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Scrying is a general term used to cover a wide range of divination techniques that require the practitioner to stare at the surface of an object that has a clear optical depth in the case of crystal balls, mirrors, pools or an area that displays random patterns, such as flames, smoke or clouds. Which ever the exact method used, the principle remains the same, that is to allow subconscious information to flow by interpretation of the imagery or random pattern seen. This could be considered to be an extension of what the well-respected British medium and healer, Harry Edwards called the “Mirror of the Mind” on which he believed that all our senses are projected. Scrying can also be used as a form of meditation.

Detractors might regard scrying as being an “Occultist practice”, this may be considered by some as a negative label. As with everything, if your motives are pure, then scrying is just another tool that we can use for the benefit of others.

Historical Perspective

“Scrying” comes from the English word “descry” which means “to succeed in discerning” or “to make out dimly,” it is a very ancient practice that has been used by many cultures and notable people throughout history. Babylonians used oil scrying where the scryer was anointed on the forehead and thumbnail, the thumbnail then became the “magic mirror” that was fixed upon. This was called the “Princess of the Thumb.” Another version used was the “Princess of the Hand” in which the hand was smeared with black soot and oil. A third method was used in which the inside of a cup or vessel was smeared with seed oil and used as the scrying surface, this was known as the “Princess of the Cup.”. Eventually, these practices passed to other Middle Eastern cultures.

The Egyptians certainly used scrying as was noted, by those students of this great mystical culture, the Greeks. They recorded methods of dream scrying in their magical papyri which were written between 200 B.C and 500 A. D. Being Egyptian, ritual ceremony was of great importance with the participant having to abstain from worldly things, bathing and then being anointed with the appropriate oils. Symbols were then drawn on the hand followed by the lighting of a lamp, which had to be free of symbols and not red in colour. Whilst concentrating on a magical symbol drawn in the left hand, the person would recite an invocation to the gods. This is very elaborate, but not unlike our own request for blessing and protection whilst working. Once all of the rituals had been observed, the practitioner would retire to bed endeavouring to recall information that had been presented to him or her in the dream state.

From the Greeks, these traditions were passed to the Roman’s and so on through to more recent times. Without doubt, it is a practice that was initiated by chance when people stared into dark pools of water and became fixated upon images or impressions perceived when doing so.

The most famous person to practice scrying in popular culture is Nostradamus (Michel de Notredame; 1555 – 66) the French physician and astrologer who likened the visual impressions that he received to that of a “burning mirror”. The results of which were published between 1555 – 58 in his book Centuries, which he made a number of prophecies in the form of rhyming quatrains. It would have helped if he had been less cryptic, but at the time, the threat of being put to death was a pretty good disincentive to being more forthright!

During Elizabethan times in England, we find another practitioner of scrying, which is John Dee who was born in 1527 and died at the very good age of 81. Dee appears to have been a very studious and well educated man whose personal library of books was renowned throughout Europe. He studied mathematics and astronomy at Trinity College, Cambridge, before lecturing at Louvian and Rheims. He was also advisor to Queen Elizabeth I, well versed in alchemy, the “magic of the ancient world” and spirit communication after receiving troublesome dreams and hearing knocking noises in 1591, so it would be fairly safe to assume that he probably possessed a natural attunement to the Spirit world.
He was instructed by “angels” in the Enochian system of magic and Dee’s records note his methods of scrying and the ceremonial ritual involved are recorded in his diary Libri Mysteriorum.
John Dee used two methods of scrying, either a small ball of rock crystal or a mirror of obsidian, which he referred to as his “shewstone.” The crystal was rested upon a golden frame that had a cross on top. The crystal and frame then rested upon a seal called the Sigillum Aemeth for which he was instructed by the angel Uriel. The table on which all of these items rested was also of very specific design both in size and type of wood used. The table itself had to be draped in a white silk cloth and twelve Enochian letters would then be arranged in a magic square at the centre, around these were placed seven talismans known as the Ensigns of Creation. It is recorded that Dee always opened each scrying session with a prayer.
Again we can see old wisdom being employed in Dee’s work, of interest, his Sigillum now resides in the British museum. There is plenty written about John Dee and the above account is very much simplified, so if you are interested in a story that contains political intrigue, conspiracy, alchemy and ritual magic, he is just the person to research on a wet afternoon!

Methods of Scrying


As we have said this is probably the root of all scrying, that of looking into pools of water with a dark background and reflective surface, this was the method employed by Nostradamus. Conceivably, one could as easy perceive images from a rain water soaked black plastic bag beside the dustbin as a woodland pool.
Tradition states that the water used should be natural and not drawn from the tap, this comes from the ancient Greek belief that nature spirits dwelled in fresh water. Once again remnants of ancient ritual beliefs survive to this day and are practised by those who use water scrying as a means of divination. Water represents the collective unconscious – the continuum – the flow of all things in the universe back to one source.

Another form of water scrying is using a vessel filled with thinned black ink as the scrying medium. No doubt this would be very effective, but the potential for a household disaster is obvious!

A low cost water scrying vessel could be made by the following method. Select a new or unmarked deep glass bowl that has an even surface i.e. not ribbed, patterned or marked in anyway. Clean the outside with mentholated spirit or good quality glass cleaner and kitchen towel, allow to dry. Turn upside down on old newspaper and spray the outside with black aerosol enamel or car touch up paint in a well ventilated room. Careful spraying will result in an even, consistent finish if the paint manufacturers instructions are followed. Fill with clear water and the requirements of a pool of water with a clear optical depth will have been fulfilled and you can begin scrying at the kitchen table.


