For my entire life, I’ve been in perfect health — to the point where I even bragged about it. So my body somewhat showed me up earlier this year when I took a “miracle” vitamin that ravaged my system, leaving me sick for months and eventually landed me five days in the hospital. Because I’d always been so healthy, my insurance was bare bones and when the time came that I actually needed it, it wasn’t there for me — just a faulty parachute strapped to my back.
The first time I was in the ER, they wanted to run a host of tests on me. It’s standard procedure and they were just being responsible, but I refused because I knew how much these tests cost and I knew I couldn’t afford them. Also… I was afraid of the unknown. The doctor sat down beside my bed and said, “you need to put your health first. And just think, if you have the test now, you won’t have to have it again for years. Don’t you want to know what’s going on?”
To this, I weakly replied, “no! I want to drop dead one day having never been the wiser.”
He laughed and asked, “oh, are you a nurse?”
This pretty much sums up my feelings regarding the future. I’d just rather not know. Perhaps this is why I’ve always avoided divination. I used my tarot cards for decoration and symbolism. My runes were never cast. And I avoided all the fun-looking pendulums, scrying mirrors and tea-reading books at my local witch shop.
Then a change came. While holed up in the hospital, I started reading about apantomancy.
Using Signs To Divine
Apantomancy is a very old form of divination and has been used throughout the world. Simply put, you place yourself into a meditative state and then observe objects and animals around you, known as signs. You interpret these signs in relation to your situation and future. You can ask questions. You can simply try to see what’s coming. You’ve probably already used some form of apantomancy in your life. The idea of good and bad omens stems from apantomancy, the most famous being black cats and their associations with bad luck. If you’ve ever walked around and seen something you considered a good sign, congratulations, you’re already using apantomancy.
What I like about this form of divination is that it relies so heavily on personal symbols. I have always owned black cats and I don’t consider them unlucky at all, so my personal symbolism would be in stark contrast to the accepted mythos. And that’s great! It’s my future and my interpretations that matter in apantomancy, not a set of rules written by someone else.
I also like that it encourages me to go outside and search for animals. As an animal lover, this is right up my alley.
On The Importance Of Meditation
As I’ve discussed here before, I have a problem with focus. It’s one of the most important parts of working magic and one of my biggest struggles. To counter this, I generally try to use artistic forms of magic because I’m an artist and I find it easy to focus on art. Apantomancy requires meditation or putting yourself into a trance as it is often referred to, to open your mind. To do this right, I had to learn how to relax and quiet my mind. Incidentally, this is something my doctors also suggested. Go figure.
There are a lot of different ways people meditate but the one that works best for me is to focus on a particular thing. Instead of just “clearing my mind” (which never works for me), I give my mind something to focus on, like a candle flame or a favorite stone (currently using Rainforest Jasper). I’ve also used mantras because I’ve read that a steady, low sound is beneficial, but I don’t live alone and if I sit somewhere making humming sounds I will invariably get comments. If you have a method already for centering, great! If not, just find something that you can use as a focusing point, and go outside.
It’s hard to describe exactly when you know you’re in your trance, but you will know. It takes some time to get there, especially if you’re new to it, but it’s a little like being inebriated. Not dizzy or sick, but elevated somehow; not so grounded in reality. When you reach this state, you can ask a question or you can just observe what you see.
Interpreting The World
In this elevated state, you will be amazed at how you react to what you see. A small brown bird is no longer just a bird, it’s a sign, and everything about it can be read, from its size to the length of time it stays with you. Take in all of these details and try your hand at decoding them. You can reference animal meanings, but it’s so much the better if you just go with your instincts. Think about who is sending you these signs. Your ancestors, maybe? Ask them questions, ask for guidance! Then observe what signs they send you and listen to what they are trying to say.
As you work and start regularly using apantomancy, you will slowly develop your own set of personal symbols because, based on where you live, you will be seeing the same animals again and again. I live in Colorado and see magpies all the time. They are scrappy birds that take all kinds of risks when it comes to their survival, and when I see one, I always think of them as a sign to be more fearless. A rabbit, on the other hand, is a sign to be cautious (Colorado bunnies look both ways before they cross the street). It’s all up to you.
After your session, take a moment to reflect on what you saw and write things down. This will be helpful when looking for patterns later.
Apantomancy On The Go
Is it better to meditate before using apantomancy? Yes. Is it required to use apantomancy? No. You can, at any time, stop and ask for guidance. People probably don’t realize that when they “ask for a sign” they are using apantomancy, but it is that simple. The challenge is being receptive and intuitive to what these signs are telling you. By practicing and learning to read them, you will be able to easily use apantomancy in whatever setting you find yourself. Especially if you’ve taken the time to build up an inventory of personal symbols!
Don’t become discouraged if your first attempts are a little shaky. This is a very simple form of divination, but its foundation is your history and how you see things. In the beginning, you’ll have no reference points because everything will be new. If you hate spiders and you see one, you may interpret that as a bad omen. But what if something great happens the next day and you change your mind? This is why journaling your observations is so important. Keep track of dates, times, and details and eventually, you will be able to assign more concrete meanings to certain symbols. These personal symbols can be used in many witchy ways, so it’s wise to keep track of them.
Happy divining, witches!