The Metaethics of Divination

How can one tell if a divination reading is meaningful?

 © 1994-5 Maryam Povey M.Ed, CHT

The First Rule of Evaluating Divinatory Rede: "Observe Actions and Consider the Source"

This is so valuable I'll say it again a bit louder: observe actions and consider the source. It is best to know your diviners outside of the divinatory or invocatory session. Knowledge of their personalities will often tell you immediately if they are indeed truly dedicated persons or connivers with something to gain by deceiving you. Observe them when they are not doing divinations or invocations. How do they act to others? Towards you personally? What appear to be their goals in their spirituality? Are they consistent with those of a True person? With your goals? I have not once been wrong in trusting my intuition in situations such as these. Do learn to trust your gut. It is the best BS detector you have.


Immediately ignore any references which include "And you must do it exactly as I say! (or evil will befall you; or my Guide will get you; or your hair will all fall out! etc)". This is but another variation on the power-over.


Run if s/he asks you for large sums of money, or if they say that you must come back with more money either as supplementary payment or for further readings. Reasonable remuneration is fine, but paying more than about $50-60 for a rune/tarot/bone oracle reading or trance-channeling session is just flat nonsense. No true reader will ever demand that you come back, swear loyalty of any kind or make an issue of finance. 


No oracle is 100% correct 100% of the time. Check other sources to verify prophesy. Anyone from a ham-handed youngster up to an experienced vitki, can sincerely ask of the runes "Was I told the truth about X; yes or no?" and dive into the runebag, picking one rune which should clarify the rede you were given. Anyone who receives a questionable rede from a tarot, rune or other divinatory reading, oracular rede such as trance channeling, Deity possession or seidhr session, should cross-reference this with a rune reading done by yourself or someone (not the party giving you the original reading) who you trust.

Be skeptical of the "God Encounter"

What if someone corners you on the street, in a bar or restaurant, after a gathering, etc, fixes you with a dramatic stare and declares that he is (or is channeling) the "Great God X" and he has "message Y" for you and you must do "Z", leaving you slack jawed and unsure of what just happened? Wise folk will do well to treat such encounters with the utmost suspicion. Possessory "rede" given in this fashion is rarely any good, save to further the ego agendas of the "possessed". If it interests you to listen to what they say, then do so, (being aware that filtering and flat-out faking is in all probability occurring) and treat such "revelations" accordingly, applying Rule 1, above. Although true channeling has been known to rarely occur under such circumstances, there is usually no reason for a God/dess to manifest in a restaurant, public park or on a street corner. If she needs to make contact she will find an intimate and personally way to do so that generally doesn't involve such shenanigans with total strangers or with others in odd situations.

Take a Witness

If you are going to Madame X's for a divination and it's your first time, take along a well-grounded friend who will not be invested in the outcome of your divinatory experience. It is often helpful to run things through an impartial but reliably honest bystander, asking them about what they felt about the competence of the reader, the content of the rede given and their feelings about possible success of the course of action suggested. Their personal observations should aid you in your decisions about accepting the rede as valid for you

Sacred Space

Never join in a trance or invocatory type working where sacred space has not been established. There is a far greater chance of human and other error when working without the bounds of a well-cast circle, hammer-sained space or other sacred ground. Work without a circle (or equivalent structure) at your own peril. Although I have seen highly questionable events happen within a circle; the possibility of it harming innocents is far less than without one. Warding your own personal space before going into a session is strongly suggested as a means of adding a further layer to your own "BS filter". 

The Melodrama Syndrome

Props, staging, overly dramatic scenes and other theatrical trappings may indicate may indicate shortcomings in other areas, notably, oracular proficiency. The common example is the tarot reader's darkened paisley- and velvet-hung parlor, or some of the more extravagant stage productions common to ceremonial magic. A True mage I knew once said: "All I need to work magick is my little finger, and on good days, not even that". Dramatization, props and staging help set the tone of the working, but they should not consume it, nor be seen as absolutely necessary. Nor should those working without any props be seen as less accurate than others. Let your own sense of taste, your impartial witness, and follow-up rune reading be your guide.

Finally, I must say again, "Observe Actions and Consider the Source", and trust your gut. That's what those knots and butterflies are there for in the first place.

When one has done trancework for very long time, certain intangible indicators tell one the lay of the land concerning a particular diviner or group. This ability can be augmented with studies in psychology (particularly ego psychology), familiarity with differing spiritual modalities, and learning from a variety of teachers. The ability to distinguish a good from a bad reading is something that cannot be taught, and, like many occult techniques, can only be learned through diligent practice and attendance at various divinatory rites, suitably armed with the framework given above. The best defense against charlatanry is a solid experiential background, self-education, and the cultivation of wise and true companions.

© 1994-95 Maryam Povey, M.Ed. Permission is granted for Folk to maintain personal copies of this document for their own use. Other copying or distribution of this article in whole or in part is strictly prohibited.




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