We have looked at the basic methods for doing this when discussing the Babylonians. A black ceramic or polished metal bowl could be coated with sesame seed or similar oil, placed on its side and adjusted to form a concave magic mirror. Ancient practitioners also reflected candlelight off the surface. It could be quite fun to try this but it is expected that a good deal of trial and error would be required to set up perfect conditions.

Crystal Balls

Also known as Crystallomancy. Once again we apply the same principles as above. Some prefer as near perfect surfaces as possible, others like a smoky or imperfect surface that they can fix their attention upon. We could also include crystal skulls under this heading, although they are few and far between. (You may even like to experiment with electric light bulbs as they have a spherical reflective surface. Note that we are talking about a new, unused bulb here, not one that is fitted and working!)
As always it is down to personal choice and what ever works for you. Of all of the methods of scrying this will be the most expensive to start because it will involve the purchase of an expensively worked piece of crystal and stand on which to keep it. Tradition states that this should be about the size of an orange, kept clean and in a suitable black cloth, both are then placed in a box to protect from damage. The black cloth can also be used to place the crystal and stand upon when in use, as this will give an even non-reflecting surface with which to work upon. It is also said that the crystal should be cleansed from time to time by leaving out on a moonlight night, washing in pure water or boiling in water? (Not sure if we would try that personally) This is done to release or clear energies or vibrations that it may have picked up when working. There is also a very good practical reason why the ball should be kept covered and that is clear or near clear balls act as very strong magnifying lenses in sunlight. A crystal ball left on a windowsill on a sunny day could very quickly result in a house fire. There have been several reported incidence of crystals causing exactly this type of situation in the press over the last few years as the collection of crystals has gained in popularity.


Smoke and possibly flame could be included under this heading. We have all looked up at the sky on a summers day or thundery evening and imagined seeing all manner of animals and objects created in the cloud formations, a great childhood game that encourages the imagination. With a little more motivation, this can lead to other images being created that are not solely visual and could be used as a divination tool. Once again a fun thing to try on a summers day when out walking or lying in the garden, but difficult to use as a method of reading for someone else. One can only imagine the reaction you would get if you ask the sitter to accompany you to the hills during a bleak winters day for their reading!
Through out history symbols of political or religious portent have been seen in clouds. In A.D. 312 when Emperor Constantine was marching against the army of Maxentius at Rome, both he and his army allegedly saw a shining cross of light within the clouds, which contained the Greek words “By This Conquer”. Spurred on by this good omen Constantine’s outnumbered army was victorious in battle.

Getting Started in Scrying

Whichever medium you use for scrying, the method of working will be similar. The first stage of learning is to experiment with different the “tools” to establish which works best for you. Start with the cheapest, the bowl of water, black painted glass or light bulb before committing yourself to expensive crystals. Working at home will provide better opportunities to try different lighting conditions, daylight, subdued electric light, candle light and so on. (Dim light from behind may be found to be best for working; some suggest this should be no more than one candle.) You can then experiment with placement of the light source in relationship to the tool and yourself. Finally, try placing the tool or yourself at different angles to be able to create the best conditions for scrying. At all times you should feel comfortable and take care if working with a naked flame. We will now look using our tool, for simplicity we will now call this the “magic mirror.”

To familiarise yourself with your “magic mirror” try holding it whilst you meditate, take time to become acquainted with it.

Create the correct conditions to be able to work in. This should be free from disturbance, have the light conditions set up so that you can easily experiment. You should be seated in such a way that you will not be distracted by visual stimulation. People passing the window, the cat etc.

When you are ready for work follow good practice and begin with an opening prayer asking for guidance, protection, that those who draw close are only of good intent. Finally state in which way and for what reason you wish to work with your mirror. Those whose attunement is more established may also ask if it is okay for them to work with the mirror at this time.

Allow yourself to get comfortable and arrange the mirror and light source in the most suitable positions for you at that time. Aim to be working in an undisturbed manner for twenty-minute intervals at first. Remember, as your skill at scrying increases, so will the length of time that you will be able to do it without loosing concentration.

Take some deep breaths and allow your breathing to stabilise. Restate your intent and anything you would like information on during your working. Look intently into, or through, the surface of the mirror. Allow your eyes to relax without the need to constantly blink. (Staring promotes tearing of the eyes causing you to blink.) If you feel the eyelids beginning to close, go with this but, but do not allow them to close fully. Try to develop a conscious link between your third eye (Mirror of the Mind) and the scrying mirror.

After a time you may become aware of clouding or misting up the mirror. This may change to a tiny light source after a while. Eventually this will change, the mist begin to clear and images will form.
This may startle you at first and you could lose the impressions or you could find yourself trying too hard. Endeavour to stay with the images, even if they are jumbled or meaningless. After all the images may only be experimentation to begin with. As always do not try to evaluate or judge the images whilst you are working, they may not have meaning for you personally and therefore your interpretation will most likely be wrong.
Again as part of good practice, note down your findings after you have finished working so that you can evaluate things at a later date. It will also help you to establish which times are most successful for you to work. For example, accurate recording could indicate that your best work is done at a certain point in the lunar cycle. Images may also come to you that are symbolic in nature; therefore notes may lead you to the correct interpretation of them.

Some Last Thoughts

Don’t try too hard: this is detrimental as you are concentrating too much on doing and not on receiving.
Relax: be comfortable with what you are doing in all ways.
Be prepared to experiment with the “tools” and conditions.
Don’t give up: everything worth doing requires time and effort. We should learn from our failures.
Practice and enjoy what you are doing.


The Macmillan Encyclopaedia
Oxford English Dictionary
Edwards, H – Guide for the Development of Mediumship
Morwyn – The Complete Book of Psychic Arts
Balcome, Betty F – As I See It
Thomas, Val – Dark Pools – the art of scrying
Grimshaw, Kathy – Learning How to Scry

This article is part of our Psychic series.







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