I wanted to wish everyone reading this a safe and happy Hallowe’en! I do not celebrate this day religiously, as Samhain for me is determined by lunar phase; but I do celebrate it, nonetheless! I think it is a wonderful day / evening, where millions of people around the world open their doors and happily offer gifts to perfect strangers, quite often with no thought of receiving anything in return … it is, as far as I’m concerned, not just a wonderful testament to the Pagan character from which this holiday springs, but a testament to the spirit of generosity that can move through people in general, regardless of religious affiliation. I used to pass the day with horror film marathons; and I have enjoyed dressing up on more than one occasion. I still make it a point to give something to a perfect stranger on this day – usually not candy – and it is perhaps all the more significant to me to do this because the holiday has become so commercialized. With that in mind, I would like to offer the following for interested readers, perfect strangers as well as perfect friends ….
Sometime ago, in a decade far, far past, I picked up a book about ‘Scottish Witchcraft,’ written by Raymond Buckland. Many Pagans that I have encountered have mixed views concerning Buckland’s books and other works … my own views are also mixed. However, in this book of his, he describes a scrying tool, called a keek stane – a darkened lens, contained within a box, that is used for scrying. The lens works – you don’t have to be a believer in magic to see something in the lens – but I’ve never been too keen on the box that’s supposed to contain the keek stane and ‘protect’ it from sunlight. I have made a few this way; and while the keek stanes turned out fairly well, I always felt like they were more or less designed to be used at home, rather than out in the middle of nowhere (which is where I usually imagined the Picts of Buckland’s book wandering around, and is where I’m prone to enjoy scrying as well). What follows is my solution to this problem, and I hope it will prove useful to more than just myself!
The lens itself. This is what you will be focusing on when you scry. A number of sources suggest raiding thrift stores and flea markets for old clock faces or thermometers as a source for decent glass lenses. This is also what I did, the first few times I set out to make a keek stane. Eventually, however, I discovered that in the wonderful field of laboratory science, you can order these things outright – relatively inexpensive, and they come in different sizes!
Once you have a lens (wherever you get it from), the next step is to darken it. Black paint is your friend here, and you’ll need to apply a layer of it to the convex (outward-facing) side of the lens. The easiest way to do this is to set the lens down on some newspaper (if you want to get really fancy, tape the edges with masking tape before setting it down on the paper), with the convex side facing upward. Apply your paint, and let it dry. Then add another coat, and let it dry. When this is done, hold your lens up to a light source, staring into it from the concave side, to see if there are any little holes where light is passing through. From the concave side, your paint coating should look utterly smooth. If there is light making its way through your lens, apply more paint – if not, then it’s on to the next step!
The container for your keek stane. Like I said, the box is what was originally specified; and it not only does its job of protecting the lens, it can look really good. A small, metal canister, however, is something that will fit in a backpack a lot better; and it will take more abuse than a wooden box will. If you want something to use on camping trips or at festivals, something like what I’m using in the picture below is what I would recommend. The one I use here is an old brass canister that I picked up at a flea market.
I use foam for the next step (like the kind used for insulation or for exercise mats), to fill up some of the space inside the canister. I like this because it can be easily cut into just about any shape; and it acts as a good shock absorber for the lens, should the keek stane get dropped (think: a dark night, in the middle of nowhere, and your foot snags a root while walking to that special spot in the meadow). You can also stack the foam inside the canister, to get the lens to exactly the height you want it to be.
You will also need a piece of thin wood, to make into a disk. This you cut into a circle, just slightly larger than the opening of the canister; then fit it into place by sanding your wooden disk down to size.
A hole cut in the middle of your disk, again sanded out to the right size, will be the retaining ring for the lens. This can be painted or decorated however you might like – in this case, I repurposed some material from an old, black purse I found at a flea market. You will notice in this picture, I have also cut a rough ring shape out of foam: this belongs beneath the lens, and will help to ‘seat’ it while being sandwiched on the top side by the wooden ring. It’s worth noting that anything cut, that sits below the lens, does not have to be all that precise … above the lens, where it will be visible, is where you will want to pay more attention to detail in fit.
With the pieces where they belong, you might choose to affix them however you wish. In this case, my materials fit together neatly enough that I didn’t need to glue them into the canister. The outside of the canister can be decorated however you might wish: paint it, poke decorative holes into the lid (but make sure there is something under the holes to keep rain and sunlight out, as Buckland’s stated tradition contends that sunlight weakens the keek stane). I prefer a less polished look, and so I wrap twine around the canister. This has the added benefit of providing a little extra grip to the surface.