A guest post by Desmond Stern
I’ve been a practicing Witch since I was about 15 years old, if you don’t count all the years I spent doing witchcraft without knowing it. It didn’t take me long after becoming interested in the craft to become curious about pendulums as a form of divination, but it took me forever to really connect with it in practice.
For the longest time, I’d sit there with my weighted string, dangling it and wondering, “Am I unconsciously moving it? What am I doing here?” It felt weird. I was used to cards and scrying and for some reason, as appealing as pendulums were to me in theory, it took me a long time to come to trust them.
Now when I use one, it’s like an extension of my arm. It no longer worries me that I might be unconsciously moving it to suit my desires because I’ve come to realize that even if that is the case (and I’m not sure it is) my unconscious movements often reflect inner connection. It ultimately doesn’t matter. This bit of string and beads and my grandmother’s ring that I’m holding, such a simple tool, is a sacred object. And it’s good to listen to what it has to say.
What is a pendulum?
Pendulums are divinatory tools that can be as fancy as a pointed crystal hanging from a chain, or as simple as a string with a bead tied to the end. Pretty much any weighted string will do, as long as you can forge a bond of trust, respect, and connection with your tool. I personally find that using a bit or bob with ancestral meaning or connection is a wonderful way to enhance the power of your pendulum readings.
The use of a pendulum is, in theory, extremely simple. At its most basic, all you have to do is hold it up and see what pattern of swinging it adopts. You can use it on its own, just by noting the way it swings, or with other tools like spirit boards or tarot cards.
Getting started with a pendulum
The best way to start is to ask some simple yes/no questions to which you already know the answer. Something like, “Is my name Desmond?” (yes) or “Do I love the color puce?” (not particularly). Depending on the answer, your pendulum will swing in certain ways. For instance, mine tends to swing in small circles when it answers “yes” and in a line back and forth for “no.” But not all pendulums swing alike, so you’ll have to spend some time getting to know yours. By running through these quick questions a few times, you’re attuning yourself to its language so when you’re ready to ask a question to which you donít know the answer, you’ll understand what you’re getting.
When you’re ready to move on to more open-ended, complex questions, you can try pairing your pendulum with a spirit board, or even using it with your tarot deck. This is where things really get fun. You’ve learned the language of your pendulum, connected with the weft and weave of its pulls and vibrations. Itís time to dig into something deeper.
Using a pendulum with tarot cards
One thing I like to do sometimes after a tarot reading is to break out my pendulum and add some layers of meaning. I might, for instance, hold it over the cards in the spread and wait to see which cards it’s particularly active around to tell me which areas or messages are especially important or should be emphasized.
Another thing you can try is lining up the Aces in your tarot deck and seeing how your pendulum reacts to those, in order to get a sense of what kind of overall ìflavorî your reading results might need to take on. For example, if the pendulum pulls most towards the Ace of Cups, you would primarily pay attention to the emotional side of your question, whereas if it were the Ace of Pentacles, you might look at things from a more material perspective.
Making a pendulum spirit board
I also made myself a spirit board to use with my pendulum. I painted it with acrylic on canvas board specifically to hold oracular words and symbols that I find particularly meaningful, but if you wanted to try it out and did’t have access to those art supplies, even just a pencil and paper would do. The one word of caution I’d have for you though is this: Make sure as you’re picking out your words or phrases, if you choose to include them, that you give equal weight to positive, neutral, and negative messages – only giving yourself good news may be nice, but it isn’t all that helpful. By the same token, leaning too heavily on negative messages isn’t awesome either.
To give you an idea of what kinds of things mine includes, for instance, it has a sun and moon to indicate which kind of energetic outline the reading might take on. I have a scale indicating upper, middle, and lower world energies; a series of elemental symbols; particular meaningful words; letters and numbers; a color compass. These things all add depths of meaning to a reading of any kind, or can be used on their own. Depending on what element of the board I want to question, Iíll hold the pendulum over it and pay attention to which way it swings. Sometimes that means seeing whether or not it pulls more heavily towards ìupperî than ìlowerî worlds, or sometimes that means hovering it over specific words to see if it indicates a ìyesî or ìnoî just like you would use it for the simplistic questions to which I referred earlier.
Using spirit boards doesn’t have to pair with your pendulum either, I should note. I’ll sometimes toss sand or stones onto the board and see where they land, or even just use my hands to feel out the pulls and hot spots on the board. If you choose to toss objects onto it, you can add further layers by assigning meaning to each object youíre tossing. For example, if you use crystals, each crystal has its own energy. If a piece clear quartz lands on ‘Mother’ it might be time to clear the air with Mom and get a fresh start, whereas if a piece of red jasper lands on ‘Birth’ you might consider going on a spirit journey to meet a brand new ally.
The pendulum is just one tool to use to divine where the loudest messages are coming from, but there are infinite possibilities when it comes to creating divinatory languages. Really, the thing to remember is that any divination tool comes down to a language you’re using to understand the unseen and unheard, to decode whatís between the veils. As long as you have a solid sense of what that language is, whether it’s a swinging bead or crystal on a string, a deck of cards, the way you gaze into a puff of smoke, or an inner feeling as you move your hands across a textured surface, if you speak the language, you’re tapping into divination.
So I say, go forth! See what you can come up with, what languages echo within you waiting to be heard. Listen to them and speak them with confidence. I think you’ll be pleased with the experience.
About the author
Desmond Stern is a witch, tarot reader, and teacher at The Dreaming Bat. He is a dedicant of the WildWood Tradition of Witchcraft, and his practice is informed by European Shamanism, ecstatic and animistic witchcraft, and the Faerie faith. He is a grad-studenting, dog-loving, nerdly transman, who loves writing, arting, and listening to Calexico. Des is also certified as a level II Reiki practitioner, and has been reading the tarot for almost 15 years. He lives with his partner and tiny doglet in the NH White Mountains.