The Message from Stone: Stone & Rock Divination
The lessons of quantum physics and its new kid on the block, holographic theory, are that all things are connected through the energy that infuses the universe and all it contains. According to scientists, 90% of the universe is unknown - meaning that we typically only see 10% of the reality to which we subscribe, while 90% of it remains invisible to us. Science calls it "dark matter," meaning that it is immeasurable. But actually this "silent majority" of the universe - the missing 90% - is "dark" energy, not matter at all. It is this - the vast ghostly echoes of primal energy, sweeping through the cosmos into the world of humankind - that unites us, not the material things around us.
Quantum theory tells us that time and space do not exist - everything is taking place here, now. Giving space-time coordinates to events is a human conceit to try and establish scientific order over a universe that is mostly unseen and presumed to be out of our control. If everything takes place in the here and now, however, then all things can be changed. Even the future can be reversed through an act of power in the present that alters the energy that surrounds the events of our lives. In scientific terminology, this is known as the "observer effect." It means that in the quantum universe, even the act of giving your attention to something changes its nature at a subatomic level.
What has this got to do with rock divination? Quite a lot actually. Because, if our scientists are right, then the answers to the secrets of the universe are inherent in all things - even a rock. And nature will reveal them in an infinite number of ways if we only look there for answers.
These findings of modern physics have come as a shock to scientists, who have only known about the quantum reality of the universe for about 100 years. But it is absolutely no surprise to traditional societies, who have worked with the powers of nature for at least 40,000 years. Indeed, recent archaeological findings from the Rift Valley in Africa, suggest that human beings have known about this energetic flow of information from the universe since the dawn of consciousness, 400,000 years ago, when proto-humans walked the earth and modern science was not even the dream of a visionary. Finds from the Rift Valley reveal ritual objects used in shamanic ceremonies performed to link man with nature, and access nature’s secrets in a way that modern diviners would recognise.
Shamanic cultures - not just in Africa but everywhere - have always used divination in highly practical ways. They’ve used it to determine how to prevent or cure illness, for example, or to see which way the hunters should set out in order to avoid enemies and find food. These were life and death skills for people who could not just get into a car and visit the local hospital or supermarket. The shamans of these tribes therefore became adept at using divination to ensure the survival of the communities they served.
One of the best-known methods of divination using the elements of the natural world is the stone gazing technique of the Lakota Sioux. The shaman used a stone about the size of his palm that had at least four sides or faces. Even the act of finding the stone was done in a reverential and sacred manner, in the recognition that all things are alive, sentient, aware, and offer themselves to us out of friendship and a desire to help. The Sioux themselves have an expression which sums up the proper relationship of human beings to "the stone people" and other natural allies: mitakuye oyasin- they are "all my relations."
Having drummed or danced or chanted his way into a quiet and reflective meditative state, the shaman would then turn the rock to one of the faces and hold in mind a question to which he or his people needed an answer. "Why, who, what, how, when, where?" questions were all fine; those that required a "yes" or "no" answer were somewhat more difficult. This is because the otherworld - the formless web of energy that we now call holographic - does not operate in the same way as human beings. Polarities such as "yes/no," "light/dark," and "right/wrong" are human constructs to which a non-judgemental universe does not conform.
The shaman would look to the first face of the rock and "dream into" it until four symbols revealed themselves to him. These might be anything. He might see trees, or birds, or clouds emerging from the rock as shape and shadows within the contours of stone. These four symbols would be duly noted, and he would then move on to the next face until all of the sides had given him four pieces of information in this way.
His next step would be to journey into the symbols, making himself a "hollow bone" for the information they contained. This means that his imagination was allowed free reign, and the rational mind (with its tendency to interfere and over-analyse) was subdued. Through this intuitive link to the stone, each symbol would reveal its purpose and provide more detailed information in answer to the questions asked of it. Finally, the medicine man would combine all 16 pieces of information so that a complete overview of the situation emerged and his question was answered fully. Typically, this summary would tell him why and how the problem had arisen for his people - perhaps the breaking of a taboo or a failure to observe proper rituals. The summary would also describe the likely outcome if the energy of this situation was not changed; what could be done to resolve it; and how things might then look. The shaman was then able to communicate this information to his people. Finally, the stone would be returned to the place where it was found, and the ritual of divination would be closed.
