Scrying (also called crystal gazing, crystal seeing, seeing, or peeping) is the ancient act of divination for the purpose of clairvoyance. It is usually achieved by concentrating on or staring at an object having a shiny surface until a vision appears.


Derived from the Old English descry ('to reveal')


Scrying has been used for thousands of years by different cultures. Ancient Egypt used scrying in their Initiations. This included water scrying, dream scrying, oil scrying, and mirror scrying. One legend states that the goddess Hathor carried a shield that could reflect back all things in their true light. From this shield she allegedly fashioned the first magic mirror to “see.”
In ancient Persia, the Shahnama, a semi-historical epic work written in the late 10th century, gives a description of what was called the Cup of Jamshid, used in pre-Islamic Persia, which was used by wizards and practitioners of the esoteric sciences for observing all the seven layers of the universe.

Ancient Greeks and Celts practiced scrying using beryl, crystal, black glass, polished quartz, water, and other transparent or light catching bodies. Nostradamus is believed to have employed a small bowl of water as a scrying tool into which he gazed and received images of future events. Alchemists Edward Kelley and John Dee employed a form of scrying using a small crystal ball or shewstone – a piece of polished obsidion. The crystal ball and wax tablets used by Dee and Kelley are on display at the British Museum in London.
In the late 1820s, Joseph Smith, Jr. founded the Latter Day Saint movement based in part on what was said to be the miraculous information obtained from the reflections of “seer stones”.

Smith had at least three separate stones, including his favourite, a brown stone he found during excavation of a neighbour’s well. He initially used these stones in various treasure digging quests in the early 1820s, placing the stone in the bottom of his hat and putting his face in the hat to read what he believed were the miraculous reflections from the stone. Later, when Smith's thoughts turned to religion and prophecy, Smith used the brown stone while dictating the text of the Book of Mormon, stating that he could see the text of that book within the stone at the bottom of his hat. Smith also said he had access to a separate set of spectacles composed of seer stones, which he called the Urim and Thummim.


The first step in scrying is to pick out the medium that you wish to scry with. They range from the simplest (a clear glass filled with water) to the expensive (a large, clear crystal sphere) choices.

Things that you may need in scrying:
Crystal sphere
Crystal skull (carved)
Mirror (could be a black mirror or a silver mirror)
Glass of water
Bowl of water colored with ink
Candle flame
Coals of a fire
Fire smoke
Pool of water
Fog or mist over water

Various disciplines mandate a consecration ritual before using the scrying medium. On a purely psychological standpoint this makes sense. The subconscious mind must be convinced what you want it to accomplish. This may be accomplished through ritual or meditation. Polishing the crystal or mirror while thinking about what you want to accomplish will be enough.

Anything that will induce a state of altered awareness should be done. For beginners dim lighting is a must. Incense may be burned and/or meditation music may be played. Do what feels right for you. In past centuries, incense played a more important role in inducing altered states than in the present time. The reason for this is that the incense was inhaled. This decreased the amount of oxygen in the blood stream. The brain will enter an altered state during periods of oxygen deprivation.

The actual procedure for scrying is simple and straightforward:

Get the room ready – dim lighting, incense, music, etc. that you want
Place the scrying medium on a table at a convenient level
A dim light (candle) should be behind the viewer. To start out this should be the only light in the room.
Perform the progressive muscle relaxation exercise
Look at the mirror (or crystal) in a relaxed manner, focusing about 5″ past the surface of the mirror
You will blink but do not be too concerned about it
Keep your mind blank except if you have a specific question to ask
Do not scry for over 20 minutes at first

The images may appear in different manners. They may just appear or they may be preceded by a “cloud of mist” forming first. The mist could dissipate or morph into the images. The images could be symbols of the subconscious or may be actual pictures of events, past, present or future.


A formerly widespread tradition held that young women, gazing into a mirror in a darkened room (often on Halloween) could catch a glimpse of their future husband's face in the mirror or a skull personifying Death, if their fate was to die before they married.

