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Crystal Ball
The Palantír! Great reception, guaranteed no signal interference, and free evening and weekend calls!

"I don't need help, it's obvious what this means: there's going to be loads of fog tonight."
Ron Weasley looking into a crystal ball, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Common prop used by witches, Fortune Tellers and psychics (and Hollywood Romani) for fortune telling, scrying, and long distance communication. Most commonly it's a dinner plate sized sphere of clear glass, but these can be of just about any size and material, so long as they're shiny.

Despite their ubiquity, there are many, many more ways to tell the future or view remote locations. Pools of water are mystic favorites, as are thrown bones, giblets, and of course Magic Mirrors.

See also Surveillance as the Plot Demands, Blindfolded Vision, Crystal Skull and Chronoscope. Compare Data Crystal.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Konoka and Anya in Mahou Sensei Negima! sometimes use these (strange in Konoka's case, since she uses eastern-style fortune telling). Evangeline uses hers to communicate over a long distance like a phone.
  • In Final Fantasy: Unlimited, Fabula is rarely seen without her trademark blue crystal ball. It shatters early into the second season, however.
  • The third Hokage in Naruto had a crystal ball which he used two times within the first two episodes, and never again.
  • Fabia of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid has one for scrying purposes and is shown using one to spy on Hayate and the Vivid cast while they're talking about Ancient Belka.
  • Both Queen Beryl and Wiseman/Death Phantom had those in Sailor Moon.

    Comic 
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW) Queen Chrysalis used one to communicate with the Mane 6, telling them to confront her in three days. It even provides a map. She also uses it as a means of surveillance and source of entertainment, since the heroes land in all sorts of trouble along the way.

    Fanfic 

    Film 
  • Jareth in Labyrinth keeps plenty of these on hand, watching Sarah through them and occasionally channeling his magic through one. He sometimes spins them in one hand; this is not, however, David Bowie doing these tricks. A professional juggler is standing right behind him and doing them blind.
  • The All-Seeing Eye in The Thief of Bagdad that shows Abu where to find Ahmad.
  • The Wizard of Oz has two crystals. Professor Marvel has a small one in which he claims to see Aunt Em searching for runaway Dorothy, crying and possibly having a heart attack. The Wicked Witch of the West has a much larger one in which Dorothy herself briefly glimpses her Aunt Em and tries to communicate with her.
  • Madam Estrella, the gypsy fortuneteller used one when she wasn't creating or commanding The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies (of MST3K fame), you feelthy peeg!
  • InThe Barbarians, Ibar, the future substitute leader of the Ragni tribe, is shown holding on to one in the opening. Whether the thing could predict the future is never answered, as it is used as a magical grenade against the villains.

    Literature 
  • The Lord of the Rings has the Palantíri, a set of seeing stones that allow the viewer to scry far off locations and communicate between each other. Of course, some were destroyed, and one fell to Sauron, making their use incredibly dangerous considering his penchant for Mind Rape or Mind Control.
    • Middle-Earth had a few other clairvoyance-granting artifacts. Galadriel's Mirror (actually a pool of water) could show things from the past, present, and possible future, and the seat at Amon Hen would allow one to see far-away present events.
    • Parodied in Bored of the Rings with the mallomar, "the magic watchamacallit of the elves." Moxie thinks it works like a Ouija board, but it's really a glorified Magic 8 Ball.
  • Of all things Harry Potter seems to eschew this convention. Madam Trelawny spews prophecy regardless of props, and the crystal balls are pretty much useless except as bombardment.
    • Interestingly, Pensieves fulfill this function. Snape uses Dumbledore's Pensieve to store memories he didn't want Harry to see yet. And the memories in the Pensieve (when not actually using it) are described as halfway between silvery water and gas.
  • Large shiral crystals are used this way in the Deryni works. Alaric Morgan has a fist-sized one in a golden gryphon holder in Deryni Checkmate, and the Camberian Council have a larger one suspended from the ceiling of their meeting chamber.
  • The windows of The House in The Redemption of Althalus serve this purpose.
  • Used both straight and subverted in Discworld novels. Wizards often complain they can't get good reception on them (ironically enough, using it to watch a rock concert in Soul Music). Witches and mediums such as Mrs. Cake only use them when paying customers hang around, but in the privacy of their own house they can use bits of glass or water or anything else they like.
    • Wizards have refined the crystal ball concept to create the "omniscope". They used one in Going Postal, with this result:
      Ridcully: It's not working, Mr. Stibbons! Here's that damn enormous fiery eye again!
    • The first time Granny Weatherwax used a crystal ball, in Equal Rites, she strongly distrusted the thing, since it seemed like wizardry.
      Granny: Never could get the hang of this damn silicon stuff. A bowl of water with a drop of ink was good enough when I was a girl. Of course, we had to make our own enchantment in them days.
    • Jonathan Teatime seems to have put one into his eye socket, which might explain why he can do impossible feats like Offscreen Teleportation.
  • Stephen King puts a novel twist on this trope in The Dark Tower, as the thirteen color-coded crystal balls of the Wizard's Rainbow are each a corrupting Artifact of Doom.
  • In The Riftwar Cycle, the first sign that Pug had potential as a magician came when he inadvertently saw something in a crystal ball.
  • Called a Gramerhain in the Bahzell Bahnakson Series, and far more limited than most. The victory in the third book probably wouldn't have happened if they'd been as omnipurposable as most crystal balls.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "A Witch Shall Be Born" the title witch holds this in comtempt as a means to study, but uses it for communications.
    I could never endure to seclude myself in a golden tower, and spend the long hours staring into a crystal globe, mumbling over incantations written on serpent's skin in the blood of virgins, poring over musty volumes in forgotten languages.
    • The Big Bad of "The Scarlet Citadel" has one. Another sorcerer says it's a toy, but one which is useful when you have no time for something serious.
  • In Gene Wolfe's The Sorcerer's House, the psychic has a fake crystal ball that sees good stuff and the real thing.
  • One of the talking magic items Aahz collects in Myth-Gotten Gains is a crystal ball, in which the face of a female of the observer's species manifests when it's communicating with people.
  • In Cerberon, these are called scryballs. They are used to view other locations, communicate with other scryballs like a telephone, or to spy through uncovered scry balls. Aladavan keeps a miniature scry ball on a chain around his neck, which he keeps under his shirt when he's not using it. He's able to easily spy on and track Thedrik because his sword has a small scryball on the pommel, which Thedrik never covers. Scryblocks are employed to prevent people from using scryballs to spy on them, and to protect against mental eavesdropping.
  • In the Dungeon Punk world of Tales Of MU crystal balls are used like computers, forming an "aethernet" even.
  • In Victoria Hanley's The Seer and the Sword, a crystal is need to trigger Torina's abilities.

