment, let go of doubt, and let go of expectations. Open your mind and your eye will open with it, and prepare for anything and everything to be revealed to you. Turn your eye to the future, observe, and be prepared to trust it no matter what the doubters say.
Divination, also known as the Art, is indeed more an art than a science, and out of the nearly hundreds of different methods of divining, certain methods will harmonize better with some than with others. The “logic” and “study” that doubters try to hold The Art under so they may scrutinize Divination as a whole do not apply. It is hardly a standardized discipline. However, there are several guidelines that all diviners are advised to follow. They are not rules, and there is nothing stopping one from breaking any of them save one's own common sense, but one's personal fate is the diviner's own responsibility, and the guidelines are precautions, orally passed down for centuries to warn promising young diviners of the dangers they face. There are five of them.
Rule the first: Humans Cannot Control Fate.
Imagine one stands at a fork in the road. After careful consideration, one decides to take one path over another. Over time, one regrets the decision they made, and are offered a spell that could take them back in time to that moment, but erase all knowledge of the future that hindsight has granted them. If one did, and traveled back to the same point in time, one would only have the memories and experiences one had the first time the decision was presented, and so there is nothing preventing one from following the same train of thought that led to the same decision that was made in the first place.
Time moves onward, whether one wills it to or no. “Good” fortune and “bad” fortune are constructs of the mortal mind, but in the grander scheme of the cosmos, they are simply events that transpire. Humans, as animals, desire good fortune without bad fortune; it is only natural, but this is the cause of the hubris that has ruined so many countless lives in the past, and led to the oldest, the “golden” rule of Divination: Humans Cannot Control Fate. Since time immemorial, many have tried, and none have succeeded. A human has as much effect on time as one does trying to grasp open air with their bare hands. It is a tempting trap which one can fall into without even noticing or trying. So, how does one prevent oneself from this failing? When in doubt, repeat this mantra: the diviner is an observer, nothing more.
An observer, nothing more.
It is not the diviner’s job to understand the forces at work, only what they see. The diviner turns their inner eye to the future and gazes without judgment or expectation. The diviner considers every possibility, does not disregard signs after they have been seen, and does not seek out signs where there are none. Diviners who attempt to foresee good fortune and willfully ignore signs that indicate otherwise, for themselves or their querent, are putting their own interests above the future, which is, in essence, attempting to control fate. There are stories of everyone, from kings to commoners, that have dedicated and ruined their lives trying to avoid or reverse some bad fortune that was foretold, only to find, far too late, that it was this obsession with changing the future that caused the bad fortune in the first place. Events that are set in motion will come to pass. Do not cloud one's inner eye with petty, mortal self-interest. That comes later.
Rule the second: Fate Can Be Bent.
Imagine an object of immense value, say, a baby, rolling in its carriage helplessly towards certain doom. Any wizard or witch in their right mind witnessing such an event would immediately reach for their wand and hold the carriage in place, thus staving off disaster. But, consider the following: no harm came to a single hair on the baby's head. So because it was saved from certain doom, does that mean it was never in any more danger than it would be safely tucked in the corner of its bedroom, under supervision? Any wizard or witch with a heart will know this to be untrue. Just because the disaster was averted does not change the fact that disaster was destined to happen, otherwise one would not have acted in the first place. And what is that, if not changing fate?
We have already discussed that fate is immutable, but if one is careful in their planning and proceedings, fate can be altered, in small ways, to one's advantage. Keep in mind, this is not what this book is about. If one is interested in the subject, plenty of literature on the subject can be found, with questionable scholastic validity, at any newsstand nestled alongside other rags such as “Magical Beast Attacks!” and “The Quibbler”. In any case, despite the ample warnings that are necessary in introducing any young wizard or witch to Divination regarding the inevitability of fate, no true overview of the subject can transpire without at least mentioning that the future is not strictly set in stone and it is possible to alter it in minor ways.
Altering one's future takes very careful planning. The future transpires the way it does largely because we think in the present. The previous example, that of the Fork In The Road, is a classic way of illustrating this. The biggest mistake many diviners make is somehow believing that the future is not already happening, or that the future does not include the foreknowledge they are gaining at this very moment. Our actions are dictated by what we are thinking, and if we think that we will change our fate by knowing what our fate is, then one is actually doing the complete opposite and causing it to transpire exactly as foretold. And so, how does one change fate? By thinking small, and realistically, for one, and to consciously plan out one's actions as if one had no foreknowledge of the future. This is very difficult to accomplish, but if done successfully, one can not alter fate, but bend it slightly. This will cause almost no noticeable changes in the rest of the future as a whole, at least in the immediate future, but will lead to drastic changes in the far future. It is how often this happens that leads to the next rule.
