exWitch Australia
Glossary of Wiccan, Neo-Pagan and Occult Terminology


The art of prediction based on the assumption that unseen links exist between mankind and objects in nature, including stars, crystals and stones, plants, animal organs and viscera.

Divination is one of the primary skills of witches, wizrards, wise women, Cunning Men, Medicine Men, Sorcerers and Shamans.   In some civilizations throughout history, divination has been performed only by special classes of priests or priestesses, who were trained in their methods and interpretations.

Since the earliest times in all known civilizations, man has looked to supernatural sources for help and advice, in personal affairs and particularly in matters of state.   Historically, methods of divination involve either interpretation of natural patterns in the environment or patterns that are formed by the tossing of objects such as sticks, stones or bones.

The ancient Romans favored augury, the interpretation of the flight pattern of birds, and hauruspicy, the examination of the livers and entrails of sacrificed animals.   The augurs were a special caste of priests who read the signs to determine whether the gods approved or disapproved of coming events.

The ancient Egyptians and the Druids relied on dreams and Scrying.   The Druids also read the death throes and entrails of sacrificial victims.   The Hebrews used Scrying.   The Greeks relied on Oracles, usually priestesses who went into Trances and became mouthpieces for deities.

Popular in the Middle Ages was the tossing of grain, sand or peas onto the earth to see what could be read from the patterns.   Similarly, the Japanese traditionally set out characters of their writing system in a circle, then scatter rice around them and let a cock pick at the rice.   Whatever characters are nearest the grain picked up by the cock are used to puzzle out messages.   As far back as 1000 B.C., the Chinese have used the I CHING, an Oracle that involves tossing and reading long and short yarrow sticks.   Another ancient Chinese divinatory method, which is still in use, is feng-shui, or Geomancy, the siting of buildings, tombs and other physical structures by determining the invisible currents of energy coursing through the earth.

Finding the guilty.   Throughout history, divination has been used to identify guilty parties in crime.   Despite the psychic powers no doubt employed by many diviners, it is certain that many innocent people have been punished along with the guilty.   In the Pacific Islands, Medicine Men claim they can identify murderers by examining the marks of a beetle crawling over the grave of a victim.   The Lugbara of western Uganda fill small pots with medicines that represent the suspects.   The pot that does not boil over when heated reveals the culprit.   In other methods, suspects are forced to eat or drink various sub-stances and concoctions, such as the gruesome stew made from the boiled head of an ass.   Whoever is unfortunate enough to choke or suffer ind'igestion-even a rumbling stomach-is guilty by divination.

During the witch-hunts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, suspected witches were bound and thrown in lakes and rivers to see if they would float (guilty) or sink (innocent).   If the sinking innocent drowned, that was simply an unfortunate consequence.

Divinatory methods favored by modern Witches.   Most Witches use a favored tool in divining.   The tool acts as a prompt to Intuition and the tuning-in to psychic forces and vibrations.   The divined information comes in a variety of ways, depending on the individual.   Some persons "hear" it with the inner ear; others visualize images.   Divinatory information comes through other senses, including taste, smell and touch.

Among modem Witches, the most popular divinatory tool is the Tarot deck of cards.   Other popular tools are crystals, mirrors or bowls for Scrying; astrology; the I-Ching; Numerology; and Runes and stones for casting.   Many Witches also use Psychometry, which is the reading of objects by handling them.   Personal objects are believed to be imbued with the energy of their wearers.   By handling them, the Witch or psychic picks up on the vibrations of and gets information about the owner.   Psychometry is particularly useful in finding missing persons and is frequently employed by psychic detectives.   Photographs may also be psychometrized.   Pendulums, made out of coins, crystals or other objects suspended on a cord or string, are used to divine yes-no answers to questions.   Many Witches also use "dreaming true," the use of dreams to answer questions.

Some Witches divine by reading auras, the layers of invisible energy that surround all living things.   The colors and fluxes of the aura are interpreted; often images form in the aura, which may be perceived Clairvoyantly.

Palmistry, the reading on lines on the hand, and Tassemonancy, the reading of tea leaves, are used by some Witches.

Divinatory Trance mediumship and Channeling are not part of modem Witchcraft, though some Witches have experimented with these methods.

In divining the future, most Witches hold the view that the information obtained reveals a likely-not a fixed-outcome based upon the direction of events and the circumstances in force at the time of the reading.   In other words, the future may be changed by choice.   Divination is believed to be useful in helping a person make better choices.

Divination is both art and skill, and a Witch's proficiency depends on his or her natural psychic gifts and regular practice.   For some, divination comes fairly easily, while others must work harder and longer to attune the psychic faculties.   Most covens offer training in developing psychic abilities and divinatory skills.   Many witches feel that the best time to divine is between midnight and dawn, when the psychic currents are supposed to be at their strongest.

Paradoxically the Church often resorted to using divination to determine the identity of a Witch during the Middle Ages and several formulae were thought to be effective.   One of the best known was that of the sieve and shears.

According to a late 16th Century manuscript in the Bodelian Library, Oxford, a pair of shears were stuck into the rim of a sieve and two persons set the tips of their forefingers on the upper part of the shears holding it, with the sieve, up from the ground.   Peter and Paul were then invoked and, at the naming of the guilty person, the sieve would turn around.   Once mastered, the technique of making the sieve twist around was said to be quite straightforward.

A similar principle involved a key and book, usually the Bible, wherein the key was placed at a certain point.   The names of the accused were written on scraps of paper and inserted into the hollow barrel of the key one after the other.   When the guilty person's name was introduced either the book would shake and fall from the hands of the holder or the key would turn.   Although the technique dates from medieval times it was still in use as late as the 19th Century.

Yet another method involved wrapping small pieces of paper bearing the names of the suspect witches in clay balls and submerging them in a pail of water.   The name on the paper that first became freed from the clay would determine guilt.

At a more sophisticated level, divination by Cunning Men includes Astrology, Geomancy and crystal-gazing.   Geomancy involves interpreting the meaning of patterns of dots, created by the Cunning Man or magician during a state of Trance, with reference to the twelve astrological signs.   These patterns were regarded as containing cryptic messages from the soul and were seriously studied among intellectuals in pursuit of everything from buried treasure to the Philosopher's Stone.

A Biblical Perspective:

The Scriptures clearly prohibit Divination in any form.   Divination is the attempt to divine the mind of Deity through some means other than God's way.   It is an attempt to understand the past, present, or future by some means other than the revelation of God.   The revelation may come through various means, but ultimately any revelation apart from God is divination.   God's revelation and divination are opposites.

Divination usurps the rightful place of the Scripture in the life of the Christian.   It attempts to give direction and guidance to the individual.   The Bible is clear on the subject.   Divination, is an abomination to God.   Some would have us believe the Bible endorses Divination as an art that offers mankind an understanding of his true self, an opportunity to create his or her own reality to suit his or her personal spiritual goals.   The following Scripture indicates otherwise.
"When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not imitate the detestable ways of the nations there.   Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices Divination or Sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead." - Deuteronomy 18:9-11

Scripture also calls each of us to place our faith in Jesus Christ rather than the created universe.   The book of Colossians reminds the individual to "see to it that no one takes you captive through vain philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of man, according to the elemental principles of the universe, rather than according to Christ." - (Colossians 2:8)

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One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.

Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans.   Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.

Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church.   Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.

- Jean-Luc
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