Divination - The Practical And The Mystical
Article ID: 9867
Age Group: Adult
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Author: RuneWolf [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: July 31st. 2005
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My approach to divination is, I think, both practical and mystical. On the practical side, I believe there are elements in the mechanisms of divination that are quite easily explained in terms of human psychology, let alone such scientific estoterica as quantum mechanics. However, there are those divinatory instances when the results are so precisely targeted that I cannot with any honesty ignore the hand of the Gods in the process.
On the practical side, I believe that divination serves to penetrate the tunnel-vision of the conscious mind and access the broader, though often fuzzier, resources of the deep mind, or unconscious. Depending on the system and symbolism used, divination may also help to bridge the gap, as it were, between the individual unconscious and the collective unconscious. Some would argue that such a gap cannot, by definition, exist, but I believe that our individual deep minds have their limits too, and that over time unused data drops out or becomes corrupted. By re-linking periodically with the collective unconscious, be it through ritual, pathwork or, in this case, divination, that data is restored and/or that greater database is re-tapped.
Divination, then, circumvents the limitations of the waking mind, and attempts to directly access the non-linear processing ability of the unconscious, as well as the pool of archetypes and archetypal symbolism stored therein. In less pedantic terms, divination helps us to think outside the box. Very often, during the process of divination, I find myself thinking, “Well, I didn’t think of that, ” or “That never occurred to me.” This is the essence of what I am discussing here. We present a situation or a question to the oracle, and the oracle “responds” by “pointing out” factors that may – or may not – be relevant, but that, in any event, we simply hadn’t considered up to that point. Quite often, this is as far as I need to go, although I do make it a habit to see the reading through to the end. You never know what curve-balls an oracle is going to throw at you…
Of course, thinking outside the box and acting outside the box are two completely different things. But when I am presented with “How about this?” from the oracle, I do try to take “that” into consideration and temper my actions accordingly. A simple example would be consulting an oracle about the roots of sudden and unexpected tension between a close friend and myself, and being told by the oracle, in effect, “Have you considered that it might not be you? That it might be someone behind the scenes that is creating tension in all of your friend’s relationships?” If I accept this possibility, I then temper my interactions with that friend by viewing atypical behavior as possibly originating in another relationship entirely. This helps me to overlook the behavior, and love my friend until the issue elsewhere has resolved itself.
Another example is divining to determine if a decision already made is the best one. I have pretty well decided that I am going to a festival in August. I cast the runes just to double-check myself. The rune mannaz comes up, the rune of, among other things, familial relationships. This is followed by raidho, the rune of responsibility and right action. Now, on the surface, these have nothing to do with going to a festival in August. But they do remind me, in a gentle way, that I have committed to helping my mother with some home maintenance, and that in my enthusiasm to attend the festival, I must still make time to honor that commitment.
I would probably have figured that out on my own…or not. The point is that I asked the question, and the oracle responded. “Sure. You can go to festival. But be sure that your commitments to others are covered before gallivanting off on your own.” This, to me, is a sure sign that my deep mind is speaking through the oracle. It didn’t forget that commitment, and it knew how I would feel later, if I found myself reneging on a promise just so I could enjoy a weekend frolic. It is then up to me to take action, and arrange a date or dates to help mom out, so that I can attend the festival with a clean slate. The “advice” of the oracle, and my actions upon that advice, allow me to avoid an emotionally troubling situation.
Looking at this process in purely prosaic terms, one can see that divination can serve to shock us out of habitual or circular thinking, by presenting random symbols that are open to various interpretations. One or more of these random symbols/interpretations pierces the sludge of the consensus trance and “Zen slaps” our deep mind, which turns around and pokes the conscious mind in the ribs. Once shocked out of its rut, the conscious mind spins up, takes up the slack, and finishes the job as it is designed to do. It’s not so much a matter of predicting the future or scrying distant locations and events, as it is rebooting, if you will, the ol’ thinker.
There is, however, an undeniably mystical side to divination, which cannot be ignored, at least by this Warlock. Far too many times, I have been smacked right in the face by a detailed and undeniably accurate summary of the whole situation, down to the physical descriptions of the person(s) involved.1 When one is stripped naked, so to speak, in such a fashion, one then tends to listen very carefully to whatever the oracle has to say about the possible outcome of that situation. I can be as skeptical and “rational” as I want to be, but in the end, having been presented time and again with the “evidence, ” to deny the participation of the Gods in the process of divination would be to deny my belief in Them and in the Pagan path.
How, exactly, the Gods do participate is another question entirely. When I think of the Goddess manipulating the laws of probability so that a deck of Tarot cards arranges itself in just the right order, or so that a bag of runes settles with just the right staves on top, it makes my head hurt. But, again, can I deny Her ability to do so, and call myself Her servant? Can I logically say – even given that the logic might be fantastic by normal standards – that She can create and order the universe, but She can’t rig a simple deck of cards? That, I submit, would smack of hypocrisy.
I don’t believe that, every time I divine, I am talking to the Gods. Sometimes lesser entities are involved – spirits of place, shades of the ancestors – but most times, I think, it’s just me, the oracle and my deep mind, happily resolving whatever issues I bring to the triumvirate. I believe that the Gods can and do communicate directly with us through our oracles, but that such interventions and messages are the exception, rather than the rule. When one has worked with a particular oracle for a number of years, one gets the intuitive sense in a reading when it’s the oracle speaking, and when it’s Them.
In conclusion, I think that our use of oracles, and our acceptance of the wisdom and perspective they impart, must be informed by our personal philosophy and cosmology. I believe in the forces/concepts/processes known as ørlög and wyrd. In brief, ørlög refers to the layers of past actions laid down by ourselves and all other beings, and wyrd is the wavefront of the cumulative and intersecting results of those actions pushing into the undetermined future. Divination for me is therefore a process of looking as holistically as I can at all of the factors leading up to and impinging upon a situation, and determining from the multiplicity of possible outcomes which are the most likely, given the possibility that other factors of which I am unaware may affect the situation even moments from now. Divination helps me to become aware of and give consideration to possibilities that I may have ignored or been unaware of, and it helps me to prioritize, if you will, the possible outcomes. Nothing in this process tells me explicitly and unequivocally what is going to happen. But “forewarned is forearmed, ” and the very process of obtaining advice from the oracle and factoring that into my plans is another layer of ørlög, which affects my personal wyrd in that situation.
1 I find the Tarot to be much more conducive to readings where there are many “players, ” so that the oracle has the opportunity to visually indicate certain people, places and things – which it does with frightening consistency. I find runes to be of more value when dealing with conceptual issues or meta-issues, where a quick, comprehensive and broad view of the situation is satisfactory – or even required. Scrying and journeying I reserve for those divinations when I simply need to let go and let input flow over me, to be sorted and interpreted later.
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