Lithomancy is a form of divination using stones, which we cast, and then interpret to get the answers we seek. Chances are you may have heard of lithomancy or similar divination practices without realising it; charm casting, for example, is becoming a popular form of divination and shares a lot of similarities with lithomancy.
There are many reasons to practice lithomancy, and with the earliest examples of lithomancy being attributed to the Romans, it is older than many of the divination techniques around today. However, despite its ancient roots, it does not enjoy the same popularity that other methods of divination do. If you search the hashtag ‘tarot’ on Instagram for example, there are over 17 million posts, but if you search ‘lithomancy’, there are barely 5 thousand.
So why try lithomancy over other forms of divination? For starters, it is extremely accessible, especially from a financial perspective. All you need to start practising are some small stones from your back garden, meaning you don’t need to break the bank to start getting to grips with it. Whilst lithomancy traditionally uses stones, you can use other items in your readings such as crystals, shells, coins, and such to build your set, and this here is another benefit of lithomancy – it is creative! Building your own lithomancy set is as fun as it is rewarding. Not only does it allow us that element of creativity, but it also allows us to build sets that are personal to ourselves and in tune with our own internal symbolism.
Again, this is another reason why lithomancy is such a great form of divination to practice – that personalised element. Not only can we assign any meaning we want to any stone within our set, but we can also create sets around different themes. For example, I have one set I use for general readings, one I use for readings around my emotional state, and another I use specifically for matters of love. Each one has stones which have specific meanings and messages based on the theme of the set which allows me to get the most accurate interpretations based on the type of questions I am asking.
Lithomancy is often described as a visual and intuitive practice. We take into consideration the physical patterns the stones have formed when interpreting our reading (the visual) as well as how the messages of the stones influence one another (the intuitive). It must be said that not a lot is known about the history of lithomancy and there is very little historical evidence that demonstrates how it has evolved over the centuries. Whilst this is disappointing for someone like me who loves the research element, it also presents us with a great opportunity to devise a system that is unique to ourselves. Whilst there is guidance out there on how to practise lithomancy, there are no set rules. For example, I will find that there is one particular pattern that will almost always appear when I’m doing readings with my ‘emotional state’ set, but very rarely with my general guidance set. Half of the fun of lithomancy is recognising these patterns and understanding what they mean to you.
Creating your own set and giving your stones their own meanings is a lot of fun, but it can be daunting for someone just starting out. If you would like a bit more structure then you could focus on building your own set based on those that others have created. For example, if you want to start small, you could start with a very basic yes/no set – having one stone to represent yes, another to represent no, and perhaps one to represent maybe. Or, you could try out what is called ‘the traditional set. The traditional set is made up of either thirteen or sixteen stones depending on your preference, and each stone has a meaning which is based on astrological correspondences. For example, the stone you choose to represent Mars would symbolise individuality, assertiveness, ambition, dominance, survival, sexual appetite, passion, aggressiveness, and selfishness. You still get to create your own set, choosing your own stones and decorating them yourself, but the meanings of the stones are already laid out for you.
No matter whether you are creating your own set and its meanings completely from scratch or following a pre-defined structure such as The Traditional Set, we cast and interpret our readings in exactly the same way. First, we focus on the visual – the patterns that the stones form when they fall. There are some guidelines we can use when interpreting these patterns; for example, squares represent foundations, and triangles represent opportunities. Once we have identified any patterns, take a look at the stones that form those patterns, for this is where the intuitive element comes into play. Use your knowledge of the stones’ meanings and your own inner voice to deduce exactly what you need to work on to build solid foundations, or how this opportunity will present itself.
We can also use the physical characteristics of our stones to aid in our interpretation, again incorporating both the visual and intuitive. Maybe one of your stones has a specific symbol drawn on it, and the stone lands upside down. This could represent a challenge in the area the stone represents. Or perhaps your stone has one side which is darker than the other, and it landing dark side up and this could represent challenges in this particular area? I have personally found that this isn’t the case in every reading, and that sometimes the way in which the stone lands has no bearing on whether its meaning is a positive or negative one. This is where our intuition again comes into play and allows us to connect to our stones and open ourselves up to the messages they are communicating.
If you want to get started and create your own set, then collect your stones and think about what kind of set you would like to create. Would you like to start with a yes/no set, the traditional set, or perhaps you would like to create your own set from scratch? If you are building your own set from scratch, would you like to create a general reading set, or would you like to theme it around a specific subject, such as love? Once you understand this, you can start to think about keywords you would like to assign to the stones if creating your own set, and then expand these keywords into more detailed meanings. Let’s say you are creating a general reading set; your keywords could include ‘relationships’, ‘career’, and ‘environment’. So you could assign one stone the meaning of ‘environment’, and its whole meaning could be ‘there are external factors from your environment that are currently impacting your ability to make any progress; resolve these before you continue’. You could assign another stone the keyword ‘relationships’ and its meaning could be ‘focus on building relationships with others – whether that’s romantic partners, family, friends, or even colleagues – to help find the support you need to succeed.’
You also need to decide whether you are going to use a personal stone or not. A personal stone simply represents ‘you’ in a set. When interpreting our reading, we focus first on the stones which have fallen closest to the personal stone and then work outwards. If you choose not to use a personal stone, then you will instead focus primarily on the stones that fall closest to you and then work your way outwards.
Once you have your meanings assigned, it is time to focus on the stones themselves. Start off by cleansing them in whichever manner you usually cleanse tools. Then you can decorate your stones to help you differentiate one from the other, and also help to empower them with the meanings you have chosen. As you decorate them, keep their meanings in mind. I also recommend meditating with each one, focusing on that specific meaning to further empower them.
There are a few more steps you can follow but essentially at the end of this process you are ready to start your readings. Lithomancy is such a fun, effective, and highly personal method of divination that can be used to help you understand your past and predict your future. So grab some stones from your garden, give lithomancy a go and see how it can enrich your own magickal practices.