Scrying is an old word for the ביצת יוני of crystal-gazing or using some similar means to obtain clairvoyance used in Witchcraft. It is akin to the word “descry” which originally meant to reveal, as well as to discover by seeing. Scrying is a more general term than crystal-gazing, because it embraces all forms of developing clairvoyance by gazing at or into some object. Witches use this in conjunction with their spells and rituals.
The object used in scrying is called a “speculum.” Throughout the ages, a great many different objects have been used for this purpose. The transparent crystal globe, with the use of which most people are familiar, is only one of a great variety of such specula.
The practice of scrying is common to witches of all ages and countries. Like magick in general, it is as old as man himself; and it is still as popular with contemporary witches as it was long ago.
Witches of the past didn’t often possess a crystal ball for two reasons. First, a genuine crystal ball is a valuable and expensive object. Most so-called “crystals” are actually simply glass. The very latest development in this field is that of transparent globes of acrylic plastic. These are nevertheless described as “crystal balls” in the advertisements for them in magazines. Real rock crystal is a semi-precious stone; a ball made from it is heavy, and icy cold. It takes an expert to distinguish the real thing from imitations. So valuable crystals — usually round but sometimes egg-shaped or pear-shaped — became precious heirlooms handed down for generations and beyond the means of the poorer witch.
Second, a crystal ball was not only expensive and valuable, it was dangerous to own. To have one found in one’s house, immediately convicted the owner of magickal practices. In the days when witchcraft was a hanging matter, witches found it wise to improvise their speculum out of things which could be found innocently in any cottage — a rule which they followed with many of their other tools as well.
Consequently, a black bowl filled with water is quite popular as a speculum. So also are the old-fashioned glass globes used by fishermen as floats for their nets. These often come in beautiful dark green or blue glass, and make fine specula.
Today, antique dealers sometimes sell these old fishing floats as “witch balls.” They are not, although witches did use them.
Some witches use a blue glass bottle as a speculum, filling the bottle with water. A ball of black glass was particularly prized, some thinking it superior even to a genuine crystal ball. Others considered that the best speculum was a ball of pale greenish-colored beryl crystal.