Divination refers to the practice of seeking knowledge of the future by some type of supernatural means. Humans have always looked for the answers to the great mysteries of life and the answers to questions such as “who controls our destiny?” There is evidence that some form of divination has been in existence since the earliest times. Many cultures around the world have used divination tools dating back thousands of years.
Indian, Chinese, Mesopotamian, and Mayan cultures looked up to heavenly bodies to understand the seasons, tell time, and also decipher changes that could be contributed to divine action. Other cultures have paid attention to weather patterns, and animal migrations, among other terrestrial omens. Divination rituals among African tribes have existed for thousands of years, with many using bones.
Taoists in China read patterns on tortoise shells, while Vikings relied on consultation of runestones. Shamans in Ancient Rome observed slaughtered animals’ entrails as well as grains that they believed formed messages.
While various forms of divination have been used in societies since the beginning of time, the development of the widespread use of sophisticated divination tools is recent. The spread of various divination systems used throughout history were transmitted orally, and in preliterate times, the transmissions were mostly exclusive domain of priests, rulers, shamans, sages, and chieftains. Throughout the period up to and through the Middle ages, the belief in magic was essentially universal but the knowledge of magic could not be spread until the invention of printing.
It was the Chinese that invented paper thousands of years ago and a man by the name of Bi Sheng created the first moveable type, which was rather primitive, in 1045. This invention helped to increase the production of reading materials. Sheng’s invention was used to reproduce the I Ching, the oldest book of wisdom as well as the most venerated and oldest divination system in the world. Eventually, the invention of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg in the 1450s allowed for the printing of reading materials in Europe as well as the the printing of card decks including Tarot cards.
Literacy continued to increase over time, and more ancient texts were translated, many of which provided information on divination systems. In current times, people are able to experiment with the different types of divination systems, including those from cultures all over the world. There are five divination systems that are rooted in history and are still widely used; numerology, astrology, tarot, I Ching, and runes.
- Tarot cards are one of the more well known divination tools. There are 78 tarot cards in a deck that can be read to foretell the future. There are different types of tarot decks including those for beginners.
- I Ching divining coins were used by sages in Ancient China to provide divinely informed consultation to nobles and the wealthy. The coins are used to compose a hexagram based on the numbers accumulated from tossing them. Tails indicates yin while heads indicates yang.
- Spirit boards, also known as Ouija boards, have been used in different cultures for thousands of years. They are used to communicated with beings in the spirit world to seek out predictions of the future and answers to questions.
- Runes was originally a Germanic language writing system but there is evidence to show that they were used for reasons of magic as well. Runes however are fairly new to use in divination magic. Runes consist of a set of tiles that are drawn from a pouch and tossed.
- Crystal balls conjure images of psychics reading the future but the use of crystals in divination can be traced back to the Druids of Britain. Crystals are thought to heighten the psychic awareness of individuals while the ball is said to allow for an easy way to seek answers without the use of complicated techniques.
The history of divination is long and fascinating. Today, the use of divination of tools continues to grow as people learn about the techniques of the past. For more information on divination, visit the pages below.
- Divination and Spiritual Power
- Women and Divination in Traditional China
- Chu Hsi and Divination
- Ancient Magic and Divination Documents
- Divination Using the Investor Tarot
- Tarot Cards and Readings
- About the I Ching
- The Origins of Astrology: The Egyptian Legacy
- The World of Numerology
- An Explanation of Runes
- History of the Ouija Board
- Evidence for the Use of Crystals in Ancient Maya Religion
Article approved by Sophia Loren.