How to Use a Pendulum, the Crystal That Can Help You Make Decisions

Photo: Well+Good Creative
When I was a kid, I used to love turning to different props and methods that could give me a yes or no answer to a question (I'm very indecisive). Magic eight balls were my jam, and I always played "eeny, meeny, miny, moe" to choose between various options. The wellness world's version of these things? Pendulums, or swinging tools used by spiritual healers to decipher the answer to yes-or-no questions, both deep and mundane. Learning how to use a pendulum seemed to me like it could unlock a new level of clarity and guidance—so, I connected with healers to better understand the divination practice.

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What is a pendulum?

A pendulum is a triangular-looking gemstone that hangs on the end of a string or chain. "It's a tool that you can use to connect to your higher self and 'source' through asking questions that help guide, clarify, and raise your awareness," says reiki healer Kelsey Patel. "The pendulum itself is simply a small object attached to the end of a string and can be made out of wood, crystal, gemstone, glass, or metal." You use it by asking questions and interpreting its movements.

According to astrologer and spiritual guide Rachel Lang, a pendulum can guide you toward clarity and answers. "It basically detects energy, helping you fine tune your intuition," she says. You can use it to game out decision-making, assess whether your chakras are open, see whether energy is flowing in a room in your house, and even communicate with spirits.

"A pendulum can be used in various scenarios where you just want to gain a little more clarity, connection, and a better understanding of something."—Kelsey Patel, reiki healer

Certainly, a pendulum is not something you should use to help make every single decision of your life—but it can be useful in certain situations. According to Patel, it's a very personal practice. "A pendulum can be used in various scenarios where you just want to gain a little more clarity, connection, and a better understanding of something," she says. "You can ask the pendulum questions about life, love, health, career, money—whether simple or complex."

How to choose a pendulum

Much like assessing and choosing from all the types of crystals based on what speaks to you (there are crystals for protection, improved sleep, and more) choosing a pendulum is highly personal, and there's no right or wrong way to go about it, says Patel. "Trust your intuition, and allow yourself to be shown which pendulum is right for you." When you pick one up, consider how it looks and feels, and whether you feel connected to it, she suggests. It can be as simple as choosing one you like: If you're into jade crystals, for example, and you see a jade pendulum, go for it.

Lang recommends pendulum novices spend time playing around with their potential new tool. Feel it, touch it, swing it—use it until it feels good and right in your hands; and if it's feeling off, go for a different one. Because a pendulum is a tool to harness and connect with your own intuition and inner voice, you want to familiarize yourself with it. "Ultimately, what all divination practices do is bring us back to ourselves and our own internal guidance system, so notice what sensations are happening in your body when you feel the pendulum move in a certain way," says Lang.

What is the correct way to use a pendulum?

There's no universally correct way or situation in which to use a pendulum; making the most of the spiritual tool's powers is about finding a practice that fits for you. However, Patel does recommend using a pendulum more for guidance than as a rigid decision-making tool. "You can use the pendulum to help you with any problem, troubling situation, or something you need more clarity around," she says.

Note that you can only ask the pendulum "yes" or "no" questions in order to help a helpful answer. For example, you could start with "Should I go to this party?" but you cannot ask "What happens if I go to this party?" "Make sure to phrase each question in a way that can allow you to get a clear answer," says Patel. To get all of the guidance and clarity you're seeking, you might have to ask a series of questions in one session.

Using a pendulum isn't like calling "heads" or "tails" on a coin flip because its answer isn't based on random chance. "A pendulum is connecting to you and your energy in that moment of that day," says Patel. "It's okay to receive one answer, and then try again the next day and find the answer may have shifted." As you work with the tool, you'll learn how it moves and how it responds to questions.

What hand do you hold a pendulum in?

Though some practitioners suggest holding a pendulum in your dominant hand (aka whatever hand you write with), Lang says it doesn't matter as long as you can keep your hand steady and minimize any body movements while holding it. "The hand can move in really subtle ways, so this can be one of the biggest challenges when you're first working with pendulum," she says. "The answer to that is to practice, practice, practice."

How do you know if a pendulum is saying yes or no?

Before asking the pendulum any questions, it's key to learn what motion signifies "yes" and what is "no," says Patel. To do so, she suggests taking a moment to find a comfortable seat and quieting your mind with a few deep breaths before holding the pendulum in your dominant hand with the chain or top link between your thumb and index finger. "Ask it to 'Show me yes' and 'Show me no,' or ask, 'What does yes look like?' and 'What does no look like?'" says Patel.

When you do this, the pendulum will either swing vertically, horizontally, or in circular motions. Take note as to what each answer looks like—for instance, if it moved vertically when you said 'show me yes,' that is how it will respond in an affirmative way to your questions. "You could also ask 'Show me neutral,' if you want that option, too," says Patel.

What do you say when using a pendulum?

"When looking for clarity or guidance around a situation, have more than one question prepared about the topic to help you gain as much insight and guidance as possible," says Patel. Something to remember? The pendulum might not always work. "Sometimes, a pendulum will not want to answer or not be open to answering a particular question at a certain time," says Patel. "This can be shown as a separate directional swing, or the pendulum might simply remain still."

Exactly how to use a pendulum if you're a beginner

1. Cleanse the pendulum

As with crystals, pendulums need energetic cleansing. "Cleanse the pendulum with sage, outside under a full moon, soaking it in sea salt if the material or crystal is water- and salt-friendly, or simply by holding it under cold tap water," suggests Patel.

2. Start with what you know

To get the pendulum going, ask questions to which you already know the answer. "For example, ask if your name is what your name is, and 'Do I live in [insert city]?'" says Patel. "This can help you connect energetically with the pendulum and familiarize yourself with its directional swings and how it will communicate with you."

3. Ask additional questions

While you're limited to "yes" and "no" questions, Lang says you can ask as many questions as you need to gain clarity. "I always start with 'Is [insert thing here] in my best and highest good?'" says Lang, because this question "has positive integrity."

To use the party example, you might ask, "Is it in my best and highest good to go to this party?" From there, you'd interpret the pendulum's movements based on its responses to your tester questions above, and then continue with more questions until you feel like you have answers. "Asking follow-up questions can give you a better storyline for the big question you're answering," says Lang. For example, she adds, you can even ask , "Am I afraid of knowing this?" or "Do I have fear around this?"

4. Remain open and curious

Using a pendulum is all about being at ease. "Just like when you are going through a meditation, try to simply allow the pendulum to communicate freely with you," says Patel. "The more open you are to receive answers, the easier you and the pendulum can communicate."

If you're stressed or anxious about something, that can certainly influence your energy and the answers to come from the pendulum—but that doesn't mean you have to avoid the practice while in that state. In fact, Patel suggests incorporating things that worry you into a line of questioning. After all, feeling like you don't know the answer to a question may be what's making you anxious in the first place, and using the pendulum could help you move beyond that fear of the unknown.

Remember, like any spiritual practice, you can trust in your ability to work with a pendulum because, in reality, you already have your own answers. The pendulum itself is just a tool that's merely there to help you get closer to your own intuition.

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