Divination Articles

Beginners guide to Divination & Divination Cards

By Brett Almond

What is divination?

Divination is the art of making apparent information that is hidden or not immediately obvious. From the outside looking in, it can appear magical, mystical, and maybe even scary, because we may not understand where this information is coming from.

Examples of divination systems are the tarot cards, dowsing with a pendulum, crystal balls, palm reading, the I Ching and even reading tea leaves. Many would say that the power is not so much in the object or system used as in the person who is using them, and their relationship to the tools.

How does divination work?

Many believe that divination works because all things are connected energetically, and all matter has an innate intelligence. According to this belief, when handling some rocks on a table, you are connected to a higher power because the higher power is connected to the rocks – in a sense, the rocks are alive. If you accept that everything is alive, it could be argued a higher purpose can speak to you through anything - if you can just work out a method of interpreting what an object may say to you. Once you accept that the world is an intelligent place, you can even accept that your car breaking down while you’re out for a drive may be a message that you should slow down and relax in your more general life.

To believe in divination can be a big step. Many need to practice an art such as tarot reading for many years before they really begin to accept that it is not just coincidence that the cards keep falling in the right places.

What makes a good divination system?

Many different cultures and traditions have divination systems. For example, runes are of Nordic origin, they thow the bones in the Sangoma tradition in Africa and in China they have the I Ching. These systems involve throwing rocks or bones that have been engraved in a certain way, after which the engravings can be interpreted.

A good divination system is one that has been created with good intention and that gives you positive information to work with. What use is a system that is continually scaring you with prophecies of doom? A good system should help you develop into a person more like the one you want to be.

Legend has it that some systems, such as the runes, were given by the gods to the people. It is said that because of this, these systems have a great depth of meaning. It is true that many long-standing systems carry more meaning than the newer ones, because they have proved themselves. If they were not based on truthful ideas, their popularity would probably have declined.

Mr Smith, the butcher, could invent his own divination method involving throwing his meat cleavers on the floor. He could develop a whole system based upon how they land. However, unless Mr. Smith is a wise man, his system may not be able to give rounded advice. He may be a very intellectual person, and miss out many options relating to his feelings, because he is not as aware of his feelings as he is of his intellect.

Reading tea leaves is a good example of how everyday objects can be used for divination. It is not that tea leaves are especially magical - everything is magical. Because everything is connected on an energetic level, then any object can be used as part of a divination system.

How do I choose what method to use?

Don’t worry about which system really works because they all work - they all carry magic because the world carries magic. You should find the system that is most appropriate for you. Which system divines in the way that you want it to?

You will need a system that:

  • carries some wisdom within it so that you can learn from it
  • is concerned for your greater good
  • attracts you

Most divination systems try to describe a particular kind of energy. For example, each of the ‘Medicine Cards’ by Jamie Sams represents the energy of a different animal. Once you have drawn a card, you can look up the meaning of that animal in the reference book. It may say that the snake represents transformation and transmutation, but over time you may take this further and begin to develop meanings of your own, drawn from the energy that snake represents.

A good divination system will develop your intuition, so that you may find yourself divining within certain situations in your daily life - for example, feeling for the undercurrents of a conversation, and whether what the person in front of you is saying matches what they are feeling. These skills help you to be more aware of the world around you.

How do I use divination?

Medicine Cards with Wooden RunesDivination in its most positive form can be used to help us follow our path in life. It can help us to understand situations in our lives so that we are better able to decide which way to go. Many who use divination believe that we have a higher purpose for being on this planet, and that our lives are connected to a greater power - and they believe that this power is good. When reading or divining they are looking for clarity - which way should I go for my greater good, or what is the right way to turn so that I may evolve into a better human being? By a better human being they often mean one who is more able to be genuinely kind to others, to love their family, to respect others, and to be a happier person in themselves - less prone to fear, depression, destructive anger or sadness.

In preparation for divining, many people will quieten their minds and really try to connect with a divine part of themselves. This part we could call God, or Great Spirit, or simply a greater power. In divination, you are essentially divining for the truth.

Many people think of divination as fortune-telling or predicting the future. Before embarking on this path, you should carefully consider your motives. We often want to know the future when we are at our most vulnerable. We may be in the midst of a crisis and want to know if we will make it to the other side, so we may ask questions like ‘Will I ever be happily married?’ or ‘Will I be rich?’ In asking these questions, we are devaluing ourselves. The answers are in our hands. Fortune-tellers deal only in trends. There are no absolutes in life, because although an outcome may look extremely likely at a certain time, it is never cast in stone. You decide. If a fortune-teller or reader has told you something that has frightened you in the past, then remember that you decide your future, not them. They simply told you what seemed likely to happen at that point, but every change that you make to your personality and life can affect the prediction they made. The further in the future the prediction, the more chance you have to change things for the better.

Before asking questions of your future from a divination system, ask whether you could cope with a negative answer. I have known many people put their life on hold because of what a reader of some kind said to them. One man was told that he would not be happy until he was 55, so he spent 10 years thinking he had to be unhappy, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. By accepting what the reader said to him, he denied himself 10 years of growth and potential happiness because, essentially, he allowed himself to stagnate.

Is divination safe?

Once you begin to investigate this area, it can become tempting to use these tools to help direct your life all the time. If you continually use your pendulum to find out if you should go to the pictures with your friend, or whether you should bunk the day off work, then maybe you are forgetting to value your own decision-making ability. Divination is a tool to help you understand your life better, and to give you support. Try not to get into the trap of referring to your cards or stones for advice on every little thing that happens in your life. Use divination to supplement your feelings, and when you have a strong feeling to do something, then trust yourself.

If you do not believe in a greater body or power, divining is no more than a game. The ouija board is a well-known divination tool used to communicate with discarnate beings. Participants rest their hands on a glass or pointer which the spirits move across letters on the board to spell out their answers. However, as someone once said to me, if every piece of advice your Aunt Maud gave you when she was alive was useless, why should it be any different now that she’s dead? This statement can be extended to all spirits. Just like the living, spirits have their paths to tread, and how do we know which are the wise spirits and which are the unwise? We don’t sell ouija boards.

So the answer is that divination is as safe as the questions you ask. If you are consciously connecting to a part of yourself and the energetic system that is good, then your answers will be good.


It’s easy to put divination into a box and label it ‘mystical’ or ‘scary’, but divination is a simple extension of ourselves. If we accept that we are all energetic beings and that all energy is connected, we can take objects from our physical world and have them talk to us in a way that we can understand.

Brett Almond

© holisticshop 2000. All rights reserved

About the author / more information

Brett Almond is the founder and director of Holisticshop.co.uk. His main personal spiritual pursuits of choice are Tarot, community through how we treat each other and ceremony using fasting, dance and sound. He also runs a regular sweat lodge in Norfolk. He has a natural intrigue for personal development and all things spiritual.


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