Next, is Chapter 3 – Divination. Hyperion, accomplished diviner and founder of the Unnamed Path – a path for Men-who-love-men, as revealed by their Ancestors – answers the discussion questions and shares his insights with us.
Hyperion’s background includes work as a Priest with the Druidic Craft of the Wise, as a shaman, and as a priest of Shangó. To (literally!) hear more from Hyperion, check out UnnamedPath.com or visit his online store of magical products at ConjureDoctor.com.
For your reading ease, bits from Mastering Witchcraft are quoted below, with discussion points. The bolded bits are Hyperion’s responses.
_____________________________________________hapter Three, in which our Hero calls upon the aid of Mercury, fashions Devices for Seeing the Unseen, and conjures Demons and Shades
“Before embarking on any magical operation, perform a divination (a) to diagnose the true nature of the situation, and/or (b) to determine the likelihood of success of the particular magical operation you have decided to employ. There is no point … in employing a blast of countermagic against some imaginary enemy when in fact a relatively simple amulet of beneficence may be all that is required.”
How important is it to consult an oracle or perform divination before doing magical work?
Divination or oracular work is a necessary and integral part of any kind of magical work. It is akin to looking through a scope before firing off a rifle shot.
Divination should always be performed before magical work so that you can ascertain all of the factors affecting a situation, flesh out the known details, uncover unknown factors at play, and finally used to determine the predicted outcome of your spell work.
Casting a spell without divination is akin to shooting your rifle while pointing in the general direction of your target. Sometimes you’ll hit it, but often you’ll be off the mark. Occasionally you’ll hit a bystander.
“…the operations of divination have always been conducted by means of contact with a power which is symbolized by the astrological symbol of Mercury. The Greeks called this power Hermes, the Egyptians Thoth, the Scandinavians Odin, the early Anglo-Saxons Woden … The Saxons knew him by the name “Earendel, the Morning Star. The witch knows him by the name ‘Herne.’”
Can a non-witch become as skilled at divination as a witch or occultist? Does the type of divination matter?
A diviner’s capacity and skill are wholly unrelated to his initiatory or spiritual path. Some of this world’s finest diviners are people of popular faith (Christianity, Judaism or Islam).
What determines a diviner’s skill are two things – his knowledge of the tool and the relationship he has with his guides/deity. To think that divination is solely the realm of the witch or occultist is arrogant. There are many housewives who can divine the sex of a child with a needle and thread more accurately than anyone calling upon Hermes. There are tea house servers who can read more in a cup of leaves than anyone invoking the names of angels in the Enochian tradition.
To be skillful at divination you must be knowledgeable in the tool and have solid relationships with your guides or gods. That’s all.
The type of divination does matter, however, in cases of access. If it is a divination tool that requires the diviner to be an initiate – like the diloggún of West Africa (cowrie shell divination) then it is the initiation that allows the diviner access and license to use the tool. Their skill with the tool (once they have access to it) is then completely dependent on their knowledge of the tool and their relationships with their deities – confirming my original statement.
When you do a divination, where do the answers come from? Do they always come from the same place?
That’s an excellent question that I think a lot of novice diviners get hung up on. They doubt the source of the information they are receiving and consequently throw themselves out of the trance-like state required to receive and transmit the guidance they are receiving to the client.
Answers typically come from several sources:
1) Ancestors or spirits of the dead,
2) Guides or other Upper world beings,
3) Gods or Goddesses,
4) Your Higher Self, or
5) Your Shadow Self (gut instinct).
All of these are equally valid and all of them apply. To place guidance from a God as “more valid” than that of an ancestor is a terrible mistake.
Once an oracle is properly opened with prayer, and a proper attitude of humility and reverence, for a sincere need, the answers will always be applicable and valid regardless of where they come from.
“Keep your completed square in a new box or wrapped in a clean linen or silk cloth.”
How do you store your divinatory tools? Why?
Well ultimately it really depends on the tool.
