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Crystal Balls and Crystal Gazing

We have evidence from medieval times of the use of crystal balls as means of divination. In Greek and Roman periods, these crystal balls and their fortune tellers had a tendency to scare people. Fortune tellers and their seeing of the future was not a rare thing in the Greek and Roman periods. The only thing needed to see the future was a polished reflective surface upon which the fortune teller would gaze. Various objects were used for fortune telling; polished steel, the surface of water, mirrors, drops of lead or quicksilver, and even pools of ink- anything that had a reflective surface was used and was just as effective as a crystal ball. What happens during the fortune telling sessions is that the points of light that reflect off the polished surface attract the attention of the fortune teller. Eventually, the optic nerve in the fortune teller's eyes becomes so tired that it begins to pick up on the reflex action that comes from the brain of the gazer. Thus, the impression received from inside is projected and seems to come from outside influences. The results from these sessions vary based on the idiosyncrasy of the various fortune tellers as everything they think and see is based upon their optic nerve. Many times, the effect of this long period of gazing paralyzes temporarily and will not respond to stimulation from within or without. In other cases however, the optical nerve dies in regards to external impressions but retains enough activity to react to something coming from within their brain. It is thus stated, that before the appearance of the desired visions, the crystal disappears and a mist rises before the gazer’s eye.
The Achains frequently used a mirror to detect future diseases or to learn whether there was to be a danger of sudden death. Of the subject of the Temple of Demeter, or Ceres, Patras writes: "In front of the temple of Demeter there is a well. A stone wall separates this well from the temple, but steps lead down to it from the outside. Here there is an infallible oracle, although it does not answer all questions, but only those touching disease. They attach a slender cord to a mirror and let it down into the wall, balancing it carefully so that the water does not cover the face, but only touches the rim. Then, after making a prayer to the goddess and burning incense to her, they look into the mirror, and it shows whether the sick person will die or recover. Such is the power of truth in this water."

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This magic well and its special mirror must have been in Lucian’s mind when, in his description of the palace of the Moon-King, he writes: "Another wonderful thing I saw in the palace. Suspended over a rather shallow well there is a large mirror, and anyone who goes down into this well will hear every word that is spoken on earth, while, if he gazes on the mirror, he will see there every city and every nation just as clearly as though he were looking down upon them from a slight elevation. At the time I was there, I saw my native country and its inhabitants. Where I myself was seen by them in turn, I am not sure.”
Lucian adds, with a small touch of irony, “Anyone who doubts this assertion needs only to go there himself and he will find out I speak the truth.” As no one has yet made a trip to the moon, the assertion is still uncontradicted.
The Mexicans, in their religious legends, taught that their god Tezcatlipuco had a magic mirror which showed him every occurrence in the world. He was sometimes named Necocyautl, the “sower of discord,” because he often stirred up war among men. He was also the lord of prosperity, which he shared and took away whenever he felt like it.
In the Orphic poem “Lithica,” a magic piece of stone is described. The stone is called “sideritis” or “ophitis,” and is said to be round, heavy, and black. It's also possible that it could have been metal. Helenus, the Trojan soothsayer, used this sphere to foresee the downfall of his city. As such, he attempted to stop this downfall by fasting for twenty-one days and then wrapping the sphere in soft garments, just like one would an infant. To this stone, he offered sacrifices until, because of his own magic, “a living soul warmed the precious substance.”
An odd variety of divination involved placing mirrors on boys' heads. With the boys' eyes blindfolded, they were supposed to see forms or signs. This phenomenon is noted by Spartianus in his life of the Emperor Didius Julianis (ca. 133-193). Spartianus used this kind of divination, and the boy given the task magically announced the approaching rise of Septimius Severus (146-211) and the dethronement of Didius Julianus.
The biblical story of Joseph and his brothers is an example of divination by way of a silver cup. Joseph had concealed a silver cup in a sack of grain that Benjamin took with him when leaving, making this a pretext to ask the brothers to come back. Joseph then sent messengers to stop the brothers and insist that they return the “stolen” cup. The messengers used these words: “Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth?”
