Some people get divination, some people do divination, and some people do neither. I’m the second sort — I do divination, although I have also been known to ask for it, too, but only on very few occasions. Divination is not a heathen thing for me, although we know that people back in the day used certain methods to predict the future (or rather, as I believe, interpret the will of the Gods). Much rather, it is a mystic thing, in that it supports my religious practice, experience, and insight — and for me, and probably a lot of those in intimate relationships with Deities, those have a very marked mystic flavour.
A word in advance: if at any point you get the impression I’m ridiculing you or your practice, rest assured that the specifics I go into are strictly abstractions of my own mistakes (or successes).
Divination as communication?
Divination in my practice is the act of using physical tools or phenomena to glean information from a non-physical being, or a group of non-physical beings, as pertains to myself.
There are two important distinctions that you need to make here.
The first is that I do divination as a means to learn something from an entity external to me, as opposed to learning something from my subconscious. Here is where you have to take great care: you need to be aware that whatever entity is giving you the information, even though that information does not originate from your subconscious, it still needs to pass through it. Your subconscious is the most malleable part of your mind, simply because by definition, you are not aware of it and cannot wilfully interfere with it. That makes it an excellent tool for manipulators both divine and not — and let’s face it, communication with Deities, and Them transferring information to you, does have an aspect of manipulation. And because your subconscious is such an excellent tool, when a Deity or spirit wants to get information across, They will use, and yes, manipulate this part of your mind to push an idea, a thought, a message to the surface of your conscious mind.
A Deity is a powerful Being — and even as I’m writing this, I have a very fresh memory of how powerful They are (it’s so vivid that I mention it although it is neither here nor there). But they cannot circumvent physicality. You have a brain, and the brain has a certain physical principle of working that even a God cannot and will not change. A conscious thought does not suddenly appear, but rather is constructed from interlinked unconscious processes in the brain, that are necessary to produce the thought. Without the processes, in that specific combination, there would be no thought.
Divination helps this process along by stimulating the subconscious in certain ways, aided by imagery or other physical characteristics inherent to your divination tool. Therefore, your divination tool is potentially your Deity’s communication tool.
Let the Deity speak (They’re good at it!)
Which brings me to the second important distinction: the kind of divination I do depends critically on the premise that your tool is not communicating. Your Deity is.
That means, your pendulum, oracle deck, or whatever it is you’re using, is not telling you the things you’re being told, but the Deity is. Deities are absolutely amazing with things such as coincidence and randomness. They are truly the masters of randomness, and they use it to create. That means divination tools that use random or highly chaotic (in the mathematical sense) processes are right up the Deities’ alleys. You watch clouds for divination? Perfect. Cards, dice, anything truly random? Right there with you. (I draw the line at pseudo random in most cases, because there is nothing random about pseudo random at all — unless you seed with true random; so unless your shuffle algorithm does that, it’s not random. You just think it is).
Runes, btw, are a bit of a tricky case regarding the muteness premise: in some parts of modern practice, there is an underlying assumption that runes are themselves independent spirits. I am skeptical of that, because I do not see any evidence that they used to be seen as such, nor that they were ever used as divination tools before modern times came up with runic divination à la Stephen Flowers. All that being said, however, I have too little experience with runes as a divination tool to know if they are suitable for the kind of divination that I have in mind, or not. I do not use them because there is too much that I don’t know about them, but foremost I do not use them because the Love of my life has never given me an indication that He’s less than happy using my other tools.
Be that as it may: for the kind of divination I mean, you need tools, not chatterboxes of their own right.
What about “the cards being stacked against you”?
The short, and very very important (and somewhat nerdy) version of the answer: it’s not a bug, it’s a feature.
If you’ve ever asked for tips on divination, specifically in the context of asking information from Deities, in a public(ish) space, you will probably have heard the caution that “the cards might be stacked against you”. Well, what does that even mean?
It’s a fancy way of telling you that the Deity you’re asking for information might be manipulating the cards to show you not the “truth” — as in a postulated pseudo-will of the cards — but what the Deity wants you to see. But this, in the paradigm I’m using, is exactly what you want.
You don’t want the cards to speak, you want the Deity to speak using Their command of randomness in order to lay out the cards that you will need to get Their message. It is as simple and completely logical as that. Loki manipulates cards? Well, I for one most certainly hope so! Don’t try to evade something that you cannot escape anyway: instead, be clever, use it for your mutual benefit!
Loki is not the only Deity who can manipulate your divination tool — but He is the most adept at bending and shaping randomness to His will that I know. Once you understand that, it is very obvious how this particular propensity of His can be used with intent, for your benefit and His (to a degree, this goes for all Deities, not “just” Loki).
