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Friday, May 30, 2014

Ethics of Divination

  In most modern pagan paths divination plays an important role. This is true in modern witchcraft and in Druidism, where divination might be used in ritual to predict a group's immediate future or to tell if offerings were accepted. Divination in witchcraft might be used before or after spellwork or more broadly to help a person find guidance or communicate with the Gods and spirits. In Heathenry we see divination used sometimes at baby blessings or namings, where a rune might be drawn to predict the child's luck, or as part of some rituals by adult participants for a similar reason. Besides ritual applications divination is also used more broadly by people seeking answers and looking for insight.

   Although not every Druid, witch, or Heathen uses divination, for many it can be a central tool for the practice of their faith. Divination then is an important thing to consider within a spiritual context and looking at it in this context raises important ethical questions. As a diviner what responsibility do we have to relay the messages we receive in an ethical manner, knowing that divination is an often imprecise and vague art?
   The first way that this can come up is when we are taking omens in ritual and the omen appears as a negative one. If it applies to a person care must be taken in how the omen is relayed so that it doesn't seem overwhelmingly bad, but at the same time we don't want to soft pedal the message so much that the meaning is lost. I've seen both extremes happen, once where a negative omen was given very bluntly in a way that frightened some people, and another time where a negative omen was actually rejected and a second omen taken so that the message would be better. Neither of these is constructive; rather I think we have an obligation to say what we see in a neutral way that shares the content but without passing on a sense of judgment of good or bad. This can of course be challenging if the omen itself is very negative, but even in that case the response can include further divination to find out if anything can be done to mitigate the situation. This is where interpreting the omen comes in and the interpretation should rely on both intuition and an ability to craft the message in a constructive way. Even a bad omen serves a purpose and should be interpreted and considered, rather than ignored or rejected.
    The second way I think that ethics can come into play is when we are doing more general divination and the reading is showing information that is important but will also certainly negatively impact the person hearing it. I have read tarot semi-professionally for over 10 years, and runes for more than 5 and I have had an amazing array of things come up in readings. I've had people ask about infidelity, parentage of children, pregnancy, and serious illnesses - and I've had all of these things come up for people who were not asking about them and had no idea there might be any such problems. What is the ethical thing to do? Do we tell a person a what we see when it might motivate a divorce or initiate an affair? My own approach to this, as with omens, is a middle road. I emphasize the uncertain, shifting nature of any divination tool and the need to really think about and process any information. I talk about possibilities and potentials rather than certainties, but I don't change the actual message of the divination tool, be it cards or runes.
   In the same way we should be cautious about over-emphasizing the positive in a reading. Making a moderately good reading into an extremely great one is not only unfair because it distorts the message but may also mislead the person into choosing an option they mistakenly believe is much better than it really is. Just as with negative messages, positive messages should be relayed in a straightforward manner that emphasizes the changeable nature of all divination.
   In my experience people will ultimately only listen to what they want to hear, no matter what you say or how you say it. But to be an ethical Seer or diviner is important and we should strive to be honorable in how we read for others. Being honorable means being honest and presenting the message without distortion, but also being clear that no message is written in stone. We should be sensitive to the feelings of the person or people we are reading for without letting ourselves be influenced to tell them what they want to hear. In the end we should approach reading for others as we would want someone else to read for us.

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