I’ve written before about how important I believe divination is to successful magic, but what I haven’t done is to write about which divination method one should use. This is because the answer to that question is: it’s up to you.
In my experience, which system of divination someone uses is a deeply personal choice. Yes, accuracy should be the most important factor in selecting a method of divination, but there’s also the question of feel. When you’re looking for guidance, answers, or knowledge of the future, whichever system or method you’re using should be something you resonate with.
It’s also important to understand that some methods of divination are better suited to certain kinds of questions.
That’s kind of what I want to unpack in this post: which sorts of questions you’re most likely to ask, and which systems of divination might be most suited to answering them.
Asking questions, getting answers
To be clear, regardless of which method of divination we’re looking at, the purpose of them all is more or less the same. You ask questions, you get answers. These questions might be specific, such as: “Should I go to the party tonight?”
Other times, we’re looking for a more “general read” on a situation, such as: “What does the next month hold in store for me?”
The most important thing to remember about any system of divination is that it’s only really useful if it gives you meaningful, actionable answers to the questions you ask. The more well-suited a method of divination is to the question, the better your chances of getting actionable information.
This is why I’ve studied and practiced many different methods of divination over the years. While I do have my favorites, I’m not opposed to reaching for whichever method is best suited for the kind of question I need answered.
With that said, let’s get into it. We’ll look at the kinds of questions we usually want to answer. As you’re experimenting with different systems, consider each of these broad “classes” of questions, and try to sort out which systems are best for answering each.
Yes or no?
One common sort of question we’d like to get an answer to are “yes-or-no” questions. Should I go to the party? Will I get a raise? Should I start looking for a new apartment? These are all questions where we’re looking for a direct “yes” or “no” response.
Unfortunately, many of the more popular methods of divination seem to be almost comically bad at answering direct, yes-or-no questions. For instance, I know relatively few Tarot readers who will even try to get their decks to cut to the chase and answer these questions directly.
In my experience, horary astrology is the best method for getting a yes or no answer to a question.
In horary astrology, you cast a chart for the moment you ask a question, then you follow a set of interpretive rules to determine the answer. You’ll almost always get a definite positive or negative response, along with a fair bit of other, relevant information.
For example, let’s say you were to ask: “Will I get a raise?” You’ll get a “yes” or a “no.” Let’s say it’s a “yes.” You’ll probably get a sense of how large or small the raise will be, as well as a pretty good idea of the time when you’ll get the raise. If it’s a “no” response, you can probably sort out why you won’t get it by looking at other factors in the chart.
The one real drawback to horary astrology (and astrology in general) is that it’s a pretty complicated subject with a lot of nuance. It can take months or even years to get even halfway good at reading a chart.
This might be why the most common divination tool I see used for getting a simple yes-or-no response is the pendulum.
Do a Google search for pendulum divination and you’ll find hundreds of articles and videos on its use, but the main idea is quite simple. Hold the pendulum by its cord and let it hang straight down in front of you. Make sure you start off with the pendulum still, then ask: “Show me yes.” Watch what the pendulum does. After a little while, steady the pendulum again and ask: “Show me no.”
Repeat this a few times until you’ve “calibrated” the pendulum, then ask the questions you want answered.
I don’t do a lot of work with pendulums myself, but according to those who do, it usually only takes a few sessions before you start getting consistently good results.
Either or? Should I?
Another very common kind of question is the “either-or” question. In fact, many “yes-or-no” questions can be re-phrased as an “either-or” one, particularly if you are asking a question that begins with the words: “Should I…”
For example, consider the question: “Should I go to the party tonight?”
That could probably be better expressed as: “Should I go to the party tonight, or should I stay home?”
In a case like this, I find the Tarot to be exceptional. My go-to way of answering such a question is to perform a “three-versus-three” reading.
I throw down six cards. The first three are to answer the question “What if I go to the party tonight?” The second three are for “What if I stay home tonight?” I look carefully at both situations, and choose whether or not to go based on which set of cards looks the best.
Most “either-or” questions tend to be rooted in this idea of “should I.” These are tricky sorts of questions to answer with most of the divination methods I’m familiar with. Horary astrology doesn’t do well with “shoulds,” unless you can honestly re-phrase the question to be a direct yes-or-no.
For example, let’s say you ask: “Should I invest in my friend’s business, or should I hold onto my money?”
Assuming your main interest in asking this question is growing your wealth, the question you’re really asking is: “Will I make a profit if I invest in my friend’s business?”
Horary astrology can answer that question quite easily.
Natal astrology can also help us a bit with “should” questions, although in a more roundabout way. By looking at your birth chart, and taking into account the current and upcoming transits to it, you can get a reasonable picture of which areas of your life are likely to be easier, and which are likely to be more challenging.
For out investment question above, let’s say that you look at your chart and upcoming transits and see what looks like a pretty hairy period of financial difficulties in your near future. You might want to set that “extra” money aside.
Questions involving the timing of events can be among the most frustrating.
“When will I get married?”
“When will I find a job?”
“How long will it take for my business to take off?”
