Registered Badge of the Guild The East Kingodm Soothsayers' Guild
Home | Foundations | Framework | Techniques | Reference | Links |


The shamanic approach to the paranormal is popularly associated with deliberate use of an altered mental state -- the "Shamanic State of Consciousness" [SSC] -- in which the student enters and perceives a non-ordinary reality [NOR]. Perceptions in NOR are associated with "ordinary reality" and can, by hypothesis, be used to gain insights or alter conditions in the ordinary world; for instance, to identify obstacles to progress or heal the sick.

This kind of Working can be used for soothsaying; but the basic assumptions of the Shamanic path also allow for reading omens or, as in the method I'm about to describe, seeking them out.

Early in July 1989 Dr. Michael Harner, the noted author of The Way of the Shaman, taught a workshop in basic Shamanic practice in which -- among a lot of other things -- he showed participants how to perform a version of Scrying which is founded on the basic Shamanic principle that there is a Spirit Aspect in almost every physical object -- not only living beings but inanimate ones. (These aspects seem to correspond to what in some other systems are called "devas".) The comparison with Scrying is his own; he further noted that Scrying of the kind familiar to most Soothsayers -- gazing in a quartz crystal bail or similar object - differed from this Shamanic procedure and required another approach in a more advanced class.

The necessary preparation is only for the reader to go find a stone, while having a question in mind. What we were to do was elicit omens deliberately, by gazing into the stone -- he likened it to the scanning of cracks in caribou scapulae and tortoise shells, something practiced by shamans in various parts of the Orient.

Top of Page

The basis of the procedure depends on realizing that anomalies are elements of reality in the SSC, and thus omens. They usually appear adventitiously and are related to whatever YOU are doing at the time YOU see it/them --this asking of an explicit question is not the way YOU "normally" perceive omens, but a special procedure.

Some advice about forming the question: Try to ask the question in such a way that it does not call for a simple yes or no. Do not use and/or phrasing; this makes it a two-part question, very difficult to read for. "When" questions aren't such a good idea, either -- time isn't that important in SSC reality. Note also that a frightening image/message, in many SSC observations, is a warning, not a threat as such, and not to be read literally.

Using a partner is recommended because you will be partly in trance and making a record will either be difficult -- the mind keeps wandering -- or risk bringing you out of trance -- and popping in and out of SSC will play hob with your divinatory ability. Now, will somebody volunteer?

Having read his book before attending this workshop, I'd brought a stone with me. I murmured "gobble gobble" (local SCA joke) and stepped forward. I'd already decided that I wanted to know whether I would be able to get the publication I am working on [the issue of Forsooth following the current one] done by the end of the year.

Top of Page

My stone was a block of the low-grade quartz which is fairly common in the Potomac River valley, shaped vaguely like a D4 with a very narrow base. This was set on a stool between us where both Dr. Hamer and myself could see it.

A full examination would look at all four sides of the stone, but we were going to check out just two because of the time problem. One of the audience asked whether stones had only four sides. Harner explained that there might be more and nothing barred examining five or six if there were that many well-marked facets. But he discouraged being too precisian about this, because a stone might have a dozen or more small faces -- too many to read them all. More than one but less than 8-10 should be read; "four" is a convenient number and also sacred in some of the Plains Indian traditions.

The worker (me) was to inspect the stone and get four images from each side. Again, four was a convenient number: the idea was "enough to allow comparison and collation."

He had me state my question and we massaged it a little until it was in more concise form: Will the publication I'm working on manifest? [He hoped everybody understood what "manifest" meant in this sense. Of course, they all did; we must have had a good proportion of the serious New Agers in this section of the country in the class.]

Top of Page

I turned my attention on the stone. He had me repeat the question. To my slight surprise (I've usually had some difficulty with conventional scrying), after a blank pause I found images swimming up out of the stone rapidly, so fast that I usually had one spotted while describing another.

Side I gave me:

1. A seal (very prominent front flippers) swimming just at the surface of the water. He got me to point it out to him -- not, he explained, as a check or a test of veracity, but to help imprint it. I suppose I was acting uptight, because Michael, (invoking Trickster?) repeated this as "A seal swimming at the surface of the sea" and slipped and slid over it as a tongue-twister. We all had a mild laugh and relaxed before continuing. [It is worth remembering that joking does not break us out of the scrying-sensitive state.]

2. A long, empty hall with a (closed) door visible at the far end.

3. The head and forequarters of a buffalo.

4. A breaking wave, and behind it something like the Creature From the Black Lagoon, grinning merrily and obviously swimming shoreward atop or just after the wave. This was such a complex image that Michael helped me massage it into a more compact form; I eventually turned it into "Father Neptune body surfing".

We did an interpretation of these images in the sense of what they meant to my own psyche. He specified that I didn't have to go down the list, but should interpret them in the order in which the interpretations came into my mind; I'll list them in sequence just to make it easier to correlate things.

1. The seal is taking it easy and doing just enough work to keep his head above water. Sig: I'm not putting enough effort into this. (A fairly common feeling among us Virgo subjects, alas.)

2. Goal is at a distance and the door will have to be opened. Sig: it will take longer than I expect and involve more work.

3. Buffalo is the benevolent giver of sustenance for the classic Plains Indians, but is a powerful animal, not easy to hunt. Sig: success, but after more effort than I now expect.

4. Something is certainly coming into focus, but not quite what I looked for. It has feelings of enjoyment --I would have said "good vibes" in another context. Sig: Once the thing is in print I'll get some reaction I'm not expecting, probably a surprising one, but not evil.

Top of Page

Interestingly, I didn't feel at all as if I'd hauled all this out of the depths by main force -- a feeling I often wind up with after divination by other methods. (I know what I'm doing wrong to cause that - using my own energy rather than tapping into the universal field; I just haven't been successful in my efforts to do it the way I know, intellectually, is the way it "should" be done.)

I flipped the stone now and we went on to the second side. Side II gave me:

1. A Tlingit carved mask, speaking. It might, from the shape -- the colors were too conventionalized to be any help to me -- have been Bear, Raccoon, or Bottlenose Dolphin; I said "bear" for the sake of a reference, though I noted the other possibilities.

2. A wildcat' s head, yowling.

3. A bat' s wing, just emerging from the stone.

4. A mastiff's head, only partially appearing -- lots of bits of the stone till covering it.

Again all of these were pointed out as I spotted them and several times, when I paused (either during actual scrying or interpretation) Michael had me repeat the question. (This became mildly irritating. but I understood its purpose in this teaching demonstration.) I read this second batch thus:

1. Speech from a Being of Power. (The masks. as I understand it. are used in a ritual of dancing one's Power Animal.) A message, or messages, playing a role in this publication. Sig: I'll get contributions which will be important for getting Forsooth out.

2. A message from an animal. Or, since it appears in a vision, an Animal. Sig: the same; watch for more contributions.

3. Very generalized symbol of Good Fortune, to me. In Chinese tradition the bat is an emblem of Luck or Felicity -- not that bats are themselves luckier than cats, rats. or orangutans, but because the word "bat" in Chinese is a pun on "good fortune".

4. A non-threatening animal (somebody needed to have explained what a mastiff was; I tried to get a visual image across by likening it to "a Great Dane but stockier"). Not coming out clearly. Sig; good omen (to me, since I'm fond of animals), but emerging with difficulty.

Top of Page

Finally he asked me to collate all of the images I'd gotten and read the over-all message. These had been so relevant that it was easy: yes, I'd get that publication out, but I'd better pull my socks up -- it was going to be more work than I'd figured on, and something unexpected (not unpleasant, but surprising) would be among the results .

Then the entire class was given a chance to hunt for rocks of their own and we paired off to do individual readings. By and large, the students took well to this new method and some got surprising results - not necessarily all on their own. Dr .Harner is quite a charismatic person and most of us were feeling in a state of high morale on a pleasant sunny day.

When we'd exchanged some of our experiences in this exercise, Michael gave us some practical advice. Just use one rock per question -- not that it burns out psychically or anything like that, but the answers you've already seen in gazing for your first question will get in your way. There is no reason not to get several rocks in succession and ask questions until you feel yourself beginning to lose your keyed up state.

And he ended with a definitely Shamanic piece of instruction. When you've made your reading from a rock, take it back where you got it; replace it; give it thanks. A Rock Person has helped you.

©2004 by Richard Eney, known in the Society for Creative Anachronism as Diccon Frankborn. Used by permission