"I don't need help, it's obvious what this means: there's going to be loads of fog tonight."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.
— Ron Weasley looking into a crystal ball, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
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.
- 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.
- In Swordquest, the evil sorcerer Konjuro watches the protagonists with a large glass sphere.
- 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. Michael Moschen (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.
- And the similar item in The Thief of Bagdad (1924), that shows the Prince of India that the princess is ill.
- 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.
- 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.
- Wizards have refined the crystal ball concept to create the "omniscope". They used one in Going Postal, with this result:
- 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 contempt 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.
- 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.
- A variant combining the Crystal Ball and lot-casting concepts crops up in Michael Reaves' The Shattered World: the "casting sphere". Used by inhabitants of the still-liveable, orbiting fragments of a fantasy world that broke apart long ago, such spheres are constructed of pieces of polished wood or crystal, that fit together like a 3-D jigsaw. Each piece represents one of the fragments; when the hollow sphere is dropped, its pieces scatters into patterns from which future events can be divined.
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.
- Power Rangers Mystic Force also has one, able to detect dark magic anywhere in the world and reveal its source.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- There are several Crystal Balls in Loom, all of which are used for telling the future (and learning new drafts).
- There is a sidequest involving a fortuneteller's crystal ball in Arcanum. The consequences of stealing one are... severe.
- Nigel gets his fortune told in one in The Lost Crown: A Ghost-Hunting Adventure.
- The casual game Adventures Of Robinson Crusoe includes a minigame where you must identify pictures in a crystal ball, using as small an area of the picture as possible.
- One acts as a map in The Adventures of Robin Hood.
- Fire Emblem:
- The Archsage Athos from Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword uses one off-screen to watch over the group's battles with the Black Fang.
- Tharja from Fire Emblem Awakening also mentions having one for her spells, but she never uses it onscreen either.
- Unless in her human form, Lilith from Fire Emblem Fates rides around on a levitating one. My Castle (the army's living quarters) is supposedly located inside it, as stated in the Making of Fire Emblem 25th Anniversary book.
- Xykon from The Order of the Stick uses one to scry upon the heroes regularly. It's even widescreen.
- Early on, in Adorable Desolation, Shopclerk peers into one, first he sees a vision of a skull and then the Crystal Ball cracks in half.
- Dominic Deegan has numerous forms of crystal balls. Usually they're just for divination and scrying, but they have also been used similar to telephones. They also aren't just the conventional clear, either. Miranda Deegan uses one made out of onyx.
- Homestuck has both Rose and Jade using crystal balls for remote viewing; Jade combines hers with a super computer so she can remote view all possible locations at once
- There's also the Magic Cue Ball which answers any question it's asked, but unlike a Magic 8 Ball, the Magic Cue Ball is completely opaque and the answers to its questions can only be seen by using some sort of special power to see inside of it.
- In El Goonish Shive, this is used to frame a sketch in this filler comic.
- In Impure Blood, they have timepieces that print out messages -- or ought to.
- Jackson Adler of The Wretched Ones uses one of these to tell Nicholas Thomas' fortune. He doesn't see anything.
- 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
- Rocky and Bullwinkle: "Eenie, meanie, clilli-beanie! The spirits are about to speak!"
- 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.