There are many disciplines used in the practice of Divination, and one of the lesser known, but widely used throughout the world, is Abacomancy.
Abacomancy is a divination practice using dust, dirt, ashes, sand or other particulate matter to predict future events or gain guidance by observing patterns formed in the scattered materials. The material chosen may be scattered at random, manipulated by the seer, or deposited by natural forces, such as wind & rain. This particular method of divination is quite easy to learn, and requires little in the way of costs or materials to begin. Let’s take a closer look at Abacomancy and the skills required for it’s practice.
Quick History Of Abacomancy
Abacomancy is also known as Amathomancy. This is derived from the Greek “amathos” for sand. It’s probably one the oldest forms of divination due to it’s ease of access to the materials required to engage in it, and the mobility of it’s performance. It really can be done almost anywhere. The exact beginning of this particular technique of divining oracles has been lost to time, but records show several early civilizations practiced variations on the method.
The Many Types Of Abacomancy
Do to the wide varieties of materials used in the practice, the types of abacomancy are also wide in variety. The gazer may observe the dust that has been on a specific object, that is important to the question being asked. They might also have a special tray, made out of wood, silver, stone or glass and a kept amount of some particulate material that they use over and over combined with ceremony to enhance the potency of the oracle. Some even use the ashes of a deceased person to seek answers. Since there are so many occult systems, from Chaos Magick to Voodoo, let’s just examine some of the common threads found throughout.
- Manipulations By Natural Elements – This manipulation of the materials is done naturally, by the wind, rain, or water currents(ocean, lake or river). In this case the seer will prepare themselves in whichever manner is required by their school of belief, then seek out a special section of ground and examine it & look for patterns in the dirt, sand or other medium they are examining.
- Manipulations By Dropping – Again, after the seer has prepared themselves and their tools, the sand or dirt may be dropped or poured onto a special surface while focusing on the question to be answered. The patterns formed are then examined and interpreted.
- Manipulation By Magickal Tool – As in almost all other methods, preparations are made and tools are cleansed and consecrated based on the beliefs of the practicioner. In this case, the tools can be the special flat surface, and a tool to create patterns in the material. The flat surface can be something as simple as a dinner plate or a fancy silver platter. Mine is a slab of petrified wood I found on a camping excursion. The choice of tool is singular to the seer as well. Some use an Athame, a section of antler, a wand, or almost any other instrument with a slightly pointed tip. The particulate material is spread out on the surface, then the tool is held upside down in the right hand, with the tip resting easily on the material. The seer will use their personal technique for attaining a gnosis like state and allow their hand to be moved without conscious effort. After the state of higher consciousness leaves, the patterns are examined.
Materials & Tools Needed
One of the main reasons Abacomancy has been around for so long is it’s ease of practice. If you have dirt, you can scrye.
I think most people would require a bit more, but it is possible to be that simple.
Two things you need are a medium like dirt, sand or ash, and a flat surface to spread the materials around on.
The flat surface can be a plate, slab of wood, a sheet of glass… anything flat that you can spread the material on. The surface area can vary widely as well, but keep in mind you might not want your materials spilling over the edges… or maybe you do. This is up to you. Remember magickal workings are a very personal thing. You want what feels right to you.
You can also incorporate an implement of some kind to manipulate the sand. It’s usually accepted that there is a bit of a point on one end. I’ve seen wands, Athames(a witch’s magical blade), a stick, a deer antler and even a spoon. The tool is a personal choice. If you have a favorite pencil and it “feels” right to you, use that!
The last tool that I highly recommend is a journal to record your sessions.
Abacomancy In Practice
When you have chosen the tools and materials you want to use, the next step is to decide how you want to practice this form of divination.
The discipline of magick you follow will impact the preparation, and the forum in which you divine.
Wiccans and Witches will most likely follow a circle casting ritual and do act.
Chaos Magicians might achieve an altered state then simply grab a handful of whatever natural soil is closest and toss it on the ground.
Ceremonial Magic, Voodoo and other practices have their own preparations as well. Finding the one you like best will require a bit of researching on your part.
For simplicity sake, I will show you the first way I was taught. It’s very simple, but don’t let the simplicity of this method make you brush it aside.
- Get your basic tools: a flat surface(we’ll use a large platter) & dirt(a container for the dirt is a must, let’s say you used a large canning jar). A blank piece of paper with your question written on it.
- Find a quiet location, one where you will not be disturbed. That includes shutting off your smart phone.
- Get comfortable. If you feel like kneeling, kneel. If you are more comfortable standing or sitting, do that. The important thing is that you are close to your platter and the jar of dirt. Let’s say you choose to do it sitting at a table.
- Place the platter directly in front of you with your question paper on top of the platter. Take the lid off the jar of dirt and set the jar to the right of the tray. Now, close your eyes and clear your mind. Focus on your breathing. Feel the air go in and out of your lungs. When you feel good and relaxed, think about the question you want the answer to, open your eyes and take the container of dirt and dump it onto the paper covered platter.
- Without touching the dirt, examine it slowly. Allow yourself to see symbols that form in the dirt. Keep looking, they will start to appear. Record the symbol(s) and the order they appear in, in your journal. Depending on the complexity of the question you are asking, you may only need one symbol or several.
An important thing to keep in mind about the symbols that form in the medium is that they are mere suggestions. Granted, the symbols that follow are established archetypes through a long history of use, so that could add “power” to them, but symbols you devise could be even more effective because they come from you.
Small circles – Seer might be unable to completely see an answer because of the seers limitaions.
Large circles – Can mean a project is to be completed, or an important life change is pending.
Long line – travel in the near future, either physical or mental.
Short line – someone is coming to visit, or your next journey, mental or physical will be short.
