In a complicated world we are all faced with questions about what to do about all sorts of things. How do I mend a relationship? Where can I best invest my time or money? What will support a project that inspires me?
Everyday Divination Tools for Guidance
When I’m wrangling with problems that confuse me, it helps me to write about them in a journal, to organize my thoughts and to perhaps see connections. A journal keeps my writing all in one place so I can return to it at a later time.
Another tool is meditation. I need to meditate every day even though I am someone who doesn’t meditate first thing in the morning. If I’m going to go deep, I need to be really awake! However, meditation has become essential for staying grounded and open to intuition and body wisdom.
Some questions call for more clarity. I might draw cards from an oracle deck, like the Ancient Ritual Postures cards, or do a Tarot reading, or consult my astrological chart.
Divination and the “Magical” Tradition
Archeologist Chris Gosden speaks of magic as the worldview in which humans have an intimate and reciprocal relationship with the rest of the physical world. From this perspective, what actions we take in the world matters. So magic is simply intentionally taking action to generate a response in the physical and the invisible worlds.
Divination is considered magic by this definition. Drawing cards and consulting astrology fit here, along with using ritual postures for divination. While many people think of divination as predicting the future, the traditional aim of divination is to inquire about the significance of the present. In other words, if we understand what is going on now, we can foresee the unfolding of the current situation into the future.
Here’s what depth psychologist Kimberly Gibbons writes about divination and why we need it in the 21st century:
In order to find the strength to carry on through tumultuous and tragic times, humans need to find meaning within struggle.
The possibility that we can connect with a consciousness greater than our own to receive guidance provides a salve to the feeling of existential isolation and counters the anxiety that arises at the thought that we are on our own and stumbling through the dark.
The Ancient Ritual Postures that we use primarily for divination seem to share some characteristics. In rituals with all these postures, the figure in the artifact becomes a Spirit who talks with us to answer our questions or give us advice. Working with the posture brings us into increasingly close connection with the spirit presence that inhabits the form. We can continue to build a relationship and call on that presence for guidance.
Divination can cover a range of questions that are personal, global, and in the service of group efforts. Sampling divination postures, we discover that different poses seem to specialize in various types of questions. The four samples below are drawn from my Ancient Ritual Postures Oracle Deck.
The Egyptian Diviner Posture
I first discovered this posture in an exhibit at the Louvre in Paris.
The Egyptian Diviner, as we call her, is an Isis figure. Her headdress includes the horns of Hathor – the mothering, nurturing aspect of Isis – and the horns support a golden disc. In my first experience with this posture, she suggested placing my question on the disc for greater clarity.
The Egyptian Diviner gives guidance about issues related to the welfare of the group as well as individual advice for personal development and how to best be of service. She is concerned about the well-being of humanity and will also answer questions of a cosmic nature. However, she reminds us that she is a wife and mother and understands family relationships.
The card highlights the structure provided by the angularity of the posture. Isis is seated on a throne with hips, knees and ankles at 90 degree angles. On the card, the strong lines above and to the right create the structure in which the unknown is revealed. At the bottom is an opening to the great unknown.
Her oracle suggestions are:
- Your True Path may be leading you into what appears to be loss. Take heart: beyond the loss is spaciousness and fulfillment.
- Now is the time to be courageous. Find courage in your belly and heart.
- Wisdom and compassion go hand in hand. How can you take action in your current circumstance in ways that are both wise and caring?
- Nothing is forever. Face what you must and move through it.
The Horned Man of Colima Posture
This figure is from the Mexican state of Colima and is dated from 300 BCE – 300 CE. In using this posture we have found that he addresses individual needs for physical and emotional healing, as well as other personal problems. Simultaneously he can provide direction for aligning with seasonal changes and other patterns of Earth changes.
The background of the card shows the movement from ordinary reality (with a postage stamp as a means of communication) and non-ordinary reality to which we can travel. The figure has a horn emerging from the area of the third eye, highlighting that this aspect of our human capacity is a resource for seeing into the darkness. The cloud above connects both realities. The jeweled path below gives clear direction for the next steps.
The oracle suggestions from the Horned Man of Colima include:
- Learn to focus so that in your single-mindedness you can move through whatever troubles you.
- Wisdom has already dawned within you. Pay attention.
- Receive the gift of understanding that is as natural as rain.
- Release assumptions and judgments that muddy the water.
The Mayan Oracle Posture
The Mayan Oracle Posture seems to connect us to a loving but unsentimental Presence who offers wise, simple, and practical advice.
