Scrying: The Complete Introductory Guide
Last Updated: March 7, 2023
More than just a nod to Elder Scrolls, Scrying is an ancient technique that traditional and modern diviner witches use. From pendulums to crystal balls to smoke and water, scrying harnesses the power of intuition and imagination to interpret symbols, and potential messages from the spirit world (if you work with spirits in your practice).
Scryers (as they can be known) use their tools to allow them to create pathways between the mundane world and higher realms, connecting with unseen forces or their deeper intuition and gaining insights into current issues or future events. Anyone can scry, with regular “exercise” of your intuitive muscles. As you might know with BackyardBanshee.com, we don’t believe there is a set specific “correct” path for folks to follow, so whether you work with spirits or whether you work intuitively, you’re very welcome here.
With practice and patience, scrying can become a powerful tool in your journey. You can use it for so many purposes, whether it’s for connecting with the spirit world, for introspection and revelation, or for inspiration and a meditative tool.
What is Scrying?
If we had to define scrying, it’d be the art of intuitively interpreting visions and images in an object. And the beauty of this is that you can choose the object based on your preferences, your level of intuitive practice or based on the time or tools you have available to you.
If you’re looking for evidence that scrying works, I want to argue that …what does it matter? The peace people find in stillness, the calm from a grounding session in nature, and the clarity that comes from meditating are all much the same. At the end of the day, the proof that you need to believe in something is your own experience with it.
In my opinion, scrying provides an opportunity to go deeper and access a different realm of understanding. To me, it’s not just about interpreting symbols or divining for the future, although it’s arguably a large part of it, but it’s about the power of unlocking wisdom and intuition – whether it comes soulfully or from the spirit realm.
So if you’re looking for a new tool to experiment with, why not give scrying a try? You may just be surprised by what you find! And, of course, you can always just gaze into the night sky for some interstellar wisdom.
Scrying comes from the words ‘to descry’, which means to detect something by looking, or catch sight of something. This is one of the most popular forms of divination, where (for example) someone looks at a crystal ball and interprets symbols that appear inside it. It is what has been shown mostly in media for this method!
You don’t have to be a witch, or a psychic, or medium, to try scrying.
You don’t have to sit in a trance for hours on end, in complete silence, surrounded by darkness.
It doesn’t mean that you will instantly be able to connect with the dead, and carry messages or inadvertently invite spirits in the space that you were scrying from – this is not a horror movie.
It also doesn’t mean that you will instantly pick up images, answers and solutions to situations you are scrying for – patience with scrying is the one thing you’ll definitely need most.
Scrying means to go find answers regardless of how you label your practice or whether you are a beginner or advanced practitioner.
History and Origins of Scrying
The evidence of scrying for divination is global, and millenia-old. Truly, from Madagascar, Nkomis, Egyptians, East Russian shamans, Chinese Yüan-kuang-fuchou, Australian, Sarawak manang/murangs to Hindu unjuns by Sunnecasses – there is documented use and history of scrying all the way from ancient Babylonia (around 1800BCE) and likely much earlier.
As different cultures have abundant approaches to scrying, there will be some elements that are private to closed practitioners but as a whole you can scry with the safety of non-appropriation and appreciation for the work your ancestors have performed before you.
So, when you next find yourself looking for answers – give scrying a try! It may just be the perfect tool to help you access your own wisdom and intuition. Who knows what amazing things you will discover along the way?
The practice of scrying can also be considered self-care as it allows us to take the time to be still and feel into our intuition. It is a powerful way to tap into the depths of our inner knowing and access information that can help us make better decisions and find the answers we are seeking. Yet it might take some practice before you start feeling comfortable in developing this process.
How to Scry
Scrying can be done using many different objects like mirrors, fire, smoke or water. It all depends on the diviner’s preference and their resource of time, energy and tools. This ancient art requires a lot of patience with it’s practice.