The Arabic author, Haly Abou Gefar, tells the story of how the Magi, followers of Zoroaster, would swing around a golden ball suspended from a strip of bullhide while reciting various spells and incantations. This ball was set with a sapphire and covered with celestial symbols. The magician probably fell into a hypnotic trance from staring at the brilliant spinning golden sphere. He might then see visions that he would use to read the future or obtain information about things that were important to his audience.
Incidentally, a decree was passed in the fifth century by St. Patrick and Bishops Auxilius and Issernanus in Western Europe regarding crystal gazing. It stated that any Christian that believes that there’s a witch in the mirror is to be cursed by the Church unless they renounce that belief and diligently perform any penance imposed on them. In this case, the vision in the mirror was not a vision or a prophecy but an evil spirit seeking to negatively influence the person gazing into the mirror.
Hydromantii were people who lived in the 9th century and believed to have the power to see evil spirits on the surface of the water. These diviners insisted that they received explicit communications from the spirits, believing those appearances to be realities. Hincmar, the Archbishop of Rheims, wrote about it in 860 A.D., depicting the supposed appearances as “Images or deception of the demons.”
In writing an introduction to “Crystal Gazing” by N.W. Thomas, Andrew Lang (1844-1912), a Scottish poet and literary critic, wrote about hypnagogic illusions, or images that grow out of the bright rays of light that frequently appear when the eyes are closed before sleep takes over. He almost always saw unfamiliar faces except for the one time when he saw his own face in a profile. Lang suggests that the same is true for scryers, or crystal gazers when they see images from the light points in the crystal to foretell the future.
Ibn Kaldoun (1332-1406), a Persian historian and forerunner of modern sociology and demography, wrote that it is a mistake to believe that images appear on the surface of the mirror. The diviner stares at the surface until it disappears and a curtain, like a mist, arises between him and the mirror. It is on this curtain that the images appear and the crystal gazer can then ask questions about the future. However, these images are not something the diviner sees with his eyes; they are more of perceptions he feels with his soul.
In the past, many different materials have been used for crystal gazing. Polished spheres of beryl were usually preferred, however, in modern times rock crystal was a more popular choice. According to Abbot Johannes Tritheim (1462-1516), the father of early modern occultism, the best crystal to use for fortune telling would be a round, clear gemstone the size of a small orange, without any clouds or specks. The chosen crystal should be placed on an ivory or ebony pedestal, on a small plate of pure gold. A Tetragrammaton or a four-lettered word should be engraved on the golden plate in a circle around the crystal, and on the other side of the plate the names Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael should be engraved. Those would correspond to the four principal angels ruling over the Sun, Moon, Venus, and Mercury.
The four letters to make up the Tetragrammaton would be the four Hebrew letters of Yud, Hey, Vav, Hey, which is a Hebrew name for G-d considered too sacred to pronounce in Judaism. Therefore, the Hebrew word Adonai is usually substituted when reading those Scriptures. Christian scholars have later adapted the consonants of YHVH to read “Jehovah.”
Roger Bacon (1214-1292), an English philosopher and Franciscan friar, was one of the most gifted men of his century due to his research in the area of nature and empiricism. However, his real greatness was not genuinely appreciated while he was alive, and somehow, many legends portrayed him as a magician and a necromancer. A popular English book entitled“The Famous Historie of Fryar Bacon” describes Roger Bacon’s incredible powers.
According to this book, the friar made a “glass” through which he could see events occurring in distant places. On one occasion, two young men who were excellent friends asked the friar to look into his “glass” to see what their fathers were doing at the time. The friar consented and told the young men before him that their fathers were fighting with one another, and one was down on the ground with the other one ready to strike him. The two young men began arguing over their fathers, and the incident ended tragically with both men stabbing each other to death.
