Sue: Guess what! I just got my first divination! It was so exciting.
Mary: Really? Wow! What did it say?
Sue: Well [scratches head], I'm not too sure actually. But I think it's important. See, I asked her about my fiancee 'cause, you know, we've been having problems and I don't know about the marriage. So I asked and after a few days she sent me this:
Mary: A picture of Cheetos?
Sue: Yes. See, she told me you can divine with anything. She just needs to feel it at that moment. But I don't understand what it means.
Mary: She didn't tell you?
Sue: No- she told me I would know. I didn't understand so asked her to explain. She sent me this:
Sue: So I'm glad she did. I've realized from this that my fiancee probably wants a ton of kids and will smother me. I don't want to deal with that so I'm going to call off the wedding. I asked her if my thought on this was correct, she told me if it was true in my soul then yes. I should call off the wedding.

Yes, this story is a bit off the wall but don't laugh. It's almost true. Really. With the ability to connect and network as we can online we easily come across people who tell us they can divine. The reality is, not all can and of those who can, sometimes they shouldn't.

There are other scams out there. A friend who chooses to remain anonymous wrote, "Let me give you some basic things I have found/heard that some of the "fortune tellers" out here have told querents. "You have a curse on you, someone is working black magic against you... and you have to give me $500 to take the curse off of your family so no one will die from the curse." Etc. Stuff like this that involves exorbitant amounts of money. And it's to get the person to keep coming back. The owner of the local metaphysical shop here has told women they can't come more than once every two weeks for readings, because they need to live their life, not depend on constant readings."

With a little help from a few others I've put together a few tips on finding a diviner that will work for you.

First and foremost the diviner needs to be someone you trust. If you get any odd feelings just don't follow through. I'm not talking nervousness about the result, rather nervousness about the person. If you have reservations regarding the diviner you'll have reservations about the divination.

An ethical diviner will recommend you get a second or even third reading for confirmation. If your chosen diviner gets upset that you would seek a confirmation then just walk away from that person. Ethical diviners know that signal clarity comes and goes. Somedays aren't the best. If anything, a diviner you can trust is one who tells you they can't divine that day or on that subject. Honesty is key here. The diviner should truly tell you something like, "Don't make a life-changing decision as a result of what I tell you tonight. Go and get other opinions from other readers, and advice  before you make a big decision."

I'd shy away from those who cold call you for divination. Any kind of reading can be intensely personal, unless you asked for the divination why would someone want to intrude in such a manner? Divination is service, not a way to promote oneself nor to promote how much work one does for a deity or somesuch. Now, you may have a group of friends that are always divining for each other, it may be how you roll. That's fine. But for big decisions I strongly recommend also seeking divination outside your circle. It's important to get different eyes on a topic not skewed by what you already know of each other.

I would also evaluate the reader's own state of mind if you are able. Is their life full of issues? Does the person seem unusually stressed? Everyone has issues, everyone has stress. But if extreme I would seriously question the diviner's ability to translate a divination correctly. Doesn't mean they can't, but may mean that at that time they shouldn't.

Channeling is a topic that comes up a lot lately. Many people are now channeling over the phone and what not. Couple cautions here. One, if you blog then anyone who reads that blog probably knows more about you than you realize. Also, there is a whole industry based on over the phone psychic readings. With a modicum of cleverness and listening skills one can figure out what is going on and what you need to hear to convince you that you are speaking to a God. So be prepared. If you are going into a situation where someone is going to channel, or if you are on the phone with a person who claims they get 'taken' to give messages, have a question ready. You need to think of it before rather than then. It should be something only you would know. I have one- a childhood event that only I know. Any God would be able to tell me the answer. I strongly suggest, each and every time, to have a test question to ensure you are speaking to a God and not a person who is either unethical or just very confused. More on this topic below.

I am now going to give you all a sneek preview into the book "Talking To The Spirits: Personal Gnosis in Neo-Paganism" by Kenaz Filan and Raven Kaldera. It's due to be published by Inner Traditions press soon. Raven and Kenaz were kind enough to share with me and all of you their section on choosing a diviner. It's great information.

Judging A Diviner For A Personal Reading

First, can you get a referral from someone you trust to have decent judgment? The best option is someone referred by a friend who is willing to talk about how they were helped. If you can't find a referral, pick out someone and then ask around to see if anyone has gotten a reading from them. Don't ask the reader for testimonials from former clients. It's not hard for any reader or spiritual practitioner to come up with friends willing to swear that they're the "best psychic ever."

Since you are asking "Is this message that I'm getting really from God X or Spirit Y, do I have it right, and what should I do about it?" you really should find out whether the diviner in question has experience in asking those questions. Some fortunetellers are talented enough in their own way, but they haven't ever asked anything more supernatural than "Is my boyfriend cheating on me?" or "Will I go to jail for this?" If you really have a connection beginning with Gods or spirits, and if you really have a reader with a good "spirit-phone", it's not unusual for the deity or spirit in question to appear to them and start telling them what to say to you. This can be upsetting and disconcerting to a reader who has never had this happen before. If a reader has experience with this subject, they are probably better equipped to hear any messages that come through for you – or, conversely, you can better trust their judgment if they say, "I'm sorry, but I can't seem to find any spirit involvement at all, around you or in this reading. I think that you may be misinterpreting something."

