I really enjoy divination. I especially like the tarot – my main deck is the DruidCraft deck – and I’m learning the ogams. Tarot has a lot more possible outcomes and gives both clear and nuanced readings, and my ogams seem to speak very clearly about things. Neither oracle pulls punches, and both can have a sense of humor when they need to.
I’ve had some questions about how I do my divination though, and how I got “good” at it (I’d argue that I’m only familiar with it, not always good at it, even though I love doing it!).
As a caveat, there are as many ways to do divination as there are seers. Some people watch bird flight, or smoke trails, or clouds, or the wind. I am not that good, and I really need some kind of symbol, something tangible to work from. I’m assuming that’s the kind of divination you’ll be doing, but feel free to disregard it if you’re doing your divination by fire-gazing (or whatever)!
So, how can you get comfortable with divination?
Start with just one symbol at a time.
There’s nothing wrong with a one symbol drawing. It’s a good way to start, and if you want a straight up answer, it’s a great way to get one. If you have a question with a yes/no answer, flip a coin! There are hundreds of patterns you can place symbols in, from 3 symbol Past-Present-Future spreads to the famous 10-card Celtic Cross tarot spread. Don’t think you need to start big though. I rarely draw more than 3 or 5 symbols at a time.
Don’t be afraid of picking the wrong symbol.
The beauty of divination is that when you approach an oracle, the right answer will come up if you trust it to. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense right away, but trust your oracle, your guides (whether they’re generic spirits or particular members of the Kindreds), and your own intuition. Be fearless!
Look up what the symbols mean!
It took me years to get proficient with tarot, and there are still times I want to look up a particular card because I’m having trouble placing it within a reading. I’m still new to the ogams, so every reading I do consists of drawing fews, writing them down, and then looking up where they are in my ogam chart, in the Green Man Tree Oracle book, in Erynn Rowan Laurie’s Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom, and Skip Ellison’s Ogam: The Secret Language of the Druids. Every reading I get something new to add to my mental list, and my notes on each divination consist of little scratched words and phrases as I try to suss out what the bigger picture is.
If you get a set of symbols that you just don’t understand, say “I don’t understand, can you be more clear” and draw another one as a clarifier.
Sometimes divination is really clear – sometimes it’s clear as mud. I’ve had conflicting readings, confusing readings, even readings that suggested I was asking the wrong question (that’s always fun – ask about one thing and pull out a set of cards that all point at a different part of your life. Thanks deck, I see you have your own ideas!). Adding one more item to the set may make the whole reading come together, and I end up using a clarifier a good percentage of the time, especially for larger readings.
Allow your intuition to speak when you’re putting together the meaning of a drawing.
This is the most creative, intuitive part of a reading for me. If you’ve used a spread that has specific positions, that can be easier than a generic 3 item drawing. I write down what they mean in my notebook, taking little half-sentence notes and picking out the bits that stick out at me, even if they don’t seem to apply right away. Then I look at the big picture and try to find a way to combine the three meanings into a larger sentence that “feels” right. Sometimes I try two or three before I find one that fits. Usually that sentence will contain the major word cues for each symbol – a reading with Rowan would include the word “protection” in the overview sentence. It’s certainly not an exact science, and it’s hard to describe when you know you’ve gotten the general overview of a reading.
Don’t place too much stock in the overview sentence either – you can be really successful without writing these, what’s important is getting a picture of the reading as a whole. I like this technique for bringing together a multiple symbol reading, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Paragraphs are a totally legitimate way to explain a reading!
My biggest suggestion, though, is to keep practicing.
Draw a rune a day (or week) and write down what it means – even just a short, one word meaning. Ask the Kindreds what they have in store for you, or what you might be missing about a situation (that’s my favorite question to ask). The more you familiarize yourself with your oracle, the more comfortable you’ll feel doing the readings. Even if you never get past the 3 word meanings, you’ll be able to draw a meaningful oracle in a ritual.
Not everyone is called to be a seer or diviner, but I think everyone has the capacity to do basic divination for themselves. It’s a critical part of the COoR, and (for me) a critical part of doing magic. I do divination before I attempt any magical work, to see what the Otherworld has to say about what I’m attempting. It’s a good way to get clarification on a process, and sometimes you get a very clear “Hey stupid, don’t do that!” answer.
If you’re having trouble connecting to one of the Kindreds, make an offering with connection in mind, ask them what they would like you to do to build connection, and do a reading! Divination is one of the most concrete ways we have of connecting to the Otherworld, and it’s a skill worth cultivating, even just to get a basic proficiency.