As I composed them, the thought occurred to me that doing floating slip divination as a group could be problematic. As I saw it, it would have to be done singly. Everyone practicing this divination will likely get a different response. So if the right answer is the first slip which floats to the surface, whose right answer is it? What if only one slip of paper floats? Where does that leave the other participants? What do they do, stir up the water with their finger or a spoon, and grab the first one they stir up? It’s an idea but…

 If it’s just one person practicing at a time, they could use as many or as few slips as they wanted.  But if you have too many slips of paper in the bowl, they’ll get in each-others’ way, and practicing floating slips divination could be more counter-productive than helpful. So the rule of thirteen-slips-only appears to be more a practical consideration than a magical one. If practicing as a group, each participant might want to use their own set of thirteen answer slips and each would have to start the process from scratch, with the bowl of water being emptied and the soggy previous slips being pulled out, leaving the bowl empty for the next person to use.

Done right, this might, just might, be one of those divination methods which could double as a party game. If you’re practicing this as a group, why not have a pre-printed set of answer-slips (and scissors on hand) and everybody choose one set of answer-slips on a subject they wish to ask about, and everyone takes a turn? This will mean continual fishing-out all the old slips, emptying the water into a sink, or into a pitcher for re-use, drying the bowl, and starting all over. But it could be a fun activity, and a great conversation generator.


This is a very traditional way of practicing this, and if you’re not in a hurry for an answer, it’s a viable option. Of course the downside of this approach to floating slips divinations is, you may end up with such cloudy water, it makes the slip hard to read. You may have more than one slip come loose from its bed of clay or dough by morning and there you are, wondering which slip is the correct answer. I think the safest assumption in such a case is, your answer might well be a combination of the slips. This approach may take a little practice to master; knowing which medium works best for you, and knowing how to embed the rolled-up slips of paper in such a way that they are neither too-firmly, nor too-lightly planted in the clay or dough.  


I have not been able to find any information about how this form of divination started, who or what culture started it, nor how old it is. I’m all ears and eyeballs if anyone knows. I have a hunch its hundreds, if not thousands of years old. We may never know who first got the idea that, by writing a series of possible answers on slips of paper, sticking them in a bowl and filling it with water, then waiting for the first one to surface, they could obtain an answer to their question. But it’s certainly a creative and resourceful person who came up with the idea.