Scrying has been described as a means used by psychics to see visions, predict the future, or to tell somebody’s fortune. Probably the most common image of scrying, popularized in modern culture is the gypsy man or woman staring wide-eyed into the ‘looking glass’.
Scrying has been a practice throughout Europe for centuries and the medium used most often (at least in movies) is the glass (crystal) ball on the the gypsy’s table. Almost any reflective surface has been used in the past to see visions, including mirrors, glass, shiny stones, fire, smoke, coals of a fire, fog or mist and ponds or bowls of water. The swinging pendant (much like the watch in hypnosis) has also been used as a reflective surface or focus for scrying.
The Cup of Jamshid was a divination bowl in ancient Persia, used by wizards and practitioners of the esoteric sciences for observing all ‘the seven layers of the universe’. The cup was filled with the elixir of immortality and was the subject of stories and poems for hundreds of years: ‘For years, my heart was in search of the grail (the Cup of Jamshid), What was inside me, it searched for, on the trail’ – Divan of Hafez.
Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter Day Saints movement (Mormons) used the reflections from ‘seer stones‘ for miraculous revelations. Smith even had names for these stones (which he viewed by placing them at the bottom of his hat), one of which he had found in a neighbor’s well. According to Smith, he also possessed two special stones he named Urim and Thummim made into spectacles that allowed him to ‘translate’ the Book of Mormon from the golden plates. Smith had used ‘seer stones‘ prior to establishing the Mormon Church, mostly to look for treasure. After Smith, seer stones continued to be used by Mormon leaders such as Hiram Page and David Whitmer.
But perhaps the most famous scryer of them all was Nostradamus. The son of a Catholisized Jew, born in 1503, he was an apothecary (druggist) which, in those days was enough to be thrown out of medical school. Apparently this did indeed happen when the dean of the faculty at the University of Montpellier medical school discovered his background. Gradually, Nostradamus moved away from pharmacy and medicine and grew closer to the ‘occult’, using several techniques but, most famously, scrying to make predictions about the future. Nostradamus wrote his trance-induced forecasts in quatrains, a four line verse. These prophesies have been studied and claimed by many to have predicted Hitler and WWII as well as the ‘end of the world’ (see post: The End of the World).
Jon Dee mathematician, scholar, magician and advisor to Queen Elizabeth I used a polished ‘shew stone‘ (essentially a crystal ball), a rock composed of polished volcanic glass brought back to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors, to see visions of angels.
What all these techniques have in common is trance, a type of self-hypnosis that many of us have experienced without the pond of water or the crystal ball. Hypnotic fixation on the roadway as we make our way home after a tiring day at work or gazing into the flickering flames of a camp fire can result in the feeling that time has flown by, the world has stood still. We may even see visual hallucinations in the red of the fire or on the black of the asphalt.
*Paranormal experience: subject of research for the novel The Tao of the Thirteenth God – Amazon Kindle.