I love stories that mix magic with a range of modern time periods and aesthetics. Inspired by some such stories, I’ve come up with some modern stand-ins to be used in place of crystal balls by urban, modern fortune-tellers.
Top Ten Things Modern Diviners Use as Crystal Balls
10. Magic 8-Ball
No one ever expects the Magic 8-Ball toy to be, you know, magic. But it’s a perfect place to hide your real scrying lenses, and already thematically aligned with divination energy.
They’re a classic, and remain a popular choice for modern spellcasters. however, the big wall-mounted mirror is no longer the standard for scrying mirrors, though some older models still exist. Instead scrying is more often done through bathroom mirrors (good for early morning divinations), car rear-view mirrors (especially for threats that are closer to you than they appear), and make-up compacts (which are particularly good for showing you your own faults).
8. Pocket Watches
While a few modern spellcasters have turned wristwatches and even step-trackers into crystal ball equivalents, its much more common to use pocket-watches for this. The practice dates back to the 1800s, when the devices were far more common, but the protective cover, larger viewing surface, and psychic link to conductors on railways (often built along ley lines) still make pocket watches better divination tools than more modern timepieces.
7. Mashed Potatoes
As homaged in the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” it turns out Starchomancy remains a powerful tool for foresight. Visions sometimes form within the mash itself, and other times the scryer finds themselves sculpting the vision received. The loss of scrying power is somewhat offset by the ease of acquiring and concealing the tools of divination.
This works best if you make your own mashed potatoes, but if you don’t have the time, store-bought is fine.
6. Fireball Whiskey
Long thought to just be catnip for college kids, it turns out cinnamon-infused spirits are a powerful medium for seeing visions, dating back to the temple of Apollo at Miletus. The bottle itself is most commonly used as the scrying surface, with the whiskey inside becoming briefly cloudy as it fills with visions.
A single drink of the whiskey can aid in divination, but more than that is a terrible idea.
5. Giant Novelty Dice
Though divination through casting lots with dice (a form of cleromancy) is common, using dice as crystal ball stand-ins is increasingly popular, using giant translucent dice the size of your fist or bigger. There is a direct correlation between the number of faces of the ide used, and both the complexity of the divination and the level of detail. A d6 may not tell you much beyond broad strikes, but it easily scryed with. A d100 takes much, much more effort, but a successful scrying gives you many fine details.
Yes actual, living, fur-covered cats. There is an entire school of scrying dedicated to feeding a cat a favorite feast, brushing them, luring them into a pillow, in a box, in a beam of sunlight, and then staring deep into their fur to foresee the future. While this is much harder to do on-demand than inanimate scrying tools, there are numerous curses and supernatural threats that can be detected by ailouromancy that other soothseeing methods miss.
3. Smart Speakers
While newer technology often takes time to be properly aligned with divination rituals, interactive smart speakers apparently come almost ready-made to be turned into crystal balls–though most use a purely auditory interface, rather than the old visions viewed without crystal-covered mists.
2. Stock Ticker
From 1870 to 1970, stock prices were broadcast via telegraph/telephone lines to stock tickers, then printed on ticker tape. While no one uses stock tickers anymore, many were enchanted during the near-century of their use, and those enchanted stock tickers are still powerful divination tools… especially if you want to predict financial news.
1. Old Computer Monitors.
The better the color and resolution, the better the vision you can get on it! Know someone with a pile of old computer monitors? They’re probably a modern spellcaster!
Or a hoarder.
Or both. Both is likely.
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Twelve robed figures stood in circle facing each other, in the center of a large room. A plastic trash can sat in the middle of them, though there was no sign it had ever been dirty. Twelve sword hilts jutted from its open top. The room’s décor was that of an ancient temple, with altars, columns, and long tapestries, with no hint that it lay on the third floor of a building in Tacoma.
Though if one was to examine that old brick building, you would see it’s three floors were marked, in order, “Discount Jeans” at the bottom, “Air Force Surplus” on the second, and “Knights of Damon” on the top, each in peeling white paint.
One of robed figures stepped forward, toward the center of the circle.
“It is exposed. Its work is now threatened. Forces will move to destroy it, and break the Seal it keeps.” The figure’s voice was deep but quiet, as though all the wind had long since left it.
A second pf the twelve stepped back, away from the circle.
“The Purpose is old. Our reach has shortened, and no long includes the heights of rulership. The Seal may never have truly existed.” This one’s voice is strong, sharp, and full of barely-constrained energy.
A third figure stepped forward, to stand near the trash can of swords.
“One call for action. One call for restraint. A question for the blades. Now, we draw.”
One by one, each of the other 11 robed figures walked past the trash can, each handed a sheathed sword from within. The handles and sheaths were identical, simple in form with dark red leather and gold-stamped sigils into dark steel. As the gloved hands took the hilts, each sought a small notch found in every hilt. Some grasped the handle notch up, and others with the notch down.
When 11 figures had all walked past, the last one by the trash can took the last sword and returned to his original position in the circle. A heartbeat later, all twelve pulled their swords halfway out of their sheathes. Each revealed a bright, single-edged steel blade. Seven of the blades were held edge up, and five edge down.
The first voice spoke.
“We have accepted a call to action. Who, among us, shall leave FortressHall and undertake this quest?”
All twelve drew their swords completely. Eleven of the blades were identical, but one had a single golden mark of an eye just short of the blade’s tip.
The figure holding the eye-marked blade held it up slowly, turning it so all could see. The blade wielder took a deep breath, and spoke with a clear voice of high timbre.
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