Another form of the tale, involving the same actions of gazing into a mirror in a darkened room, is used as a supernatural dare in the tale of “Bloody Mary”. The motive is usually to test the adolescent gazers' mettle against a malevolent witch or ghost, in a ritual designed to allow the scryers' easy escape if the visions summoned prove too frightening.

While as with any sort of folklore the details may vary, this particular tale (Bloody Mary) encouraged young women to walk up a flight of stairs backwards, holding a candle and a hand mirror, in a darkened house. As they gazed into the mirror, they were supposed to be able to catch a view of their future husband's face. There was, however, a chance that they would see the skull-face of the Grim Reaper instead; this meant, of course, that they were destined to die before they married.

See also

Crystal gazing

scrying A method of Divination done by gazing on an object that has a polished and reflective surface, such as a CRYSTAL BALL or a MIRROR, until visions appear on its surface. Scrying comes from the English term descry, which means “to succeed in discerning” or “to make out dimly.” The TOOL of scryers, called a speculum, can be any object that works for an individual but usually is one with a pol- 288 Schweitzer, John Frederick ished or reasonably reflective surface. The oldest and most common speculum is still water in a lake, a pond, or a dark bowl. Ink, blood, and other dark liquids were used by ancient Egyptian scryers. NOSTRADAMUS scryed with a bowl of water set upon a brass tripod. His prepartory Ritual consisted of dipping a WAND into the water and anointing himself with a few drops; then he gazed into the bowl until he saw visions. Other common tools are glass fishing floats, polished metals and stones, precious gems, eggs, and mirrors. GYPSY fortune-tellers made crystal balls the stereotype of the trade. JOHN DEE, the royal magician to Queen Elizabeth I, used a crystal egg and a black obsidian mirror. In Arab countries, scryers have used their own polished thumbnails. Dr. Morton Prince, a medical psychologist of the 19th century, used electric lightbulbs in scrying experiments with his patients. Wiccans use rounded mirrors, the convex side of which is painted black, or small cauldrons that are painted black on the inside and filled with water. Scryers have their own individual techniques for inducing visions. Some who use crystals focus on points of light on the surface. Others enter a state of altered consciousness and allow images to float into their inner awareness. Some scryers may actually see images appear on the surface of the speculum, while others see them in their mind’s eye. Some images are couched in Symbols, and the scryer must learn how to interpret them. In the Middle Ages, there was a belief that the images formed on a crystal ball or other tool were caused by demons that had been trapped inside by Magic. A formal scrying ritual is given in Crystal Gazing and Clairvoyance, a book written by John Melville in 1896. Melville specifies the use of a crystal ball resting on an ivory or ebony stand that has been inlaid with magical words in raised gold letters. All of the tools must be consecrated by ritual. To begin, the scryer should recite a long and Christian Invocation. According to Melville, any scrying done with evil intent would rebound on the scryer “with terrible effect.”

Further Reading:

  • Butler, W. E. How to Develop Clairvoyance. 2d ed. New York: Samuel Weiser, 1979.
  • Thomas, Keith. Religion & the Decline of Magic. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971.
  • Valiente, Doreen. Witchcraft for Tomorrow. Custer, Wash.: Phoenix Publishing, 1978.


The Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley Copyright © 2006 by Visionary Living, Inc.


Scrying is a method of divination whereby the practitioner stares into a reflective object or container of liquid, both of which are called a speculum, until a vision appears. The most common speculums in modern times are black bowls filled with water; glass or crystal balls in colors such as dark blue, dark green, or deep lavender; mirrors whose backs have been painted black; and polished stones or gems. The visions a practitioner perceives are usually said to appear within the speculum’s reflective surface, or within a mist that forms there, but sometimes the vision forms directly within the practitioner’s mind. These visions are typically employed to help the practitioner find the location of a lost object, give advice on difficult decisions, or foretell the future. The vision might be a realistic representation of the desired information, or it might be a symbolic one. For example, a woman scrying to find a lost key that accidentally fell beside a pine tree might see the exact location of the key, or she might instead see something that symbolizes its location, such as a triangle. People who believe in scrying warn that it takes time to develop the mental ability to see anything at all within a speculum, suggesting that unless a person is particularly gifted, the skill will not develop quickly if at all.