    Live Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica had a prophetess in New Caprica use a bowl of water to divine the future for Number Three. Then there's the Cylon's Unusual User Interface, which consists of placing their hands in streams of water; and the prophetic Hybrids in the baseships, who are submerged in water.
  • The Viewing Globe in the original Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers was one.
  • The fortune teller in The Monkees episode "Monkee See, Monkee Die" has one at the seance (& another one that's just a snowglobe).
  • Nimueh in Merlin can spy everything that goes on in Camelot with something like a font filled with water.
    • Similarly, Morgause uses a crystal.
  • Commander Black summons Flying Saucer Creatures using one of these.

    Music 
  • Iron Maiden's "Can I Play With Madness?" is about a man going to a prophet with a crystal ball - in which, for the man himself "there's no vision there at all".
    • In fact, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (the album that song is on) is a concept album about a man blessed and/or cursed with prophetic sight by virtue of his being, well, the seventh son of a seventh son.
  • The protagonist of the Running Wild album Black Hand Inn uses his crystal ball to "tell tales of past and future" in the eponymous inn. It also comes in handy in privateer business, as it shows where "he has to steer".
  • Keane's song "Crystal Ball" is about... well, yeah.

    Pinball 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In most editions of Dungeons & Dragons crystal balls are magic items that replicate the scry spell for users unable to cast it normally. They often come with additional abilites such as the ability to see invisible things or foil illusions.

    Video Games 

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • Madam Wu in Avatar: The Last Airbender heats bones and studies the cracks. Aang has such a huge destiny his bone explodes. When madam Wu excitedly tells him of his destiny to fight Fire Lord Ozai in order to restore balance to the world, he's more interested in if there's anything about his love life in the smoking splinters. (He already knew about Ozai, after all.)
  • In the ALF cartoon episode, "Housekeeping For Pokipsi," Madam Pokipsi the "Fortune Smeller" has a Magic Ball that is not only use for divination, but is the source of all her arcane powers; when Gordon messes with it, he ruins her magic tricks ("Vhat haf you done ma Crystal Bawwwwl, Yunk Mayun?").
  • In ThunderCats (2011) the Sword of Omens is a hybrid of this and a Magic Mirror. Staring Through the Sword prompts the spherical cabochon Eye of Thundera in its hilt to send a vision visible in the Blade Reflection.
  • The Duke's "Viewing Stone" in Gawayn

    Real Life 
  • Practitioners of ceremonial magic and some forms of witchcraft use crystal balls. Rather than expecting to see anything in them like a TV set, you are supposed to use them simply as a focus of attention, similar to meditation. Anything you see should appear in your mind, not in the crystal.


Cosmic Lottery WinnerFate and Prophecy TropesDead Man's Hand
Clothes Make the SupermanThis Index Has Magic PropertiesCrystal Prison
Deflector ShieldAntagonist AbilitiesSuper Senses
Critical FailureImageSource/Live-Action FilmsHilarious in Hindsight
Coconut SuperpowersMagic and PowersDisability Superpower

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