by Ing Venning
As with any magical item, the importance rests not in cost or composition, but in whether or not it suits your own particular energy. I've known folks who fell in love with a crystal and silver chain at a shop. I know others who've looked around until they found a particular color or weight or shape. I use an old piece of yarn that someone cast aside after using it to practice their braiding and a piece of gravel my son once gave me when he was a toddler. Although highly personal in nature, this is still a decision about which you can ask help from your spirit guides - especially those who've helped you with divination before.
To begin, you want to establish your pendulum's reaction to questions with definite, known answers. Traditionally, you swing the pendulum from the chain or string - let it swing freely (make sure your muscles are held loosely). As it swings, ask it some questions to which you already know the answer. "Is my name [your name]?" or "Is my favorite color [your favorite color]?" are the sorts of things you'll ask to try to gauge a yes response. The pendulum might swing back and forth or around in a circle or in a half-arc. Notice what it does for yes. Once you have it giving you a consistent response for yes, try a no-response. Ask it questions with are definitely, unequivocally false - things like "Is my body 1,000 years old?" or "Do I have sixty fingers?" You should get a no response that is repeated for any answer to which the answer is false.
Now that you have a yes-response and a no-response codified, you ask your pendulum questions. It should tell you whether or not something is true. You can also give it other diametrically opposed responses in lieu of "yes" and "no". Although I've never done it, I've known several people to have some success using a pendulum to divine the sex of a baby while it's still in utero. Although this can be done by asking, for instance, "Is it a boy?" and waiting for a yes or no response, it can also be done by assigning the pendulum a male-movement and a female-movement. You could also assign the pendulum two people, two job opportunities, two spirit guides instead of "yes" and "no" (either by swapping them in for the normal "yes" and "no" responses or by determining a separate movement for each). You can even assign the pendulum more than two values at a time. Just keep in mind that there aren't a whole lot of movements the pendulum will commonly make.
Pendulums can also be used in a manner similar to that of the planchettes that are used with ouija boards. You can make a piece of paper with numbers and/or letter and/or supplementary symbols on it (just make sure they're all the same size). Allow the pendulum to dangle freely and ask it something or think about a certain situation. The pendulum should move from symbol to symbol until it has spelled out a significant answer.
Possible Shortcomings of the Traditional Preparation and Usage of the Pendulum
My biggest objection to the traditional usage of the pendulum is that we don't (and probably don't want to) live in a universe where things are so well-defined that they readily yield yes/no-type answers. I'm a relativist, but I should think even a good number of absolutists would still find that most questions have more than two answers.
My biggest problem in actually using the pendulum is that I don't believe I have sufficient control of my muscles - indeed, I'm not sure anyone does. I've read evidence that whether we feel positively or negatively about an outcome can affect the electrical impulses running through our muscles in ways that are subconscious and minute, but which can radically alter results; after all, the most minute change can affect the outcome of a pendulum's answer when the range of motion is so small. Even if our muscles don't betray how we feel, it seems to me entirely possible that our state of mind can bias the movements of the pendulum on a psychological level.
However, this latter difficulty might actually be an advantage to non-theist users of the pendulum. For non-theists, the answers aren't coming from an outside source and, therefore, cannot be biased by interference from a person's physical incarnation. Therefore, as a non-theist will only be exploring their own minds and looking for answers in their subconscious thoughts, the bias of muscle tension may tell them things about themselves they didn't know or had repressed.
Suggested Modifications to the Preparation and Usage of the Pendulum
I discovered the solution to the latter problem (regarding minute changes in muscle tension) by chance, as it happened. I was dissatisfied with my pendulum. I wasn't comfortable with the answers it was giving me, and I was having trouble getting it to answer consistently even for things that seemed obvious. I knew some of this was my attitude about the relative nature of existence, but I still thought the pendulum might be useful in certain contexts. I was on the verge of tossing it into the small pile I'd made of objects that wanted to leave my care; I said, mostly to myself, "Are you even useful for divination?" And the stone pulsed - it pulsed, "Yes. A strong yes." I was stunned. Here was a way to sense energy directly from the stone without the whole dangling business needing to be involved.
At this point, I really never use the pendulum by itself. I tend to consult it sometimes when I'm divining with the runes, the tarot, or through some other method. And even then, I don't get a simple yes/no dichotomy. My pendulum has a range of yes and no pulses that includes things like "strong no," " weak no," "intermediate yes," "overwhelmingly strong yes," "neutral"; I've even gotten fairly bizarre answers like, "yes, yes, no, yes," "not no," and "yes, if / no, but". This multiplicity of answers is probably an outgrowth of my relativism, however, and a simpler set of answers (only two, in fact) are fine for many people.
I've also found that some of the most useful pendulum inquiries (at least, when the pendulum exhibits yes/no responses or some range thereof) often take the form of a number of smaller questions as an issue is divided into small fragments that yield (in many cases) yes/no-type answers. "Where is my ring?" may not get you a useful answer (although, for some, it does). Here, a progression of questions should probably be tried ("Is my ring in the house?", "Is it in the front of the house?", "Is it in the bedroom?", "Is it under something?" "Is it under the night table?") if the initial questions fails to yield a coherent response.
(By the way, I've never used the pendulum as a planchette. When I want to use words for divination, I generally employ bibliomancy or a little astral poetry.)
Still, I'm not entirely satisfied with my pendulum except in an ancillary capacity to other systems. Although I encourage anyone to try using a pendulum, regardless of experience or spirituality, I suggest that you learn some other system of divination first.