Messages in the Rice: The art of Rice Divination
By Andrea Olivera
Omen observation is an important quality and skill of the Priestess and Priest.
It can be a “gift” that one is born with or develops due to extreme spiritual practices. Or even life traumas that provoke the opening of specific spiritual centres. Most life experiences are there to assist us, bringing a deeper or higher experience of ourselves and our consciousness. They can open doors, reveal our natural “superpowers”, and provoke our inner artist.
Separation from my motherland and dearest loved ones like my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins was a strong life experience. My family, the floral and herbs gardens of my great-grandmother, and the sea, were parts of me. This occurrence brought my soul into the discovery of Eastern culture, teachings, oracles and healing traditions.
Meeting the esoteric and metaphysical phenomenon was often part of my daily endeavours, and the initiation into the Divination of Rice was part of my early experience of tribal wisdom.
In many tribal cultures, rice was used as a form of divination and tool that Oracle’s would employ to determine the state of the tribe. It would also be used to help guide an individual who is suffering or needs answers to life’s struggles.
As a native of Uruguay South America, my family grew up eating rice as our daily staple. Dinner without rice was not a complete meal for my family. Similar to many other cultures around us who came to Toronto as immigrants, rice was an integral part of foreign cuisine in most homes, except the homes of my Canadian friends who only knew rice from a box and called it “Uncle Ben”.
That type of rice was not considered rice by foreigners. Each country had its style of rice, the Italians rice was fat and stubby, the Indian and Pakistani rice was long and aromatic, the Mexican and other Latin rice were short and hard, sometimes yellowish. But the Uruguayan rice was nowhere to be found in this cold, grey new world we were in.
We arranged shipments of the organic local rice to be sent to us from rice plantations in rural Uruguay from our family who harvested it.
My little sister and I would watch our parents rejoice at the arrival of the parcels. It was like watching excited and happy children receive treasured gifts on Christmas morning.
Memories of several myths and folklore stories that were told around our kitchen table back home as my great grandmother and grandmother would make savoury and sweet dishes from rice repeat in my mind.
A tradition that continued here in the new land of Toronto when my grandmother would visit and eventually stayed, and reinforced those traditions, habits and recipes to my mother and my aunt Tia Rosa. Being close to my grandma, I hung on to every word and watched all of her actions.
We continued the tradition here in the new land of Toronto when my grandmother would visit and eventually stayed. She reinforced those traditions, habits and recipes to my mother and my aunt Tia Rosa. Being close to my grandma, I hung on to every word and watched all of her actions.
I would listen intently to the women of my family share ghost stories to legends of our indigenous peoples, as they cooked up traditional meals and jarred sweet jams made out of imported quince, figs, peach and yams. My imagination and interest grew wildly, and a restlessness stirred my soul to begin to search for the mystic at a very young age.
My dreams were full of these legends and stories. While awake I studied and practiced those old traditions, intertwining the myths of other cultures that I was integrating living among different nationalities here in Toronto.
A commonality that I found while visiting each of my neighbours and sitting at their kitchen tables was that rice was sacred in each home, and each dish came with its own legend or mystery.
Alters of Deities enchanted my eyes, and the sound of sacred hymns and chants filled my ears of words I did not understand, my nose enticed by the fragrant smoke offered in stick forms to their Gods and then placed into dried rice so they would stand while still burning.
“Ma ! Ma ! el arroz de los Indios tiene fuego!!!! (the rice of the Indians has fire in it)” I would say as I ran from their apartment door across the hall back to ours.
Our neighbours would laugh and daily I learned that not only did the rice hold the stick of smoke but that each of their Gods/Goddesses , loved the same sweet rice dishes that I loved my “arroz con leche”.
Who were those gold dolls, I questioned, that ate rice several times a day? Why didn’t they eat cookies or cakes or a hamburger?
I thought as I watched them serve a spoonful of rice with peas, aromatic spices and vegetables to their dolls of gold dressed in bright, colourful dresses.
I especially was enamoured with one really cute blue God (Krishna), who ate the most of the sweet rice they offered him. We seemed to have a love for that milky sweet desert in common.
Today I know that those early childhood impressions brought me towards my Eastern path of healing practices.
Discoveries of layered teachings of rice healings, rice readings, rice medicinal poultices and Oracles using rice popped up for me to see during my studies in Eastern healing sciences such as Shiatsu and Ayurveda.
As an Ayurveda Spa Specialist, trained in several methods of abhyanga Ayurveda massage and healing treatments, my favourite was always Shashtishali Pinda Sweda a massage using milk and rice cooked in medicinal herbal concoctions.
In South India’s practice of Ayurveda’s fivefold detoxification therapy known as Pancha Karma, a poultice made of red rice is cooked in customized herbal medicines and milk and is rhythmically massaged to the whole body.
Depending on the practitioner’s spiritual connections, mantras and prayers over the body makes this treatment recuperative and can be incredibly helpful in improving circulation and skin complexion. At the same time, it heals pains, restores, and brings vitality and vigour to the whole being.
Some Siddha healers in India, read the dried rice grains left after a treatment on a patients body. Those that have the “healing eyes” can see just by the patterns left on the body if the treatment was effective or not.
The Earth Mother Goddesses ruling over the harvest of grains to nourish all sentient beings, and their worship stood out to me more than others, I felt a connection. I believe my personal experiences were responsible for this, and I would like to share some of them with you today.
Here are some of my findings…
In Japan a ritual using divination known as the Mi Kayu Ura is performed on January 15th to predict the weather and to foresee the quality of the year’s harvest.
In other Shinto tribal traditions, rice gruel is made, and the various consistencies are examined by the Priest to predict events from the weather to the prosperity and fertility of the tribe.
There are several mentions of Rice Divination that are applied to the IChing, otherwise known as the Book of Changes.
From reading the Hexagram the usual method of consulting the IChing as an Oracle to the use of Yarrow Stalks, Turtle Shells, the IChing Coins, Marbles & Beads, Dice, Astrology and in very ancient scriptures the use of Rice grains.
In Cambodia a polyandrous Goddess of the sky, clouds and water called Po Ino Nogar is similar to Indonesia’s Dewi Sri the Goddess of Rice and the Moon. Most of the similarities found among these Goddesses is that rule over snakes known as Nagas, fertility and motherhood.
Phosop or Mae Khwan Khao is Thailands Mother of Rice
There are several scholars who have studied the story or the manuscript of a Goddess Nang Khosop who is considered to be the soul of the Rice in Laos. Legends say that the future of Buddhist Dharma was feared by a sage living in a forest and he slaughtered Nang Khosop into many pieces, which now symbolize the varieties of rice like red rice, black rice, white rice, long and short-grain rice, and so on.
The cultivation of rice is an analogy of how the different Buddhist doctrines flourished. A reinterpretation of Buddhist teachings were found through the myth of the Rice Goddess.
In Aboriginal Latin cultures, Rice grains have their place in the Divination Arts. Many of the rice plantations have several ceremonies and Rituals to the Goddess of Rice. Offering of songs and dances as well as flowers and gifts are offered to the Goddess of Rice.
One of the stories that will always stay with me, and I believe was one of my first initiations into the art of Rice Divination, was from several meetings with mystics, teachers and healers as well as a family member who told me of his personal experiences.
You see, myths come alive by the legend or storyteller
If the one sharing a fable, myth or legend has any spiritual awareness, psychic abilities and powers themselves, they can charge a room with a story! Let alone fill your consciousness with empowered thoughts, ideas, and visions that support your Dharma.
The Hindu traditions call this Shakti Pat, the transmission of spiritual energy to open your inner eye of awareness or your Ajna Chakra the energy centre known as the Third Eye Chakra.
Mystics walk in all shapes, sizes, styles and traditions. I was fortunate to have met a few real earth mystics as a child and young adult.
Earth mystics have a natural ability to communicate with the spirit world as well as plants, animals, birds the sky the ocean.
Everything in nature becomes an encyclopedia that can be interpreted and read by the natural mystics. Many a prophecy came in this way, in the meetings with remarkable beings, who then wrote down their insights, revelations and some shared those incredible transmissions that they received.
Within our aboriginal cultures, our Shamans and natural mystics use several forms of Divination arts like Aeromancy the reading of the weather. There are shamans who can understand the different sounds thatare made by thunder as a messenger of the Gods & Goddesses; this is known as the Divination method called Brontomancy.
I had the experience of sitting with some priests who could read the shape of smoke that came from certain fire ceremonies offered to specific Deities. This art of divination is known as Capnomancy, and smoke from candles as well as incense, can be interpreted as well as the smoke from healing treatments like Moxabustion.
They could read the sound of the thunder in the sky and the shapes of lightning. Even the ways rain would fall from the sky scripted the vision for those with the eyes to see.
Another art of divination that reads the animal spirits, as well as elemental spirits is Apantomancy.
Both Apantomancy and Augury, the practice of divining the flow of movement that birds make and the traces left from the sightings of animals, are part of the language spoken by those seers and mystics.
You see birds to Shamans are considered messengers of the Gods, paying attention to them will communicate the forecast of the weather, and other needed pieces of information to prepare the lands for cultivation.