Rule the third: The Further The Future, The Foggier The Future Is Foretold
It is common knowledge that the nearer the future is, the clearer and more apparent its signs are, and the easier it is to foretell. The far future, short of a prophecy, is much harder to predict. For one, the signs are sometimes lost in the noise and spectacle of the others foretelling the nearer future, and for two, the far future is likely to change wildly. Despite how directly and predictably time moves, there are still too many variables for it to remain constant. So, if one is dedicated to foreseeing the far future, know that it is easier and more reliable to predict the clearer signs of the future before that, and predict where fate will go from there.
Rule the fourth: Anyone Can Foresee The Future
Well, not everyone. There are some who willfully blind their inner eye with logic and order who will never truly understand The Art, but this rule generally applies to the topic of Seers. Many believe that only a Seer can foretell the future, while others get into Divination for belief that they possess The Gift. This is based on misinformation. All it takes to divine the future is careful observation and an open mind. But to many outside of The Art, the only Divination worth caring about is prophecy, and so all diviners they will listen to are Seers.
A Seer is a wizard or witch born with the extraordinary Gift of prophecy. A prophecy is a sudden vision of the future that is so vivid in detail, so clear in the Seer's mind, that it is if they themselves are displaced in space and time, embodying and experiencing every action, every detail, as if the event were a solid ingot before them, and gathering a lifetime of detail from the sheerest slice off the end. Unfortunately for everyone else, the prophecy appears second-hand as the Seer collapsing and writhing on the floor, incoherently shouting and mumbling, save for a few choice details and phrases, before working themselves to unconsciousness. The sensory information is too much for the brain to handle, and in some cases the Seer will wake up with a foggy recollection of what happened, but it is more likely they will remember nothing at all.
Prophecies used to be regarded with the same condescension and skepticism that the rest of Divination faces from the scholarly community, but luckily, in the early 16th century, Callum Fairywodger III, esq., the Lord of Magic, under advisement from his personal diviner, Seer Quirke Ó Súilleabháin, passed a movement for a scholarly study on the prophecy, and contrary to all the criticism during this so-called “age of reason”, after a decade of measured study and research, it was found that all recorded prophecies came true. This tangible piece of scientific evidence silenced all critics, and the ramifications can be felt to this day. In fact, many believe this is the only thing that legitimizes Divination as a field of study in the eyes of the academic community, and The Art would have been officially and legally disregarded long ago if this information had not come to light when it did. After that, the process for recording prophecies was developed and the British magical government has kept track of and recorded any and all prophecies they can get their hands on, keeping them in an archive that stretches all the way back to the publication of this study, On Prophecy, in the 1500s. Unfortunately, an incident at the Ministry of Magic at the dawn of The Second Wizarding War resulted in thousands of these recorded prophecies, some hundreds of years old, to be carelessly destroyed. But, the Ministry is still looking, ever-vigilant, for new prophecies every day.
Rule the fifth: Do Not Try To Practice The Entirety Of Divination.
The various methods of divining the future are beyond count, and certainly beyond the scope of the human mind. The various methods of finding signs of events yet to come might seem strange and nonsensical to those outside The Art, but the future can be found in anything and everything, and so several wizards and witches have decided that the most reliable way to tell the future is to study literally every discipline of Divination at once, and once they have already used their time to study every facet of Divination they can get their hands on, rather than use their broad knowledge for academic purposes, they try to tell the future with it and are almost immediately driven insane. Trying to look into everything at the same time will result in nothing but contradicting signs, and there is simply no way to do this with any sort of semblance of accuracy.
Instead, look for disciplines within Divination that resonate with one's inner eye. The future is unclear at best, and a deeper understanding of a method or symbol, and the ability to gather more specific information from a particular source is more valuable than a more perfunctory understanding of a larger quantity of subjects.
Some of these methods resonate more frequently with diviners, or have proven more versatile or reliable over the ages, and in addition to the basics of Divination, this book covers a sampling of the most common methods. If one is disappointed at the lack of depth on certain subjects, then one can easily find entire books written on the subject, and certain methods will be covered exclusively in future course curriculums.
