Scrying, or trying to see visions through reflections is a common practice to most cultures with many media associated with scrying – blood, water, fire, smoke. One of the most familiar in Western culture is the use of a crystal ball by a fortune teller.
Using a crystal ball is a staple of the pop-culture paranormal, but it’s roots go back to antiquity. In Crystal Ball: Stones, Amulets, And Talismans For Power, Protection, and Prophecy, Sybl Ferguson writes that Druids gazed into beryls to make predictions regarding the future. This is backed up by the oral histories recorded by Pliny the Elder.
During the middle ages, baubles of clear crystal became status symbols among the wealthy. Dr. John Dee, advisor to Queen Elizabeth I of England, was a noted alchemist who practiced scrying using a crystal ball and a mirror. By Victorian times, scrying into a ball was both a way to tell the future, but also a common parlor game and decoration.
Modern crystal balls are either pulverized quartz crystal fuzed with other minerals and molded into a sphere. Or they may be solid glass. Balls of varying price can be purchased at Renaissance Faires, New Age and occult shops, or even at Amazon.com.
The ritual for scrying varies from practitioner to practitioner. They room or the ball may be cleansed of negativity or attuned to the scryer’s energy by various rituals. The scryer concentrates on the ball. What happens next depends on the seer you speak with. Some claim that they see reflections on the surface of the ball. Others claim that mist fills the ball, only to clear and reveal the vision inside.
Skeptics claim these visions are the result of the scryer putting themselves into a state of self-hypnosis. The visions are nothing more than the brain trying to make sense of smudges of dirt and oil left on the surface of they crystal from handling.
One of the more well known versions of the crystal ball is the Palantir from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Made of a dark crystal, the eight Seeing Stones are said to measure from a foot in diameter to so large that one man could not lift it. Although their primary use was communication, a user with a strong will, like Sauron or Aragorn, could force visions of what they wished onto a weaker willed viewer. In The Wizard Of Oz here’s also the crystal ball Dorothy gazes into to catch a glimpse of her family in her beloved Kansas. Or who can forget the scene in Labyrinth where Jareth the Goblin King juggles crystal balls while tempting Sarah?
My short story “Reading The Leaves,” features fortune telling using both scrying and tea leaf reading. Win a signed paperback copy of Alterna-Teas (to be published November 25th, 2016) and this hand knit crystal ball by leaving a comment below before 12:00 AM EST November 1st, 2016. Shipping to the US only. I will pick the winning comment at random.
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