When we think of a loved one who has passed, their spirit is naturally drawn to us. And as you may have experienced, when we are relaxed and undistracted or in a dream state, our deceased loved ones and spirit guides come through more easily through our thoughts and feelings. This meditative state softens and thins the veil or portal between the earthly realm and the spirit world. Many witches believe that Samhain, a sacred pagan holiday that is observed in the Northern Hemisphere on the eve of October 31 through November 1, is a time when the veil is at its thinnest, making it easier to contact spirits and receive their messages, insights, and loving guidance. Samhain, also known as the witches’ New Year, is a sabbat that begins the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, marking a time of death and rebirth and the beginning of the dark half of the year. Its roots are shared with Halloween and date back to the ancient, pre-Christian Celtic festival of the dead. So not surprisingly, honoring and connecting with one’s deceased ancestors remains an important part of modern-day Samhain celebrations.

Whether or not you identify as a witch, the spiritual, magical, ancient energy of Samhain provides an ideal time and a collective energy that can aid you in connecting with ancestors and spirit guides on the other side, if you so choose. But you may be wondering how. It’s done through the art of divination, which refers to the divining or acquiring of information by supernatural means, although I believe the practice is quite natural. It is a way to receive loving guidance that can inspire and inform your life journey.

Before we explore some age-old methods of divination that you can use to engage in spirit communication, I wish to give you some pertinent background information about me. I am what is known as a latent psychic medium, meaning my gift of sight (the ability to perceive and hear spirits) was awoken in me later in my life. I hear spirits speak, receive visual impressions and feelings that they send me, and sometimes experience bodily sensations and perceive smells associated with particular spirits. I had a keen sixth sense as a child that fully blossomed into spirit mediumship in my adulthood after two significant head injuries and countless extraordinary spiritual encounters. I had to reach a point in my life where I was ready for the responsibility that this ability entails—one I do not take lightly and will always use in service to Spirit. Prior to coming fully into my psychic mediumship potential, I relied on a variety of divination tools to help me connect with Spirit, mainly automatic writing, various methods of scrying, tarot and oracle cards, and the spirit board. Although I no longer require the use of these tools to communicate with spirits, I still enjoy the arts of scrying and tarot reading, pulling oracle cards, and indulging in the mystical experience of automatic writing, as they can help to enrich encounters with Spirit and enhance the exchange of information. I no longer need the assistance of a spirit board (also known as a talking board or Ouija board), as I am now able to mentally communicate with spirits. I do believe everyone is psychic to varying degrees and that you can connect with loved ones in the spirit world if you wish, especially if you are open to it and practice.

Although divination tools can be powerful aids, I would argue that the most important tool of all is yourself—your openness to the experience and enthusiastic energy about it. Fear and skepticism will shut the energy flow down, while your openness to and enjoyment of the process will raise the frequency of your energy (your vibration), making it a whole lot easier for Spirit (whose frequency is high) to connect with you. Plus, this positive energy will help create a smoother, powerful, and joyful session. Based on my experience and with the advice and direction of my spirit guide, whose name is Ike, we will share with you our thoughts and tips on how to most effectively work with some of these tools, focusing on automatic writing, scrying methods, and the spirit board.

Preparing for Your Divination Session

Divining information works best when you’re relaxed, happy, and when your energy is high, so make sure you’re mentally in a good place. You’ll want to set some private time aside for this endeavor, in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Prior to engaging in divination, it is important to cleanse the energy of your space, ground and protect yourself, and enter into a meditative state (in that order).

Cleansing the energy of your space is simple and pleasurable. I often burn garden sage as herbal incense, as the herb has attributes that are associated with both energy cleansing and protection. Ground yourself with your favorite technique. I like to imagine myself as a tree, with roots firmly anchored in the earth. Cast a circle around your divination space, both for the sake of focus and for protection. To do this, you can simply draw a circle in the air around your space (with the intentions of focus and protection in mind), either with your finger or with a witch’s wand. I verbalize that only spirits who come with love and good intention are welcome to communicate with me in the sacred space.

After cleansing your space, grounding yourself, and taking measures for focus and protection, you are ready to enter the meditative state. The following is a list of some things you can do to achieve that state for a successful and positive experience.


• Take deep breaths. Close your eyes. Use calming visualization. • Listen to soft music. I myself listen to the healing and soothing tones of singing bowl music, which helps me enter into a deeply meditative state. You can also make your own music. I have a small singing bowl for this purpose, and sometimes I use the simple chime of an antique bell.