Scottish regalia, or the crown jewels used for coronations in the 15th and 16th centuries, were always regarded as amulets, or magical charms used for protection. Their origin can be traced to the Druids, the religious leaders of the ancient Celtic cultures. A crystal globe, two and a quarter inches in diameter, rests on top of the Scottish scepter, and a large crystal beryl sits on top of the Scottish mace. Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), a Scottish novelist and historian, tells us that in his time those crown jewels were known as the “Stones of Power,” among the Scottish Highlanders.
The testimony of John Salisbury (1120-1180), a prominent English philosopher of the 12th century Renaissance and bishop of Chartres, showcases the popularity of crystal-gazing in 12th century England. He wrote that when he was a boy, he and his companion, a few years older than him, received instruction from a priest who was addicted to magic arts.
The priest would polish the boys’ fingernails with consecrated oil or ointment and then instruct them to look at the polished surface until an image would appear. Sometimes they would look at the smooth, polished surface of a basin instead. John himself never saw any shapes on those surfaces; however, his companion sometimes observed vague and blurry forms. During these acts of divination, the priest would chant certain names which terrified John, since he believed them to be names of evil spirits. John’s aversion to crystal-gazing was even believed to interfere with the process of divination itself.
“Policraticus” was a well-known book that John of Salisbury wrote around 1159 on ethical and political philosophy under the genre of advice literature. In it he claimed that the “specularii,” or the crystal gazers, would never use their gift of visualizing images on polished surfaces to cause harm to anyone, instead, it was mostly used in exposing thieves and in counteracting magic spells.
According to Paracelsus (1493-1541), a Swiss physician, alchemist, and astrologer of the German Renaissance, the word “to conjure” simply meant “to observe anything rightly, to learn and to understand what it is.” His writings on alchemy and hermeticism described the crystal as having the same qualities as air - the images that could be seen in the air could also be seen in the crystal, or “speculum,” as it was sometimes called.
However, images seen in crystals are often reversed, distorted, and twisted, since they are concentrated in a double convex lens that makes up the inner crystal sphere. When these images become visible to a person who is expecting to see odd and peculiar things, they form mental impressions which may be very difficult to erase. That is why crystal gazers are often profoundly agitated and nervous. Their brains may even see kaleidoscopic effects when gazing into the crystal.
An old German manuscript written in 1658 by a Capuchin priest explains how to properly use an Erdenspiegel, or an earth mirror, for divination purposes. The mirror needs to be placed 2 inches above a board, and a list of questions is to be placed below it. The scryer is advised to place three grains of salt on his tongue, recite a prayer and cross himself. He would then take the mirror in his hands and breathe on it three times, reciting the following: “In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
He would then continue with the following invocation: “....Thou shalt appear to me in the world-mirror, and give me knowledge and instruction in answer to my questions.” The strong religious tone for the use of the mirror and the fact that it was a priest who recites the benedictions shows that there was a mentality to accept the use of “white magic.”
In medieval times it was believed that the image in the crystal was produced through the power of an indwelling spirit. It was, therefore, necessary to use a powerful spell to force the spirit to enter the stone. Many of these ancient spells have been preserved and often contain an odd and conflicting mix of religious and magical formulas.
The scrying was usually done by a child, while the chant recited by a minister. We can see this from a 15th-century spell recited after a lengthy and incoherent incantation that ends with the following: ... and you ask a child if he sees anything, and if not, let the minister begin his conjuration again. An essential part of any conjuration usually consisted of the repetition of the many divine names, most of them in their original Hebrew. However, so much has been misconstrued by reciters who did not know their original meaning that it was often difficult to interpret them correctly.
According to one 16th century manuscript, this type of magic often intersected with religion. The gazing crystal was placed on the altar, on the side that the Gospel is read on, and the priest would say Mass on that side as well. Scrying, in general, was seen as a special privilege, granted only to the few chosen ones. A young boy or girl was preferred for the job, not older than 12 years of age. If the conjuration was successful, the manuscript tells us that the angels that would appear in the glass would not depart until the sun would set or they would be permitted to leave by the priest.
