Harry Potter and Ron Weasley unenthusiastically gaze into a crystal ball in Divination class

"Many witches and wizards, talented though they are in the area of loud bangs and smells and sudden disappearings, are yet unable to penetrate the veiled mysteries of the future."
Sybill Trelawney[src]

Divination is a branch of magic[1] that involves attempting to foresee the future, or gather insights into past, present and future events, through various rituals and tools. It is described as an inexact science, which requires certain mind and concentration techniques to improve one's sensibility and logical thinking, and to gain insight into various events, appearances, details, emotions and thoughts. Therefore, Divination might be related to Legilimency and possibly some aspects of wandlore. Divination is a more practical way to analyse and interpret a wizard's surroundings by logical thinking and sensibility of mind and body in comparison to Arithmancy, which focuses on calculating probabilities, magnitude, strength and effectiveness of magical forces in general including properties of numbers and their application.

Human divination

Witches and wizards who are born with the rare natural gift for prophecy are known as Seers, who can foresee the future with their Inner Eye. Non-Seers can learn divination methods and develop and gain various insights with them, but their success varies. Divination is taught as an elective subject from the third year on at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.[2]

Divination has been practised since ancient times. The earliest known method of human fortune-telling is the product known in the West as Chinese Fortune Sticks.[3]

Learned wizards and witches seem to regard the practise of divination with scepticism. Hermione Granger once described it as "woolly" and "a lot of guesswork,"[4] Minerva McGonagall thought it was "one of the most imprecise branches of magic,"[1] and before he decided to take on Sybill Trelawney as Divination professor at Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore was inclined to scrap the subject altogether.[5]

Silver lime wands had a reputation for performing best for Seers and those skilled in Legilimency.[6]

Centaur divination


Firenze teaching Divination class in 1996

Centaurs have a way of practising divination distinct from that of humans, apparently mainly based around observing the movement of planets, moons, and stars, which they had been doing for centuries by 1996.[7] It can take up to a decade for centaurs to understand what these celestial portents meant, and even then, the results were rarely precise.[7] They may attempt to narrow their prediction of when an event will take place by burning certain herbs, such as sage and mallowsweet, and looking for various shapes and symbols in the fumes.[7]

Centaurs seem to have had a low opinion of human methods of divination. Firenze, who taught Divination at Hogwarts, described what "humans call fortune-telling" as "self-flattering nonsense," and voiced the belief that humans obsess over mundane, day-to-day predictions because they are "blinkered and fettered by the limitations of [their] kind."[7]

Known methods

Method(s) Notes
Astrology observing the movements of planets and stars[7][8]
Numerology predicting the future using numbers[9]
Cartomancy reading Tarot cards[4][10][11]
Catoptromancy looking into mirrors[12]
Chinese Fortune Sticks


involved wooden sticks that told the user's daily fortune
Crystal-gazing looking into a crystal ball[13]
Dream interpretation analysing the meaning of dreams[14]
Fire-omens unknown, possibly related to observing flames[4]
Heptomology unknown, possibly related to the number seven[15]
Ichthyomancy involving fish[12]
Myomancy involving rats and mice[16]
Palmistry reading the lines on a person's palm[4][17]
Ornithomancy unknown, possibly related to birds[15]
Ovomancy cracking open eggs and observing which way the yolks fall[18]
Tessomancy reading tea leaves[4][19]
Xylomancy involving twigs[20]

Known texts

Behind the scenes

  • In real life, divination is the practise of communing with supernatural forces to determine the future. Though dismissed by modern science as superstition, many cultures worldwide have practised or do practise some form of divination. As magic consists of supernatural forces, true Divination actually can be learned and achieved like the other magical arts, whether or not a wizard possesses the Inner Eye.
  • In film adaptation Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Hermione Granger compares Divination to Ancient Runes, thinking the first a woolly subject and the second very fascinating, however in the novel she did the same but with Divination and Arithmancy.


Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Chapter 5 (The Dementor) - "Divination is one of the most imprecise branches of magic" - Minerva McGonagall
  2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Chapter 4 (The Leaky Cauldron)
  3. 3.0 3.1 The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Chapter 6 (Talons and Tea Leaves)
  5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 37 (The Lost Prophecy)
  6. Writing by J.K. Rowling: "Wand Woods" at Wizarding World
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 27 (The Centaur and the Sneak), Chapter 27
  8. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 13 (Mad-Eye Moody)
  9. 2005 Royal Albert Hall interview with J. K. Rowling
  10. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 10 (The House of Gaunt)
  11. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 25 (The Seer Overheard)
  12. 12.0 12.1 Illustration of Diagon Alley by Jim Kay from the Deluxe Illustrated Slipcase Edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (see here).
  13. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Chapter 15 (The Quidditch Final)
  14. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 12 (Professor Umbridge)
  15. 15.0 15.1 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 25 (The Beetle at Bay)
  16. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2016 illustrated edition)
  17. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Chapter 12 (The Patronus)
  18. Pottermore - introduction for Ravenclaws (transcription available here)
  19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)
  20. Pottermore - Xylomancy trunk description
  21. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 15 (The Forbidden Forest) - Hermione tells Harry that what he's saying sounds like "fortune-telling," which Professor McGonagall says is a very imprecise branch of magic.

B3C6M2 Trelawney's first Divination lesson in the trio's third year
Professors: Sybill Trelawney · Firenze
Known Seers: Calchas · Cassandra Vablatsky · Cassandra Trelawney · Gellert Grindelwald · Inigo Imago · Johan Hoffman · Liz Tuttle's mother · Mopsus · Professor Mopsus · Susie Sooth · Tycho Dodonus · Unidentified Canadian Seer · Unidentified female Seer · Unidentified male Seer
Textbooks: The Dream Oracle · Unfogging the Future
Methods: Astrology · Cartomancy · Catoptromancy · Crystal-gazing · Crystal ball · Dream interpretation · Fire-omens · Heptomology · Ichthyomancy · Myomancy · Ornithomancy · Ovomancy · Palmistry · Scrying mirror · Tarot cards · Tessomancy · Xylomancy
Divination at Hogwarts: Divination (class) · Divination Classroom · Divination staircase · Sybill Trelawney's office · Classroom 11 · Xylomancy (class)
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