It seems like there is a form of divination for everything. There are the usual suspects: reading tea leaves (tasseomancy) and Tarot cards (cartomancy), fire gazing (pyromancy) and bird watching (augury). And there are more esoteric divination methods like spatilomancy (reading portents in animal excrement), tyromancy (divination by cheese), and belomancy (prophesying via arrows). Basically, if it is something humans can observe, they’ve made a way to tell the future from it.
Cleromancy is a divination method that involves casting lots. Subsets of this method include runes and bones, thus the saying “Throwing the bones.” Another method, charm casting, has become popular over the last few years. The Magpie Oracle by Carrie Paris is one example. The benefit of charm casting is that it provides a lot of room for personalization with regards to readings. You choose what charms you want to use and ascribe meaning to them. That flexibility can also be a drawback if you aren’t used to providing your own meaning and interpretation in divination.
Being the big ole sewing nerd that I am, I immediately saw the potential for putting my own spin on charm casting. I also got to play with one of the most common jokes in the sewing world: the true contents of holiday cookie tins. Even if you don’t sew, you are probably aware that shortbread cookie tins rarely actually hold cookies. They are often, instead, filled with sewing supplies (or in the case of my grandmother’s tin, buttons). I saw the opportunity to reject that reality and replace it with one of my own. One in which the tin opened not to a tangle of thread and fabric scissors, but to a throwing mat and silver charms. With that in mind, I present to you the Sewing Tin Oracle.
Below I have instructions on how to make your very own oracle. I kept with the sewing theme by collecting related charms. My charms came from here, here and here. You can use whatever charms you want, however. You don’t even have to use charms. Any small objects that you ascribe meaning to can work: nuts, stones, rings, coins, etc. You’ll want a number of items for your casting, at least thirteen, but there’s not a set upper limit. The more charms you have to cast the more you’ll be reading, though, so take that into account as you are putting your oracle together.
The casting mat design I put together is for general fortune telling. I went with a design that focuses on the person, and those spheres of influence that surround them. The self is at the center of the mat. Around them is a circle dedicated to friends and family. Beyond that is the known: immediate society, information, geography, etc. And the outer circle is the unknown, not only knowledge the self doesn’t have, but spiritual and cosmic forces that might be exerting influence, and unseen or hidden wisdom.
The four points of the mat, “Home, Work, Emotions and Ideas” align with the four elements and directions Home = Earth and North, Ideas = Air and East, Work = Fire and South, Emotions = Water and West. These points cross over into the various spheres, creating mixed zones, such as The Unknown and Work, the Known and Work, Friends and Family and Work, and the Self and Work.
This setup allows you to interpret where the charms fall in regards to various parts of one’s life. Ultimately, all of these associations come from my own, personal magickal lexicon, and you shouldn’t feel that you have to use this layout if it doesn’t speak to you. You can create your own layout for casting.
Likewise, the charms I chose and the meaning I ascribed to them is personal, but informed not only by my research in writing my book, Sew Witchy, but in looking at dream and symbolism meaning, magickal meanings, and even consulting Tarot and runes to further clarify what each charm represents. I’ve listed those meanings below, and urge you to reflect on them and see if they resonate with you. That sort of contemplation is very necessary when creating a personal oracle. I do not claim that the meanings I ascribe are in any way universal. I’m a GenX white woman from the Midwest and that fact informs my work.
If, after reading through the disclaimers above, you are still interested in making the Sewing Tin Oracle for yourself, the instructions are below.
Making the Sewing Tin Oracle
- 1 Cookie Tin (a chocolate tin can work just as well)
- 1 Piece of Black felt larger and wider than the tin
- Silver fabric paint (or a silver permanent marker)
- White chalk or colored pencil
1) Empty the cookie tin. Honestly, you could eat all of the cookies in one sitting and use the resulting sugar rush to fuel writing down the meanings for your charms.
2) Place the empty tin on your black felt. Using the chalk or colored pencil, trace around the bottom of the tin onto the felt.
3) Cut out the felt. Check the size of the felt circle against the tin. It should cover the bottom of the tin completely. It’s okay if it curls up a bit against the wall of the tin, you just don’t want any gaps.
4) Mark your casting mat with the silver fabric paint or permanent marker. I tried out a number of different options when I was making this mat. Use either the casting diagram shown above or one that you’ve made up on your own. I used silver, because it is a color associated with divination and because it stands out the best against the black felt. You can use the 3D or puffy fabric paint available from craft and hobby stores, but keep in mind the ridges may affect how the charms fall when cast.
5) Cleanse, bless and consecrate your new oracle. Treat your new oracle like you would a Tarot deck or a set of runes. Keep it clean and stored away when not in use. Consider setting it out in the light of the full moon for charging and blessing. You can keep the charms in a small pouch.
Go forth and divine your fortune!
Sewing Charm Meanings
Below are various sewing tools and the meanings I associate with them.
- Button: Stability / Strength / Persistence / Career / Money
- Chalk: Expressing & Sharing Ideas / Communication / Imagination
- Dress Form: Idealized Self / Self as Presented to the World / Identity
- Embroidery Floss: Choices / Joy / Hope / Harmony
- Iron: Obstacles / Radical Change / Crisis / Opportunity
- Knitting Needle: Happiness / Warmth / Order / Comfort
- Lace: Art / Extravagance / Romantic Love / Attraction / Pleasure / Dreams
- Needle: Direction / Action / Awakening / Enlightenment
- Pattern: Planning / Higher Power / Initiation / Instructions
- Pin: Bad Luck / Focus / Statis / Stillness
- Pincushion: Home / Honing Ideas / Practice / Working Toward a Goal / Defense
- Ribbon: Non-Romantic Love / Gift / Generosity / Exchange
- Ruler: Knowledge / Craft / Experience / Tradition
- Safety Pin: Community / Unity / Cooperation / Children
- Sewing Machine: Cauldron / Constructive Change / Innovation / Urgency
- Scissors: Endings / Separation / Emotions / Destructive Change
- Seam Ripper: Mistakes: Made & Fixed / Discarding Old Ways / Mind / Learning
- Tape Measure: Evaluation / Judgement / Journey / Inner Compass
- Thimble: Protection / Fortification / Luck
- Thread: Fate / News / Information / Healing
Want to read more about sewing magick? My book Sew Witchy: Tools, Techniques, and Projects for Sewing Magick is out now and available from Llewellyn.