A certain religious spirit was often present in the lives of the 16th-century crystal gazers, or specularii, as they were otherwise known. One such speculator, John A Windor, reported that when he led a sinful life, the visions would not appear for him in the crystal. He would then fumigate the apartment, believing that the very air was tainted with his sins.
Another seer, a woman by the name of Sarah Skelhorn, asserted that the spirits that appeared to her in the mirror would often follow her around the house, from room to room, forcing her to acknowledge their presence. Both of these scryers had regular employment, for it was quite conventional for a gentleman to have a household scryer, just as one would have his own physician if he could afford it.
A 16th century manuscript on magic called the “Hollenzwang” was written by Dr. John Faustus, an alchemist, astrologer, and magician of the German Renaissance. Dr. Faustus, or Faust, as he was otherwise known, was later immortalized in a play created by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1790, called, "Faust, A Tragedy." The manuscript by the original Dr. Faustus gives specific and distinct directions for the preparation and consecration of crystal, be it glass or quartz.
In von Goethe’s play, Dr. Faust asks Mephistopheles, the devil, whether such crystals can be made, and the devil replies that it certainly can be. He then directs Dr. Faust to go to a glass-maker on Tuesday, to form a glass. This task had to be done in the hour of Mars, that is in the first, eighth, fifteenth or twenty-second hour of Tuesday. The completed crystal then has to be purchased, and cannot be accepted as a gift. Once the glass was finished, Mephistopheles gave instructions to bury it in a grave for a period of three weeks. If a woman purchased the glass, she would bury it in a female grave. These initial measures would only prepare the crystal for its consecration, the material itself would be worthless until certain spirits were summoned to dwell within it.
Mephistopheles admitted that he alone was not powerful enough to consecrate the crystal, so he instructed Faust to also summon the spirits Azeruel and Adadiel. He then assured Faust that the three spirits together would show him in the crystal anything he wished to know. If anything were stolen, the vision of a thief would appear in the glass; if anyone were suffering from an unknown illness, its characteristics would be revealed so that the afflicted individual may be cured.
Another way to prepare the crystal or mirror for scrying is mentioned in the same manuscript. After the glass is bought, it is to be submerged in baptismal water where a first-born male child was baptized. It would then remain in the water for three weeks, after which the water would be poured over a grave. The 6th chapter of the Revelation of St. John would be read, and a special conjuration would be pronounced, asking G-d to infuse the crystal with truth and clarity.
The visions seen in crystal gazing were thought to be the work of evil spirits trying to seduce the souls of men by offering them riches or promises to see the future. As was common in activities involving magic, sometimes it was used with good intentions, but more often than not, the use of magic produced tragic or unintended consequences.
One 16th century writer recounted the story of a demon who showed a priest living in Nuremberg in 1530, a vision of a buried treasure. Believing in the truth of the vision, the priest eagerly traveled to an excavated cavern, where he could see a large black dog lying next to a treasure chest. He ran into the cavern, hoping to secure the treasure, but the top of the cave crumbled down on him, killing him instantly.
Dr. Dee was a famous charlatan who was a regular at the Court of Emperor Rudolph II and was highly favored by Queen Elizabeth. The Queen visited him a few times and even sought his advice on political matters. He recounts in his diary how the Queen visited him a few hours after his wife died, and having learned that it was so soon after the funeral, the Queen refused to enter his house. Instead, she asked for him to bring out his scrying glass and show her some of its magical properties at the Church of Mortlake. He obliged, to his Majesty’s great satisfaction and delight.
It was at Montlake, on December 22, 1581, that Dr. Dee made his first attempt at crystal gazing. The religious ceremony began with a pious incantation to summon the angel of the stone. The celestial being soon revealed himself in the stone and answered questions put forth by those present through the voice of the scryer.
There is no doubt that Dr. Dee used more than one crystal in the course of his experiments, namely, Cairngorm, otherwise known as smoky quartz, which is now on display at the British Museum. This variety of quartz may have been chosen due to Scottish superstitions regarding their virtue, as it is well known that charlatans like to use already existing superstitions to make their contributions more acceptable.
Often, a child was given the role of crystal-gazing to minimize the suspicion that an evil spirit was somehow involved in the process. In Dr. Dee’s experiments, the notorious Kelley acted as an interpreter of the crystal visions, and a little girl named Madimi acted as an intermediary of the higher powers. She was described as a pretty eight-year-old girl with long, flowing hair. To make her more noticeable in a crowd, she wore a silk dress with sparkly red and green effects. Sometimes, during a seance, she would be seen bouncing about the study, sharply contrasting with the backdrop of old, dusty books, musical instruments, and other strange objects collected there.
Even though Dr. Dee writes so extensively about Madimi in his diary, it was apparently a figment of his imagination or a creation of Kelley’s overactive brain. Whenever Madimi is portrayed as speaking, it is Kelley’s voice that transmits to Dee her revelations. In one passage, Dee says to Madimi, “...I know you see me often and I only see you by faith and imagination.” Sometimes, another spiritual maiden was mentioned, a lively little Indian spirit called “Bright Eyes,” who loved jewelry and candy.
Not only was the quality of the crystal important, but the overall placement and setting of it were essential as well. In one of Dr. Dee’s manuscripts, it is recorded that on March 10, 1582, Kelley saw in the crystal a vision of the exact arrangement of how the crystal should be set on the table. The exact instructions were also given to the scryer by the angel Uriel. The table needed to be square, with four legs, and a “Sigillum Dei,” or Seal of G-d, impressed onto a purest, colorless wax, was placed on top of it. The seal contained a cross and the four magic letters of A.G.L.A. Which is a transliteration into the Roman characters of the initials of the Hebrew words, “Thou are great forever, O, Lord.”
In addition, four smaller seals were to be provided, to be placed under each leg of the table. The seals were impressed with various geometric figures representing the seven holy names of G-d along with the seven angels ruling the seven planetary heavens. Zabothiel for Saturn, Zedekiel for Jupiter, Madiniel for Mars, Semeliel for the Sun, Nogabiel for Venus, Corabiel for Mercury, and Levaniel for the Moon. The table was to be covered with a silky, red tablecloth, with tassels on each of the four corners. The crystal, set in a frame, was placed over the main seal on the table.
The scryer would then see a figure at the table with the crystal resting upon it. Kelley would describe in detail to Dr. Dee the figure that he pretended to see next to the magic crystal. Use of such detail would make his vision appear more realistic and give credence to the story. He called this apparition “the Nalvage,” or a spirit that first appeared to the doctor and his family in Cracow, Poland, on April 10th, 1584. That spirit quickly became a frequent visitor.
The spirit wore a gown made of white silk, a white, glittery fur cape complete with three pendants with green tassels on each end. His face had no beard and resembled that of King Edward the Sixth, with blond, curly hair hanging down from his cap. He held a small wand, the size of a pinkie, which was divided into three equal parts, made of the brightest gold, and stood next to a round table, made of Crystal or Mother of Pearl. When reading these words spoken by Kelley and so carefully preserved by Dr. Dee, it reminds us of the spirits of the Natives, or the original owners of the American lands, and their strong connection with the spirit world.
Most of the records found on crystal gazing show conclusively that the images revealed in the crystal were merely products of the expectations, hopes, and fears of the gazer. The visions were only prophetic because they dictated the future actions of the gazer, as he or she would consciously attempt to fulfill his or her own predictions.
An example of such self-fulfilled prophecy is described in an old German book, called “The Most Noble Pastime,” by Johann Rist, published in 1668. A young, lovesick maiden consults an enchantress in an attempt to find out what the future holds for her and her forbidden lover. The enchanted crystal is brought out, wrapped in a yellow handkerchief, and placed in a green basin, which sits on a blue cloth. The use of those different colors is thought to stimulate the optic nerve to create visual illusions on the polished surface of the crystal.
