Scrying (also called seeing or peeping) is the practice of looking into a translucent ball or other material with the belief that things can be seen, such as spiritual visions, and less often for purposes of divination or fortune-telling.
The most common media used are reflective, translucent, or luminescent substances such as crystals, stones, glass, mirrors, water, fire, or smoke. Scrying has been used in many cultures in the belief that it can divine the past, present, or future. The visions that come when one stares into the media are believed by some to come from one's subconscious and imagination, though others believe they come from gods, spirits, devils, or the psychic mind, depending on the culture and practice.
Although scrying is most commonly done with a crystal ball, it may also be performed using any smooth surface, such as a bowl of liquid, a pond, or a crystal. Like other aspects of divination and parapsychology, scrying is not supported by science as a method of predicting the future.
One method of scrying using a crystal ball involves a self-induced trance. Initially, the medium serves as a focus for the attention, removing unwanted thoughts from the mind in the same way as a mantra. Once this stage is achieved, the scryer begins a free association with the perceived images suggested. The technique of deliberately looking for and declaring these initial images aloud, however trivial or irrelevant they may seem to the conscious mind, is done with the intent of deepening the trance state, in this trance the scryer hears his own disassociated voice affirming what is seen within the concentrated state in a kind of feedback loop. This process culminates in the achievement of a final and desired end stage in which rich visual images and dramatic stories seem to be projected within the medium itself, or directly within the mind's eye of the scryer, something like an inner movie. This process reputedly allows the scryer to "see" relevant events or images within the chosen medium.
Religion and mythology
The Shahnameh, a historical epic work written in the late 10th century, gives a description of what was called the Cup of Jamshid or Jaam-e Jam, used in pre-Islamic Persia, which was used by wizards and practitioners of the esoteric sciences for observing all of the seven layers of the universe. The cup contained an elixir of immortality.
Latter Day Saint movement
In the late 1820s, Joseph Smith founded the Latter Day Saint movement based in part on what was said to be the miraculous information obtained from the reflections of seer stones. Smith had at least three separate stones, including his favorite, a brown stone he found during excavation of a neighbor's well. He initially used these stones in various treasure-digging quests in the early 1820s, placing the stone in the bottom of his hat and putting his face in the hat to read what he believed were the miraculous reflections from the stone. Smith also said that he had access to a separate set of spectacles composed of seer stones, which he called the Urim and Thummim. He said that, through these stones, he could translate the golden plates that are the stated source of the Book of Mormon.
Rituals that involve many of the same acts as scrying in ceremonial magic are also preserved in folklore form. A formerly widespread tradition held that young women gazing into a mirror in a darkened room (often on Halloween) could catch a glimpse of their future husband's face in the mirror—or a skull personifying Death if their fate was to die before they married.
Another form of the tale, involving the same actions of gazing into a mirror in a darkened room, is used as a supernatural dare in the tale of "Bloody Mary". Here, the motive is usually to test the adolescent gazers' mettle against a malevolent witch or ghost, in a ritual designed to allow the scryers' easy escape if the visions summoned prove too frightening.
While, as with any sort of folklore, the details may vary, this particular tale (Bloody Mary) encouraged young women to walk up a flight of stairs backwards, holding a candle and a hand mirror, in a darkened house. As they gazed into the mirror, they were supposed to be able to catch a view of their future husband's face. There was, however, a chance that they would see the skull-face of the Grim Reaper instead; this meant that they were destined to die before they married.
In the fairytale of Snow White, the jealous queen consults a magic mirror, which she asks "Magic mirror on the wall / Who is the fairest of them all?", to which the mirror always replies "You, my queen, are fairest of all." But when Snow White reaches the age of seven, she becomes as beautiful as the day, and when the queen asks her mirror, it responds: "Queen, you are full fair, 'tis true, but Snow White is fairer than you."
Scrying is not supported by science as a method of predicting the future. Some critics consider it to be a pseudoscience. Skeptics consider scrying to be the result of delusion or wishful thinking.
A 2010 paper in the journal Perception identified one specific method of reliably reproducing a scrying illusion in a mirror and hypothesized that it "might be caused by low level fluctuations in the stability of edges, shading and outlines affecting the perceived definition of the face, which gets over-interpreted as ‘someone else’ by the face recognition system."
- The Dr. John Dee of the Mind research institute, founded by the parapsychologist Raymond Moody, utilizes crystallomancy to allow people to experience an altered state of consciousness with the intention of invoking apparitions of the dead.
- Contemporary mass media, such as films, often depict scrying using a crystal ball, stereotypically used by an old gypsy woman.
- In J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional universe of Middle-earth (especially in The Lord of the Rings), the Palantír is a stone that allows a viewer to see what any other Palantír sees, and the Mirror of Galadriel is used as a scrying device to see visions of the past, present, or future.
- The British astrologer and psychic known as Mystic Meg, who came to national attention as part of the UK's National Lottery draw in 1994, was often portrayed with a crystal ball.
- In the videogame Clive Barker's Undying, Patrick Galloway (the player) is shown in possession of a green crystal, The Gel'ziabar Stone, which allows him to scrye visions and sounds from the past, that are vital to the various missions.
- In Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle the use of a mirror to view people and places the viewer knew in the present was possible with the drawback of not being able to see anything to which they had no knowledge. The attempt to scry the future would cost the user their life.
- In the US television series Charmed, the sisters scry with a crystal and a map to locate people.
- Traditional healers from the Yucatán Peninsula and Guatemala use stone crystal balls for scrying. These are known as sastun or zaztun. Originally, they were Mayan antiquities that they used to collect in archaeological ruins. Nowadays they are mostly modern objects. It is unknown what was the original use of the jade balls found in ancient Mayan burials.
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- De Camp, Lyon Sprague. (1980). The Ragged Edge of Science. Owlswick Press. p. 101. ISBN 0-913896-06-3 "The term "scrying" better describes this pseudo-science, because genuine crystal is not necessary. Glass, or any shiny object, will do as well. Scrying has been practiced with mirrors, jewels, little pools of water or ink, and (in medieval Europe) with polished sword blades."
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