Divinatory Literacy

I have had the good fortune of being able to read for people from all over the world lately. What I have discovered is that people that hail from countries which have a culture of divination (even if it was just something that the older folks did) tend to get far more out of a reading than those that don't (very broadly speaking of course). I think I have come up with a term for this: divinatory literacy.

Allow me to me elaborate. On Thurday evening I attended a regular bi-weekly misa and this was an unusually small misa because of a furious storm raging in Amsterdam on Thursday. Not one easily put off by storms and in need of a good cleansing I jump on my bicycle, (almost getting blown into a canal) and I made my way to the centre, to find a small group of damp but determined espiritistas.

When a misa is smaller the format changes somewhat. In the larger 20-plus people misas there is an 'audience' that sits in rows and the white table gets 'worked' by a group of espiritistas in the front. They step into the audience and give messages or pull people out to cleanse etc. However, in the smaller misa everyone sits in a circle and as such everyone becomes a medium and is allowed to give messages from the spirits who come to attendance. The idea being that there is no hierarchy in espiritismo and that a junior medium can possibly give a message to an elder in need of it. Or even more interesting - sometimes one medium will get one fragment of a message and another medium another piece and together they make sense.

Anyway, in this smaller group setting an elder explains the rules in the beginning so that the whole thing does not devolve into chaos with people talking at the same time or worse. The first rule being don't cut a medium off, apart from being rude it cuts off the contact to that spirit which is disrespectful to the spirit. Secondly, when you are given a message from a medium that makes no sense whatsoever (and some messages do sound strange indeed) - don't argue with the medium. It isn't a discussion circle. Once you try and enter into a whole discussion with the medium the spirit contact weakens, and really, what you have is two egos bumping together which is a waste of time. Worse, our elder informs us, is that this then sabotages the energetic dynamics at a misa and the whole thing devolves into a less healing experience and more irritating/confusing one.

If you get a message that is confusing you are supposed to just hold onto it and if in time it still makes no sense then you let go of it as mere gibberish. Sometimes the message comes out wrong or gets given to the wrong person altogether. However, what happens usually is a few days later something happens and BAM it makes sense. The spirits experience time differently - so they might be talking about a future context and that message only falls in place when a certain set of circumstances are in place. They don't care if you don't understand it now. You will.

So the idea is to be relaxed and open - at least for the duration of the misa. Later you can be critical. In your daily life experience the whole thing plays out and you get to see what the validity of it all was. And let me tell you; I have received some truly bizarre messages that fall into place with such incredible clarity that I felt like I might faint with shock.

I have noticed at misas and during my own client readings; those who get the least out of the experience are the ones who are going, yeah but, yeah but, yeah but. It's not making any rational sense yet, you see. Westerners are addicted to reason. I had someone come to see me the other day who upon plonking themselves down on the chair across from me informed me, arms folded, that they are in fact a 'critic'.

Oh joy.

What this really means is that I am supposed to play the psychic mystery revelation game with them. This is where you pull something out of your hat that so unlikely, so spot-on, that only someone familiar with the most intimate details of their life could have possibly known it. And you know what? Even if you do that, even then, they will tighten up their body language turn their head ever so slightly - one supposes to cut of those invasive psychic rays - and inform you that this was due to some marvellous guess work.

My job isn't to make believers. I have no interest in converting anyone to the wonder and joy of interacting with the numinous directly or the satisfaction of living the magical life. I do have an interest in getting people their money's worth, or getting something out of the reading at least. Even if it was just talking to someone about your personal experience in a supportive context. Coming to it with a closed attitude is a total waste of time. Further, it places the reader in the awkward position being tested in some way. Now, a reader is being tested for ability during every single reading they give anyway - this is a given. Just as a pilot is being tested during every flight. This is different to having a nosey passenger sit up front in the cockpit scrutinising all the dials. "I don't believe in flying anyway" they might interject during take-off.

Why then, dear sir, did you buy the ticket?

This I put down to divinatory literacy. Which is having a certain understanding and attitude towards divination and the diviner. Which, mind you, isn't the same thing as blind faith. No, divinatory literacy is about cultivating an open attitude and being willing to make contact with the sacred. One in which the most critical part of the self is put on hold for the time being while the more playful, receptive part of the self is allowed to come out. It's not unlike the attitude that you might have when going to see a film, or listen to a new piece of music. You don't hype it too much for yourself or you might be disappointed and you don't arrive with your clip-board and qualitative evaluation checklist either. You just relax and let it happen.

In addition, a good reading really proves its value over time. Sure you might have a few things lock into place for you there and then, or get some details about the past you might only have known about (which can be affirming too), but what you want is something that helps you navigate ahead. The reader interprets the cards, shells, chart or whatever the tool being used is but the sitter then has the job to carry that seed given during the reading and to interpret it further for themselves as their own life unfolds. There will be parts that make no rational sense but if you stay open things begin shifting inside (and outside), lining up just right, and then there might be a sudden insight that can be profoundly transformative.

People that come from countries, communities or families where there is a culture of divination, it seems, have an instinctual relationship with diviners that comes passed down to them. Part of it respect and faith, sure - but from what I can tell it mostly is the willingness to make some space and time for that which is not altogether rational and possibly therefore, wondrous.


  1. Great post Chad, I love your sense of humour:-) I wonder if I randomly inherited this "divinatory literacy" via my genes as it was certainly not something openly discussed in my home or society as a child or even now, and my siblings did not inherit it so much either. I think it has a lot to do with my rebellious questioning open mind that does not accept anything that I cannot make sense of myself.

  2. I'm fairly sure that the "paying critic" is acting on a deep-seated anxiety. And why shouldn't they? In the West we're raised on logic, educated in logic, and often have the logical mindset beaten into us by people who extend the scientific methodology further than it was ever meant to go. The idea that something so illogical (to them) might be true (or see truth) threatens the entire foundation of what they believe, and that's scary as hell. They'd rather pay you money in hopes of being able to walk away saying "See? I told you it was all crap."

    (Note that I say all of the above as a scientist myself.)

  3. Oh sure Helen, I see what you mean. I think some people even from the more sceptical backgrounds might have an instinctive capacity for this anyway. Or it might even be cultivated over time due to immersion.

  4. Very, very good point Pallas Renatus.

  5. Skepticism is not the same thing as cynicism:-)

  6. Side note: what's up with the little Toy Story alien?

  7. @ Pallas: a little visual allegory attempting to illustrate the 'gibberish' potential mixed in with any message. Divinatory literacy empowering one then to discern that without throwing the baby out... well spotted!

  8. Well said, frater.

    One of the important factors of "divinatory literacy" also includes what a reading really is. In cultures that are not familiar with divination they often have rather incorrect assumptions of what a divination really entails.

    It is common for me to always include a little spiel about what a reading is and what it entails before I go on to the reading with clients.

    In the end divination in any form is a subtle but immensely profound art that really inspires--more so than any cheap parlor trick a skeptic expects ;-)