Cascadia Druids: White Mountain Druid Sanctuary Blog

White Mountain Druid Sanctuary (WMDS) is a Druid inspired Pagan site in Trout Lake, Washington. This blog describes the planning and creation of the Stone Circle, Shrines and physical surroundings that are being built there.

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Taking Omens: A Quick Look at Divination in Druidry

For millennia, people have used a wide variety of methods designed to foretell future events or to gain advice from the spirit realm. In many cultures, the ability to divine the future was a highly valued skill, and the word of augurs and professional soothsayers could influence important political or strategic decisions, such as whether or not an army should head into battle, or if planting or harvesting should commence. The ability to decipher meaning from the chaos of everyday life helped to establish a sense of order in the cosmos.

Divination remains popular in today’s society, even if the status of most professional readers and astrologers may not be quite as illustrious as in the past. Some of the more familiar forms of divination, such as tarot cards, are relatively recent inventions, while others—such as throwing bones or scrying for patterns in a crystal ball or flames are quite ancient. What all these forms of divination hold in common is a desire to try to provide answers for an oftentimes uncertain world.

In modern Druidry, divination is used for many of the same reasons. While a variety of methods may be used, many Druids look to ancient cultures as a starting point. Norse runes are a common example, with letters representing the Elder Futhark carved or painted on pieces of wood, bone, stone or any other suitable material. The runes are typically tossed onto a surface, such as a casting cloth, or selected at random from a bag. The reading is then derived based on the position of the runes, or perhaps the order in which they are drawn.

A similar form of divination exists using the Celtic ogham alphabet. While there is very little evidence that suggests this form of writing was ever used for divination in ancient times, it has become a popular alternative among modern Celtic-leaning Druids and other pagans for runes or tarot cards. However, misinformation regarding the ogham abounds, and much of the popular literature discussing it is more influenced by the mid-20th century poet Robert Graves and his inventive take on mythology than on anything remotely historical (for example, references to ogham as representing a ‘Celtic tree calendar’ are entirely Graves’ creation).

There are still other ways that Druids use divination. In ADF rituals, such as those done at the White Mountain Druid Sanctuary, taking an omen forms a major part of the work, and is often viewed as being a gift from the gods, ancestors and/or nature spirits for the reverence and offerings they have been given during the course of the rite. How the omen is taken, however, may vary greatly. One grove may use tarot cards or an oracle deck, such as Phillip Car-Gomm’s Druid Animal Oracle. Another may use runes or ogham…the list goes on.

The point is not so much the method of divination used as the intent behind it. When incorporated into ritual, divination becomes a vehicle for communication between Druids and the divine. A typical reading may involve taking an omen for each one of the three kindreds-- the ancestors, nature spirits and shining ones (gods and goddesses) and coming up with a cohesive message based on the combination of all three or considering each omen as separate aspects or points of view.

While Druids today may not base life or death decisions on the outcome of omens, or necessarily believe in a predetermined future, divination remains an important aspect of ritual and practice. It can serve as a small daily reminder of our connection to the divine or form the cornerstone of major rituals. The messages we receive are as significant as we make them out to be, and their interpretation has the ability to potentially cast light on areas we may have neglected.

If you would like to get started with a divinatory practice, you can pick one of the many methods that interest you and give it a try. Do some research into the history and lore surrounding it and take the time to explore possible casting methods and interpretations. You may wish to try doing readings in consecrated space (however you define and establish this in your practice) or by asking for guidance from the gods or spirits you work with before casting. In either scenario, see if you are able to make a personal connection with the tools and method so that your readings take on an intuitive aspect, rather than relying on interpretations from online or in a book. If one tool or approach doesn’t work, you can always try another one.


Some further resources:


Taking Up the Runes by Diana L. Paxson

 Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom by Erynn Rowan-Laurie

 The Pictorial Key to the Tarot by A.E. Waite

 Throwing the Bones: How to Foretell the Future with Bones, Shells, and Nuts by Catherine Yronwode


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We are Cascadia Grove of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF). Our local Grove serves the Puget Sound area. We meet 8 times a year to celebrate the equinoxes, solstices and the cross quarter days (including Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain). We also support the planning and building of White Mountain Druid Sanctuary in Trout Lake WA.


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