Although this form of divination is well known, the use of stones in such as way is far from unique to the Sioux. In fact, we know of similar techniques in European history: using rune stones to foresee future events and how they might be manipulated to give us a better, healthier, outcome.
Each rune contains information that a sorcerer has originally "dreamed" in a vision and each is therefore a gateway to the spirit world. How the stones land when cast and the images they reveal from their symbol-carved faces is interpreted by the diviner, using his creative imagination in connection with the rune symbols. By seeing how the stones are spread - whether upright or inverted, front upward or facedown on the earth - a vast amount of information is revealed. Decisions can then be formulated about future actions in order to make the best of the cosmic patterns that are affecting a person’s life.
Both of these techniques, then, are about knowing what the future holds so that more choices are available as to how to deal with coming events. Some cultures have gone further than this, however.
Long before the discoveries of quantum physics, the shamans of Tuva realized that all "things" are really one thing, that the microcosm reflects the macrocosm. These shamans had a quite different way of using stones in their divinatory practices. They would use them to actually change the future, not just divine its essence.
In their approach, 49 small stones are used. Sometimes these are pebbles from the bed of a river; sometimes they are gallstones taken from a slaughtered bird, which are considered most sacred.
The shaman begins by casting the stones to answer his client’s question or problem. The divination itself is complex because of the sheer number of stones and the patterns that can be made. To the trained eye, however, the different clusters and strings of stones each represent a past, present, or future situation. They show a trend which continues in that person’s life and an outcome which is inevitable unless the dynamics of that life are changed.
This is where the Tuvan approach differs from the others. The shaman is aware that there is a relationship between all things, and that the stones are more than just a reflection of his client’s life; they are his life. By changing the pattern of the stones, it is therefore possible to change the pattern of his client’s life, directly affecting the outcome of the problems he is facing.
To put this into a modern context, you might visit a diviner to discover whether your application for a new dream job will be successful. The stones, however, may show that you do not get appointed to the job you want. The shaman, knowing that you really want this position, is able to discern from the pattern of stones which factors - which stones exactly - are responsible for your rejection. He can then change the configuration of stones or remove the two or three which will cause you to fail, and this will be reflected in a change of life circumstances. You will get the job.
Such things are possible because in the quantum universe, it is the energy with which we are infused that connects us to all things. Time and space are a myth; everything is a part of everything else. Events in your life can therefore be changed by altering the energy of something that represents that life: the stones. Change in one area automatically means change in another.
Quantum physics is merely a footnote to cave paintings by ancient sorcerers. How long before our scientists also start listening to messages from stones?
Ross Heaven is a psychologist, author, therapist, TV, radio and magazine contributor, workshop facilitator, and Europe’s first white priest of Haitian Vodou, having initiated into the tradition in January 2000 as part of the research for his books.
He has written numerous articles on psychology, shamanism, Vodou, and the healing traditions, for magazines in America, Europe and the UK, been interviewed by and been reviewed in a number of national newspapers, and been a guest on several radio and television programmes. He has also been called as an expert witness in cases concerning trance states and ritual and acted as a consultant to feature films such as 2004’s London Voodoo. He presents widely on his work and runs workshops in personal development and healing.
He is the author of four widely-acclaimed books on personal development psychology and modern spirituality, including Vodou Shaman, his book on Haitian Vodou, and Darkness Visible, to be published in 2005, which concerns his unique workshops in ceremonial darkness, where participants remain blindfolded for the entire five days of the course.
As well his qualifications in psychology, Ross has trained in various therapeutic approaches and has a healing practice near Brighton in the UK. He has a web site, where you can read articles and book extracts, find out about workshops and catch up on news, at www.VodouShaman.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that the use of Llewellyn Encyclopedia articles
is subject to certain Terms and Conditions.