What historical writing there is about the druids tends to mention divination including reading death throws and entrails, and other less than lovely activities. I for one have never been tempted. There are lots of uncertainties about the insights we get from Roman writers, which doesn’t help. So, having swept all of ancient history aside with an insufficient overview…. How does divination fit into modern druidic practice?
There are plenty of divination tools out there. I started with runes, having purloined my father’s set. There are ogham inspired systems of divination, but, when you consider the academic uncertainties around ogham, this won’t be ancient as a method either. There are modern druid oracle cards too. I think the question of whether a system is old or not, is far less relevant than whether it works. Different people tend to feel comfortable with different tools, and will use them in different ways and for different reasons. What works for one may not, therefore, work for another and it pays to try various mthods.
Divination is not something to do just for fun or as a party trick. You need to know what you want and why you are doing it. Asking yourself not only what you want to know about, but why, is very important and should happen before you start questing after insight. In times of fear and uncertainty, reaching for reassurance can be tempting. What we want then is often a comfort blanket, and a divination tool that gives a truthfully bleak outlook might do more harm than good.
We also need to consider how we think reality works. Is the future a certain thing that can be known in advance? If not, what do we hope to gain? Who are we appealing to when we ask our questions? To the cards or stones themselves? To the gods? To fate? Or something inside ourselves? You can undertake divination without being clear about this, but it should be considered. Sometimes the answers can be informative about what we really want from the process.
I use divination methods to divine the present. This is because I do not believe the future is all laid out before me. I also believe that the present does a lot to shape the future, and if you can spot the influential threads in the now, you can make good guesses at what might be coming. This is not much different from all the other forms of speculative thinking that governments, financial bodies and whatnot do. Their methods are not any more reliable than any others. I use divination to help me clarify my own mind, and be clear about my feelings and intentions. I find this helps me to then pick my own path forwards and to shape the future I want, rather than being buffeted by events.
Finally, I use divination for inspiration. I find the aforementioned Druid oracles very helpful for this. I have The Druid animal oracle, and the plant oracle – both the work of the Carr Gomms and illustrated by Will Worthington. They have beautiful, rich images, and a supporting book full of folklore, natural history and insight. Using them I find insight into my own state of mind, and it helps me create a calm space from which to consider whatever events are unfolding, or anticipated.
In stories of ancient divination acts, the theme seems to be wanting to know that your side will win, or how to get the favour of the gods in order to win, or which day would give you the best chance at winning. Much of divination can be seen to be about harnessing good luck and avoiding ill. This is a world view that just does not fit will my own personal philosophy. We get what we get, as far as I am concerned. Most of my questions therefore tend to be about how to survive, how to nourish my own strength and imagination to help me continue, and how to do the best I can with whatever comes to me.
I have done a lot of work at various times, divining for others. Experience suggests that many people either want to be reassured, or they want someone else to tell them what to do. Armed with a pack of cards, some incense and a bit of background music, a person can have far more authority than they might at other times. A friend who would not listen to the suggestion that she’s chasing the wrong bloke if I just said it, might be far more open to the idea if I ‘divined’ it for her. This raises all kinds of interesting questions about truth, integrity, power, and what power does to people. This is one of the reasons I’ve stopped divining for other people very much.
One of the things I like about the druid oracle cards is that they don’t give answers. It’s nigh on impossible to get simple ‘do it this way’ instructions in answer to problems. Instead, they offer kinds of energy to explore and work with. How to do it rests with the individual, but sometimes it’s nice to have a place to start from.