Take tradition into account but don't box yourself in. By this we mean that if you think your message is from God A, then a practitioner who is knowledgeable about God A's pantheon and cosmology would be a good fit. However, it might not be God A after all – or you may not have such a practitioner around. Some readers may not know about that cosmology, but they're good at giving information and can handle any spirit that shows up. Don't give up if you can't find a Canaanite Reconstructionist priestess where you live, but it is good if they at the very least have a basic understanding of Neo-Paganism and its Gods. 

Ask about fees. Warning flags include readers who give you a price and then ask for more money as soon as you enter, or who ask exorbitant prices, or spiritual practitioners who require you to buy a lot of ritual supplies from them. (If it is determined that a ritual is the right answer for you, and supplies are needed but you think that you can find the same quality of supplies cheaper, a reputable reader will allow you to do that. If the supplies must be blessed or charged by the practitioner, a reputable practitioner will not charge exorbitant prices to do it.)

Be suspicious if the reader or spiritual practitioner requires you to join their group, swear some sort of loyalty or secrecy oath, or gives you intrusive orders into areas of your life outside the scope of the ritual. Be especially suspicious of threats, such as "If you don't take action X, the spirits will get you!" They should be able to voice their belief that a lack of action X would be a bad idea in their view, but they should also have the objectivity to let you know that you are an adult, and can make that mistake if you choose to do so. Be cautious of any reader that tries to force you into a course of action.

If the spiritual practitioner is a channeler of spirits, or uses spirit-possession as their method of divination, try extra hard to find people who have seen them work with their spirit guide. If you're not sure how to judge such things, we recommend our book Drawing Down The Spirits, as a guide on how to judge possessory situations. Feel free to be skeptical about someone who approaches you out of nowhere and says, "God X told me that they have a message for you." While this has been known to happen it's rare, and most instances thereof stem from the other person's psychological issues. Keep in mind that the Gods are not stupid, and they know perfectly well what sources you are more or less likely to consider true. In our experience personal divine messages generally come unwittingly from people you already know well, not from wild-eyed strangers or self-important acquaintances.

(In fact, when a reputable spiritual practitioner gets a message for someone they barely know and who is not actually a client, their first questions should be, "Is this any of my business? Should I even tell them at all?" If the answer isn't a definite "Yes!" they should file it for future information and say nothing more. It may be that a better opportunity to pass it on may come in the future, or perhaps it should be passed onto another practitioner).

A good Pagan spiritual practitioner should be able to explain clearly why you are being asked to do anything, or why they are doing anything to you. It is true that many spiritual practitioners straight from traditional cultures, used to their own people and customs, may not be willing to explain much of anything. That's part of many indigenous cultures – the practitioner does things to you, and gives you orders, and you shut up and don't question. Anyone trained and educated in western culture has no such excuse. Be suspicious if such a practitioner refuses to keep you informed as to what they are doing, including the translations of non-English chants they may want you to perform. They should be willing to explain before a reading or ceremony what is expected to happen, and what is expected of you. Inability to do this suggests incompetence, and unwillingness to do it suggests unclean motives.

(Kenaz adds: There is some secrecy in many African Diaspora traditions. An Iyalocha is not going to give you the details of how a cowrie reading works and a Babalao is not going to go into lengthy explanations of the various patakis that may be connected with a particular Odu. However, there's a difference between professional discretion – keep in mind that many of the details of how to perform these divinations are oathbound secrets – and a refusal to explain how the various taboos and requests they are seeing apply to you. If they say "Oya says you need to give her X," they should not hesitate to tell you who Oya is, why she wants this, and why you need to do it. It's not unheard of for a cowrie or Ifa reading to reveal the querent needs to be initiated in the future. This does not mean "you need to max out your credit cards, empty your bank accounts, mortgage your house and have me, the reader, do this ceremony next week.")

If you know how to psychically shield, you should do so before walking into the space of a reader who you do not know. You don't know what has showed up in their magical space, or what may still be hanging around, if only uncleaned negative energy from past clients. An experienced reader should be able to pull down information for someone regardless of their personal shielding; they're supposed to be reading your destiny, not your aura or your mind. You might also want to take a witness along, preferably a stable, grounded friend who knows you well and knows how you react. They can provide a reality check afterwards about whether the information sounded like your life, or whether you were denying an accurate but painful point.

(If you don't know how to shield, Raven recommends the book Spiritual Protection: A Safety Manual for Energy Workers, Healers, and Psychics by Sophie Reicher, which has in-depth directions on many sorts of shielding and warding for Pagans. If you have no aversion to Christian iconography, Kenaz recommends purchasing a simple St. Michael the Archangel holy card or medal and carrying it with you when going into situations where there may be spiritual danger. St. Michael is tasked with driving away evil and will do that for anybody who bears his image.)

If you do any divination for yourself, or even if you have a friend who is willing to pull a rune out of a bag or something like that, it's no trouble to ask "Was I given accurate information at this reading?" If the answer is ambivalent, ask "What subject should I be suspicious of?" Just as it's fine to get a professional to give you a second opinion about your own readings, it's also fine to do your own reading as a second opinion on a professional. It's also fine to get readings from more than one professional to cross-check and any professional who objects to the idea of you getting a second or even third opinion is, in our book, less trustworthy. 

So next time you're eating Cheetos just remember, you can throw them and divine, but you'll need kitten power back-up! Seriously, find someone you can trust and double and triple check your readings. Be safe out there.

Thanks to Raven, Kenaz, and Anonymous for sharing such valuable information.