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"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]

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

Divination was a branch of magic that involved attempting to foresee the future, or gather insights into past, present and future events, through various rituals and tools.[1]

Divination was different from other branches of magic in that it required the practitioner to possess a natural aptitude. One could not simply study hard and expect to get better at it, if a witch or wizard lacked any aptitude for divination, then they were doomed to fail no matter how hard they worked.

Human divination[]

"Divination is one of the most imprecise branches of magic. I shall not conceal from you that I have very little patience with it."
Minerva McGonagall's negative view of Divination[src]

Divination had been practised since ancient times. The earliest known method of human fortune-telling was the product known in the West as Chinese Fortune Sticks.[2]


Trelawney first prophecy

A record of Trelawney's first prophecy

Witches and wizards who were born with the natural gift for prophecy were known as Seers, and had the ability to foresee the future with their Inner Eye.[1][3] Professor Sybill Trelawney is an example of someone with this gift; her predictions almost always seemed "woolly" and even fraudulent, and she was always predicting the deaths of students. However, aside from these death predictions that never came true, Professor Trelawney actually had an impressively accurate track record, seemingly by simply making stuff up in an effort to appear all-knowing, possibly her Inner Eye at work without her even realizing it.

Professor Trelawney has asserted that "The Inner Eye does not See upon command!". Furthermore, the Inner Eye apparently skips three generations in families.[3]

According to Professor Mudiwa Onai, Divination was an important yet often misunderstood branch of magic. True Seers were very rare and as often the case with unique individuals, they could often be misread or even feared.[4]

There was an occupation in the Wizarding world known as a Naming Seer. In exchange for gold, Seers would make predictions about the future of an unborn child and advise the parents to give them a suitable name.[5]

Wands made from Silver lime wood had a reputation for performing best for Seers and those skilled in Legilimency.[6]


B3C6M2 Trelawney's first Divination lesson in the trio's third year

A third year Divination class at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

While those born with the gift of the Inner Eye were rare, non-Seers could also learn divination methods and develop and gain various insights with them. A common way of seeing the future was with the aid of a crystal ball.[7] To this end, Divination was taught as an elective subject from the third year on at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.[8][9][1] However, the success of these non-seers varied,[1][10][11] the main problem being that Divination was highly imprecise in the first place.

During a Divination class in 1993, Professor Trelawney told Hermione Granger that she perceived very little aura around her, indicating that she had "very little receptivity to the resonances of the future".[1] This indicated that there was a distinct correlation between a witch or wizards' "amount" of aura and whether or not they would be competent at Divination.[1][12]


"At times, the future is murky to us all. As with rippling water, one must wait for things to settle before the reflection becomes clear."
— Professor Mudiwa Onai[src]

Learned wizards and witches seemed to regard the practice of divination with scepticism. Hermione Granger once described it as "woolly" and "a lot of guesswork,"[1] 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.[11] Be that as it may, true prophecies were not lightly dismissed, even by sceptics. The truly wise knew that the words of prophecies always held importance, even if that importance was not easily or immediately apparent.[11]

In some cases, the signs granted by Divination can be more literal that symbolic. An example of this was when Harry Potter had the Grim (a giant spectral dog that haunted churchyards, seen as an omen of death). As it turned out, the image of a dog just meant that a dog would play a significant role in his future. The dog actually being his Godfather, Sirius Black, who was a dog Animagus.

According to Professor Onai, it was wise to have a measured perception. Nothing worthwhile was ever easy to achieve, but that is precisely why such futures were worth striving for.[4]

The inaccuracy of Divination was not necessarily a bad thing in the right circumstances; a vision of danger did not necessarily mean certain doom. It could at least help one to prepare for what was to come. The future was not etched in stone, it could be carved out by those who had very strong wills. However, the future that one carved out for themselves could not be taken back.[4]

Centaur divination[]

"In the past decade, the indications have been that Wizard-kind is living through nothing more than a brief calm between two wars. Mars, bringer of battle, shines brightly above us, suggesting that the fight must break out again soon. How soon, centaurs may attempt to divine by the burning of certain herbs and leaves, by the observation of fume and flame..."
Firenze explaining Centaur Divination[src]
Firenze PM B5C27 DivinationClassroomHarryRonFirenze

Firenze teaching Divination class in 1996

Centaurs had a way of practising divination distinct from that of wizardkind, which they had been doing for centuries by 1996.[13] It was apparently mainly based around astrology, the art of observing the movement of planets, moons, and stars.[14] It could take up to a decade for centaurs to understand what these celestial portents meant, and even then, the results were rarely precise.[13] They may have attempted to narrow their prediction of when an event would take place by burning certain herbs, such as sage and mallowsweet, and looking for various shapes and symbols in the fumes.[13] The Forbidden Forest centaur colony heavily practised this kind of Divination which helped them reach their predictions about what would happen.[14]

Centaurs seemed to have had a low opinion of human methods of divination, believing that the movements of heavenly bodies were far to large scale to effect the trivial affairs that humans fussed over. Firenze, who taught Divination at Hogwarts, described what "humans call fortune-telling" as "self-flattering nonsense," and voiced the belief that humans obsessed over mundane, day-to-day predictions because they were "blinkered and fettered by the limitations of [their] kind."[13]