For my tarot cards a simple silk pouch is sufficient. I use these on an almost daily basis with my clients. They have no power in and of themselves; the power is within me. So the pouch is simply to keep them in good condition.
To attribute some kind of mystical power your cards is blasphemous, for the truth and power is within yourself – you are a divine being. The cards are paper with ink printed on them – nothing more.
My set of bones I use in throwing the bones are kept in a wooden bowl as high up as I possibly can place them in my house. In my case that’s the top of my bookshelf. This is a traditional practice where “the bones” are kept in a non-common place: either on the floor or way up high.
Each bone has a unique energy and tie to an ancestral significance or animal medicine. They therefore are treated with the utmost respect and are kept in a unique sacred place.
My cowrie shells are consecrated parts of my shrines from the Lukumí faith (Santería). These are irreplaceable objects and act as the mouths and ears of the deities in that religion. They are kept in a bag with a tie in a secret place where no one but I can find them – so that no one could ever steal them.
Would you let others handle or use your divinatory tools? Why or why not?
Yes. Part of a consultation, regardless of the tools, is that the client has to interact with the divination tool. This allows his or her spirit the opportunity to partake in the random shuffling of the tool.
The random element has to be present for it to be divination – otherwise it is either an oracle of seership or scrying. I let my clients shuffle my tarot cards. If they are over the phone I riffle through the cards until they tell me to stop so they can control the randomness of the event.
I let my clients toss the bowl of bones to mix them up as they pray.
For the cowrie shells, I place the shells in the hands of my client so that they can pray to the gods of that tradition for guidance and clarity; throughout the reading they will mix two items in their hands and separate them and I will pick a hand to determine yes or no answers.
Letting a client participate in the divination is not only critical to the process so that their will and soul are engaged in the determination of the random element, but it also engages them on a deeply spiritual level so that they know they are not just a bystander; they are a participant.
“Basically the rune sticks consist of four flat slats of fruit-wood – apple, pear, cherry, plum, hazel, rowan, or any other wood if you cannot obtain these. But they must be wood.”
“You should carry them about with you for a period of time before you use them to charge them with your magnetism, or witch power.”
Why fruit wood? Barring fruit wood, why wood?
The rune sticks are a divination tool that draw their meaning and symbolism directly from the world tree. The old legend says that Odin (Wotan, O∂in, etc.) hung himself voluntarily from the World Tree until he received the vision and enlightenment of the runes. Therefore it is important for the runes to be made of wood – it is where they were born and it links them directly to the World Tree.
The reason fruit wood is used instead of any old fruit is that the World Tree is typically depicted as a fruit bearing tree – be it ash or oak – not a conifer. Fruit trees feed humanity, and fruit bearing plants have an intimate connection with mammals. Without us they would not be as biologically successful as they are. Animals eat the fruit and carry the seeds in their guts until they release them at a later location. Animals spread fruit bearing tree seeds better than wind-born seeds.
How dependent are divinatory tools on their proper materials and methods of preparation?
I think the answer to this is completely dependent on the divination system.
In the case of runes they are tied inextricably to the material. The same goes for bones or cowrie shells. But other systems aren’t as tied to the material, like geomancy, horary astrology, tarot, i-ching, or pendulum. The symbols and patterns in these systems are what really matter more than the specific lore tied to the divination system. As long as you can generate the symbols and patterns that’s all that really matters.
In any case fanaticism and extremism in constructing any magical tool puts way too much power in the hands of the physical world versus the spiritual relationships and energy that are really determining the success of the reading.
“…write out your question on the paper provided with the pen of art.”
Do you write out your question before undertaking a reading? Why or why not?
This depends on the divination system.
In geomancy you want to write out the question because the specific wording of the question can really affect how you read the outcome.
In other systems like tarot or bones it’s not as important to do so because you’re not fishing for a black and white yes/no answer, you’re getting details surrounding an issue.
