|How to Read the Alethiometer
can be expressed by a combination of three symbols, using either the primary
or any of the subsidiary meanings. For example, Should I marry now,
or wait for a year? would be expressed by means of the bird (third
meaning, marriage, because birds mate for life), the hourglass (tenth
meaning, a year), and the horse (fifth meaning, constancy). The inquirer
moves each of the hands in turn until it points to one of the three symbols.
is only the physical part of the process. The other part is mental. The
inquirer must endeavor to hold in his or her mind a clear picture of where
each of the meanings comes in its range. Evoking the image of ladders
with rungs extending downward is sometimes advised by skilled practitioners
of alethiometry. Picture three ladders side by side, each rung being one
meaning in the range, and mark distinctly the rungs corresponding to the
meanings you intend - for example, by imagining a bright light shining
on them, or ribbons tied around them, or by covering them in gold leaf.
The inquirer must hold that image firmly, without losing it for a moment,
while setting the hands in position.
question has been asked, the needle will begin to move around the dial,
and the inquirer must pay close attention to its movements. It may stop
at any number of symbols: two, or three, or many more. The inquirer must
note carefully not only which symbols it stops at but also how many times
it stops there, because the number of times corresponds to the place of
the intended meaning in the symbol's range.
the question above might receive an answer in which the needle stopped
at chameleon three times, walled garden seven times, baby five times,
madonna nine times, sword six times, bull two times, ant ten times, and
bird three times.
the pauses carefully and consulting the books of readings, the inquirer
would discover the following meanings: "wait", "allow", "fail", "love",
"not", "strong", "sustain", and "marriage."
for the external process; the inward process would require the reader
to put these meanings together correctly and come to the answer:
and allow your love to cool and die away, because it is not strong enough
to sustain marriage.
moves to answer immediately, and usually answers only once. It is clear
that a reader must be unusually quick-witted as well as diligent and perceptive,
and that only long practice and deep familiarity with the symbol ranges,
acquired over many years, can bring about accurate interpretation.
the alethiometer supplies the semantic content of a message, and the mind
of the inquirer supplies the grammatical connections between the individual
elements. Only when the two work together does the full meaning become