The various mantic arts of ancient Egypt and Greece have survived to us unto the present day. So widespread was their practice that even millenia of Christian oppression was unsuitable for wiping them out entirely. Much was undoubtedly lost, but much was preserved thanks to encryptions of various kinds, and thanks to the fear of even the most Christian of rulers, and their desire to know their fates ahead of time.
In our system, there are two aspects of divination: the diviner, and the oracle. Above and beyond these is a seer, who may use oracles but is not dependent upon them. That, however, exceeds the scope of the current essay.
The Diviner: This refers to the person conducting the inquiry to the higher powers. Today, this individual is oftentimes someone with an inherent psychic ability, this being required in lieu of a training process which would allow others to make use of divination. Thus, the power of the divination today depends mostly upon the psychic intuition of the diviner.
The Oracle: The oracle is the mechanism being used to interpret the answer to the inquiry. In ancient times a Theurgist would use a spinning device called an Ynx (or “Iunges”), somewhat like a Tibetan prayer wheel, which would contain many formulae and sacred geometrical patterns used to indicate the answer. Simpler divination would be done using three dice, to create a possible series of 216 answers depending on what the numerical values of the die were attributed to. Bone-casting was also used. In instances of personal inquiry for others, palm reading was very common.
Today the practice of divination has fallen someone into disrepute. Many people, lacking some manner of proper training and method progression in their system of divination, combine it partly with the power of the oracle, and partly with intuition. The power of the oracle being used, however, is somewhat dependent upon the user’s ability to activate it. Without this activation, excess reliance is had on the instinct and intuition of the individual. In some people, naturally gifted psychics who would have traditionally been picked out as seers from a young age and given thorough training, this is sufficient for great results. Even still, though, there are some pitfalls. For example, many things can be garnered from instinct just as much as intuition or psychic inspiration. All of us instinctually know a great deal about face reading, and the recognition of otherwise ultra-subtle body language.
Things that we are not consciously processing, such as the rate of a person’s breath, the openness of their eyes, the puffiness of certain places on their face, and whether or not it is their right or left side which is leaning towards us the slightest half of an inch, is all taken into account subconsciously. This applies even more so when a person is in the so-called “receptive state” that many psychics will go in to. The desire is to know more about the person, and therefore more of that kind of information will be presented to the conscious mind. The conscious mind, unaware of its origin, will identify it as psychic inspiration. The result will be that the psychic will come out of their trance and proclaim, “You have lost someone dear to you recently,” and this will stun the client. The truth, however, is that we can instinctually recognize the signs of intense grief, even if they are all but suppressed, and we know that among humans, only so many things can be the cause of that grief. If you guess that the person lost someone close, you would have a great chance of being correct. A psychic will receive this information by going “passive,” but an Ayurvedic or Chinese healer would have been able to see it as soon as the person walked in.
This by no means suggests that the psychic intuition has no value in a reading. It has inestimable value. However, we must also be aware of the subtle subconscious factors which may be influencing us, especially since these often account of inaccuracies. The conscious mind of the psychic may try to rationalize their instinctual feel of the person with the outter person right in front of them, and in over-analyzing how they feel, come to an incorrect conclusion. This is why the “first impression” is often stressed in trying to do a psychic reading: it allows you to cut out the conscious process of analyzing subconscious information. This rule applies both for receiving subconscious instinctual information as well as genuine psychic data.
The Purpose of Oracles
The principle way that the psychic can avert instinctual redirection or interference is by gradually removing one’s own self from the reading process. Thus, oracles are used. By becoming skilled in the use of a certain oracle, like the Tarot or the I-Ching for example, the psychic is able to remove the “I-ness” from the reading process. There are an incalculable many factors involved in how the flip of a coin will come out, or which card will come up, or which way a dice will roll. It is not just a matter of chance. For example, if I roll a dice, one could say there is a one in six chance that it will land with a certain side up. Technically, this is correct. But there are a incredible number of factors influencing which of those six numbers ultimately does land face up. The strength of the roll, a flick of the wrist in a precise angular direction, at what point the fingers were released to let the dice out, the velocity of the dice once it left my hand, which side initially struck the ground and how hard, what the friction of the surface the dice is rolled upon is, how far the dice travels across that surface, etc. The variables are nigh infinite. So when the dice finally lands with a six facing up, it is like a small miracle, when one considers the great complexity of events required to cause its happening, and how many things could have changed it along the way. Instead, they all came together to create that single outcome.
It is precisely that complexity which creates the power of an oracle. All of those factors create a sort of cloud of destiny, a general haze with no set outcome. It is this “haze” that is so easily influenced by spirits, and by our own higher rationalities which supercede the conscious mind. To do this, though, a spirit needs to be invited. And, an important but often forgotten rule, every oracle has spirits unique unto itself, and a god-force which governs it. The more synchronized the diviner is with the powers which govern over the oracle, the more accurate the oracle reading will be. At that point, it is the power of the diviner, that psychic skill, which will allow an accurate interpretation of what the oracle has presented.
Which spirits govern which forms of divination, and which higher beings, must be learned either by instruction or from the spirits themselves. Without this knowledge, the full extent of the oracle will never sufficiently be tapped, and accuracy can never be guaranteed. On the other hand, if a powerful bond is had with the forces which govern the oracle, then the diviner may rest assured that their divination will never be wrong – only their interpretation will have room for error, and this is quickly corrected by experience.
Two Kinds of Oracles
There are two essential kinds of oracles, technical (“tekne”) and mantic (“manteia”). General divination using some manner of casting of lots, or anything where chance seems to influence the outcome, falls under the category of mantic divination. This is the most common, and the most easy to perform, since a large range of personal psychic ability can factor into the process, and spirits can easily influence it to bring about the proper answer. Technical oracles, however, are those which are “written in stone.” They have set laws governing their understanding, and the understanding of those laws alone can increase the ability of the diviner to read them properly. To this category belong astrology and palmistry
Technical oracles require a great deal of study to use effectively. They employ hundreds of rules for interpreting thousands of pieces of information, which when all taken into account, can yield results of unparallel accuracy. To this end, we may recognize two extreme poles within the practice of divination. On the one end are purely technical oracles, which require no personal psychic ability in order to work effectively. At the other end are purely mantic oracles, where interpretation is everything, and a psychic connection to the situation will always determine the accuracy of the reading. To this we could ascribe some kinds of omen reading, where the omens merely act as subconscious triggers to cause the psychic to become aware of subtle impressions being experienced inwardly. The ancient Oracle at Delphi, of course, would also fit this description, since it relied entirely on the connection of the priestess to Apollo, and not directly on some oracle mechanism for a reading.
Typically, it is of great value for a diviner to be able to perform at least one art from each end of the spectrum. If both can be combined in a single inquiry, then all the better. This allows the diviner to keep in check their own subconscious influences on the one hand, as well as to supplement any lack of understanding of a reading’s variables. For example, a natal chart has nearly infinite complexities. If being used to answer a question, the diviner may also find it favorable to first perform a dice roll or tarot consultation, to give a general flavor to the natal chart reading and guide one’s interpretation. This way both forms of divination are being used, and the diviner is relying on personal psychic ability as well as natural law and universal principles.
There are experts in both extremes, and many very-capable diviners in between also. A diviner will eventually specialize in either a technical or mantic form of divination, and develop his understanding of the oracle to a height. Which one is more accurate or can tell more from the situation is, I think, quite personal. Often times the best results seem to be when a little of both the mantic and technical aspects are taken into account. For example the greatest astrological work usually seems to happen when the astrologer views the chart as a living thing, and interprets it with heart and intuition to spruce up the otherwise cold system of numbers and rules. In this way the astrologer will be able to perceive relationships within the chart that would have been invisible to someone only going “by the book.” On the other end of the spectrum, the greatest success seems to be had when the diviner treats the oracle as having its own infallible rules and principles, which is certainly will have as one develops his skill in it, and allows this to restrict some of the free interpretation normally allowed from mantic oracles.
