Scrying, also called crystal gazing, is a practice that involves seeing things psychically in a medium, usually for purposes of obtaining spiritual visions and more rarely for purposes of divination or fortune telling. The media used are most commonly reflective, translucent, or luminescent substances such as crystals, stones, glass, mirrors, water or smoke. Scrying has been used in many cultures as a means of divining the past, present, or future. Depending on the culture and practice, the visions that emerge when one stares into the media are thought to come from God, spirits, the psychic mind, or the subconscious.
A toy known as the Magic 8-Ball consists of a plastic ball filled with an inky solution that contains a buoyant icosahedron. Each face of the icosahedron has different answers printed that appear to the consulter through a small window when held upright.
Although scrying is most commonly done with a crystal ball, it may also be performed using any smooth surface, such as a bowl of liquid, a pond, a crystal, or, as expert scryers can, a thumbnail. Scrying is actively used by many cultures and belief systems and is not limited to one tradition or ideology. However, like other aspects of divination and parapsychology, it is not supported by mainstream science as a method of predicting the future or otherwise seeing events that are not physically observable.
The visions that scryers see may come from variations in the medium. If the medium is water, then the visions may come from the color or ripples produced by pebbles dropped in a pool. If the medium is a crystal ball, the visions may come from the tiny inclusions, web-like faults, or the cloudy glow within the ball under low light.
One method of scrying using a crystal ball involves a self induced trance. Initially, the medium serves as a focus for the attention, removing unwanted thoughts from the mind in the same way as a mantra. Once this stage is achieved, the scryer begins a free association with the perceived images suggested.
The technique of deliberately looking for and declaring these initial images aloud is done with the intent of deepening the trance state, wherein the scryer hears their own disassociated voice affirming what is seen within the concentrated state in a kind of feedback loop. This process culminates in the achievement of a final and desired end stage in which rich visual images and dramatic stories seem to be projected within the medium itself or directly within the mind’s eye of the scryer, like an inner movie.
Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement, said he used two stones called the Urim and Thummim, in his 1829 translation of the Book of Mormon. The Urim and Thummim is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. In Mormon theology it is an instrument prepared by God that assists man in obtaining revelation and in translating languages.
In J. R. R. Tolkien’s fictional universe of Middle Earth, the Palantír is a stone that allows seeing what any other Palantír sees, and the Mirror of Galadriel is used as a type of scrying device used to see visions of the past, present, or future.
In the television show Charmed the main characters use crystals suspended over maps to scry for people. This is different from other forms because it just shows location and not a picture, which leads many people to call this practice dowsing.