If you’re looking for a simple way to get started with scrying, try using a black reflective surface. This is incredibly easy to do, requiring only a black bowl or plate (or even your phone’s screen). Fill the bowl with water and light a candle (or use natural light from outdoors). Stare into the reflection of the water and wait for images or symbols to appear. You can also meditate while staring into the reflection to help open your intuition even further.
Below for you now are different methods that you might feel line up with your preferences in your own practice – this is crucial to helping you make it work, to be honest, because there’s not much point using incense for scrying if you’re asthmatic, or using shadows in the dark when you have nyctophobia.
As I had mentioned above, crystal ball gazing is the most represented form of scrying divination, but you will find that you can scry in most surfaces and objects – from the ancient histories of all the different cultures you’ll see that lamps, wax and flames have all been options as well as mirrors, bowls of water and even oil spills.
Here I will explore a fantastic list of various tools that you can also use in your witchery arsenal:
Scrying bowls do not always have to be a specific bowl shape – the ancient Japanese would use black lacquer boxes (such as their suzuribako writing boxes or kobako incense boxes) as a tool to scry for predictions.
Most scrying bowls are made of either metal, glass or polished stone and usually filled with still water, oil or ink. The bowl is placed on a wooden board or altar cloth in front of the scryer and is used to induce trance-like states by staring into the surface.
The vision seen in the scrying bowl are often symbols of what will come in the future, which must then be interpreted by the diviner. This is one of the most accessible variants of scrying tools, one that needs little ceremony to begin, and you can even try this with your morning black coffee or even your cereal bowl – you don’t always need the fanciest tools.
Tips for scrying with a bowl include getting a darker material bowl to begin with, dim the lights or use candles for a softer glow, and varying the technique that works for you (whether that is staring without blinking into the bowl, or using a pendulum to help you get started).
Crystal Gazing (Scrying Stone)
The Yucatan historically used the zaztun (the sight stone – typically a quartz or clear crystal) to see the past and the future, and in West Australia the boylya would use a quartz stone to place their own energy inside to scry an answer for medicine, healing, and forecasting the rains in the deserted outbacks.
It’s not just clear quartz that has been used for crystal gazing, but black obsidian plates and black obsidian surfaces have been used for a long time for scrying. The magickal properties of both crystals make them ideal choices for scrying; protection, energy boosts, cleansing, and clarity. They are both hard enduring minerals, and so to really break them would take considerable force – I’m really clumsy IRL so hardy materials are always appreciated!
You can also use multiple crystals for scrying if that is your wish – Joseph Smith Jr, the founder of the Latter Day Saints and creator of the Book of Mormon used visions with an Angel named Moroni to discover seer stones that later gave narrative to the book itself, which whilst Joseph scried the stones he was supported by scribes who wrote down his dictations, therefore creating the book and beginning of a new religion. The “Plates of Nephi” stones that were also known as “Urim and Thummim” named after the biblical stones, Joseph Smith Jr also had a white stone and a brown stone that he had found earlier, before this incredible experience, as seer stones were considered useful for locating treasure and seeking rewards in the late 1700s.
Next time you are on a nature walk, or happen to be at a beach or nearby an old quarry, why not put it out there to the universe you are looking to find your very own seer stones for scrying? Use them to start as a grounding tool for meditation but then as you progress with confidence, you can start with some more serious rituals into the future. A witchy tip for crystal gazing would be to hold it in your left hand and align it with your spoken intention of “I open myself to receive intuitive guidance and insights from this crystal.” Pay attention to any thoughts, feelings, or images that come up for you during the crystal gazing session. Don’t judge or analyze them; simply observe and allow them to flow.
The infamous John Dee, 16th Century astrologer to the Queen Elizabeth 1st had a “spirit mirror” tracing back to Pachuca, Mexico, to which he would use in his career of occultism and exploration. If you go to most metaphysical shops that sell crystals, you’re likely to find black obsidian shaped for scrying whether as a plate or as a mirror.
