Because Wiccans consider the ‘veil between the worlds’ to be at its thinnest at Samhain (which basically means it is easier to communicate with the dead), one fairly common Samhain practice is to utilize various divination methods to ask the dead various questions.
To this aim, Roderick introduces pendulum divination, gives a quick overview of how to make one, then offers the following exercise:
Stand in front of your ancestral shrine. Hold your left hand, palm down, over the photos of your loved ones. Grip the pendulum’s string between the thumb and forefinger of your left hand. Hold the pendulum over the photos and say “Which of my departed ones will speak and teach?” Then state the names of each, pausing at least 60 seconds between the recited names and watch the pendulum for movement. If it begins to swing, then the loved on named will guide you during the exercise.
Place the photo of the guiding ancestor before you or inscribe his or her name along the length of a black taper candle. Light the candle and set it on the altar. Take out two piece of paper, one with “yes” written on it, the other with “no.” Set them on the shrine, close your eyes, and imagine your ancestor’s face. As you visualize, recite the following incantation, which is based on old European death chants:
Death swims on the water
Summer will soon be here
and do thou, O holy ____
Give us a good year.
Speak this night of sabbat
Although the hour is late,
And do thou, O holy____
Tell us fortune’s fate.
Proceed to ask specific yes/no questions. Once you ask the question aloud, hold the pendulum over the papers. When the pendulum swings over one of the words, this represents your answer. When you’ve asked all your questions, leave the shrine and allow the black candle to burn out completely.
I’m actually quite fond of pendulum divination. It’s a straightforward process that requires little in the way of the prolonged esoteric study that, say, tarot cards do. Any one can do it, and it’s effective. My general MO is to hold the string in my right hand, still the pendulum in my left hand, let it go, then ask it to “show me yes.” I note the way the pendulum swings, then I ask it to “show me no,” then repeat the process for “maybe.” If I’m feeling especially perky, I’ll even as for an “unclear.” (Usually the pendulum swings circular clockwise and counter, and back and forth toward me and across me. Sometimes “yes” will be a swing, sometimes a spin. It’s weird like that.) Then I go on with my questions.
I’ve actually got a couple different pendulums. the first is some blue and yellow beads superglued together to form a weight and a handle on a couple inches of a leather cord. I made it as a part of a workshop for REDE. The second is a simple weight/chain number I bought from a metaphysical store as a teen. But even though I actually own two pendulums, I almost always end up using a pendant necklace–and even then, it’s almost always this fluorite point.
Clearly, I need to modify this particular exercise. As I’ve already established, I’m not particularly close with anyone on my ancestor list (hey, I’m not complaining!) I personally don’t feel comfortable asking any of them if they’d like to speak with me–it’s not like they did much of it when they were alive. I also think the chant is about the hokiest thing Roderick’s written yet (and what’s up with the ambiguous ‘Old European’ origin?).
So I sat before my altar and asked myself as an ancestor–the part of me that has had to die–if she could answer my questions. And she did. And she was blunt. The most pertinent details are I won’t make it through grad school if I keep treating my studies like I do now, the man I loved never loved me (shocker), and while I will have a family, it may not look like the classic “Mom, Dad, and 2.5 children” model.