As the students file into the room, many notice a list of events have been scribed on the blackboard. Events such as ‘Winter will arrive with a chill, as the first three days will bring snow’, ‘Professor Ornitier will correctly predict the average class grade for the assignment this week’, ‘ Dinner this coming Thursday will be shepherd's pie and treacle tarts’ are listed, among others. Students begin to chatter with those nearby, some are even taking bets on the likelihood of these events and discussing what could be added to the list. As the atmosphere in the room begins to approach a loud ruckus, Professor Ornitier enters almost instantly and sits on his desk in a cross-legged fashion, brandishing his wand. With a flick, he lights each candle in the room and, in turn, closes the curtains hanging in each window. The room brings the anticipated reaction and the class quiets immediately.
Hello, dear students! Here we are, Lesson Four of Year Five! I should not be surprised by how quickly our year is progressing, after all, O.W.L.s are in our not too distant futures! The future, ahhh, yes, that is what we are here to discuss today. Yes, the time is now. Many of you have been waiting for this day since you first enrolled in Divination, way back in Year Two. Today is the day we investigate the future in its most straightforward application. I will be discussing precognition and time shifts, two methods of prediction which you, or someone you know, may have the ability or have experienced in practice.
Only a day ago, today was our future. While you consider that for a moment, also consider our never-ending quest for knowledge. We hope to know what tomorrow will bring, what fate has in store for us, and, of course, if we will eventually be alright. I do apologise for being so very profound and confronting this early in our lesson, but with the current world climate, it is on the mind of magical and Muggle folk alike. If there was ever a perfect time to discuss the future, it is now. Our focus today is the clairvoyant practices and skills which are believed to predict the future. Now, while some of us have this skill from birth, others may experience this skill at some point in their lives.
As many of you are aware, divination is often the umbrella term for predicting the future, be it through reading tarot cards, astrology horoscopes, tea leaf reading, even methods such as palm reading can be used to predict various aspects of an individual’s future. However, many people -- magic and Muggle alike -- believe precognition to be the purest form of seeing the future, with no tools, no funny lines on palms, nothing to get in the way of our Inner Eye. Our focus today revolves around the clairvoyant practices of precognition, where an individual has the knowledge of a future event and can explain in minute detail what will occur on a particular time or date; and time shifts, where a person suddenly foresees an event in an ‘episode,’ similar to a brief hiccup in the timeline, which is quite often a warning of danger before ‘shifting’ back to the current time period.
Let us begin with precognition. Generally speaking, precognition is derived from the Latin term præ-, "before" and cognitio, "acquiring knowledge." It is also known as future sight, future vision, and, unfortunately, by some as a pseudoscience and balderdash. As we have mentioned, when an individual discusses clairvoyance, precognition is what usually comes to mind first. Now, be honest, how many of you would love to know what the future has in store for you? I am not surprised by how many hands are raised, as each of us is somewhat worried about the unknown. We want to know if we'll be happy, or pass that test, or our beloved Chudley Cannons will finally win the Quidditch Cup this year. We want to know if and when those two professors will finally… oh… never mind!
What actually happens to the individual who possesses the skill of precognition? While the skill of precognition differs between individuals, the fundamental identifier remains the same: the individual can see an aspect of the future. Now, this is where the skill gets a little murky, as exactly how the precognitive clairvoyant sees the future could occur in a few different ways. Of course, the first way is a simple vision, where the clairvoyant enters what seems to be a trance and witnesses the future like they are watching a short film in their head. Alternatively, the precognitive clairvoyant may have a vision as part of a day dream, and often these dreams are discounted as mere hallucinations or fantasies until the precognitive clairvoyant recollects the information when it happens in ‘real’ time. What kind of events may be predicted? Well, any event at all; this may mean foreseeing the weather, or perhaps the winning Quidditch team, or maybe the ability to forewarn a friend to study more for their upcoming O.W.L. This skill could always be ‘on,’ meaning it is easily accessed with a moment’s warning. It could be as simple as you asking me who will win Saturday’s Quidditch match, and I answer without hesitation, Hufflepuff by 30 points. Alternatively, the skill may only be present in times of stress, need, or even randomly. In this case the precognitive clairvoyant has little control over their ability and may not even be aware that they have the ability to begin with. In these cases precognitive clairvoyants can attempt to ‘train’ their skills, however they may not always be successful.
Tune In Next Week… Or Right Now
Now, rather than scare you with some of the precognitive episodes I have experienced over my lifetime, I wish to discuss some well known examples where a precognitive vision had an enormous impact upon the life of the clairvoyant or those involved.
A Curious Case
Famous wizard author Mark Twain was known to have experienced a precognitive episode. In his case, it was more of a vision of what was to come rather than an actual event he was witnessing. I am sure you are aware of Mr. Twain, quite famous in both the Muggle and magical worlds for his wonderful narratives detailing life in the 1800s in North America. Now, Mr. Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on the 30th of November, 1835 -- roughly two weeks after the sighting of Halley’s Comet. For those of you who do not take Astronomy, Halley’s Comet is a wonderful piece of astronomical matter which enters the atmosphere of Earth roughly every 75 years. I am sure Professor Gagarina can fill you in on the finer details if this piques your interest! For now though, back to Mr. Clemens. His precognition came in the form of a vision one day. You see, Mr. Clemens was sitting at his desk, penning a letter to a friend who had taken up a professorial position at Ilvermorny, when he turned to his butler and said:
“I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: 'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together."
Samuel Clemens, 1909.
A year later Halley’s comet did appear in Earth’s atmosphere and sure enough, a single day later, on the 21st of April, 1910, the author and wizard died of a heart attack.
Now, you may be wondering how this prediction is so spectacular, as this comet has a predictable period between each of its reappearances. However, the number I quoted to you -- 75 years -- is only an average. In truth, its orbit can take anywhere from 74 to 79 years to complete. To further complicate things, it is equally likely to be present two different times of the year: in late spring (April or May), or the fall (around October). Mr. Clemens was not an astronomer, and had no way of knowing for sure, other than precognition, of course. I see some of you looking uncomfortable. Yes, it is a bit macabre to think of having to predict your own death, but this is certainly a rarity. More, the poor man had recently become well acquainted with death and seen many loved ones depart. This vision, and end result, may have been more welcome than many of you can understand at your young age.
Closer to Home
For an example that is a little more contemporary, I wish to tell you the story of Ludovic Wendragin, a close personal friend of mine who currently works for the Ministry of Magic. Ludovic is quite a wonderful wizard and we share the skill of clairvoyance, however, his skill tends towards precognition while my area of expertise is remote viewing. As part of his job, Ludovic travels around Europe, visiting wizards and witches in their time of need, which also typically entails dealing with the Muggle population, due to extensive travel. Ludovic, for some strange reason, enjoys traveling by Muggle methods and thoroughly enjoys the contraption known as a train, similar (though not entirely the same) to our very own Hogwarts Express. He finds it very soothing and the perfect opportunity to sneak in a nap on Ministry time! But I digress…
Ludovic recently told me about a waking dream he had -- remember those hazy visions you have on the edge of consciousness that we discussed in our first lesson? It occurred recently where the train he was due to catch from King’s Cross to Brussels would be cancelled due to a landslide. Ludovic was incredibly sad as he loved this particular train trip, as the countryside is quite relaxing and he cannot properly enjoy it when travelling via broomstick, Portkey, or the Floo Network. With only a day to go before Ludovic was due to take the train, he decided to fly by Muggle airplane instead and booked his ticket. Ludovic flew from London to Brussels, a simple trip and rather uneventful. Upon touching down in Brussels, Ludovic’s attention was drawn to a small television screen displaying a news story about, you guessed it, a landslide blocking the road just outside of Brussels.
Just a Shift in Time
While it may seem a little counterintuitive at first, we can’t talk about precognition without talking about time shifts. Quite similar to a retrocognitive vision, a time shift occurs as a moment, or short episode, in which the individual effectively interacts in the alternate moment in time, specifically the past. This differs from a retrocognitive vision as in a time shift, the individual is unaware that they are experiencing a time shift or that anything is out of the ordinary. The individual is an active participant and has the opportunity to change the events in the time shift whereas in the retrocognitive vision, the individual is merely a passive participant, watching the event without having an opportunity to change the event in any way. When the individual has seen what they need to see, usually a warning of some kind, they are able to leave the time shift and return to the ‘normal’ timeline.
Now, you may be wondering why this topic is being covered during our discussion of precognition and not retrocognition, due to the similarities shared. The reason time shifts are classified as seeing into the future is because you are sent back to the past with foreknowledge. In the moment -- that is, during the time shift -- you are not aware that you have jumped into a different time. Instead, you only have the vague feeling that this has happened before, and (hopefully) a feeling that you know what you need to do. While some feel this is weak evidence to support the hypothesis that this is a form of precognition, the fact is that the ability of precognition and the likelihood of experiencing a time shift overlap significantly. Plus, as those of you who enjoy astronomy and the sciences know, time really isn’t as linear as we believe it to be, which makes distinctions all a bit pointless.
In any case, the benefits of this particular form of divinatory experience is that during a time shift, the individual is able to try to solve a problem that has already occurred or avoid a dangerous situation due to having prior knowledge. For example, a person could see on the news that a person was killed in a hit and run accident in the paper, experience a time shift, and in the past, pull the person out of the way, thus saving their life and altering the outcome. Many are squeamish of the idea of being able to change the past like this, but others rationalize it away saying that if the time shift happened, that new outcome is the one that was supposed to have happened.
Bring Out the Notebook
And now it is time to bring out your notebooks. As many of you can see, I have brought my own along today and provided thirty statements on the board behind me. Obviously, some are highly unlikely whilst others are certainties. Within this notebook, I have no less than fifty of my own personal precognitive visions garnered from a mixture of dreams, visions, and even a time shift or two. There have been more of course, but many of them have passed their “expiration” so to speak, and have either come true or been disproved, and are therefore no longer viable. While some of my precognitions are for items in the short term, others are predicting events which will happen sometime in our lifetimes. Now, I am not the most skilled precognitive clairvoyant and, of course, some of my visions are mere fodder, but generally I have a better than average reliability. For instance, in this vision dated the 13th of September, 2016, I foresaw the Great Hall decked out in blue and bronze, a celebration for Ravenclaw no doubt. I know now I correctly predicted the House Cup winners, awarded on the 13th of January, 2017.
So why am I telling you this? To encourage you to do the same. We do not improve unless we mindfully cultivate our abilities, and this is just one of many ways to do so. This method holds particular appeal to the burgeoning seer, as you do not need to proclaim a prediction to an entire room and suffer embarrassment were your Inner Eye not to be aligned. Between now and our last class together, I will expect you to keep this notebook close at hand, and record any predictions when they strike (as well as any other clairvoyant occurrences, should you like). This is not only to improve your clairvoyant ability and help you hone it, but will also be part of your final assessment in Lesson Nine, as discussed. Specifically in the next five weeks, you will need to record at least twenty predictions, though you are welcome to do more, and discuss only twenty of particular interest.
That is all I have for you today! Please be careful on the way out, a First Year is about to drop their Potions project on the stairwell.
Until next week,
Professor Alex Ornitier