In such traditions, rice and other grains and seeds are often thrown on the ground, and the diviners pay attention to the ways birds fly and move towards the grains.
Many rice farmers have these natural skills, as day in and day out they are surrounded by the elements and need to sharpen their communication skills to all around them.
In Aboriginal Latin cultures, Rice grains have their place in the Divination arts. In Brazil, the Amazonian tribals use several forms of Divination like Aeromancy reading the weather like rain, thunder and lightning.
My great-grandmother was known by the villagers to have the gift of Apantomancy. She was part South American Indigenous and was known to practice the indigenous ways. She informally practiced the art of divination that reads animal spirits, elemental spirits, the flow of movements that birds make, and understood natures language.
Most shamans of the North, South and Central Americas know this Divinational practice of Augury. The understanding of the flow and movement of birds as messengers of the Gods and Goddesses. Rice farmers have often been known to throw rice grains on the ground and pay attention to the ways birds fly and move towards the grains, this would give them insights into the harvest season and weather patterns.
My Tia Susana (aunt) in Uruguay married into a family of rice farmers, who continued to share mystical stories and their own personal experiences cultivating the rice under the light of the Moon, living in nature and learning the language of the land and all creation.
From those stories and transmissions, I was brought to discover the art of Rice Divination. It was on one of my visits back home that my journey into this form and other forms of divination began.
The story I was told by a rice farmer, El Rayo, meaning “The Lightning Bolt”, has always stayed with me.
He has this special aura around him, and many who have met him know that there is something special about him. Every encounter I ever had with him since I was a child has always been interesting and profound, yet so simple and innocent.
He shared a story one afternoon after a long day at the beach, over a campfire, with a guitar in his hand he spoke with such a kind melody.
“It was a night of a full Moon, the heavy rains had slightly flooded the rice fields and the birds the night before had shared many messages of what was to come. The creatures of the night had much to say usually, but this night it was quiet, a deep stillness fill the fields.”
“I had to climb on a tree to watch the fields that night as there was a need in me or a knowing to be still and aware; it was the nature of that night. In my surrender, I must have fallen asleep, or you know one of those kinds of sleeps that you are still fully awake, perhaps it was a trance-like state that fell on me after being in oneness and observation of nature.”
“There in that stillness, that quiet night filled with so many meanings and messages, I was awoken by a dance of colorful lights from the sky. We fell into that same stillness, all was quiet but the sound of the crackling of the fire and the background sounds of the waves, I was mystified watching his sparkling eyes that saw and knew things I so wanted to understand.”
He continued “There was a mystic presence all around, and I could feel and hear the voice of nature speak to me, Her presence was all around, the colours and vibrations were so healing, I wanted the whole world to feel the love. The spirit of healing introduced Herself to me, and we stayed up all night watching, listening to the messages of those beyond the stars. Each night creature whispered their secrets to me, and I knew what I had to do to save the rice and myself.”
Of course a true mystic never reveals all the secrets, and I knew that there was so, so much he wasn’t sharing.
The layers of stories, myths and legends filled my nights with teachings during dream time, and my day time was spent investigating and learning more and more about the mystical secrets around me.
I remember dreaming that night about those colours in the sky, the silvery frequency from the Moon, the rice fields and the golden glow left on them by the golden light of the Sun.
The radiant vibration of all the communication happening between the sky and earth enchanted my dream!
Then deep in my cellular memory there appeared the tribal women who would come in from the Amazon to help in the harvest. The memory of the Priestess that held the rice and invoked the energy of the Goddess awakened within me as I felt her place the rice grains in my hand.
Dream teaching is a sacred transmission, and it becomes later activated by meetings with mystics and teachers that can awaken and water that seed that lives in you from lifetimes past. Later my initiations as a Priestess of Yemaya (Mother of the Sea ) and my journey into Ayurveda confirmed my path into divination and the healing arts.
The tradition of casting rice and healing with rice to read the signs and symbols, the energetics of the astral, mental, emotional and physical body became part of my path of practice.
I woke up surrounded by the sound of the ocean, the scent of sacred herbs from the fire in my hair and a calling to create. I got up and took a bag of the freshly harvested rice from the pantry and painted it gold and silver and started casting it to all those around me.
My translation of that Universal Prana was to paint that rice with the shiny vibration of light from the Sun and Moon. I played with that coloured rice for days, weeks and months as a young girl.
Casting of the Rice became my art, and I only did it when I would feel that mystic wind blowing within me, only when that stillness that I felt by that fire pit with the sounds of the waves crashing into the shoreline and the glowing fullness of that silvery Moon bathing my consciousness.