The young girl looks long and hard at the crystal until finally, she thinks she sees a vision of herself and her lover, looking pale and sad. She decides they must be going on a distant and dangerous journey because he is dressed in riding boots and carries a pair of pistols. The maiden is so terrified of such a vision that she faints. The outcome of this divination resulted in the couple running away together. When her lover suggested this adventure to her, she readily agreed, believing it was written in the book of fate.
Dr. Dee and Kelley, and their infamous crystal is also mentioned in the English mock-heroic narrative poem “Hudibras,” written by Samuel Butler. This poem humorously exposes and chastises most flaws and shortcomings of the 17th century. When the protagonist, Sir Hudibras, seeks the services of a scryer to foretell his future, the poem implies that Kelley solved all his problems by playing a game of hiding and reappearing with the Devil’s looking-glass.
Throughout his experiments with crystal gazing, Dr. Dee did not limit himself to using only one crystal, nor did he use translucent and clear stones. Horace Walpole, the 4th Earl of Orford, was an English art historian and antiquarian. His famous artifact collection at his Strawberry Hill House in Twickenham, south-west London, featured a polished slab of black stone, called Obsidian, from Mexico. The catalog listed this stone as the black stone that Dr. Dee used to summon spirits during divination. It was believed that any polished surface, whether flat or convex, would work for scrying purposes; the only real advantage to using a curved or round-shaped crystal would be to magnify the reflection of light as it bounces from one point to another.
An individual blessed with creativity and the natural ability to visualize imagery would not hesitate to create life-like pictures from the repeated reflections of the surrounding objects or the shifting light patterns bouncing off the crystals. Whether or not these visions have any predictive value, entirely depends on the significance we choose to attribute to the process of subconscious intelligence. There can be no doubt to its existence, as many influential thinkers believed that our cognitive functions may sometimes be stretched well beyond their limits.
John Aubrey, an English antiquarian, natural philosopher, and writer (1626-1697) provided the following account of a particular crystal ball:
"I have here a special Beryl, which is a perfect sphere, about an inch in diameter, set in a ring, in a circle of silver. Its stem is about 10 inches high, covered with a thin layer of gold paint. The four corners of the circle contain the names of the four angels, Uriel, Raphael, Michael, and Gabriel, while the top features a cross pattee, a type of a curved cross, popular in medieval art."
The Beryl originated in Norfolk, where a particular minister was able to see angels and spirits clearly on the crystal’s surface and used it for divination. One day, a miller, his very dear friend, was able to see those spirits as well, so the minister gifted him the Beryl to use after his death, which he prophetically saw in the Beryl. The miller was able to perform great cures with the Beryl, as per the account of Mr. Ashmole (1617-1692), another English antiquarian, politician, astrologer, and alchemy student. The miller could see either the recipe for making the cure on the surface of the Beryl or the herbs themselves, but only if the condition could be cured in the first place.
Afterward, this Beryl came into somebody’s possession in London, who did strange things with it, until the authorities questioned him about it and eventually confiscated it around 1645. Currently, the Beryl is in possession of Sir Edward Harley (an English politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1646 and 1695), which he keeps in his closet at Brampton Bryan in Herefordshire.
Joseph Glanvil (1636-1680), an English writer, philosopher, and clergyman, described the practice of scrying in his Sudducismus Triumphatus, a book on witchcraft that was published in 1681, a year after his death. In his book, a Glanvil writes about how Mr. Compton, deemed “a very odd person,” offered to show Mr. Hill, a very credible, sober, and intelligent person, anything he wanted to see. Although Mr. Hill had no confidence in Mr. Compton’s scrying ability, he did ask to see his wife, who was many miles away. Mr. Compton had no prior knowledge of Mr. Hill or his wife, so he took a looking-glass that was in the room, set it down again, and asked Mr. Hill to look into it. What Mr. Hill saw was the exact image of his wife, in her usual clothes, working with her needle in the room where she usually worked. The integrity of this account was confirmed when Mr. Hill arrived at home.
