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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The word scrying, or skrying, means "seeing" and is the term used for crystal gazing. Indeed, it can apply to gazing into any reflective surface for the purpose of divination.

In the Villa of Mysteries at Pompeii, one of the scenes depicted in the frescoes around the walls of the Initiation Room shows the neophyte scrying. As Professor Vittorio Macchioro says in The Villa of Mysteries, "The neophyte is born again in Zagreus; she has begun to live the life of the god, but terrible tests await her. Silenus seated on a double plinth shows her a hemispherical silver case on which a youth gazes in ecstasy while his companion holds on high behind him a Dionysiac mask.... The hemispherical case at which the youth gazes ecstatically is a magical mirror; (he is seeing) in the mirror a series of visions which have their center and starting point in the mask and life of Dionysus. . . he gazes on the mirror as Dionysus did, so as to become as Dionysus and die with him."

Any reflective surface will serve for scrying. Polished copper or other metal, water, a mirror, a crystal ball, even an ink blot have all been used successfully. The Cherokee and Apache use crystals, as do the tribes of Borneo and New Guinea and the Australian aborigines. The Maya used a variety of polished stones. John Aubrey (Miscellanies, 1696) suggests that a green-tinted glass such as beryl is best. Others favor an aquamarine coloring. Some use a polished obsidian ball.

In the sixteenth century, Edward Kelley gained a reputation for scrying. This reputation reached the ears of Dr. John Dee (Queen Elizabeth I's astrologer), whose own scryer, Barnabas Saul, had recently left his employ. Kelley took over the position, allowing his powerful imagination to describe incredible sights he said he received from the "great crystalline globe" that Dee possessed. By his enthusiasm and fertile imagination, he quickly won Dee's confidence and established himself as a needed associate. Dee carefully recorded all the conferences he held with the spirits, courtesy of Kelley's crystal ball gazing. In 1659 Méric Casaubon published A True and Faithful Relation of What Passed between Dr. John Dee and Some Spirits. Together, Dee and Kelley traveled around Europe amazing the nobility with what they presented.

Some of the old books of Ceremonial Magic, the grimoires, give detailed instructions for the stand that should hold a crystal to be used for scrying. They prescribe intricate sigils and words of power to be engraved on the stand. In fact, none of these is really necessary. The grimoires would again lead one to believe that a great deal of preparation is necessary before the act of scrying. Some suggest periods of fasting, the saying of lengthy prayers, and the summoning of various spirits. Again, none of these is strictly necessary. It is a good idea to do some sort of psychic cleansing of oneself and of the area before starting, however. Witches generally do their scrying within a magic circle. One then only needs to quiet the mind, relax, and concentrate on looking at the reflective surface. It is a good idea to place the ball, or crystal, on a piece of black cloth so that there is nothing in its immediate vicinity that will detract. It is also important to try to keep the mind blank, so that anything may come into the vision. The gaze should be relaxed, not an unblinking stare. Most scryers say that the ball (or glass of water, or whatever) seems to slowly fill with smoke. This gradually fades away, leaving a scene that must then be interpreted.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
It feels like a scene set not for writing but for scrying. Writing is negligible; barely there at all.
A note on scrying. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 75, 221-228.
As a parlor game, scrying and divination may indeed stimulate the imagination, as Pickover points out (392), but the fact remains that they are often taken seriously as guides to conduct, to the potential detriment of individuals and society.
She was merely a narratologist, a being of secondary order, whose days were spent hunched in great libraries scrying, interpreting, decoding the fairy-tales of childhood and the vodka-posters of the grown-up world, the unending romances of golden coffee-drinkers; and the impeded couplings of doctors and nurses, dukes and poor maidens, horsewomen and musicians.
It, the ultimate tragedy, was surely all there constellated in the participants' nativities; all there for the scrying - the extispicy - in the wire-snared cony.
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In the form of divination known as scrying, a practitioner presumes to plumb the depths of hidden knowledge by concentrating on a smooth, clear, or reflective surface.
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This practice blended a traditional means of divination known as scrying with medieval optical theories.
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