Divination in Fiction

I’m trying to write a short story about a seer and how by reading others future she accidentally read her own. However there is a problem: I don’t know anything about divination or the rituals involved on it. At first I tried to write about tarot but I felt a that I needed something else that was less common or known but that still involves images and symbols. Also could you help me to difference witchcraft from the other cultures religions that use divination, you know to avoid offenses.

While some people (and traditions) may have elaborate rituals that relate to divination, many don’t. Divination as a practice is so widely varied that really, since you are writing fiction, you can create a ritual and/or divination system almost however you want. Just avoid naming specific cultures or religions and you should be ok, and keep in mind that even when you take all possible precautions, there will almost always be someone who still gets offended or finds something to complain about. It’s just the way of things. But as long as you are being respectful and careful, then I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

Personally, the easiest route to go would be for your character to simply have visions since it doesn’t rely on any specific culture/religion and would allow her to see symbols and images or whatever you need her to see. In terms of how — maybe if she touches the other person (or something belonging to them) it triggers the visions. Or if you want it to be more of a ritual maybe you could create a short chant that she has to say when she’s ready to do a reading. For example: “I close my eyes so I can see, let the visions come to me” (or similar) then she places her hands on the person (or holds their hands, etc…) whatever works for your story. If you need it to be more elaborate, you can have a room that is lit with candles and she has to anoint herself with a special ritual oil that heightens her psychic abilities, or maybe she has to drink a potion that helps to put her into a trance state so she can access the visions. Maybe she ritually draws their name into an elaborate sigil on a piece of paper and it allows the visions to come through. It’s fiction, so you are almost limitless in what you can do (at least in terms of divination).

If you absolutely want it to be card-based (like Tarot), just make up your own system. Keep in mind that the cards are often just a tool for focusing (which is why some people can use a regular deck of playing cards to do divination). So even though each card may have a generally accepted meaning, it’s usually all about the person requesting the reading and the context of the other cards, along with what the person doing the divination is feeling/seeing in relation to the question asked that really matters — in terms of interpreting the actual meaning during a reading.

Anyway, hope some of this was helpful. Good luck with your story.


Writing Fictional Witchcraft

*trigger warning* – mentions of rape


Hello, I am attempting to write my first book about a family of witches who are primarily healers and practice white magic. There will be two evil characters who affect the family and need to be stopped. Out of respect for pagans, wiccans, and the like, I want to ensure my means of stopping the evil characters do not offend anyone in these communities. I have been researching quite a bit though I feel I’ve only scratched the tip of the iceberg. My question is, can the evil characters own dark energy be used to prevent them from doing harm, rather than using dark magic to call upon spirits? For instance, one character is a rapist, and I want him to develop a skin rash so severe his, um, organ is rendered useless. Couldn’t his own darkness be turned onto himself, with the assist of the witches and a potent potion, rather than calling on dark magic? My second evil character is cruel to animals, couldn’t the animal world be called upon to handle this character with a little push from the witches using a few strands of his hair ? My book is a work of fiction, but I still would like it to feel somewhat authentic. Thank you for your time and any feedback you may have.


While I appreciate that you are trying to be respectful of real life Pagans and Witches, and of course absolutely applaud doing research when writing things that one isn’t well-versed in, my advice here is to not worry about it too much. You are writing fiction and, particularly when it comes to the topic of witchcraft and paganism, the ways of doing something are so varied that no matter how hard you try, you’ll probably end up offending someone. I mean, I often read fictional witchy books and spent plenty of time mentally yelling at the author for their choices, but I recognize that it’s simply an “I don’t do it that way” thing, rather than the fact that there aren’t some that totally do. So, at least on that front, I wouldn’t stress too much about it. If anything, I would try really hard not to use a lot of buzzwords or make it too overly cutesy/magical (where they look to solve everything through magic). Within fiction (or even IRL) magic can be useful, but if there are mundane ways of doing things that make more sense, going out of the way to do something magically can be frustrating to readers. But again – it’s your book, so you need to write it how you see it. And honestly, that’s what editing is for, if something really doesn’t work, you can always change it later.   

As to your scenarios, they sound fine, really (at least in terms of the witchcraft aspect). I would suggesting reading the following two posts: Magical Energy and Cursing/Hexing and Do Spells Work? just for some extra food for thought. The only other suggestion that I have (as a writer myself), is that you research skin rashes to see if there is something relevant that would actually cause the symptoms you describe. Obviously a rashy organ isn’t going to look (or feel) appealing, but if it’s just a surface rash, then it may not have any sort of effect on the actual functioning. Additionally, someone who is going to coerce another person, might not care about a rash, unless it’s super painful (or in some other way debilitating). Even then, it’s important to keep in mind that rape isn’t about getting off, it’s about dominance and control, so even if they were impotent, there are still other ways they could commit the crime. So something that only affects their dangly bits may not be enough to stop them.

But anyway, as I mentioned, this is your book. Especially in the first draft, write it how you see it. Get everything down, as much as you can, without worrying too much about being super-detailed. You will edit this thing any number of times before you send it out for public consumption, and in those edits (especially if you can find some beta-readers who are knowledgeable that can offer detailed feedback) you can work on changing the things that don’t work or that you want to make more authentic.  

Happy writing!!