One contemporary record tells a story of Sir Marmaduke Langdale (1598-1661), a Royalist commander in the English Civil War (1642-1651). When Sir Langdale was in Italy, he went to see a sorcerer who showed him an image of himself kneeling before a crucifix. Sir Langdale was a Protestant at the time, but after this vision, he turned to Catholicism. If we exclude any trickery, we can conclude that the idea of becoming a Catholic was already in his mind, and that’s why he imagined that particular vision.
Count Alessandro di Cagliostro was the alias of the famous occultist Guiseppe Balsamo (1743-1795), who practiced psychic healing, alchemy, and crystal gazing in the royal courts of Europe. The only authentic biography of him was written by Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish philosopher, satirical writer, and historian (1795-1881). Carlyle recounts how Cagliostro performed a scrying experiment using a little boy, a son of a nobleman, as his subject.
He asked the boy to kneel before a table that held a Bottle of pure water with a few lit candles behind it. Placing his hand on the boy’s head, he performed some sort of exorcism and prayed to G-d for a positive scrying experience. He then asked the child to look in the Bottle. The boy cried out that he saw a garden. Believing that Heaven was assisting him, he encouraged the child to ask G-d to see the angel, Michael. At first, the child thought he saw something white but couldn’t identify what it was, but then he started to jump and stomp like a possessed creature, screaming that he sees a child, much like himself, with something angelical. The crowd watching became speechless, overcome with emotion.
Again, Cagliostro placed a hand on the child’s head and conducted an exorcism, complete with a prayer to G-d for help with scrying. Following this, the child exclaimed that he saw his sister coming down the stairs and hugging one of her brothers. That seemed improbable since the sister was hundreds of miles away, but Cagliostro remained unfazed, suggesting that they send to the country house where the sister lived to verify whether the vision was correct.
Although it seems that this experiment was not very satisfactory, it does illustrate the stages of crystal-gazing: excitement and expectation produced a predictable effect on the impressionable child, and imagination did the rest. The final vision would have been confirmed in some way or explained to persuade those present that the child had really seen a manifestation of some actual happening.
During the Reign of Terror (1793-1794), a period during the French Revolution when thousands of people were sent to the guillotine, an interesting story was told about the effects of crystal gazing. General Marliere was one of the many sent to trial by the Jacobins, the most radical and ruthless political group that tried to rid France of all traitors and enemies. He knew that he would most likely be convicted and sentenced to death. A few days before his trial he met a colonel in the French army who had served in the American Revolutionary War and was a firm believer in the practice of crystal gazing. The general immediately wanted to look in the crystal to learn of his future fate. At first, the colonel was reluctant, probably because he didn’t want to tell the general of his impending death sentence, but the general insisted, and the experiment took place. Again, a child was used as a medium.
The child saw a man wearing a private’s uniform of the National Guard struggling with another man wearing a general’s uniform. He then became frightened by the sight of the man in the National Guard uniform beheading the general. The fact that the general was executed in the child’s vision was no surprise, but the fact that he wore the National Guard uniform was very puzzling and unexpected to all those present during the experiment. In the end, the prediction came true. General Marliere was tried, convicted and executed by the guillotine. On the day of the execution, Samson, the official executioner, desiring to attract the attention of the onlookers, dressed in the uniform of the National Guard. How could the child, or anyone else present during the crystal-gazing experiment have known that the executioner would dress that way was a big mystery, if the event happened precisely the way that it was told. This incident would be one of the few instances when the crystal predicted the outcome with the utmost truthfulness.
Many remarkable predictions were said to have been seen in crystal balls by a French scryer whose grandmother had psychic powers and was occasionally consulted by Napoleon I. It is believed that the grandson entertained many royal clients and predicted more or less accurately the assassination of King Humbert of Italy, and the attempted assassination of Alfonso XIII and his young bride as they were returning to the palace after their marriage ceremony.
