Knowledge is power, particularly in the "information age" we are living in, and while people worldwide have access to more accumulated knowledge than at any time in human history, there is still a desire for secret knowledge. This is hidden information not available to the mainstream or even to our own senses. For this sort of knowledge, untold millions seek out alternative methods of acquiring information, from meditation and prayer, to divination, fortune telling and seances.
One of the oldest methods still being utilized to gain access to this hidden knowledge is crystal ball gazing, the practice of staring into a crystal ball, or orbuculum, in a trance-like state to see visions of the past, the future, or even into the minds of others. In modern times, celebrities, politicians and even royalty have been known to consult mystic seers for insight. Can crystal balls tell the future? That's up to you to decide.
The earliest recorded uses of crystals in esoteric practices date to the ancient Sumerians, who wrote magic formulas including crystals dating back 5,000 years. Around the same time, the ancient Chinese were using crystals in medicinal practices and crystal-tipped needles in acupuncture. The ancient Egyptians buried their dead with crystals of all kinds to provide spiritual support in the afterlife. Ancient Greeks thought rubbing crushed hematite crystals over their bodies made them invincible. In India, all manner of crystals were used in medicinal and spiritual practices and to increase libido. The Japanese believed smaller rock crystals were the "congealed breath of the White Dragon" and larger ones were the "saliva of the Violet Dragon" and contained magical properties.
The practice of scrying - a form of divination said to derive from analyzing reflections in water, metal or precious stones - has likely peen practiced since pre-historic times. But the use of crystal balls can be traced to the ancient Druids who lived in the British Isles and parts of France during the Iron Age, as noted by Roman author, naturalist, philosopher and military leader Pliny the Elder. The Druids used polished balls of beryl, which is colorless and as clear as glass in its purest form, but can be many different colors depending upon the impurities in it.
Even though the Druids were all but wiped out by 600 CE, the practice of scrying, or crystal gazing, exploded in Europe during the early Middle Ages, when countless wizards, sorcerers, oracles, seers, and "gypsies" began using crystal balls to see the future and tell fortunes for all classes of people, rich and poor, regardless of religious affiliation. Like the Druids, these crystal balls were often made of highly polished spheres of beryl, though rock crystal started to become more widely used because it was believed to be more effective at connecting with the psychic energies that supposedly allowed scrying to work. It was common at this time for the ball to be carried in a sling.
With Christianity spreading throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, many converts and even devout Christians continued to use crystal balls and scrying to gain hidden knowledge in the form of visions, which they considered to be divine messages from heaven. In his 5th century book The City of God Saint Augustine attacked scrying, labeling it and all magical practices, as "entangled in the deceptive rites of demons who masquerade under the names of angels." Despite this proclamation, many prominent women and men of the era were often buried with crystal balls.