The Other Side of the Hedge: Scrying Over You

About fifteen years ago, as I was preparing to go overseas on a research trip, a young woman who was given to visions warned me of something she had seen. “On your trip, you will meet a dark-haired woman,” she told me.

“You will fall in love. I saw you on a picnic. You were in great danger, and you will be shot.” Further details were given. I knew she had a gift, and I was at least a little concerned.

Still, for all the risks of the trip, I figured I would be fine. I assured her that I would not be killed. Lucky for me, I was right.

It’s not that I doubted her ability to “see.” I didn’t doubt her as a psychic at all. But psychic predictions tend to be messy things. Taken literally and exactly, usually they’re not all that useful.

Scrying, like other psychic awareness, is accomplished by communication with our own spirits. And for most people, our spirits want attention — and will exaggerate and carry on like a febrile five year old.

You see, the young psychic wasn’t wrong. I did go on the trip. I did fall in love. However, it turned out the woman I met just wasn’t that into me.

I wasn’t shot. I was shot down. Mystery solved.

On the other hand, she might have been wrong. That trip was no picnic.

Scrying Tools

Until the last couple of years, I haven’t had much interest in scrying tools. It’s a funny thing, really; I’ve always had a hard time formally scrying; it always seemed like this intimidating practice.

Part of that was clearly my fault. My expectations were dramatic. I wanted powerful visions, exact details of future events, and perfect knowledge of the unknowable.

But, scrying isn’t that much of a mystery. Scrying is the practice of inducing and interpreting visions. Commonly, crystal balls and magic mirrors are used. While the tools can be useful, sometimes it’s easy to get overly excited by them. There’s nothing sexy about the discipline and practice that build a solid foundation for scrying work.

a photo of "the bean" in millenium park in chicago, illinois.
Any reflective surface will do — © Polly Peterson (2009)

Both crystal balls and magic mirrors are traditional stand-ins for an older method; both tools fulfill the same role as a pool of water. For that matter, any reflective surface will do. But like with all things, tradition is of some value. And while the reasons for that are complicated, it’s hard to deny in practice.

In the end, the magic’s not in the physical tool. It’s in you, and you can start out with some simple household or inexpensive items. So feel free to use an old, black coffee cup filled with water as a scrying pool. But once you start using it for that, it’s probably best not to also use it for your morning coffee.

The first step in scrying is perceiving the spiritual aspects of the world. The second (and often more difficult) part is being able to understand what you see, and interpret what it means back here in the everyday.

A Little Secret and a Big Secret

The spiritual is (mostly) separate from the physical — © Polly Peterson (2010)
The spiritual is (mostly) separate from the physical — © Polly Peterson (2010)

Here’s a little secret of the animist world: We don’t see spirits. We don’t hear them, feel them, smell them, taste them or touch them – not in any rational way. When we see, we look at light with our eyes. When we hear, we feel the vibrations of the air with our ears. Taste and smell have to do with flagging the correct chemicals. Touch has to do with pressure against our nerve cells. Our five senses are defined by the physical world.

And here’s a big secret of the animist world: We sense the world of the spirits because we’re already there! Our own spirit is already in the spirit world, “seeing” and “hearing” and just “knowing” things. We don’t have to learn how to do this. We have always been able to do it. It’s just part of being alive.

But that doesn’t make what we experience of the spirit world untrue. It just means that it is not ruled by the rules of light, the rules of air and chemistry and physics. The spiritual is (mostly) separate from the physical.

In other words, spiritual information is just plain irrational. Bringing that knowledge into our conscious awareness is beyond challenging – it’s just plain hard. So when we train our spiritual awareness, we use a workaround.

Have you ever heard of people under the influence of hallucinogens or sleep deprivation who experience “sense swapping”? Under the influence of certain drugs, it is possible for the mind to become confused, so that you might experience one sense as another: you might find yourself tasting music, or feeling colors, or some other combination. I hear it’s a pretty interesting experience.

Feeling colors — © Polly Peterson (2011)
Feeling colors — © Polly Peterson (2011)

Well, a lot of psychic awareness techniques are actually training yourself to intentionally induce synesthesia – but in this case between a “sixth sense” and one or more of your other five. In other words, in order to parse the spiritual information that’s coming in, we learn to interpret it through another sense.

Scrying techniques are generally focused on swapping the spirit-sense with the sense of sight. But like any time we look at the world, we’re not only seeing. We’re also interpreting. What we see is metaphorical, and learning your own metaphors takes time and practice.

In my experience, simple, effective scrying isn’t about knowing the future – it’s about knowing the present at a distance. The ability to predict the future isn’t the same as the ability to see it. Scrying, like other forms of divination, is a useful way of accessing additional information about the world.

Let’s put it another way: if we can see into the spirit world, and we can understand how it interacts with the mundane world, then we’re at an advantage when it comes to making important decisions. We can see any situation with more depth.

Seeing the spirit world, by itself, does not give us the ability to correctly interpret what we see. While our eyes are open to more detail in the world around us, we need to be able to process all that information into a coherent picture. To do that, all I can suggest is practice and careful journaling. Self-knowledge is the key to effective scrying.


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