"(O)bserve the heavens. Here is written, for those who can see, the fortune of our races."
-- Firenze the centaur
"Broaden your minds, my dears, and allow your eyes to see past the mundane!"
-- Sibyll Trelawney
"I think Divination seems very woolly. A lot of guesswork, if you ask me."
-- Hermione Granger
Divination is magic which attempts to foresee future events. Many in the wizarding world consider this branch of magic to be imprecise at best.
There are several types of Divination. The most imprecise is what is commonly known as “fortunetelling,” and this is what Trelawney teaches at Hogwarts. This involves such methods as tea leaf reading, gazing into crystal balls, and so on.
The second kind of Divination is what is practiced by the centaurs. When Firenze started teaching Divination classes in the spring of 1996, he taught these techniques, although they were mostly lost on the human students in his classes. These methods involve the burning of herbs and meditation to focus one’s thoughts. Centaur divination places importance on observation of the stars and planets.
The third type of Divination is called Seeing. This is true Divination, although what the Seer reveals is usually in the form of a Prophecy which then itself requires some interpretation. A Seer, one who possesses the Inner Eye, doesn’t seem to have control over their Seeing. Trelawney, for example, only made actual Prophecies twice, although she made plenty of claims about everything from troubles ahead for various students to Neville breaking a teacup. In each case when she made an actual Prophecy, Trelawney went into a trance and spoke in a completely different voice. Both times, after speaking the Prophecy, she didn’t remember a thing about it. (PA16, OP37, HBP25)
True Seeing is very rare, but it has happened plenty of times over the centuries. There is a huge cathedral-sized room of the Department of Mysteries where records of thousands of Prophecies are stored in glass spheres. Each sphere is labeled with the initials of the Seer who spoke the Prophecy and the person it was spoken to and with the subject of the Prophecy. The record of the first Prophecy Trelawney made, which was spoken to Albus Dumbledore, was labelled as follows:
S.P.T. to A.P.W.B.D.
Dark Lord and (?)Harry Potter (OP34, OP35)
References from the canon
The "real thing"?
While most of what Trelawney teaches seems to be just "lucky guesswork and a spooky manner," as Harry thinks (GF13), there are instances of actual prescience and prediction in the books.
- Harry's dreams
- Trelawney's two correct predictions, according to Dumbledore
- the centaurs' comments in the forest ("Mars is bright tonight!")
- Is this the real thing? Trelawney began the first class with a series of predictions. Did they come true? Here's the list:
- (to Neville) "Is your grandmother well?...I wouldn't be so sure."
- (to Parvati) "Beware a red-haired man."
- "Classes will be disrupted in February by a nasty bout of flu. I myself will lose my voice."
- "Around Easter, one of our number will leave us forever."
- (to Lavender) "That thing you are dreading--it will happen on Friday, the sixteenth of October."
- (to Neville) "After you've broken your first cup, would you be so kind as to select one of the blue patterned ones?"
- (to Neville) "You'll be late next time, so mind you work extra-hard to catch up."
From the Web
Rowling's comment from Twitter: