When I was 12 I received an honor from the local branch of the Optimist Club and was named “Boy of the Year.” This included a plaque and a dinner in my honor in L.A.’s Chinatown. As is typical of many kids, I had a very limited food tastes, and I couldn’t stand the seaweed soup and other foods that were so foreign to me.
After the dinner, my parents, grandparents and I walked around the area. I was immediately drawn to the tourist-oriented sleight-of-hand magic shop that was there and talked my parents into buying me a deck of Gypsy Witch Fortune Telling Cards (they wouldn’t go for the rubber chicken).
I eagerly read the little instruction booklet and gave my very first reading to my grandfather, predicting pain and an early death. He retired to his bedroom where he had oxygen awaiting.
I didn’t give another reading of any kind for about five or six years, and I never used that deck again.
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You may have read this article or seen a video about Antonio Vazquez, the self-styled “Brujo Mayor” of Mexican brujeria. The title means “Major Witch,” but the seemingly incompetent BBC incorrectly calls this “Grand Warlock.” (Warlock actually means a traitor.)
In the article, Brujo Mayor Vaazquez predicts that President Obama will not win re-election. He has been making predictions for several decades based, he claims, on a combination of Tarot and astrology, and has a very mixed record. However, he also states that the reason President Obama will lose the election is that, “They will attack him a lot. The Republicans have all the money in the United States and so they are putting a lot of pressure on him to make mistakes.” I don’t think you need the Tarot or astrology to figure that out.
He predicted that singer Britney Spears would die in 2008 and in 2011 he foretold of a Latin leader being assassinated. Both, obviously, were wrong.
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In his blog, Chas S. Clifton notes that predictions from certain Cuban Santeria priests include such things as “war and conflict.” Considering the nature of our world today, such “predictions” are, indeed, highly accurate. This technique of making broad and general statements that simply can’t lose is often used by “readers” who are fakes and frauds. They state something obvious as if it were something amazing, and we sometimes accept it as being a valid and paranormal revelation. This technique can even become quite personal and is often used as part of a cold reading to make you believe in the accuracy of the fake reader.
For example, if you come to the fake reader looking desperate, the fake might say, “I see you are going through trying times.” Well, duh! Why do you think you came to the reader in the first place, because things were going swimmingly? Besides, even if things were going well, everyone has challenges in their lives. This broad statement can accepted as an accurate comment by many, if not most people. Clifton (whose Letter From Hardscrabble Creek blog you should be following) correctly states it’s “hard to go wrong” with such broad predictions.
He notes, however, that Brujo Mayor Vazquez’s prediction about President Obama is of the true/false variety and wonders if anyone keeps track of such predictions, “like an NFL quarterback’s pass-completion average.” There actually are a few sources that let you give predictions and then track their accuracy, but the professional prognosticators, such as the Brujo Mayor, don’t participate.
Predictions Can Be Right and Wrong
Over twenty years ago, I self-published a small booklet called “How to Avoid Psychic Fraud.” The premise was that most books on psychic powers were either of the debunking kind or of the “it’s all true!” kind. I tried to identify the truth as to what was real and what was not. Later, I re-wrote it and Llewellyn published it as “The Truth About Psychic Powers.” It’s out of print and rather dated, but one aspect of it is still true and relates to this discussion.
I dislike the term “fortune telling.” It assumes that your future is foretold and there is nothing you can do about it. For example, a fortune might include that in May of this year you’re going to take an ocean cruise and drown. This implies that such is your fate and there is nothing you can do about it.
Except I don’t have to go on that cruise. I don’t have to suffer that fate. Predictions given in fortune telling are true only if we don’t change our direction in life. The fortune warns me of the possibility of calamity and allows me to change my future. So even though such predictions imply that we have an unchanging fate, by telling me that fortune I have the knowledge to change my fate. It’s a curious self-contradiction and frankly, I remain confused as to why people believe in such predictions.
The Nature of Life
Imagine, if you will, a long tunnel with a large room at its end that has an infinite number of doors. That is much like our life as we progress through time. The tunnel is our past and the room is the present. We move through that tunnel and are most likely to go through the door directly ahead of us. However, there is nothing to stop us from turning slightly to the left or right or even widely to the left or right and move in a different way.
That’s why I prefer the term divination, meaning “to make divine.” When you achieve a state wherein you can see (with or without the help of things such as Tarot cards) the possibilities, you can describe to yourself or others the path that is most likely to be taken if the person being read for continues on his or her current path.
Remember, however, that in the metaphor of the tunnel leading to a room, the room is the present time. Each moment is a new present and a new room. Every change away from the door directly opposite the tunnel leads you farther and farther away from the prediction that was made.
When you give a divination, predictions are based on the present situation.
Actions right now and in the future can alter the outcome.
Hearing this you might think that predictions based on a divination are useless since, as time changes and we naturally change our lives based on both actions around us and new information we gain, the less likely they are to occur. In fact, I consider this to be a law of divination:
In divinatory predictions,
the further in the future events are described,
the less likely they are to occur.
You may think this implies that valid predictions of all kinds are meaningless because they can be changed through our actions. Actually, just the opposite is true. Divinatory predictions indicate the path we are on. They give us information that can help us to insure that something happens or prevent it from occurring.
This is why I say that accurate divinatory predictions can be both right (at this time) and wrong (because with the information we can choose to change things).
The Purpose of a Divination
Most people assume that the purpose of predictions is to tell you what is going to happen. This is completely false. The purpose of a divination is to give you information to create your own future.
When giving divinations, I like to begin predictions by saying, “If you continue on your present path, X will happen.” This is like a doctor saying, “If you continue smoking, you will die of lung cancer.” The doctor is right. You can continue smoking and meet your predicted demise. Or you can take the information as a guide, use it to change, and avoid the negative implication of the prediction.
The prediction was right for all things at this time, but you changed and made the prediction wrong.
I consider divination an important part of magickal work. It’s one of the first things I teach in Modern Magick. But please don’t assume that divinatory predictions reveal what must happen. They simply share information so you can make the future what you want.
As one of my teachers used to say: