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Crystal Ball

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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 Magical 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.



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    Anime & 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.
  • Ultear in Fairy Tail uses one as her Weapon of Choice, using her Time Master magic to turn it into a Pinball Projectile and doubles as a communication lacrima.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders: DIO uses his duplicate of Hermit Purple on a crystal ball in Polnareff's flashback. He makes the ball show an image of J. Geil, in order to convince Polnareff to follow him. He's never seen to do so again, however; DIO's use of Hermit Purple (of which this is the second and final example) is one of the series' most famous Plot Holes.
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero shows a crystal ball being used in ways that is uncommon for crystal balls normally, like say manipulating footage to make it look like you're killing royal guards and kidnapping the princess.

    Comic Books 
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW) Queen Chrysalis used one to communicate with the Mane Six, 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.
  • Judge Dredd: In a Dark Judges story published in New Scientist, "No Future", Judge Death and his cohorts are seen observing Judges Dredd and Anderson through a crystal ball from their home dimension.

    Fan Works 
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Flutterspy, Fleur de Lis uses crystal balls as monitors.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: Used for communication, as revealed in Deal with the Devil:
    Her gaze turned to a round object sitting on one of the lab benches when she felt the magic around her react to it. The crystal ball, for it looked as if it had emerged straight from a fortune teller's tent. A glowing white nimbus surrounded it, and fog within was swirling to form a face.
    One of the devices in [Nicodemus Asbraxe's] study alerted him that a Keeper was searching for some unspecified item, and the fence quickly pulled his hood down until his face was hidden in a pool of darkness out of which only a long, mangy beard protruded. He then muttered a well-practised incantation, and a picture formed in the air above his coffee table, showing him the prospective client[.]
  • In Heart of Ashes, the witch Andraya gives Smaug a crystal sphere which he uses to track Kathryn down to Vathvael. The sphere is later used by Freyja and Faervel to track Smaug and Kathryn down to their hiding place in Emyn Muil.
  • In another My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fic Loved And Lost, Vivian uses a crystal ball to show Twilight Sparkle her parents who are being held in Jewelius' dungeons.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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 Thief of Bagdad (1924): A crystal ball shows the Prince of India that the princess is ill.
  • The Thief of Bagdad (1940): The All-Seeing Eye 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.
  • I'm No Angel (1933).
    Fortune Teller: [peering into his crystal ball] Ahh, you have a wonderful future. I see a man in your life.
    Mae West: What, only one?

  • 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 has a few other clairvoyance-granting artifacts. The Mirror of Galadriel (actually a basin filled with water) could show things from the past, present, and possible future. The seat at Amon Hen allows one to see far-away present events, and, while never explicitly stated, its counterpart at Amon Lhaw presumably does the same for hearing.
    • 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.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Averted as far as Divination goes. Professor Trelawney "teaches" the use of them as part of her class, but no one ever actually sees the future in them. In the third book, Harry runs out of patience during his Divination exam and claims to see Buckbeak the hippogriff flying away to freedom — which he ends up doing, albeit with a passenger.
    • The Ministry of Magic has a whole library of similar glass spheres, except they act as storage devices for recorded prophecies. This room is the site of a battle in book five, during which several are smashed.
    • Pensieves fulfil are similar function, enabling the user to store and relive memories. 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 uses a crystal ball, in Equal Rites, she strongly distrusts the thing, since it seems 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.
    • Nanny Ogg uses a glass net floater one of her sons brought back from a sea voyage. It works, but everything is tinted green.
    • 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 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.
    • 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.
  • 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, coral, ivory 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.
  • A variant is seen in the Enchanted Forest novel Dealing With Dragons in the form of The King's Crystal. Owned by the King of Dragons, it actually took the form of a crystal plate and was used for divination and scrying. Heroine Cimorene expresses surprise over it not being a traditional ball shape, only to be told by Kazul that the odd shape gave it more range and power.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica has 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.
  • Power Ranger:
  • The fortune teller in The Monkees episode "Monkee See, Monkee Die" has one at the seance (& another one that's just a snowglobe).
  • Merlin:
    • Nimueh 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.
  • The Goodies are putting on a Phony Psychic act.
    "I look into my crystal ball, and what do I see? Parliament House in a snowstorm!" [shakes snow globe of Parliament House]
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In "Family", Buffy can't decide what to give Tara for her birthday. Because she's a witch, Xander suggests a "cheesy crystal ball" as a present, only to learn Giles already has one wrapped. At the birthday party we see Tara faking a smile as she unwraps the ball. According to Anya crystal balls were popular with amateurs, which explains why an experienced witch like Tara isn't impressed by them.
    • In "Hells Bells", Future Xander uses one to show his younger self the Bad Future that awaits him if he marries Anya. He's actually a vengeance demon out to ruin their marriage with illusions.
    • An Orb of Thesulah can be used to hold someone's soul (or serve as a New Age paperweight).

  • 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.

  • The Hot Gypsy Woman astrologer in Star Gazer uses one for scrying.
  • Appears on the spinning spider roulette in Scared Stiff - lighting them awards you with Elvira's "Telepathetic Power".

    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 abilities such as the one to see invisible things or foil illusions.
  • Conrad Mac Dowell uses one to communicate with the ghost haunting Warwick Manor in Mysterium.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • In Mystery Skulls Animated the paranormal investigators keep one in their van on the shelf above the holy water and garlic cloves.
  • RWBY has a living variant called the Seer Grimm. It's used multiple times by Salem to spy on and communicate with those working under her. But make no mistake: it is alive and just as deadly as any other Grimm in the series.

    Web Comics 
  • Xykon from The Order of the Stick uses one to scry upon the heroes regularly. It's even widescreen. And has screen within screen. And Teevo so he can record them while he isn't around. It also recommends other heroes and MacGuffin quests he might enjoy watching.
  • 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.
    • Nanase can use marbles as them. In her fairy form.
  • 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.
  • In Sneaky Goblins, the heroes borrow the wizard Murdock's seeing-orb.

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe: Some students use them for scrying:
    • Palantir can generate magical balls to do things, as said in The Three Little Witches:
      Palantir shook her head. "How're we gonna do that, with all the detention we got? I got a much better way!" She cupped her hands before her and...
      "Oh. THIS again," Abra grumped.
      "You're just jealous 'cause you don't have a natural gift for this sort of thing."
      "Sure, sure, I’m all green with envy, 'cause you're the Goblin King from Labyrinth, David Bowie," Abra mocked.
      Palantir concentrated on the magic ball, which glowed. As the three of them peered into it, an image of a low-slung rock in front of a gray-painted sheet of metal set into a hillside. A strange pale flame flickered over the rock. "That's IT!" Palantir said with a triumphant smirk in Abracadabra's direction. Using a general sense of proximity that she got from the ball, Pally led them through the gloom. They walked quite a ways, and Clover was starting to complain about being tired when Palantir said, "There it is!"
      "Where's that fire we saw in the crystal ball?"
    • Twitch (Tek Witch) from Generation 2, in Following the Path of Cute, as she's a witch. Not Really. She's using it to look for invisible bunnies:
      "I made a crystal ball..." She proudly held up what appeared to be a crystal ball, about the size of a softball.
      "It sure looks like a crystal ball," Tyler agreed. "What is it really?"
      Michelle hesitated a moment before answering, "It's an omnidirectional camera and monitor unit."
      "If there are any invisible bunnies in here, I'll be able to see them..."
  • Dr. Crafty has a living variant with the Fortune Teller Madame Crystelle. The ball serves as a Non-Human Head while the rest of her body is an extension of her magic. She even admits that it's a much more attractive form than just sitting on a desk collecting dust.

    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
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle: "Eenie, meanie, chili-beanie! The spirits are about to speak!"
  • Disenchantment features a crystal ball that normally acts like a Magic 8-Ball, responding to questions with vague single word statements. However, when a giantess uses it as a Glass Eye she is suddenly able to see what everyone is thinking but not saying, and Luci accidentally figures out how to make it replay past events.
  • In Season 9 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Grogar employs a magic sphere looking very similar to a Palantir — except the "iris" part is vertical, like a goat's, unlike the common slitted "eye of Sauron" representation. With it, he provides shadow imagery of the past to illustrate his backstory, and witnesses Sombra's defeat at the hooves of the Mane Six. Presumably, it's this artifact that allowed him to stay updated of the latest events in Equestria, including the deeds of the villains he gang-pressed in his service, as well as the modus operandi of the heroes.
  • Kaeloo:
    • In Episode 37, Kaeloo uses a crystal ball to contact spirits. It is never revealed whether the ball really works or not, since Kaeloo's "predictions" were events that happen Once an Episode on the show.
    • In Episode 90, Mr. Cat, as a sorcerer, uses a crystal ball to see where Kaeloo is and what she's doing.

    Real Life 
  • Practitioners of modern 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.
  • This trope was played straight in earlier occult schools, such as those popular during the 16th and 17th centuries. During this period, occultists believed they could summon spirits like angels into crystal balls, who could give them spiritual visions, or converse or bargain with them.
  • The world's largest polished sphere of solid quartz crystal, weighing more than 100 pounds and measuring over a foot in diameter, can be found at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. The display advises you to look into the ball to see... an inverted image of the room behind it, just like any other large convex lens.


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