“Bloody Mary” was a way to allegedly see a spirit in a mirror if you said her name thirteen times while looking into the mirror directly at a night and a woman would appear – but this is not something I’d try nor want to, as I could honestly say I’d have to change my pants I’d be that scared.
To use a scrying mirror, prepare it with sacred herbs such as bay leaves, mugwort, sage and lavender to create a magical environment. The mirror could be placed on a velvet cloth or an altar cloth, when it is ready for use, maybe even with some crystals around it also if this works for you.
As you gaze into the mirror, allow yourself to go inwards into meditation and then allow your subconscious mind to take you on a journey. Watch the images as they come in, and use your intuition and imagination to interpret what they mean.
A cool witchy tip for your own craft would be to create your own black mirror, whether thrifted or brand new, and painted in the darkest black hue you can find. Some folks prefer matte surface scrying yet I always suggest as glossy and reflective as possible.
Scrying in the bathtub using bath bombs or colored bath oils can be a versatile tool for divination and introspection. It’s a perfect way to combine the relaxing and cleansing properties of a bath ritual with the ancient art of scrying, which involves gazing into a reflective surface to receive intuitive messages.
One of the benefits of scrying in the bathtub is that it can help you to relax and get into a meditative state more easily. The warm water, candles, and soothing scents of the bath bombs or oils can all work together to create a peaceful and calming environment, allowing you to let go of stress and anxiety and open yourself up to receiving messages from your intuition.
Bath rituals are already a regular part of many witches’ spiritual practice, as they are a great way to cleanse and purify the body and mind. Adding scrying to your bath ritual can be a way to take your practice to the next level and deepen your connection with your inner wisdom, whilst also saving time or bringing out additional tools.
It’s also more private and an intimate setting than other forms of scrying, such as using a crystal ball in a regularly used space in your home. It allows you to fully immerse yourself in the experience and focus solely on your own intuitive messages without any external distractions.
If you don’t have a bathtub, but can make your own moon water (especially dark moon water, which would be great for this type of divination – but use it at your own discretion and risk), you can also do water scrying in a bowl or cup like above.
Scrying doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive – all you need is an open mind and a reflective surface!
A witchy tip for those who use intention candles for their manifestation work – why not pour your melted wax into your scrying bowl and look over the shapes of the wax when it re-moulds itself? This is a form of divination called ceromancy, or carromancy, and it’s been used for centuries for insight.
Flame scrying, also known as part of pyromancy and fire magick, is a method of divination that involves gazing into flames to receive messages from the universe or the divine. It is a popular form of divination among witches and other practitioners of magick because fire is seen as a motivating and transformative element that can reveal hidden knowledge and insights.
Fire magick, in general, is a top preference for many witches because it is associated with passion, creativity, and transformation. Fire is a symbol of the divine spark within us all, and it is also seen as a tool for purifying and transforming energy. Many witches use fire in their spellwork and rituals because it can be used to create a powerful energy shift and bring about positive change.
In flame scrying, you focus your gaze on the flame and allow your mind to become still and receptive to messages from your intuition or even the divine. As you gaze into the flame, you may see images, symbols, or other forms of communication that provide insight into your current situation or answer your questions. There have been times when I’ve stared for what feels like hours upon hours, and as I was about to give up I saw either a dragon rolling over or a door closing. Very on the nose stuff from my subconscious.
One of the reasons why flame scrying is a top fave for witches is that it is a relatively simple form of divination that can be done anywhere there is a source of fire, such as a candle or a bonfire – which is usually what is involved in spellwork anyway. It doesn’t require any special tools or equipment, and it can be done alone or with a group.
Working with flame scrying can be empowering for witches who want to develop their psychic abilities and deepen their spiritual practice. For a bonus witchy tip, I would use multiple candles in a row or a triangular shape – this is another form of flame divination, a bit more advanced if you have the attention span, and is known as lychnomancy. Each candle may provide either a strong set of images for you, or even the length of the flame versus the flickering can confirm if energy is stronger or more distant in this moment. Don’t forget to check out my article on Capnomancy!
