Botanomancy is a method of divination by means of the burning of leaves, herbs and tree branches.
From ancient Greek botano (plant) . Also called botanobatanomancy, botinomancy, botomancy, botonomancy.
Botanomancy is also considered a general term for divination which uses any plant or plant part. See anthomancy, daphnomancy, dendromancy, floromancy, foliomancy, and sycomancy (fig).
This practice of divination can be traced all the way back to the ancient druid priests who worshipped the spirits of the trees, specially the oak. There are also a number of botanomancy references in the Old Testament, and the Romans used this mode of divination as well. Botanomancy is a form of Pyromancy.
Any of a group of herbs or low woody plants with often showy heads or spikes of five-parted regular flowers can be used. Usually vervain and/or brier (a plant with a thorny or prickly woody stem) were used. The leaves of the sage and fig-trees were also used for another type of oracle.
Omens were drawn from the smoke and ashes generated. Sometimes the questions for which answers were sought were carved upon the branches prior to their burning.
Interpretations were also made from the crackling sounds made when certain plants were thrown on the fire or crushed in the hands.
In yet another method called sycomancy, fig-leaves were used. The diviners wrote names and questions or letters on leaves, which were then exposed to the winds. Those remaining furnished the answers sought.
1939 J. Trachtenberg Jewish Magic 219: “Plants were also utilized (Botanomancy): 'On Monday evening, after sunset, go into a field and find the yellow, broad-leaved mallow, face the east and dig a hole there, bow, encircle the spot once, bow again to the east,' and recite a charm which concludes, 'If my venture is to prove successful, then you must remain in bloom; if not, then must you droop to the earth.' Return in the morning and learn how your undertaking will turn out.”
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