Creating a “special pen and paper” to write out the question is a silly waste of time. I say focus more on your relationship with your guides and Gods and you’ll get a much more accurate and powerful answer in your reading than they guy with the fancy unicorn horn pen with dove’s blood ink.
Do you keep a record of your readings?
As a professional reader and rootworker, I absolutely MUST keep a record of my readings. I need to be able to go back over a client’s history and know what I’ve recommended for them in the past as well as document what spell work I’ve done for them so that I don’t end up asking the same questions over and over again.
It also gives me a chance to see if they client followed the advice I said and how it affected the magical outcome of the work I did for them.
Do you read regularly, or only at need? Does either affect the efficacy of your readings?
I read regularly. I give about 5 to 10 client readings a week. I read for myself about once a month.
Of course this affects the efficacy of my readings because I am so familiar with the tool that it’s like reading a newspaper column for me. I can even picture the cards laid out in my head when someone names them off and interpret off of the image in my head (with no cards before me) because I’m that familiar with them.
Think of a divination system as an alphabet. The more familiar you are with the letters the faster you can compose your thoughts and say what you want to say. The same goes with divination.
“…divinations will always go better if you use your square of Mercury first.”
“Say, as you do so: ‘In thy name Herne, Lord of the Crossroads…’”
Do you ‘ritualize’ your divination? If so, how?
This again depends on the divination system. All divinations I perform involve me connecting with my gods and guides and then asking for assistance and clarity before I begin.
Some divination systems (like casting the bones or diloggún) have lengthy prayers where I invoke the presence of the ancestors and rattle off my lineage going back as I can track.
Tarot has far less ritual involved. I just connect to my higher sources and start shuffling the cards as I picture the client’s situation.
“Having now assembled the primary instruments of the greater divinations, you are ready to perform one such operation yourself. There are basically two varieties of these, one being the conjuration and communication with nonhuman entities, and the other dealing with the spirits or shades of the dead…”
Have you ever conjured a nonhuman spirit to answer questions you couldn’t answer through other means? Would you?
I have connected with the ancestors of the dead, my higher or shadow self, my guides and my gods/goddesses when doing divination. Anything outside of that is too volatile of an energy to expect clear, dependable guidance.
Conjuring a djinn, goetic spirit or demon to perform divination is ridiculous. Not only are they unstable and undependable entities but they are too risky to summon in the first place for a question easily answered with a set of cards or a pendulum. That’s just hubris.
“The summoning of the dead has always been considered by witches as among some of the most dangerous operations in the book, strangely enough, sometimes even more so than the summoning of demons. The truth of the matter is that it can be an extremely taxing operation to perform if the motivation is anything other than love…”
Have you ever conjured the dead for matters of intelligence? Would you?
Absolutely. It is a common thing and isn’t anywhere as dangerous as conjuring a demon contrary to what your book says. Human spirits of the dead are easily controlled, dispelled and are usually willing to work with you especially if you strike a deal with them and offer them libations up front.
The spirits of the dead – especially your blood ancestors – are some of your most dependable and powerful allies in magic. Anyone who is afraid of working with the dead is afraid of magic – period.
I’ve consulted spirits of the dead for guidance, magical assistance with a situation, for details and information surrounding an issue or for assistance when dealing with negative people that need to be bound up from hurting others.
Thinking upon the Dumb Supper, in which you can summon a future shade, would it be possible/ethical to summon the etheric essence of a living person or animal who witnessed something you need to know?
If the person is still living, their conscious will and the threads tying their etheric substances to their physical body are far more powerful than any conjuration or summoning you can ever craft as a witch. So I say it is not only impossible but ridiculous.
It would be better for you to summon your ancestors or guides to look into it and then report back what they discover. Not only that, but the purpose of the Dumb Supper is to commune with the spirits of those who have departed in that year, to offer them food and drink and commune with them one last time before they pass on to the Underworld and rest forever. To use that moment of honor for your personal petty agenda is reprehensible in my opinion. It defiles the occasion.