Her elongated head suggests a continuation of the Olmec practice of binding the heads of infants from higher class families while their skulls are still soft. The binding causes the skull to elongate and was considered a sign of beauty to the Olmec. This figure wears what appears to be a turtle fetish on a fiber necklace. We don’t know if this signifies anything about her status or family connection.
For some people the cupped left hand, just below eye level, seems to hold a mirror that reflects answers to our questions. The card emphasizes a doorway that can lead to new dimensions of awareness or even transformation of how we live in the world. Along the base and along one side are multi-colored “jewels” to represent the treasures hidden in plain view all around us. We can discover them when we learn how to look.
The Mayan Oracle’s suggestions include:
- Is the mirror you look into distorted by your ego and mind?
- What doorway is right in front of you? Step through it.
- There are jewels in the mud: take your time to find them.
- If you are in the midst of a storm, engage with the lightning to find new clarity and freedom
The Tala Diviner Posture
The Tala Diviner lends itself to the theme of balancing heat with coolness, balancing right and left, and balancing masculine and feminine energies. Indeed, the essence of divination is to become fully conscious of all polarities and to integrate them into an understanding of the whole.
From the state of Jalisco in Mexico this figure is dated from about 250 BCE. The hollow terracotta man has wide eyes but a hand covering his mouth. In other words, stay silent and pay attention. Look into the pregnant emptiness and watch the flowers of understanding blossom all around. There are bingo playing pieces to remind us of the game of life. G 49 = 13 or Death in Tarot. The ending. And 1 + 3 = 4 or the Emperor, the one who sets the structures. In the flow of life the structures always die and are reborn, differently. N 32 = 5 or the Hierophant, the one who instructs us in the new rules of the game. The five jewels remind the Diviner that it is his job to instruct.
The Oracle suggestions include:
- Quiet your mind and be silent: what do you hear?
- What is your darkest fear? Ask for understanding about how to face it.
- Allow yourself to be playful in the game of Life.
- Love yourself without measure
Practicing Divination with Ritual Postures
In preparation for the ritual, frame a clear question that is not too general but that warrants more than a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Write it down. By writing we can release it from our minds. Then proceed with the usual five steps of the Cuyamungue Method. In your fifteen-minute experience during the of rattling, you may perceive the answer to your question and so may want to continue to ask clarifying questions. However, analyzing the meaning of the experience while in trance is not so important as just being there and allowing yourself to be affected by whatever is occurring. Make notes after the ritual.
If we were tribal people, we would have a common cosmology and share a tradition of ancestors and animal spirits. If that were so, we would be more likely to recognize the meaning of our own and each other’s encounters in the Alternate Reality. We would also have access to tribal elders who would serve as the embodiment of the tribal wisdom. The elders would prepare us and then listen to what we recounted of our journeys. They would interpret for us.
But we are not tribal people. So we listen to each other and reflect on what the stories and images mean to us.
Divination and the Dream State
The use of the rhythmic sound suppresses the activity of the logical left hemisphere of the cerebral cortex. That factor allows us to become more open to the dreamlike perception of the right hemisphere, activating the capacity to see and experience inwardly. Because we do this every night during the dream state, our experience of dreams becomes the guide to help us understand what happens during trance. Sometimes I use dreamwork techniques to help people understand the content of their trance experiences, although this is only one tool.
Jung’s early research focused on associations between words and what they evoked within us. If I encountered the moon in my ritual posture experience. I might ask first what the moon means to me. We can look up the meaning of the moon in various mythologies, or perhaps consider how ancient people tracked the movements of the moon and other celestial bodies. But Jung wrote that our analyses “prove meaningful only when the road to original experience is blocked.” In other words, witnessing the full moon in summer is a direct experience and it can change us in ways that our minds cannot fathom. When I see the moon in response to my question, the importance lies in what it evokes in my memories of direct experience, that is, my associations.
Divination: Questions for Reflection
As you consider your question in divination and then read aloud your notes, ask yourself:
- Was there a direct message? Reflect on layers of possible meaning.
- Identify elements and do association with each one: when you think of the moon, as in the example above, what comes to mind? What is my emotional response?
- If there is a story line, what is it? Moving from how we begin, tracing what happens and how the experience concludes gives us clues about a similar story line as it relates to our question.
- Share with someone else. Ask to respond by saying: “if this were my question and my trance experience, this is what it would mean to me.” Then use whatever resonates with you and drop the rest.
In my next blog on Divination, I will explore more cards in detail and talk about using this Method for group decision-making.