Known methods[]

Method(s) Notes
Astrology Observing the movements of planets and stars.[15][13]
Bibliomancy Involved opening a book on a random page, in order to interpret its contents in a contextual way, or to adapt its meaning to the present time.[16]
Bird entrails Unknown.[9]
Capnomancy Reading smoke patterns.[17]
Cartomancy Reading Tarot cards.[1][18][19][20]
Catoptromancy Looking into mirrors.[21]
Chinese Fortune Sticks[2] Involved wooden sticks that told the user's daily fortune.[2]
Crystal-gazing Looking into a crystal ball.[7][22]
Dream interpretation Analysing the meaning of dreams.[23][24]
Fire-omens[1] Unknown, possibly related to observing flames.
Heptomology[25] Unknown, possibly related to the number seven.
Ichthyomancy Involving fish.[21]
Lithomancy Involving stones.[26]
Myomancy Involving rats and mice.[27][28]
Numerology Predicting the future using numbers.[29]
Ornithomancy[25] Reading omens from observing the behaviour of birds.[30]
Ovomancy Cracking open eggs and observing which way the yolks fell.[31][32]
Palmistry Reading the lines on a person's palm.[1][33][34]
Phyllomancy Involving the use of leaves.[35]
Rune stones Somehow using rune stones to divine the future.[25]
Tessomancy Reading tea leaves.[1][36][37]
Xylomancy Reading twigs.[38][39]

Known texts[]

Behind the scenes[]

  • In real life, divination is the practice 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 the film adaptation of 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. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 6 (Talons and Tea Leaves)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - (see this image)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 15 (The Hogwarts High Inquisitor)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Hogwarts Legacy
  5. Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Naming Seers" at Wizarding World
  6. Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Wand Woods" at Wizarding World
  7. 7.0 7.1 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 15 (The Quidditch Final)
  8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 14 (Cornelius Fudge)
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 4 (The Leaky Cauldron)
  10. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 16 (Professor Trelawney's Prediction)
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 37 (The Lost Prophecy)
  12. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film) - Chapter 9 (Tea Leaves)
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 27 (The Centaur and the Sneak)
  14. 14.0 14.1 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 15 (The Forbidden Forest)
  15. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 13 (Mad-Eye Moody)
  16. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 6, Chapter 40 (A Witch Scorned) - Divination Lesson "Bibliomancy"
  17. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 7, Chapter 27 (Now That's What I Call a Cursed CD) - Divination Lesson "Smoke Patterns"
  18. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 10 (The House of Gaunt)
  19. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 25 (The Seer Overheard)
  20. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 6, Chapter 7 (Niffler Hunting) - Divination Lesson "Cartomancy"
  21. 21.0 21.1 Illustration of Diagon Alley by Jim Kay from the Deluxe Illustrated Slipcase Edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (see here).
  22. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 6, Chapter 11 (Love in a Bottle) - Divination Lesson "Crystal-gazing"
  23. 23.0 23.1 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 12 (Professor Umbridge)
  24. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 6, Chapter 34 (Final Preparations) - Divination Lesson "Dream Interpretation"
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 25 (The Beetle at Bay)
  26. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 7, Chapter 47 (The Circle and the Crown) - Divination Lesson "Lithomancy"
  27. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Illustrated Edition
  28. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 6, Chapter 28 (Moving On) - Divination Lesson "Myomancy"
  29. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 6, Chapter 15 (In the Deep End) - Divination Lesson "Numerology"
  30. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 7, Chapter 11 (Goodbye, Magical Creatures…) - Divination Lesson "Ornithomancy"
  31. Pottermore - introduction for Ravenclaws (transcription available here)
  32. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 6, Chapter 44 (The Perfect Party) - Divination Lesson "Ovomancy"
  33. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 12 (The Patronus)
  34. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 6, Chapter 4 (Friends in Low Places) - Divination Lesson "Palmistry"
  35. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 7, Chapter 36 (Impenetrable and Unplottable) - Divination Lesson "Phyllomancy"
  36. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film) - Chapter 9 (Tea Leaves)
  37. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 6, Chapter 2 (Curses and Prophecies) - Divination Lesson "Tessomancy"
  38. 38.0 38.1 Pottermore - Xylomancy trunk description
  39. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 6, Chapter 23 (A Brilliant Surprise) - Divination Lesson "Xylomancy"
  40. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 20 (Hagrid's Tale)
  41. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
  42. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - The Original Screenplay

See also[]

Trelawney's first Divination lesson in the trio's third year
Professors: Percival Rackham · Mudiwa Onai · 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 · Bibliomancy · Capnomancy · Cartomancy · Catoptromancy · Crystal-gazing · Crystal ball · Dream interpretation · Fire-omens · Heptomology · Horoscope · Ichthyomancy · Lithomancy · Myomancy · Ornithomancy · Orrery · Ovomancy · Palmistry · Personal chart · Phyllomancy · Prophecy · Rune stone · Scrying mirror · Tarot cards · Tessomancy · Xylomancy
Divination at Hogwarts: Divination (class) · Divination Classroom · Divination staircase · Sybill Trelawney's office · Classroom Eleven · Xylomancy (class)