But what if the Deity wants me to see nonsense and gibberish?
Ah, the ubiquitous Deity troll… it can happen that the Deity is unwilling to cooperate. Do you really think letting the cards do the speaking is going to remedy that? If that’s the case, there’s not a thing that you can do. You cannot force a Deity.
Which also means, you’re on your own. It is on you to know Whom to ask, and what to ask Them about. It means you’re going to have to think on your feet (and maybe not ask Fenrir for healing tips). It means you have to address your issues and bring them forward with the right God-Person.
It means that sometimes you have to let go of an idea — Loki in particular is known to wave one aside by talking nonsense through divination. Relax! He’s probably not angry, because if He were, He’d spell it out in flashing neon signs.
It looks like Tarot, but it isn’t.
The Tarot system itself evolved in Italy during the 15th century, where the suit of major arcana was invented and became originally known as trionfi, that is “trump cards”. Only in the 18th century were rudimentary divinatory meanings for those trionfi devised, and have been interpreted, altered, reinterpreted, and mystified since. Occultism as an express purpose of Tarot came into the picture later in the 18th century, whereas before, Tarot was mainly used to play games (although I do not quite believe there was that hard a distinction at first). From there, Tarot came under the influence of Hermetic Qabalah, and later still, famously, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the person of Aleister Crowley.
So, what does this divination look like, then? It kind of looks like Tarot, but it isn’t. My use of Tarot cards for divination mainly stems from the fact that the specific deck I use for communication from and with Loki, was given to me on His behest. (It is a beautiful deck full of cats, which is extremely easy on the eye for an unapologetic cat-lover such as myself.)
Seen from the outside, what I do is this: I shuffle the cards, then I lay out a number of cards before me — the number and pattern can vary — which I then turn over so that the cards face upwards. In the following, I consult a “little black book” in which I note down associations for every card in the deck. Then I write down the result of the divination session in my journal.
Trial and error, and not standing on ceremony
The above description is awfully generic, and the question is: how does one arrive at specifics? The problem with using a divination tool as a communication tool is that you will have to learn how the Deity uses the tool — which means that you will have to practice, with each Deity you communicate with through the tool. (In my case, that number equals one, but that is purely incidental).
The answer that I can give you is: trial and error — which, again, is very unsatisfying. But there is one hint that I feel confident giving you with respect to Loki (but I think this would work with other Deities, too): don’t stand on ceremony.
In specific terms, this means:
Let the Deity choose the form
I don’t do spreads at all. When I lay down cards in front of me, there is no fixed pattern of cards, nor do the cards have a pre-defined meta arrangement (such as “this card is for the past, that for the present, and that over there for the future”). Neither is there a fixed number of cards, although I’d suggest, given the Deity’s cooperation, starting with few in order for it to remain comprehensible at all.
At the time I started doing divination with Loki, I had already built a rapport between Him and me, so I was reasonably confident that I could “get” hints from Him. So when it came to practicing divination, I laid out the number of cards in the pattern that He would suggest to me (by mental image, if you so will). For instance, I would sometimes get the impression of five cards laid out in a bow pattern, an X pattern, or two rows… which is what I would then physically do.
As a side note on reversals: it became abundantly clear early on that Loki did not need me to read reversals (by which I mean different readings of a card when it appears upside down) — whatever message He wants to get across, He is more than capable of doing so without the added complication of reversals. Loki will make you love the Tower (okay, so maybe love is a strong word, but the Tower through Loki is an extremely powerful message, and maybe I’m somewhat of an enthusiast where it comes to Loki’s displays of power). The decks have abundant options to express warnings, though, or just a slight slap on the wrist, even without bringing out the big guns — and let’s face it, the Tower is as big a gun as a Tarot deck is likely to get. (I am aware that a different Deity might feel different about reversals, or that Loki would ask a different worshipper/devotee to read reversals nonetheless).
After the number and pattern is set, finally, I let the Deity choose the cards. This is something specific to myself, and other people will probably develop other methods, but here’s what I do: I have the full stack of cards neatly in front of me, and then I start sliding the cards sideways. The card that first becomes separated from the lower part of the stack will be the card I choose. It is a purely physical process and does not involve any intuitive assessment on my part. I simply hold the stack in my left hand, and with the right hand start sliding the cards towards the right side. At some point, one card will work itself free from the others. Lather, rinse, repeat.
In summary: letting the Deity choose the form means you let Them decide how They will speak — and in my Tarot card case, that means Loki decides how many cards, where I will put which card, and what the cards are that are going to be used.