Cloud scrying, a specific form of aeromancy, is the practice of gazing at clouds and interpreting their shapes and movements to receive messages from the universe or the divine.
Cloud scrying can be a powerful tool for witches who want to connect with their inner child and tap into their imagination and creativity. Clouds are often associated with childhood wonder and imagination, and by using cloud scrying as a form of divination, witches can tap into this energy and access their own inner child.
Working with cloud shapes and symbolism can also be a fun and playful way to explore hidden messages and insights from the universe. Each cloud formation has its own unique shape and movement, and by interpreting these shapes, witches can gain insight into their current situation, gain clarity on a decision, or receive guidance on their spiritual journey.
One of the benefits of cloud scrying and aeromancy, in general, is that they can be practiced anywhere there is a view of the sky. This makes them accessible to anyone, regardless of their location or resources. Additionally, cloud scrying can be a great way to connect with nature and the natural world, especially if you’ve just moved somewhere new or your wish to reconnect with your local environment, which utilmately can be grounding and healing for any witches who are seeking to deepen their spiritual practice.
Tech Scrying (Screens, Phones, Sunglasses & Watches)
The Japanese would use black boxes as I’d mentioned earlier, and the Japanese certainly love their electronics (I’ve always wanted to go to Akihabara!). So it’s unsurprising that tech & divination meet here.
Have you heard of black screen scrying? It’s a pretty cool new form of divination where you use electronic devices, like your phone, TV or laptop, to receive messages from the universe or the divine. I know it sounds a bit weird at first compared to traditional tools, but it can actually be a really powerful aspect for connecting with your intuition.
However, I do want to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself when you’re using electronic devices for black screen scrying. EMF radiation is a real thing, and it can be harmful to our energy and well-being. There isn’t enough scientific evidence to say that tech prevents harm, but there are studies to say that melatonin represses cancers, and screentime represses melatonin, so it’s important to keep a balance. You can read more about this if you want to at https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/radiation/electromagnetic-fields-fact-sheet
That’s why it’s a good witchy tip to use Shungite crystals for protection against EMF radiation. Plus, shungite look pretty cool, don’t they? I bloody love a crystal shopping binge.
Another thing to keep in mind is to make sure your device is fully charged but switched off when you’re doing black screen scrying. This helps prevent you from getting distracted by notifications and other interruptions. I have an affirmations notification every hour, and I love to read them, but my god it’s annoying when I’m trying to focus on some writing for a bit – do not disturb just doesn’t cut it, and I need to turn off the device completely.
As technology continues to advance, who knows what other cool tools we’ll have available for black screen scrying. Smartwatches are currently great for on-the-go scrying when our phones aren’t handy, and virtual reality technology could make the experience even more immersive and exciting.
But, as with anything, it’s important to remember to take breaks from technology and to practice self-care. Maybe take a break from your phone or laptop and go for a walk in nature, or meditate for a few minutes. Taking care of yourself is key to maintaining your energetic balance and well-being. This is why there is a preference for more “natural” tools like an obsidian plate or crystal for scrying, as it aids with taking the break.
With scrying, it is one of the most useful forms of divination for interpretation and insight, absolutely. From tasseomancy tea leaf reading to capnomancy incense interpretation, there are so many different forms of divination that use scrying as part of the method to draw conclusions that can be used for understanding ourselves and the universe. As technology continues to evolve, it will bring with it more opportunities to tap into our intuition and practice scrying with more advanced tools than ever before. Ultimately, the process is guided by your intention and energy, so keep that in mind as you explore different methods of divination. Good luck with it all and absolutely let me know how it works best for you in the comments below!
✨🌙💫 Until next time xox
I love curating divination experiences for those invested in spiritual growth with secular honest vibes. I am that witch you come to for these honest, interesting and beneficial divination experiences!
I’d like to discuss with you Hydatoscopy (which I’m pronouncing hi-dat-toe-skop-pee); the divination of rainwater, its patterns and its uses, which is a form of Hydromancy.