Pyromancy is one of humanity’s oldest forms of divination. As long as people have had bonfires, candles, or anything else they could burn, they’ve used them to foretell the future.
Today, pyromancy is a very useful form of divination often used by witches during spellwork.
What is Fire Divination (Pyromancy)?
Fire divination is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin — the use of fire to obtain secret information.
This can be done by looking for images in the flames, focusing on the flames to achieve an altered mental state, or watching how the flames, smoke, coals, or objects placed within the fire behave.
How does Fire Divination work?
Divination in general relies on something with an element of randomness or chaos, like the flight paths of birds, a shuffled deck of cards, or a cracking fire.
Following the idea that there is no such thing as coincidence, the diviner intentionally uses this element of randomness to obtain a result, which they then interpret for messages.
Few things are as unpredictable as fire, which makes it the perfect random element for divination. The easiest way to practice pyromancy is by engaging in fire gazing. In this, the diviner sits in front of a fire — either outdoors or in a fireplace — and asks a question.
They then enter a state of relaxed awareness, and allow their eyes to rest on the flames. If done correctly, images will begin to appear in the shapes of the flames and glowing coals. The diviner then interprets these images for answers.
Smoke is another potential divination tool. After asking a question, the diviner watches the smoke over the fire. The color, shape of the billows, and direction of the smoke can all provide insight.
Once a fire dies, it’s also possible to use the ashes for divination. The diviner collects the ash, takes it outside, and uses it to cover a patch of ground.
On this patch, the diviner can write a few simple words — “yes,” “no,” “maybe,” or other short answers. The ashes are left undisturbed for some time, usually overnight.
If any of the words are still legible the next day, they are the answer to the diviner’s question. A variant of this method involves scattering the ashes, leaving them, and interpreting the shape of the remaining ashes the way one might interpret tea leaves.
Candles are especially helpful divinatory tools during ritual magic. When they’re lit in rooms without drafts, the flame’s behavior can give the diviner insight into the energy affecting the spell.
Certain herbs and seeds also make helpful divinatory tools. Aromatic seeds, like fennel, caraway, or coriander, may be cast on coals while the diviner interprets their crackling, popping, and hissing.
To decide between two options, a diviner might select two seeds, place them on a coal, and see which one crackles, combusts, or pops away first. The remaining one provides the answer.
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Fire Divination History & Folklore
To many ancient societies, fire was the connection between humanity and the divine. It was what separated people from animals, and was an avenue for making offerings to receive the favor of the gods.
Fire divination began as an extension of sacrificial rites. After an animal or other offering was burned in the flames, diviners would interpret the fire, smoke, coals, and ashes to see if the offering was accepted.
In ancient Greece, priestesses at the temple of Athena practiced pyromancy. It’s believed that devotees of other deities, especially Hephaestus, may have done so as well.
In eastern Asia, fire divination often involved casting animal bones in the fire. The fire would mark the bones and cause them to crack, and diviners would interpret these cracks and marks.
Getting Started With Fire Divination
Getting started with fire divination is relatively easy. The simplest way to do this is to use a candle. If you perform ritual magic, you may wish to try reading a candle you’re using for a candle spell.
As with anything involving fire, always practice basic fire safety. Burn things only in a fireproof vessel, and always have a way to douse or smother the flames if necessary.
When you are ready, set up your candle in a draft-free room. Sit quietly in front of the flame, in a relaxed posture. The candle should be about eighteen inches in front of you — close enough for you to see the flame, but far enough that you can also see any smoke or wax puddles produced by it.
Calm your mind, and ask a question. Focus on this question as you gaze at the flame. If your candle is part of a magical working, you may wish to focus on divining the energy of the spell.
Watch how the flame behaves. If the flame remains small and dim, that signals a poor omen or low magical energy. If it’s high, bright, and steady, this is a good omen and strong, consistent energy.
If it flares up brightly and then shrinks, this signifies a brief run of good luck. If the flame flickers, dances, or spirals, this can indicate problems, complications, or states of high, chaotic energy.
Watch the smoke. If it moves away from you, that indicates a negative answer. It’s a good sign in banishing spells, but a bad one in spells designed to draw things to you. If it moves toward you, that indicates a positive answer. It’s a bad sign in banishing spells, but a good one for drawing magic.
Observe the wax. If it falls to the left of the candle, this may indicate a “no.” If it falls to the right, it may indicate a “yes.”
Look at the remains of the candle. If the fire burned it away completely, that’s a good sign. If there are still dregs of wax, dried herbs, or burned-up wick, you can try to read them the way you might read tea leaves.
Fire has been humanity’s oldest magical tool. Like a living thing, it breathes, eats, grows, and dies.
If you know how to interpret its language, it can talk to you. Calm your mind, watch a fire with intention, and listen. You may make some amazing discoveries in the flames.
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