The Pitfalls of Divination
The greatest enemy of the would-be diviner is self righteousness. As one becomes very talented in a divinatory art form, a powerful feeling of ego can arise which makes the person feel somewhat like a “small god.” In particular, the diviner may resort to using divination to “prove” that he or she is correct in a given situation, or to show that they have acted properly and according to “divine law.” It becomes invoked as a defense to one’s actions that the diviner comes to believe is infallible.
This attitude neutralizes the power of an oracle from the outset. The nebulous haze of fate which influences a mantic oracle, for example, is very easily swayed by personal desire. One must be completely detached from the outcome in order to ensure accuracy. In the case of defending your own decision on something, or trying to “prove” something with divination, the outcome becomes powerfully tampered with. If you want an outcome badly enough, it will almost always show itself through the mantic oracle.
As for a technical oracle, these are usually vast enough that you can choose a small handful of principles and decide that they perfectly justify your course of action. These can easily be rubbed in the faces of others who do not know how to interpret the oracle themselves, and are therefore left to surrender to your “higher” knowledge of such things. However, something like an astrological chart or a horoscope is nearly infinitely complex – you can find whatever you want in it, if you do not take the time to factor in the rules and principles which may negate or change what you think you are looking at. The sky is vast, and it is easy to find what you are looking for in it. Eventually this will catch up to you. Oracles will not allow their unhindered abuse forever.
The largest thing to guard against, therefore, is that special feeling of having a “bird’s-eye view” of every situation. No matter how skilled a diviner one is, there are still an infinite number of things which can blind your prophetic eye, or throw off a reading, if only for the sake of teaching you a lesson. There are powerful spirits behind every oracle, and they will not suffer a raging ego without retribution. Any of the governing spirits of the I-Ching, for example, could completely neutralize its accuracy with the slightest whim. It is by their power that it becomes accurate, not by the power of the diviner. These are all things to keep in mind. Divination, when practiced with the right mindset, keeps us humble, and puts us in awe of the vast contraptions of God’s universe, and the infinite wisdom of the fates. It is a gift from the gods to mankind, in all traditions, to teach us to invite the counsel of beings infinitely more wise than ourselves into our lives, so that we may benefit by their presence and guidance.
A Simple Divination Technique for Astragalomancy
Astragalomancy, more commonly called cleromancy, is divination by casting a dice. In ancient Greece, three die made from carved animal bone would normally be used, but wood or the likes sufficed, and today a common playing dice is perfectly suitable.
These three dice will provide two hundred and sixteen possible outcomes. To each of those possible outcomes, a meaning must be attached. At this point, you are creating your own basic divination tool. A common thing to do is to combine astragalomancy with book-lots, or in other words, use it in common with the so-called “book divination.” To do this, two hundred and sixteen verses from some book, usually of scriptural importance or sacredness, are attached to the possible outcomes of the dice roll. For example, if one has Christian inclinations, it is easy to select a spread of 216 verses from the collection of 150 psalms. One could also choose them from the Book of Proverbs, or randomly from the Gospels. Late Greek theurgists and gnostics usually used Homer for this purpose, but anything considered sacred could be substituted for it.
This part requires some work on your part, but once finished, you will have a system of divination somewhat unique to yourself, with special meaning to you, and which will gain power the more you use it. To use this oracle it is necessary only to roll the dice, and then reference the appropriate verse. At first it may be difficult to see how a certain situation may be connected to the verse indicated by the dice roll, but in time a natural intuition will develop, and connections will be made easily and without stretching the truth of the matter.
Once one roll of the three die is easy to interpret, and is producing good results, then the diviner is at freedom to customize and complicate the process to whatever extent is desired. For example an initial roll of the die can be used to assess the overall situation, but then subsequent dice rolls can be used to gain greater and greater insight into the minute details which may be at play. Or, if desired, one could attack importance to the geometric shapes produced by the way the die land, or the total number of points displayed. For example, if you roll 1-5-3, then the sum of the cast is nine. If you decide that this should indicate something in particular about the situation, then your higher self will factor this in to how the roll should come out. This takes practice, so that you can train your higher bodies to use that symbolism, but in time it will be factored in and become very reliable.
