Encyclopaedia Arcana #54: Advanced Divination (Part Seven)

Closely related to fortune telling is the Dionysian practice of auguries.  Like its relative, an augury looks into the future to find answers, but while fortune telling is focused around a person, an augury is based around a course of action.  In Apollonian terms, it asks the question ‘is this a good idea or not?’ but since it isn’t Apollonian, the question and answer are more vague – and more far-reaching.

An augury requires a physical focus.  Differing foci necessitate slightly different spellcasting styles, so most diviners pick a single one to master.  Common choices include tarot cards, a crystal ball, a set of bones, tea leaves, the I Ching, or fresh entrails.  This makes augury a difficult art – the diviner must not only correctly perform the magical elements of the spell, but must have sufficient skill with the focus technique to enact the ritual effectively and interpret the results afterwards.

Despite its limitations, augury is a powerful tool.  Although an augury (like a fortune reading) is not guaranteed to be correct, the consequences it judges can be very long-term indeed, reaching to months or years – far further than any Apollonian spell can see.  Moreover, more powerful auguries can provide hints or even instructions towards questions and problems that the diviner didn’t ask.  An augury is not a simple yes-or-no – it can alert the diviner to issues that they wouldn’t have thought to look into.

That’s Not Supposed To Work

It’s a source of great frustration to Apollonian diviners that Dionysian diviners can see so much further into the future than they can.  To an Apollonian diviner, any kind of even moderately unpredictable situation is an impassable barrier – their method of divination means that they can’t possibly predict a human being’s medium- or long-term future, which Dionysian diviners can do easily (if not reliably).

Over the centuries, many Apollonian diviners and research mages have attempted to study how the long-term predictions of Dionysian diviners work.  Some of the most popular theories include large-number probability (Dionysian spells predict average results, which usually but not inevitably win out), determinism (the future is predestined and Dionysian spells can look ahead and glimpse it) and interference (Dionysian spells nudge fate and probability and actually cause the events they predict to happen).  So far none of these theories have been generally accepted, because all of them either fail to match the evidence, contradict existing Apollonian assumptions about how the world works, or both.

Dionysian diviners themselves couldn’t care less about how their spells work.  They don’t think explanations are important.

What Passes in Dreams

One of the most obscure Dionysian techniques is oneiromancy – divination through dreams.  The diviner sleeps, experiences some kind of vision, and gains some insight about a future event or situation.

Almost nothing is known about oneiromancy.  The working theory of Apollonian diviners is that it makes use of the mind’s capacity to store memories and observations in the subconscious, and dreaming somehow allows a diviner to access areas of their mind which are usually closed off, but how and why this works is unknown.  Since oneiromancy is virtually impossible to monitor or study, it’s unlikely this is going to change any time soon.

It’s commonly theorised that oneiromancy has some connection to Elsewhere, the strange dream-like world that exists beyond our own, and indeed Dionysian diviners do tend to be linked to Elsewhere in stories.  Further discussion of Elsewhere is beyond the scope of this article, and will be covered in a later entry.

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One Response to Encyclopaedia Arcana #54: Advanced Divination (Part Seven)

  1. Connor Tucker says:

    Is it possible for someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder to have different magic available to each personality?