This French scryer stated that he is personally affected when he comes in contact with someone destined to die a violent death, as his entire body experiences a modified version of the suffering the person is expected to have. This exceptional sensitivity to supernatural influences was noted when the scryer visited Boulaq Museum in Cairo. As he was walking through rows of mummies, he experienced an intense sense of grief and fury of the disembodied spirits as they watched their embalmed bodies on display in front of a crowd of visitors, when they should have been allowed to rest in their tombs until Resurrection.
In England, a law was passed on June 21st, 1824, declaring fortune-telling as illegal, thereby protecting the King’s subjects from deception. The law labeled all those that participated in any act of divination by any means or using any device, successfully or not, as “rogues and vagabonds.” The offenders, convicted before the Justice of the Peace, were sentenced to up to 3 months of hard labor at the House of Correction, or the local jail.
In Yucatan, the looking-glass, or the zaztun, was always a staple in the medicine bag of an H-men, a Yucatan priest, along with rattlesnake fangs, porcupine quills, and various medicinal herbs. The zaztun had to be a clear stone, usually a quartz crystal, which was properly sanctified before it could be used for divination. Gum copal, a resin produced from tree sap, was customarily burned beforehand and certain magic formulas, transmitted from one generation to the next, were recited in an archaic dialect, rendering the translucent stone ready for crystal-gazing. The priest would look in the depth of the crystal to locate lost objects, to see what other people were doing, as well as the future. Because of the looking-glass’ unique scrying abilities, at least one such crystal could easily be found in every Yucatan village.
The Apache tribe of the Native Americans believed the crystals had the ability to induce visions. Their medicine-men used crystals to find lost possessions, such as recovering lost or stolen ponies. Captain John G. Bourke (1843-1896), a captain in the US Army and a prolific writer on Native American affairs, once made a great friend of an Apache medicine-man by gifting him a large crystal. The new crystal was far more superior in quality to the one the medicine-man was using for his visions up until now. Na’ache the medicine-man exclaimed in satisfaction that now he could see everything he wanted to see in the crystal, although he did not offer any explanation as to how it happened.
The natives of the New South Wales have long recognized the magic power that was thought to dwell within the rock crystal. According to Alfred William Howitt (1830-1908), an Australian naturalist, explorer, and anthropologist, some natives have a barbaric custom of knocking out one or more front teeth of boys undergoing a mandatory initiation ceremony. The extracted teeth were believed to have a connection to the health and fortune of the boys themselves. On one occasion, these teeth were given to Dr. Howitt to preserve, and great fear was expressed when he placed them in the same bag as the rock crystals. The natives were convinced that the magic of the rock crystals would have a detrimental effect on the health of the boys by coming in contact with their extracted teeth.
Professor W. Ridgeley, in a paper entitled, “The Origin of Jewelry,” wrote about how crystals were highly sought after and used for their magical powers by numerous nations throughout the world. The Australians and the tribes of New Guinea used them for rain-making. The people of Uganda regarded crystals as a powerful amulet when fastened into leather. Sorcerers in Africa routinely carried a small bag of rocks as an essential part of their equipment. In Greece, the crystals were used to light the sacrificial fire in churches up until the fifteenth century. And the Egyptians would pierce tiny holes in the crystals, making cylindrical glass beads out of them.
Professor Ridgeley discusses that the reason why crystal was so highly regarded was due to its magic powers. He argues that originally, crystals were used exclusively for the practice of divination, and using crystals in official seals or jewelry became customary only at a later time. The proof, he says, is that the cylinders and gems that were discovered in ancient Babylon and Mycenae, Greece, were unengraved. This, of course, proves nothing, as unengraved gems could easily have been used by early humans for purposes of self-adornment or as a status symbol, especially since the practice of engraving gems or using them in official seals became popular much later.
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