Let the Deity choose the topic
This is a big one. We usually see divination as a way to ask specific questions and get more or less specific answers. I tried that with Loki, and it led to hands-down one of the best experiences I got with Him: He answered; boy, did He ever.
The cards I got did in fact contain the answer to my question — no trolling involved — but they also contained the answer to the question I should have asked, and they contained the answer to that question on several layers — an individual level, a community level, and a more abstract general picture level. Another time, the layers were categorised differently (this time there was a spiritual, a worldly, and a psychological aspect). And yet another time, they came along altogether different, again. It was beautiful and awe inspiring.
Loki is an expert word weaver and He speaks Tarot fluently and with great virtuosity if you can only let Him have His way with “words”. Honestly, it’s a sight to behold.
What I’m saying is: don’t try to pin the Deity down. You can ask questions, but don’t expect any specific sort of answer.
Another way is to simply not ask a question at all. I have been doing this for a while now, as my other abilities to communicate with Loki were trained and fine-tuned more and more.
By not asking questions, I would simply evaluate the cards I would get, double-checking what I had surmised from Him directly. This can be invaluable if you are anything like me and tend to not take your “head unit” at face value — seeing a combination of cards that mirrors the messages you have received otherwise just perfectly can be just what you need to spur yourself into action required of you by your Deity.
Let the Deity choose the tone and message
I mentioned in the beginning that I use a “little black book” in which I have a collection of associations for each card. This little book comes to play when it comes to interpreting the message.
I use it like a dictionary for a foreign language I’m very familiar with — for instance English. Whenever I need to look up a word, there is always a question of nuance, and it’s no different with Tarot and Loki. So when I look up a card, there usually are a handful of associations that immediately light up and practically jump at me — whereas the majority of them appears to be just words. This is something that requires a little practice to do, and you’ll probably second guess yourself a lot in the beginning. It will get easier though, don’t worry.
The set of phrases and associations that stand out determine the general tone of the message — it may or may not be exactly what I want it to be; no one likes to receive a tongue-lashing (well. yeah, okay, that was an obvious one, and I’m not even gonna bother rephrasing that), but if that’s what you get, it’s crucial to pay attention. Your Deity is telling you something, and if you ignore Them, you’re defeating the purpose of the whole exercise. Ultimately, you’re going to run the risk of losing the Deity’s cooperation, and waste a precious communication tool and its potential by refusing to listen.
The purpose of this stage is to open yourself up mentally to receive the message you are going to receive. It is not shameful or wrong to have certain phrasings you read or invented stuck in your mind at this point — your Deity will work with that. Also don’t worry if it doesn’t happen at once. There was one reading I did that took me several days to tune into properly (in part because I didn’t want to see it, and Loki had a couple of things to say about that).
Once I’ve got a feeling for the tone (and outline content) of the message, I simply let Loki talk. It’s hard for me to explain what exactly happens at this stage. I get into a meditative state and try to tune into Him, while at the same time writing down what I get from Him.
If you don’t get it, don’t be shy to ask
But what if it simply doesn’t click? The good news is: you can always ask for clarification. The other good news is, if you’re actually doing the dumb thing (a.k.a. seeing but not wanting to see), you’re probably going to get even more confusing stuff, which will slam into place with a vengeance when you finally get rid of your “dumb thing” goggles.
Sometimes though, there simply isn’t enough for you to go by at that specific point in time. You might be thinking in a completely different direction than what your Deity is trying to show you — and the cards you get simply won’t seem to make any sense at all.
I generally choose clarification cards the same way I do the whole process — that is, He chooses. I’ve had a couple of readings where clarification did a world of good, even with Loki who generally has a reputation of being either super obvious or super troll. (Not true in my experience anyway).
Doing divination for others
I generally don’t often do divination for others. If I do, it is on specific request and with Loki’s consent. That has happened less than a half dozen times in three years, so really, really rarely.
In those cases, I use a different deck, but basically the same method.
The problem is, I do not work as an oracle. My work for Loki does not primarily involve getting other people messages (and I am very grateful that it doesn’t).
My divination is very specific-sense polytheistic — in that I strictly see Loki communicating as a totally independent Being, rather than having the cards reveal to me aspects of my own mind. This is a very important distinction to make, at least for me. It’s also a type of divination that is quite Lokean — it plays to both His strengths and mine (His by the sheer opportunity for virtuoso word-weaving, and mine by its relatively clear method and easy grasp of the spiritual via the intellectual).
And finally, my divination practice is a tool I use to deepen my relationship with Him — and that in general is all I use it for.
As such, it has served me very well during the past three and something years, and I hope that some of my experience might be of use for other people.