• Sip some mugwort tea with honey to sweeten it. Mugwort is an herb that relaxes the body and encourages and enhances psychic ability. Caution: Do not use mugwort if pregnant, as it can cause uterine contractions. Do not use if you are on medication, unless first checking with your health practitioner.

• Use crystals for protection and encouragement of psychic power. Amethyst and rose quartz are favorites of mine for this purpose. Smoky quartz is another one I like to work with, as it deepens focus for meditation.

• Anoint your pulse points and third-eye region (between the brows) with an oil infused with psychic herbs like mugwort, rose, lavender, and dandelion.

• Light a candle.

• Place a photo of your departed loved one or a physical memento of theirs in your divination space. This can help you better connect to their energy. Keep in mind that the particular spirit you are wishing to connect with may or may not come through, for a variety of reasons. You may be surprised by who does come through for you. Keep an open mind.

Automatic Writing

Automatic writing, known as psychography, is an old form of divining information. The writer enters into a meditative state and channels information from the spirit world and simultaneously writes these messages down without conscious awareness of the content. (It is also a good way to channel messages from your Higher Self.) Simply put, these messages of spirit go through your hand and onto the paper (or you can type if you want). Automatic writing can be a particularly helpful tool if you’re looking for perspective on something or if you’d like an answer to a specific question. If you want more general guidance, avoid asking targeted questions so that any insightful messages you’re meant to receive can come through as they need to.

When it comes to automatic writing, don’t think. Don’t judge. Just move the pen, and move it fast. Close your eyes if that feels right. The process involves letting go, being free and detached, and getting into a flow where ideas materialize quickly and intuitively. You probably won’t be fully aware of what you’re jotting down until you go back and read it later. It may be composed of whole sentences, or phrases, or single powerful words. It may be poetic or straightforward. Sometimes there are analogies. Your writing might look like secret code, but the intended meaning will probably make sense to you. The experience of automatic writing should be a positive and constructive one, even if the messages are addressing difficult topics. The process shouldn’t feel heavy or negative, and if that happens, put it away for another day.


Scrying is the practice of gazing into something, often a reflective surface, that acts as a psychic tool for the purpose of divining information from the ether. Common forms of scrying include the use of a black mirror, crystal ball (known as crystallomancy), or water (known as hydromancy and traditionally conducted with water in a black bowl, cauldron, or a vessel found in nature, like a puddle basin). Another, perhaps less used mode of scrying is the use of fire (pyromancy)—gazing into a candle flame, a contained fire within a vessel like a cauldron, or maybe even an outdoor campfire or bonfire.

Information is gleaned in a number of psychic ways through the “clairs,” which is short for clair senses. Some people see actual symbols and visuals as they scry, while most see visions in their mind’s eye (both forms of clairvoyance). You may also receive feelings and knowings (clairsentience), or hear the messages (clairaudience).

The Basics of Scrying

• Take time to watch the scrying surface or element of your choice. Gaze into it, allow yourself to relax, breathe deeply, and envision yourself becoming one with the tool.

• As you slip into a meditative state, you will begin to divine information through your senses, in whatever form they take, whether they be visual, aural, olfactory, or tactile. It is natural for eyelids to flutter some, so don’t be alarmed if it happens. The information you receive may make sense immediately or it may become validated shortly thereafter. Keep a notebook nearby for jotting down any perceptions. (You can write more fully about them after the session.) You’ll find that these messages are sometimes meant for you and sometimes meant for others close to you.

• If using a flame, allow it to burn out on its own or snuff it out. Do not leave the flame unattended.

The Spirit Board

The spirit board is a highly effective and powerful tool that allows you to communicate with spirits in a very direct way. It is to be taken seriously and handled with respect, mindfulness, and care. This divination tool is not for everyone. Do my spirit guide and I think it’s unsafe? Potentially, yes—though its bad rap has been blown way out of proportion. We also believe it can foster a wondrous, beautiful, and loving connection to Spirit, given respect and careful use. First, let’s see if this tool is for you, and if so, how you can best use it for a positive spiritual experience.

Use of the board should never be taken lightly or pursued for entertainment purposes. (This is why it is problematic that it is marketed as a game by Parker Brothers.) Common negative reactions to the board are usually based on fear, lack of information, and sensationalized hype that depicts it as demonic.

The negative beliefs about this tool are influenced by organized religion, Hollywood stereotypes, and bad experiences with the board largely due to carelessness or inexperience. The spirit board is a divination tool among many, like tarot and oracle cards, runes, crystal balls, and pendulums. What sets it apart from the others is that it puts you in direct contact with Spirit in a tangible, undeniable way. The spirit’s energy, combined with your energy that comes through the tips of your fingers, physically moves the planchette to give explicit information, spelled out in words. If that’s out of your comfort zone, choose another divination tool. If you decide it’s for you, you can opt to use the board alone, with a partner, or with a small group of people. I have experienced all three scenarios. You may find that having two or more open-minded and interested people moves the planchette with more ease than going solo. It just depends on the energy and connections that are present.

