I think this was originally the Webelf's idea. She then enlisted Dan Guy into her web of madness. I agreed that if you were going to have a blog birthday toy that nothing could possibly be more appropriate, and then I played my part in its creation by a) suggesting that a Swami costume was much more appropriate than a wizard's hat and b) declining to take a day off work to rent a Swami costume and have my photo taken in it and c) finally saying "What, like you don't do wonders in Photoshop for a living? Fake it."
First of all, THIS IS NOT A TOY. THIS IS A SERIOUS INSTRUMENT OF DIVINATION. It should only be used by those prepared to approach it with the proper sense of reverence and mystical awe, those among you who are emotionally and spiritually prepared to have the curtain drawn, and to come face to face with YOUR OWN FUTURE.
To begin with, the quaestor must put himself, herself, itself or themselves in the right frame of mind. A fast is recommended, but not compulsory. Cleanse yourself of all impure thoughts. Tidy your room or perhaps polish the silverware.
Then imagine your question. Frame it in your mind in general terms. Do not seek material gain (the Serious Instrument of Divination will frustrate all efforts to unlock the secrets of lottery numbers or the outcome of sporting events or higher level physics -- not because it does not know -- FOOLISH MORTALS, IT KNOWS ALL -- but because THE WORLD IS NOT YET READY). Seek spiritual enhancement. Seek divine enlightenment.
Then shake the mystical ball of truth. Don't just click on it. Shake it. Honest. Only when it is shaken do the gates of the future swing open and allow information through.
And then, mystically and magically, the information you need will be plucked from the 950,000 words of this blog, and will be placed before you.
The words that you are given are guaranteed to be perfectly applicable to your situation, and will teach you how to react and what to do next. However, if they aren't, or if you don't like them, then shake again and new words will appear, perhaps more applicable, perhaps less so. Only you will know for certain -- only you, and the Oracle.
DO NOT GET INTO AN ARGUMENT WITH THE MYSTICAL AND ORACULAR BALL OF ENLIGHTENMENT. It will win.
Have you read these instructions carefully?
Do you need to read them again?
[For serious Seekers after Truth it is recommended that you print out this post and meditate upon it for several months before you first attempt to draw back the veil. Many true and dedicated Pilgrims on the Road of Oracular Enlightenment have had the contents of this post tattooed upside down upon their stomachs, so that they can read and study and contemplate it when in, for example, the bathtub, the shower or in certain Yogic positions.]
Are you ready?
THEN PREPARE TO BE AMAZED AND CONFOUNDED!
(Please note that the mystical power of the Oracular Instrument of Divination is such that it can only be guaranteed to work here at www.neilgaiman.com and not at feeds, syndications or other such places. Far from being a drawback, this is in fact a TESTAMENT TO ITS EFFICACY! If you are reading this on a feed and you need to consult the oracle, do so at http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2007/02/now-we-are-six.html)
NOTE -- the Magical Journal 8 ball now has a permanent home at neilgaiman.com, at http://www.neilgaiman.com/oracle/ and will always work there. Here (shrugs) it may or it may not.