Only when I felt that connection to those Rice fields the Atlantic Ocean, my grandmothers lemon tree and great-grandmothers flower gardens, these memories of that land that my grandmother would cry in grief of separation at night about.
Years later during my visit to the small villages in West Bengal India, I brought out my small bag of my old gold and silver painted rice to a local mystic who was known to cure the villagers from the deadly bite of the cobra. She smiled at me and in her broken English told me the story of the Naga (snake) tradition of that region, and asked me if I ever had a dream of a Goddess coming to me?
I shared my stories with her as she sat wildly looking into my eyes almost in a trance state. She reminded me of a cobra herself, swaying from side to side as I spoke. Suddenly she grabbed my hand and blew into it, reciting a mantra. She then placed a small image of the Goddess Laxshmi carved in a green stone into my hand.
She then asked me to cast the rice for her, and my journey began.
When that deity touched my hand, memories and images of the many stories of the forms of Laxshmi came. One is of ShriDevi or Dewi Sri a Rice Goddess of Indonesia and Bali. She can be seen worshiped also in Sri Lanka by many Ayurveda Vaidyas (doctors) as She is a manifestation of the Hindu Goddess of Health and Wealth Laxshmi Herself.
The Javanese and Sundanese also worship Her and adorn beautiful shrines decorated with aromatic flowers and sweets yearly to receive Her blessings for a good rice harvest.
Many of these alters have a symbol of a snake (naga) as snakes are a good omen of a bountiful harvest.
A Mapag ceremony is celebrated in honor of ShriDevi to invoke Her into the village for a successful harvest, Ma Pag means ” To Bring Shri”, many priestesses fall into a trance similar to my witness from my initiations into the priesthood of Yemaya.
Throughout South East Asia many ceremonies to invoke the Goddess to bring fertility love an abundance of health, children and wealth is common.
A Burmese ritual called Pon Magyi is performed by Rice farmers to invoke the rice and fertility spirit can also be similar to the African Yoruba fertility rituals to Ochun the Goddess of the Sweet Rivers who brings love, fertility and prosperity to all.
Yemaya my guardian spirit, is the form of the Mother of the Sea or Mother of Fish, Her festivals and rituals bring a similar blessing as Mother Laxshmi does to her devotees.
My understanding and love of the Goddess in all Her forms fills my heart and soul.
During my trips back home and visits with my Tia Susana I became stronger. She coached my return back to the Sea and Her mysteries, as well as encouraging me to bring out my magic and step into my love of healing and divination. I welcomed the further meetings with those that carried that connection and who live in the memory and embodiment of Her essence.
They, who speak with nature spirits and the elements, walk with such a calm and depth. One day I will share the many encounters with them that I have had.
A few years later when we walked together on the Atlantic ocean, El Rayo guided me into the waters to feel the healing powers of the mother of the Sea. He had sensed great fear, emotional and physical pain within me, as he gently guided me towards the healing offered by the presence of the Goddess, he stroked my back and whispered, “tranquila no tengas miedo” (be still and feel no fear).
My tears fell into the waters of the sea, dissolving my illusions, the past and the grief that I carried within my soul. His healing touch and words expelled the fear and introduced me, or I should say brought me back to my Ocean Mother and myself.
“Rest here, sit by your Mother and let her enter you once again, She has not forgotten you, even though you live thousands of miles away from Her, you are Hers and she is Yours, now rest once again on Her lap and let her bring you back to life”. She and her disciple El Rayo de las Arrozeras did just that for me that day brought me home, back to myself, restoring my life force.
Rice Divination readings are sacred and unique offerings that can be booked during certain phases of the Sun and Moon. They provide a look at your energetics of body mind and soul.
Rice Diviners cast rice for blessings, insights and in support of other Divinational arts like astrological charts and tarot. When you are uncertain of your time of birth, a Rice Reading can provide insights into life issues and can be used to determine energetic blocks.
Andrea offers Rice Divination readings for 1 hour for $125 + HST. Click here for more details.
Rice divination rituals can also be booked for wedding celebrations, birth or baby showers, bridal parties, rites of passage, or a special healing ceremony. Cost is $500 for 2 hours
Andrea is a pioneering figure in the field of Ayurveda beauty, and has dedicated her life to the study of Ayurveda, Jyotish, Yoga and the Vedic Sciences. Over 30 years ago, Andrea began her career as a make-up artist and aesthetician, and was one of the first Canadians in her field to incorporate Ayurveda, Yoga, Vedic Astrology and Eastern wellness practices into her spa treatments and services. Today, she is one of Canada’s leading Ayurveda beauty and wellness specialists and educators.