Prior to receiving the gift of spirit mediumship, I experienced powerful, positive lines of communication through a homemade spirit board that I made from a large sheet of paper and permanent marker. I taped it to a table and used a teacup saucer turned upside down to serve as the planchette. I drew an arrow on a small square of paper and adhered it to the saucer. So before investing in a spirit board, give it a try with a simple homemade version. In fact, you may prefer one you’ve crafted yourself because it will be infused with your own energy and intention.

There are ground rules, boundaries, and safeties to be observed with the use of any spirit board. Below are important guidelines and tips for achieving a safe, positive, and loving experience. It should also be noted that any form of spirit communication, whether it be through the board or another tool used for the same purpose, can attract unwanted energies. The board itself is not inherently dangerous. We’ll talk about how to avoid those energies, as well as how to deal with them if they transpire.

• Experience with the board should feel good, uplifting, and helpful. If any aspect of this tool induces fear, doubt, reservation, or skepticism on any level for you, do not use it. You’ll potentially attract unwanted energies that will play upon those fears. Generally, negative energies will have only as much influence as you allow. If you sense that a negative energy has entered your space, stop right away, and do an energy-cleansing ritual (and by the way, they are nothing like the exorcisms depicted in Hollywood horror films). You can once again burn dried garden sage, invite loving spirits to help you, and firmly state that the negative energy is not welcome. Focus on feelings of love and goodness. If you wish to resume the session, you should do so at another time.

• I can’t emphasize this enough: Only use the board if your mood and energy are high and positive. Don’t use it when you are sad, depressed, angry, irritated, or tired. Do not use
it if under the influence of alcohol or any other mind-altering substance.

• It’s important to ground and protect yourself prior to using the board to ensure a positive experience, so don’t forget that aspect of the process. And remember to invite spirits who come in love and goodness only.

• State your intentions. For example, ask for spiritual guidance or help around a particular issue.

• Keep your questions simple. Yes-no questions and questions that yield one-word answers are best. In addition to the spelled-out words, you may receive other clair forms of communication to support the words and build upon your inquiries—like sensations, feelings, thoughts, and visions. You can quickly jot down responses and reflect on them later.

• Only communicate with spirits that feel warm and good. Stop if you experience anything to the contrary. It is best if you can speak mostly with one beloved spirit with whom you are familiar. (We recommend a deceased loved one you were close to or a spirit guide that you are familiar with.) Spirits like this will provide the most powerful insights and messages and act as a gatekeeper, ensuring your contact with positive divine energy. With practice, you will begin to easily recognize them by their feeling, the fashion in which they move the planchette, their spelling ability, and personal validations they give you to let you know it’s them. If a spirit you are not familiar with begins to communicate, either terminate the session or ask questions for safety before engaging. Spirits don’t usually lie. You may encounter an imposter or trickster, but they are easy to spot if you use your intuition, because they feel off and are so clearly not your beloved one. If you encounter an annoying spirit like this, stop immediately and do a quick cleansing ritual as mentioned in the first bullet of this list. Any entities with less than positive intentions can be mentally “squashed like bugs” as my guide likes to say. Again, spirits you communicate with via the board only have as much power over you as you allow them to.

Closing Your Divination Session

I recommend keeping your divination session between ten and twenty minutes long. Spirits become tired after a while (especially if they are hard at work helping us from the other side), so out of respect for their time and energy, keep the session relatively brief. Thank them for their assistance, time, and love. It is also important to cleanse the energy in your divination area after bringing the session to a close. A swipe of herbal incense like garden sage will do the trick. You will need to “come down from the experience” and reground yourself. I find that a simple snack and a moment of stillness and quiet does the trick for transitioning me back. Take time afterward to journal about the encounter and the messages you received, both for the sake of remembrance and for reflection and making realizations. Keep in mind that further connections will be made in the days that follow your divination session. It is common to receive symbols of validation and connections in your thoughts and dreams.

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Susan Ilka Tuttle is a green witch, herbalist, spirit medium, author, and photo artist living in rural Maine. Enjoy her new book Green Witch Magick, in which she explores thirteen essential herbs for the witch’s cupboard through herbalism and magic-based projects. Visit her botanicals shop at inthewoodbotanicals.com, learn about her spirit mediumistic readings at susantuttlespiritmessenger.com, and follow her on Instagram @whisper_in_the_wood.