If one does not wish to combine this method with scriptural reference, then a knowledge of numerology can also be employed as the mechanism instead. For example if you roll a 2-1-2, then the situation can be seen as starting symbolic of the power of two, then having a middle station related to the symbolism of one, but then advancing back to where it started again at two, with the whole situation being summed up by the power of five. For those gifted with an understanding of numbers this can be quite potent, but in my personal opinion, associating cleromancy with bibliomancy can produce a much wider range of effects, and can provide much more detail to a situation.
For example, let us say that you are using the Homeric Oracle, and you roll 1-6-4. This produces the verse, “And on he strode amidst his illustrious Trojan allies.” In and off itself, this verse may be seen as indicative of great fortune. However, if we then refer ourselves to the context of the verse in question, a slightly different picture is painted. The verse is in reference to Hektor, who, by the power of Ares, has just slain Patroclus on the battlefield and, victorious, has donned the armor of Achilles. For a short time, it says, Zeus has given him glory. However, the text implicitly states that this glory is only being given in recompense for the dark future awaiting Hektor, who is doomed never to return home again from the battlefield. This is his punishment for tearing off “the immortal armor” of the hero Achilles, whose wrath has now been stirred and will be unabated until Hektor is killed. Thus, this reading produces four “players” to be considered:
- Hektor, who appears to be the querent, or at least the person the query is being done for.
- Universal forces, whose interference has given one temporary advantage in a situation.
- Patroclus, by whose death the querent has been elevated and temporarily glorified.
- Achilles, whose wrath is now quietly brewing, and whose actions will bring disadvantage.
If the divination is accurate, then a short investigation will reveal that the querent has recently had a personal “victory” in regards to the situation, most likely at the defeat of an “enemy” which could either be a person or an obstacle/circumstance. This has made the querent feel powerful and successful, but in so doing, something about the way that this achievement was had has attracted a significant enemy, which could either be person or could be a karmic happening. Either way, it is a temporary victory, and the querent should brace himself for a negative backlash.
A remedy may be available in a situation like this. Achilles is not an unreasonable person. When he was shunned and disgraced by the actions of the king Agamemnon, he asked only for a genuine apology, but was unmoved by superficial amends such as riches. In the story, Achilles always responds well to humility, but never to begging. Thus, if the querent takes on a humble approach to the success, and does not make the mistake of putting on the armor of Achilles as his own metaphorically, which he has no right to wear, then the wrath of Achilles may be avoided altogether. This would seem to be a situation suggesting to the querent that it is alright to have his victory, but that he should not try to acquire the “spoils of war” from it, and should be exceptionally careful not to step on the toes of others in the process.
All of this can be gleaned from those three simple numbers, if the diviner has a close enough attunement to the oracle. Due to the enrichment that can be added to this method by connecting it to some manner of book, I believe this to be the most efficient means of employing astragalomancy.
For the casting of dice, Hermes is the god-force which governs the oracle. A short prayer to Hermes before performing the divination, and a request for one of his attendants to “make the dice roll true and accurate,” will add a level of accuracy to the reading which would have otherwise been impossible to obtain. No offerings are required to activate the power of this method in regards to Hermes; mere acknowledgment of his ownership, and request for his aid, is sufficient to gain his kindness and direction in your endeavors here. This method is simple but powerful, and is sufficient for sharing openly and publicly here on the website. Even the greenest of beginners on the path are in no danger from such a simple method, nor would they be in danger from something like the Tarot or the I-Ching. The use of divination, especially for someone just beginning their magical career, can go a long way in reminding us how magical the universe really is, and how interconnected we all actually are. I will say it again, that the true purpose of divination is to teach us that there are higher beings always willing to give their counsel if we will render ourselves humble and simply seek it. Therefore the best diviner is always the humblest of the humble, and will never harbor preconceptions that he is omniscient, or has some kind of superior “bird’s eye view” of the situations of life.
Fraternally in the light,