The most popular method of Divination in the world today is Crystallomancy. Also known as scrying, crystal-gazing, sphere-gazing, and many other colloquial names, Crystallomancy has existed for almost as long as humans have been able to craft spheres out of clear or reflective stone, dating as far back as 2000 BC. To use a crystal ball, the diviner must gaze deeply inside of it, keeping their inner eye wide open, and clear all thoughts from their head. If done correctly, the diviner will enter a trance-like state similar to daydreaming, and visions will come to the diviner as if sprung from their own mind. Amateur diviners typically experience rather vague signs, such as colors and simple shapes like circles, triangles, hexagons, and simple lines, but with added time and practice, experienced Crystallomancers see visions of the future which flit through their minds with a clarity almost unlike any other method of Divination. A common misconception is that the diviner is seeing these events within the crystal ball itself, and so to a ley third party who looks at the ball and sees nothing, coupled with so-called “experiments” involving two diviners looking into the same crystal and receiving different visions, it is easy to misunderstand The Art, and this criticism of Crystallomancy is where much of the common modern skepticisms of fortune telling are derived from.
There are many theories as to how Crystallomancy works, but it is still largely unknown. It is largely believed that balls made from transparent stone are more effective than balls that are simply reflective, and this has given rise to the theory that the ball acts as a sort of conductor for the inner eye. Just as a prism refracts visible light into its basic components, a crystal ball breaks down time into its individual threads of fate in a way that one's inner eye can perceive.
For more information on the methodology and history of Crystallomancy, see Chapter 7.
The second most popular method of Divination worldwide is Cartomancy, which manifests in the west as Tarot Reading. Cartomancy is a more measured and impersonal method of Divination, guaranteed to produce symbols, but with an increased focus on interpretation. Cartomancy is similar to the eastern practice of Psephomancy, or Drawing Lots, in that is involves foreseeing the future from drawing specific symbols from apparent randomness. The type of cards used is widely believed to be largely inconsequential; however, it takes time to imbue each symbol with a specific meaning and develop a method of drawing that provides meaningful results. As such, nearly all types of Cartomancy widely practiced are quite old. In the western world, Cartomancy is synonymous with the Tarot deck. Scholars in muggle history believe it is based on a game called Taracco originating in Italy in the 1400s, but the first recorded accounts of using Tarot cards for Cartomancy turn up in France in the mid 1780s by a French wizard named Jean-Baptiste Aliette. The order and orientation of the cards is highly receptive to the course of the future, and it is largely believed that Tarot became the preeminent deck to use in the west as the 78 cards in the deck; 4 suits, 10 numbered cards, 4 face cards, and 21 “trump” cards (22 including The Fool), are possessive of strong numerological power, combined with the deck’s natural portability and how common and easily obtained a Tarot deck would be, simply made it the most convenient.
For more information on the methodology and history of Cartomancy and The Tarot, see Chapter 4.
Divination cannot be talked about without at least touching upon forbidden methods of The Art. Some methods, like Extispicy, divination from animal entrails, or Dririmancy, divination from blood spatter, are largely frowned upon in this day and age, but perhaps no discipline has been as negatively stigmatized and for as long a time as Necromancy, divining the future by consulting the dead. Death and Divination go hand in hand, as there is almost nothing more certain and inevitable than one's demise, and what happens after death is a mystery to the magical and muggle world alike. Regardless of the validity of a diviner's claims to summon the dead, the general attitude towards the dead is that they should remain at rest, and necromancers are regarded with scorn for either unsettling the dead, or for exploiting the aggrieved for profit.
One of the more nebulous methods, and by far the most acceptable type of divination within Necromancy is by Talking Board. The Talking Board is most commonly recognized today in the form of the “Ouija Board”, so named for the “yes/no” section of the board, and the French and German words for “yes”, “Oui-Ja”. Despite the Ouija Board coming about in the mid 19th century, Talking Boards have roots as far back as ancient Egypt, in which a tapestry covered in hieroglyphs was used, and instead of the more modern planchette, the characters were signified by a metal ring suspended over the board by a thread.
Talking boards are slightly more acceptable than other methods of necromancy, like Sciomancy, Necyomancy, or the alleged phenomenon of Enthusiasm, or “Spirit Talking”, because there is no clear cause for what makes the planchette move, so there is reasonable doubt over whether or not it is the dead speaking, and theories range from the fantastic, such as the winds of change themselves, to the mundane, such as involuntary muscle movements of the arms and hands.
Despite the heavy stigma against Necromancy, ghosts remain in the mortal realm of their own accord, and if one were to ask a ghost for advice regarding the future, one is consulting the dead for foresight of the future, which is technically Necromancy. Despite this classification, it isn't recognized as such, and ghosts in general will be eager to provide advice for the living, whether it is to keep a mortal from taking the same path that led to their own grim fate, or just because they are excited that someone values their opinion enough to ask. However, one should always ask if somebody who became a ghost is the best source of advice about life decisions. Just because ghosts typically exist longer than most people have lived, does not necessarily make them wise, and ghosts tend to be self-obsessed and single-minded.
No methods of Necromancy will be covered in this book, and literature on the practice is strictly forbidden in most cities.