Short dashes – person asking question is not focusing on the question
Triangle – successful venture in the future, if all sides are equal then balance will be achieved.
Cross – Meeting someone for an intimate relationship, or negative energies need to be removed from your life.
Square – Danger ahead. Strength of will is required to succeed.
Bird – An important message is coming soon.
Spiral – Someone is near you is ready to move on.
Arrow or sword – pointing up – success and happiness. Pointing down – sickness, duress & failure.
The interpretation of the symbols can be challenging in the beginning. And might not seem clear at first, this is why recording in a journal is so important.
There is someone you’re attracted to and you’re not sure if you should ask them out. If the symbol you recorded was a long line, “travel in the near future” may not make much sense, at least not as much as a cross or a pointing down arrow could be.
Divination, I believe is about learning to trust your instincts. Developing that trust can take time.
There are also many, many more divination symbols throughout the magickal world. If you have the urge to expand your symbol database, do some research, and add the symbols you feel you need to your list you keep in your journal.
Journaling Your Abacomancy Sessions
A journal is extremely important when practicing abacomancy, as you will want to be able to keep a record of what comes to pass & what you went through for each session.
Things to record in your journal could be:
- Date and time of day
- Moon phase
- Location of session
- The question you want to know
- Tools/materials used
- Materials used
- Preparations made for the session/planning
- Emotions felt
For example, on your fresh page of your journal(your journal can be a 50 cent composition notebook you bought on sale at Walmart, or an expensive leather bound book, either is fine) write the “title” of the page as the question you wish to know the answer to. Try to be specific if specificity is needed, but if you just want to know generally, what is coming up in the near future, you can ask that too. The drawback to a general question is it can really leave interpretation open.
If you feel you need to plan, this is where you can do your planning. Do you need to get a specific incense, or the herbs for a ritual bath? Do you want to have your session under a full or new moon? All of this really depends on the occult school you adhere to. Do you need to get an MP3 of a song to get you in the mood for the operation?
After all of your preparations are made, have your session.
After your session has ended, while the experience is fresh in your mind, fill in your journal. How long did the session take? Did anything out of the ordinary occur? How did you feel? How do you feel now? These things might seem like funny things to write down, but you might be surprised when you look back into your journal after a while and see the meaning they might have.
A Short (fictional) Story Of Abacomancy
Tara got off the bus and walked to her apartment still in a haze from the stress of the day. The dream job she moved across the country for had become more of a nightmare than a dream. She didn’t want to quit, but she wasn’t sure if she could go on under the conditions and pressure she’d been facing over the last few weeks. She loved the work, but they seemed to ask more and more from her each day.
She slid her key into the lock, turned it and opened the door. The key stuck a little as she pulled it out, as it always did. A light reminiscent scent of patchouli & dragons blood incense welcomed her home. Before her front door was shut Star was trotting up to her and rubbing around her ankles. Tara smiled slightly and walked to her reading chair and sat down, defeated.
Star was in her lap immediately, looking into Tara’s face with calm, green eyes. Tara started stroking the cat’s short black hair slowly, thinking what she might do.
Drink the bottle of wine that was on top of her fridge? Eat that snickers bar she keeps in the freezer for a frozen crunchy treat… or just sit there and try not to think about anything while she pets her loyal, loving friend.
That last thought wasn’t her, and she shook out of the funk.
Looking around the room, she spotted her Book of Shadows on its display stand, the God and Goddess statues on a wall alter & she knew she needed to get answers.
Star leapt to the floor, stealthy and silent, as Tara got up and walked to her bookshelf. She went right to her divination journal and started planning a quick session of Abacomancy.
Being a solitary Wiccan, she had been used to always being aware of the moon phase for most of her workings, but today, she needed answers today. She needed that assurance. The God and Goddess would understand, and she knew the universe wouldn’t mind.
She would use her grandmother’s silver tea tray & the vial of dirt she gathered from a trip to see Crow Fair on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. This dirt was from the camp ground where all the teepees were set up. She felt so amazing, so calm and welcome while she was there, she knew that was a special area. She had used that dirt many times since, divining. She and the dirt “knew” each other.
Tara decided not to use her Athame this time, she would use her hand. That just felt right for this session.
Her ritual bath consisted of candle light from a new white candle, a bath oil she had made from sage, sandalwood and sweetgrass, and ABBA playing softly in the background. ABBA just felt right.
She visualized a bright white glow from her bath water, entering her flesh and pushing out the black negative sludge that had build up. That sludge was cleansed by water as well. She could see it dissipating in her minds eye.
The ritual bath took about an hour.
She entered her spare bedroom, her ritual room, skyclad.
After she cleansed her ritual room with her Besom to remove any collected negative energies that might have gathered since the last working, she organized her tools, relaxed, but with intent.
Tara took three deep breaths and cleared her mind. She faced east, still skyclad she pointed her finger towards the floor, then called the corners.
She sat, kneeling, in the protective circle for a few minutes, visualizing it as a blue lightning sphere surrounding her, totally protecting her, and centered herself.
With closed eyes, she thought of her job, how much she loved the work, how long she dreamt of doing that work for that company.
With the silver tea platter in front of her, she opened her eyes, took the vial of dirt in her right hand and dumped it’s contents, haphazardly onto the tray. Tara carefully sat the glass vial off to the side.
She closed her eyes once again, asked the God and Goddess for guidance about her job. As she did this, she placed the finger tips of her right hand into the dirt and allowed her hand to move without thought, she might have swirled the dirt, she might have lightly clawed at it. She wasn’t aware.
After a short time of automatic dirt writing, she stopped.
She was totally relaxed.
She opened her eyes and calmly looked into the candle lit dirt…