I already mentioned that horary astrology can usually give you a good idea of when events are likely to occur, but using other divination methods to get answers to a “when” question can be tricky.
In my experience, there are two broad approaches to answering these questions, and both come with drawbacks.
The first method involves trying to get a specific time or date, or at least a very narrow range (down to a few days or hours, depending on the nature of the question). This really is a question horary astrology. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never gotten a reliable, specific time with anything else.
Another method you could try is to use Lenormand cards. This is an oracle deck, as opposed to the Tarot, and some people I know have had good success in getting precise timing out of it. Myself? I only use Lenormand on rare occasions, and when I’ve tried to get a time, it just doesn’t pan out. Things might be different if I really took the time to “master” the deck, but I just haven’t.
The second method of getting a time involves choosing a reasonable one as a starting point, and then asking whether the event will happen before the chosen time, or after it. You can then try for a yes-or-no answer, or try to ask a more general question with an eye toward that time.
For example, let’s say you’re unemployed and running out of money. You’ve put in for a number of jobs, have some good prospects. You want to know when to expect a job offer. Let’s pick a time—say, two weeks.
You could simply ask “Will I get a job within two weeks?” Assuming you have a good system for answering yes-or-no questions, you should get the information you’re looking for.
Taking the more general approach, you could ask “Show me what my work situation will be like in two weeks.” This tends to be the approach I take when using the Tarot.
One more thing I should point out is that, when using a system other than horary astrology for “when” questions, I usually get better results when I use “natural” events for timing. What I mean by this is, instead of asking if something will happen before “next Thursday,” I’ll ask if it will happen before “the next full Moon,” or “in the summer.”
Try it both ways and see what happens.
Sometimes you’ll want to know either where something will happen or where something is. These questions both involve the word “where,” but they’re very different, and they usually benefit from different approaches.
To be clear, “where should I move to,” is one kind of question. “Where are my car keys,” is another one entirely.
For the first kind of “where” question, you can usually sort out the answer doing variations on “either-or.” There are also some specific forms of divination which are tailored toward finding places, such as locational astrology.
When you’re trying to find a lost object (or a person, or a pet), again, horary astrology is a pretty decent choice. It can sometimes be a little tricky to find things using horary, because the methods involved usually give you a list of possibilities which don’t always narrow things down satisfactorily. For instance, if you’re looking for your missing cat, you might get an answer that it’s “a short distance to the north of your house, inside or under something.”
Well, that’s certainly a start, but it’s not exactly “sleeping under your neighbor’s car.”
Despite not using it very often, I’ve actually had a surprising amount of success with the Lenormand deck for “where” questions.
For example, maybe I’ve misplaced my keys. Well, there’s a “Key” card in the Lendormand deck. I’ll take out my Lenormand cards, shuffle them, and then look through the deck for the “Key.” If I find it between the “Book” and the “Letter” cards, I’ll go search my desk. If I find it between “Garden” and “Lillies,” I’ll go outside and check my flower beds.
It doesn’t always work, but sometimes the answers you get from Lenormand really can be that literal.
Getting a general “read” on a situation
We’ve covered several different types of “specific” questions, but in my mind, it’s the “general” sort of question or reading that’s the most useful. I find getting my head around a situation as a whole to be more helpful (and easier) than attempting a “surgical strike” for only the specific answer I might be interested in right then.
The answer to “will I get the promotion,” is less valuable to me than “show me my work situation for the spring.”
Astrology is an excellent tool for this, particularly natal astrology. I can pull up a birth chart, check the current and upcoming transits, and get a good sense of how things are going to go. This is especially true when I want to see which areas of a person’s life are likely to go well in the near future, which areas might be more challenging, and how these areas will affect and influence each other.
And, yes, the Tarot is my very next choice. I usually stick with a five-card spread when doing this sort of reading, but for particularly complex or confusing situations, I’ll use a full Celtic Cross.
Another method of divination which can be used similarly (and which I haven’t touched on yet) is geomancy. Put very simply, geomancy involves creating a series of figures using lines or points either drawn on paper or in sand, then arranging those figures into a kind of “astrologically-themed” chart. You then read this chart according to a set of fairly simple rules.
This is far from an adequate description of geomancy, and I encourage you to look into it yourself, especially if you don’t find yourself drawn to the Tarot. Geomancy was one of the most common forms of divination during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, prior to the rise of the Tarot and cartomancy in general.
Finding what works for you
In case it isn’t obvious, even in this long post I haven’t covered all of the types of questions you’re likely to encounter. For instance, I didn’t even touch upon “who” or “how” or “why.” Whenever you’re experimenting with a system, you’ll want to throw all of these kinds of questions (and more) against the wall and see what “sticks.”
As I wrote way back at the beginning of this overly-long post, don’t go looking for one system which will fit every situation. In my opinion, such a system just doesn’t exist.
Instead, you should study and experiment with several different methods of divination, and learn not only how each of them works, but also which kinds of questions or situations they’re best suited to. You should also consider whether or not you personally resonate with a system.
Some people just don’t like the Tarot. Other people find astrology too complex and confusing. These methods work very well for me, but they’re not for everyone.
Good luck on your search!