A crystal ball is a sphere made from quartz crystal or glass, most commonly. The sphere is supposed to project images of the future to a fortune teller or diviner in a process known as scrying. Like many paranormal and esoteric objects, the crystal ball is largely dismissed by the Western establishment, since users of the ball often do not allow controlled scientific testing of their abilities. Many people keep crystal balls as novelties or decorative items, while others take them quite seriously as magical objects.
Humans have longed for an ability to see into the future for centuries. The art of divination has been practiced for thousands of years, and at one point people placed a high value on individuals who could make reliable prophecies. Crystals were among the many objects said to focus the concentration of the user, increasing his or her magical power and opening the doors of divination. Many of the beliefs related to crystal balls were associated with religions, and the rise of beliefs such as those associated with Christianity led to a decline in the serious use of crystal balls.
Supposedly, someone with clairvoyant properties can look into a crystal ball and see the future. The future may be projected in the form of concrete images, or more fragmented material, depending on the alleged abilities of the user. Many users of crystal balls have traditionally kept a veil of secrecy over the work, under the guise of protecting the uninitiated from harm. Naturally, this veil also confers a certain amount of authority and glory upon the person using the crystal ball.
Pagans and practitioners of alternative religions continue to use crystal balls and other scrying tools such as mirrors and basins. These objects are sometimes known as “shew stones” or “scry glasses,” since they are used to show or predict the future. Fortune tellers and mystics also keep crystal balls around, partly for their impressive decorative qualities. The divination abilities of all of these groups seem doubtful to some people, especially those who are trained extensively in the scientific method.
This doubt is illustrated by many derisive slang terms which involve the mockery of crystal balls and other divination items. Many people may sarcastically ask “what the crystal ball says” about an fairly predictable event, for example. A popular toy, the Magic Eight Ball®, also pokes fun at the concept of a crystal ball.
Many occult stores sell crystal balls, along with other divination accessories. Some practiced users claim that only objects specially designed for scrying can be used as crystal balls, discouraging people from acquiring objects which might have initially been crafted for other purposes. If you are purchasing a crystal ball purely for novelty and ornament, you are probably safe with a simple glass globe from any market. If you have a genuine interested in scrying and prophesy, however, you may want to acquire a sanctioned crystal ball, and you may want to consider studying with someone who takes the art of divination seriously.